Be warned, ladies and gentlemen. This week's edition of Ask a Lore Nerd is almost purely discussion and speculation on the next expansion and what it might include. Why? Because it's fun! We'll get back to covering anything and everything next week, but this week we're just in an expansion sort of mood.
"So, most of the speculation is that the next expansion will be the Maelstrom. Would you agree with that assessment? What all do you expect to see in a Maelstrom expansion? What would you want to see? Any place you're dying to go?"
I love the Burning Legion. I am a Legion fanboy through and through. They have been, without a doubt, my favorite evil organization throughout WoW. I like the fact that they're an enemy where absolutely anything is possible. They've been to every end of the universe, recruiting thousands of different alien races to their cause in various ways. When the Legion is involved, what you'll be fighting is really only limited by imagination. Warlocks alone can control Imps, Voidwalkers, Succubi, Felhounds, Felguards, Infernals, and Doomguards. That's only a fraction of what makes up the greater demonic machine. How many types of demons have we encountered that aren't able to be enslaved by lowly Warlocks? Hell, the demonic machine even has machines. Hello, Fel Reavers?
If the expansion isn't the Maelstrom, I want to go to another Legion world. Maybe the world where Turalyon and Alleria went. Maybe Argus. Maybe the Ethereal homeworld. I think that Blizzard learned enough from The Burning Crusade that they can give us an aesthetically alien world without blowing our retinas out with neon pink crystals. They've done the alien world thing, and they've learned what works and what doesn't. I'm eager to see them take another stab at it!
I do think the next expansion is the Maelstrom though. The Maelstrom with a heavy, heavy helping of the Emerald Dream. I don't think that the Dream could make up an entire expansion, but I think that it could be a significant chunk of it.
As for what I want to see and where I want to go... again, I love the Burning Legion. A raid zone (or hell, a whole zone) in the Tomb of Sargeras would have me all aflutter.
"Do you foresee a Titan-based expansion, and if so, what would be the reason for their return?"
I think that we could definitely get a Titan-themed expansion one day, but I don't think that we'll see it as the next expansion. I think Blizzard knows that throwing too much of one thing at the players continuously is a great way to make players sick of something. Take, for example, Naga in The Burning Crusade. Naga were a huge part of the expansion. An entire Outland zone, two 5-mans, a raid, all to their own. On top of that, they appeared in Black Temple and Magisters' Terrace. That's a lot of Naga.
The pre-existing lore for Northrend put a fairly large portion of Borean Tundra under Naga control. Borean Tundra is one of the first zones in Wrath of the Lich King, so how many of us would just roll our eyes and groan upon seeing more Naga when we played the expansion for the first time? Yeah, almost everybody. In Wrath of the Lich King, there aren't actually any Naga there. They wiped the Naga off the map with their new and exciting race, the Vrykul/Kvaldir.
Wrath of the Lich King has had a crazy, crazy amount of Titan content. If they do a specifically Titan-themed expansion, it will be one or two expansions away. If the Maelstrom is the next expansion, that lends a little bit of weight to that. They took a break from Naga for Wrath, so we have a little break from them between The Burning Crusade and the Maelstrom (which may or may not be Cataclysm).
As for what it would be about? Well, who says Algalon is the only observer? Maybe Uldum served the same purpose as Ulduar, just with a different entity in a different part of the world. While we've been paying attention to other parts of the world, whatever is inside of Uldum has gotten loose and started a mess in there. Algalon North was able to be stopped because we found out what was happening... maybe Algalon South got the message out about what's happening in Uldum, and we had no idea until the Titans came knocking on our front door. Or we could go the less catastrophic route: We go to another Legion-controlled world to fight the good fight, and we find some Titans hanging out there and we tell them we're there to lend a hand.
"Will the next expansion introduce a new hero class? If so, what? I've already gleaned that some established Warcraft 3 hero classes, like Demon Hunter, are fairly likely, and others that would be too derivative, like Archdruid or Archmage, aren't very likely, but then what will it be? If it keeps with the theme of the expansion like Death Knights did with Wrath, will we see Sea Witches for a Naga expansion? Will an Emerald Dream expansion give us a nature-based Hero class, like Primal, or Spirit Walker? If the neutral sanctuary city is Undermine, maybe we'll get Tinkers?"
At this point in the game, pretty much anything is possible. I think that Demon Hunters are unlikely because I don't think the game needs anymore melee classes, but what Blizzard does is what Blizzard does. My personal theory has come from the recent addition (patch 3.2) of the two Tauren talking about Druidism in Thunder Bluff. The Tauren Druid gets to talking about how Druidism is only focused on the Moon, and they've forgotten about the Sun, contemplating on if it's possible Druids as a whole are out of balance because of that. To me, this almost feels like they're avoiding labeling a new class Arch Druids ("Druid 2.0" "Druid+") by simply making a second sect of Druids. Current Druids would become Druids of the Moon, and the new ones would be Druids of the Sun. Two totally different classes and rulesets, based on the same principle of Druidism. Kind of how Priests and Paladins are both Champions of the Light.* Totally different classes based on the same concept.
*Yes yes, I know not all races' Priests/Paladins are Light worshipers, but you get what I'm saying.
"If the next expansion will be the Maelstrom (as hinted by the Cataclysm trademark, and blue posts about opening the Greymane Wall), then what are the chances of Undermine appearing in said expansion?"
If it's the Maelstrom, it's basically guaranteed.
"I keep seeing people offering suggestions for new races to you and seeing each one shot down. So I'd like to ask you: If the new expansion is set in the Maelstrom and if there are going to be new races this time around... what knew races would you expect?"
Well, I'm not expecting any new races, but if I have to pick... well, that's tough! There's a few things you need to consider. First, all playable races need to be bipedal, simply because of how gear works in WoW, both mechanically and artistically. That's been stated a few times by Blizzard. That means Naga are out, things like Nerubians are out, and all of that sort of thing. Two, Tom Chilton has recently mentioned that for new races, they've decided to go with races that have been pre-seeded and are established in the game.
I gotta say, I don't find Goblins and Worgen too bad, all things considered. Especially since Worgen were given a slightly more Humanoid appearance in Wrath of the Lich King. If you go out to Grizzly Hills and look at the current models, you'll find that they're a bit less feral than the ones we've seen in Vanilla WoW. Since they've added those leather hats and basic armor bits, you could see them wearing full blown armor and wielding weapons. Not quite, but close. Turn the Humanoid notch up a little more, and you've got something someone could play. I'm personally leaning towards Worgen from the Worgen homeworld though, rather than people from Gilneas. It's likely I'm completely wrong, but I somewhat like the dynamic of the Alliance gathering races from far off worlds, banding together just because the Legion is trying to screw them over.
There are certainly other options, though. Like I've said before, I would love to see playable Vrykul and I think that it could be done, but we haven't seen any hints of 'redeemable' Vrykul yet. In flashbacks, we've seen Vrykul that were kind and loving people, but as far as we know? They've all been killed or simply died out. I would love to play a Vrykul. I just don't see it happening.
Like I said, I never expected new playable races in the next expansion, but if I absolutely had to pick, Goblins (from a Cartel other than Steamwheedle) and Worgen (full on Worgen, not the night/day werewolves) aren't all that bad and I have no reason why it couldn't happen.