My World of Warcraft Characters’ Lore: Volume 3

Moving on from the Night Elf Brothers and the Sisters of Light and Shadow, the following heroes of the Alliance are not related by blood, race, class, or even philosophy. They may have met over the years and formed friendships with one another, fought in separate groups on the same side of a battle, or never heard of one another at all. They share one thing in common: a desire to safeguard Azeroth and the citizens of the Alliance from the threats that seek to end them.

Also I created them, I guess.


Heroes of the Alliance

Grimslash, Worgen Fury Warrior

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Archibald Grimslash had spent his formative years watching his father become twisted by the hatreds which fuelled the Gilnean civil war. The gentle-natured father of his youth slowly began to fade away, replaced with a resentful and explosive man who opposed King Genn Greymane’s decision to isolate Gilneas from the Alliance. This opposition began as outrage, and escalated into militant extremism when others took up the cause. Although Archibald didn’t particularly disagree with his father’s cause, all he knew was that the man he had looked up to was gone, consumed by rage, and eventually he succumbed to a heart attack during a particularly violent argument he’d had with a prisoner. Shortly after this incident, Archibald visited his father’s prisoner – a man named Spencer Humphrey – and almost lost his own temper, blaming Spencer for his father’s death. Immediately noting the similarities between him and his father, however, Archibald managed to restrain himself, and vowed never to let rage drive him as it had his father. He later visited Spencer in an attempt to understand his way of thinking, and whilst the two of them disagreed on many political issues, they became unlikely friends.

When Gilneas fell under siege from the crazed worgen, Archibald’s first thought was of Spencer and the prisoners who were unable to escape from their manacles. Upon reaching his friend’s cell, Archibald found that he’d been attacked – and was already turning. Attempting to reason with the rabid prisoner failed, and for the first time, diplomacy was replaced with violence between them. Spencer broke free and struck Archibald hard across the chest, and he slammed into a wall, falling unconscious.

That was the last lucid moment Archibald would experience for a very long time.

Years later, Archibald felt himself struggling to wake, as if from a coma. As his vision swam into view, he found that he was crouched on the forest ground, blood pooling around his claws, a night elf twitching beneath him as the life left her body. Startled, he fell backwards, whimpering. He held his bloodstained paw in front of him, gaping in horror as the fur receded from it and it returned to the form of a human hand – albeit still stained with the blood of his victim.

The remaining night elves who had saved him told him that they had performed something called the Ritual of Balance on him, but he had broken from his restraints shortly before it could be completed, slaying one of his saviours moments before returning to his senses. They told him that he had been turned, along with many other Gilneans, during the fall of their homeland from an invasion of worgen, and that while most had been saved with this ritual, Archibald was one of the few that had evaded them in the years after. He had come to be known as a notorious feral beast of Duskwood, where he had eventually settled to roam and hunt. He had killed many in the region over the years.

The night elves told him that many Gilneans used their worgen abilities for the good of the Alliance, which they had re-joined, but Archibald was disgusted with himself. Vowing never to let his worgen form free again, he abandoned the night elves in the dead of night and headed north, with no real plans other than to try and outpace the unending rage that now flowed through his veins.

Eventually, Archibald entered the frigid dwarven land of Dun Morogh, and encountered a travelling band of pandaren monks who had arrived from across the sea to teach the dwarves and gnomes the way of the monk. Archibald told them his story, and whilst the pandaren had enjoyed little success in training worgen monks beforehand, they agreed to let Archibald join their sessions and try to soothe his raging spirit. Archibald trained with them for some weeks, but found himself feeling clumsy and isolated in lessons.

Eventually, a band of trolls that lived in the region launched a surprise attack on the band of monks, and seeing his tutor struck down before his eyes, Archibald Grimslash lost himself to rage. Before he could think twice he had transformed, and had snatched up a pair of axes from a fallen troll. Grimslash launched his attack; his was a dance of death as he used his enhanced lupine senses and strength to dart from troll and troll, dispatching them with ease. While the monks struck with pinpoint accuracy and careful agility, Grimslash merely cleaved through whatever troll stood before him. When the fight was over he stood victorious in the crimson snow, feeling more at one with himself than he had since Gilneas. The rage had not abated, but his bloodlust was sated. For now.

It became clear to him that he could never be the same person he was before the invasion of Gilneas. Never would he be able to keep his promise of keeping his temper; nor would he let his worgen self sit idly by while his killing edge could be used to save others. Looking at the carnage around him, he knew he should have felt horrified by what he had done, but  found that his view on the world had changed. Abandoning the ways of the monk, Grimslash thanked his remaining tutors and cleaned his axes, leaving to rejoin his people.

