Thirty Five Years Ago*
The Warlords of Draenor cinematic opened with a banner that read “35 Years Ago.” That was cool, but it should have had an asterisk and a footnote with Bashiok’s explanation below.
To answer Bashiok’s question, yes there is still some confusion about when and where in time we’ll be adventuring in Warlords of Draenor. Other than the Blizzcon panels there hasn’t been much discussion from Blizzard on what type of time travel adventure we’re about to undertake, and it’s important to understand because it affects how you view the characters and story of Warlords of Draenor.
The featured image came from this post on Reddit, and I think it does a bang up job illustrating space time continuum for this expansion.
Warlords of Draenor is a time travel expansion, but not necessarily in the way you might think. When it comes to time travel there are a couple of ways you can go about it. There is the Back to the Future scenario in which you travel backward in time and try to change future events.
In this type of adventure the goal is to alter the course of history, and prevent things from ever happening, or force new events to happen, usually for your benefit. This type of story has the risk of introducing a temporal paradox whereby your actions in the past would prohibit you’re being able to travel to the past in the first place (e.g., you go back in time and murder your mother’s father before she’s born).
Then there is the alternate timeline scenario. This is where going back in time spawns a new branch in time. The original timeline still exists unaltered, but the new timeline moves forward carving out a brand new history for itself. A good example of this is what J.J. Abrams did with Star Trek.
It’s this second scenario that will play out in Warlords of Draenor. The Draenor that we’ll visit is an alternate version of what we’re familiar with in Outland. So when it comes to Outland, opening the Dark Portal, the orcs drinking Mannoroth’s blood, the original Horde, the Scourge and the Forsaken, all of that remains unchanged. As Daniel Farrady said in Lost, “Whatever happened, happened.”
Now unlike Abrams’ Star Trek there is a bit of a twist here. In Star Trek, Spock and the Romulans travel back in time creating an alternate timeline in which they are trapped. Spock is unable to return to his original timeline. In Warlords of Draenor, we will still be connected to the Azeroth of our current timeline and will travel back and forth between our Azeroth and the alternate Draenor.
This naturally begs the question then is there an alternate Azeroth that exists in the timeline of this Draenor? Presumably yes, but once this new branch is created any connection with alternate Draenor and that Azeroth is lost. The Dark Portal that we see in the alternate Draenor is now connected to our Azeroth’s present. Our past remains unchanged, but our future may have just taken a dangerous turn for the worse.
The danger is that Kil’Jaeden and other members of the Burning Legion now have a second chance to invade our Azeroth. They may not know about their alternate past, but their current plans remain, and pose an imminent threat. Imagine if the original crew of the Enterprise (i.e., Leonard Nimoy’s Spock, and William Shatner’s Kirk) were the protagonists of Into Darkness and now had to face their greatest enemies one more time.
The return of the Burning Legion is not the subject of Warlords of Draenor, but may very well be the subject for the expansion that follows.
I don’t often get wrapped up in Warcraft lore, but the stories of the Burning Legion and Lich King are ones I enjoy reading about and experiencing in the game. Warlords of Draenor and the expansion that follows may be two of the most story rich expansions that Blizzard has ever done.
To the Blasted Lands people, we have a new world to explore and an old one to save!