Writer’s comments: As World of Warcraft has progressed, Blizzard have given player characters of new races or hero classes more linear origin stories. Due to this, characters like Stalward, Virizard and Grimslash are difficult to come up with unique origins for. I’ve been mostly trying to add flair to their stories either before or after they underwent their respective changes, whilst respecting the game’s own lore for their origins.

Also, if the faction leader can be called ‘Genn Greymane’ despite not being a worgen for most of his life, I can definitely get away with ‘Archibald Grimslash’.

Adamant, Dwarf Retribution Paladin

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Adamant Stoutwhisker enjoyed a typical dwarven upbringing amongst a rowdy, tavern-going family. Many a long and raucous evening was spent drinking away in Kharanos in his adolescence, and when he grew older and yearned for independence, Adamant moved to Loch Modan and took up fishing in-between nights at the tavern. As time passed, many of Adamant’s friends grew troubled with world-shaking events such as the invasion of the Horde and the onslaught of the Scourge, and left to lend their aid to the Alliance. Adamant didn’t begrudge them this, but he preferred the peaceful life of fishing in the Loch and drinking with his friends, so he simply befriended whatever newcomers appeared, and continued as he was.

One night, a grizzled human veteran deigned to suggest that Adamant was too dismissive of the sacrifices made for his way of life, and the drunken dwarf was quick to anger, ending the evening in a bloody brawl with the man. Ashamed – and easily beaten – he tracked the human down the next day to apologise. The old warrior accepted his apology, but added that the Alliance always needed more heroes in an increasingly dangerous world. He extended a hand of friendship. Ashamed, Adamant skulked away.

The following months were a dark time for Adamant. His drinking became less an exercise of leisure and more of a compulsion, an attempt to drive away the nagging feeling that he was every bit the coward that the old man had accused of him. The dwarf found himself listening in on the news of the world – of how a young human Prince had fallen under the sway of the Scourge, how entire cities were falling to the plague of undeath – and the knot of unease in his stomach only grew. Yet still he remained at the Loch.

Eventually, news reached him that the grizzled veteran who Adamant had fought with many months ago had fallen in the fight against the Scourge. A service was to be held at the graveyard south of Andorhal, where Uther himself was buried. Adamant had heard of his friends dying in the line of duty before, but something about this human’s sacrifice affected something deep within him. Sobered, Adamant rose from his stool and abandoned his tankard. The next morning, he set off for the Plaguelands.

When Adamant reached the warrior’s grave to pay his respects, he was horrified by the state of the land around him. He’d heard the tales – heard reports in excruciating detail – but even as the other dwarves were moved into action, Adamant had remained content to drink with his friends, comforted by the notion that the Alliance existed to allow dwarves like him to live unaffected by the perils of the world.

The veteran was right, Adamant realised. He wasn’t just ambivalent. He was complacent, lethargic, and cowardly.

As Adamant rose to leave the grave, he was ambushed by a mindless undead that had ambled unnoticed into the area. With no time to think, Adamant reached for his mace – a family heirloom – and struck the creature down, his simple weapon gleaming with a golden, holy energy.

Astonished, Adamant surveyed his arms, and felt the same holy energy running through his veins, fortifying him and lending to him a vigour that purged the lethargy from his bones. His muscles brimmed with the anticipation of action, with a newfound might, and with the thirst for holy retribution.

The Light had chosen Adamant to be worthy of wielding its power upon sensing his newfound conviction to make amends. Wasting no time gawping, Adamant seized this opportunity and immediately headed north to Hearthglen, to pledge his allegiance to the Argent Crusade and seek tutoring in the ways of the paladin.

Writer’s notes: I’d like to mention that the veteran’s judgement of Adamant as a coward for living a regular life isn’t supposed to apply to situations outside of Warcraft. In Azeroth at this point in time, the entire world was in peril on a regular basis, and it stands to reason that a more militaristic way of thinking would be a popular mindset in this social context, especially among the valorous humans and dwarves towards young and able-bodied people of their race opting to live a peaceful life among the dire conflicts. This mightn’t even be the ruling mindset – simply an interaction between an ageing veteran who has seen his friends die in the field to a worthy cause, and a drunken dwarf who lives in open ingratitude towards the sacrifices of said friends.

On a lighter note, Adamant is the only character I’ve ever paid to change the name of. He spent his first hundred levels as… Smotencore. Ech.

Khallus, Human Assassination Rogue

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After retaking Stormwind during the Second War, King Varian Wrynn employed the Stonemason’s Guild to rebuild the sacked city. When the nobles of Stormwind refused to pay the workers for their labour, the Stonemasons rioted, and after Queen Tiffin was killed during the chaos they retreated to the outskirts of the kingdom, forming the Defias Brotherhood. Khallus was raised within the Brotherhood to believe that the kingdom of Stormwind was a tyrannous empire, and that the Alliance was a malignant and corrupt organisation. He was trained in the ways of assassination by his mother and father, poised to become a sharply honed weapon of the Brotherhood that would infiltrate the city and execute the nobility. Eventually, he grew into adulthood and completed his training, and was sent on his first mission – to execute a heinously corrupt lord currently lodging in the Trade District.

While skulking in the shadows and waiting for the right moment to strike, Khallus was privy to the discussions of lords and ladies, and though he was only in his target’s chambers for a few hours, he learned enough to know that the nobles of Stormwind were not as malicious as he was led to believe. A few conversations weren’t enough to undo years of indoctrination, but they were enough to give him pause, to withdraw and do his own research. Over the following weeks, Khallus discovered that Lady Katrina Prestor – the black dragon Onyxia in disguise – had influenced Stormwind’s nobles into refusing to pay the Stonemasons. It turned out that the lords and ladies weren’t to blame for the tragedy that formed the Defias Brotherhood.

Not entirely.

Returning home to Westfall, Khallus informed his parents of Onyxia’s now-forgotten plot to forge the Brotherhood as a weapon to destabilise the Alliance. To Khallus’ surprise, his parents already knew. Worse still, they didn’t care. They pointed to the ongoing famine in Westfall as one of many signs of Stormwind’s neglect. Khallus didn’t disagree, but he told them that surely it was in their best interests to stop hindering the Alliance so that they might get a better foothold in the region, that perhaps they could then help. But his argument fell on deaf ears. He was being idealistic. He was being ungrateful. If his parents hadn’t scooped him up during the riots, he’d be nothing more than a street urchin, begging for coppers in the streets of Old Town.

Khallus was stunned. He hadn’t known he was adopted – nay, stolen. After weeks of soul searching, he eventually made up his mind and escaped from the Brotherhood in the dead of night. But he would not go to Stormwind; his lack of faith in the Brotherhood did not absolve the human kingdom of its own crimes. Instead, he became a nomad, eavesdropping on rumours of local troubles and using his abilities to assassinate the cause of the issue, efficiently and ruthlessly. He worked not for the Alliance as a whole, but for the individuals who were being affected or sent to fight whatever evil was marked for death. His was a life of isolation, extermination, and a bloody quest for redemption.

Writer’s notes: Khallus is the character I made to level through the game without dungeons or heirlooms, to read the quest text and take note of the story. In light of this, his story is one that fits that of the player character questing through zones, eliminating threats and helping individual peoples in need.

Elismyr, Gnome Windwalker Monk

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Elismyr never found that she never possessed the mirth and bombasity that her race became known for. She was adopted into a family that paid little attention to her, and her shy nature removed her from many possible social groups. As she grew into adulthood she felt as if she were an outcast, and was preparing to leave Gnomeregan and trek for places unknown when an engineer named Fizzik noticed her dour, broken expression. Fizzik summoned up the courage to approach her and ask her why she was heading out of Gnomeregan at this time of night with what appeared to be all her worldly possessions. Having nurtured a growing resentment of her people and their extroverted ways, Elismyr responded harshly, and strode past him out into the frosty wilderness of Dun Morogh.

Fizzik was no lone spirit and was somewhat affronted by Elismyr’s hostility, and so didn’t immediately go after her. But as he continued to work on his mechanostrider by the entrance to Gnomeregan, unease began to settle in his mind, and he imaged the young gnome being assaulted by troggs, or wild boars, or frostmane trolls. Grumbling to himself, he mounted his mechanostrider – he’d only been making some minor modifications – and set out to find her. Not many gnomes left Gnomeregan, let alone at the dead of night. It was a big world for a small people such as they.

Fizzik followed her footsteps through the snow, and eventually found her struggling on through a growing snowstorm. She whirled as she heard his approach, and scowled at him with recognition. And yet, despite her extensive planning she had left with little experience of the outside world, and found that even through her furs, the snow contained an icy bite. Plus, the shadow of a large bear loomed through the fog. Elismyr decided that she’d return to Gnomeregan with the nosy engineer, just for the night. She’d leave in the morning.

But she never did. Despite rocky first impressions, Elismyr and Fizzik grew to be close friends, and eventually fell in love. Fizzik grew to appreciate Elismyr’s quiet persona, a rare trait indeed for a gnome. And in turn, Elismyr learned through Fizzik that despite the cheerfulness and outgoing nature of many gnomes, these traits often belied a more sincere understanding of the world, and an innate desire to invent new and wondrous technologies for the benefit of all. Elismyr no longer resented other gnomes. After a decade together, the two gnomes married in a well-attended ceremony.

They would enjoy their married life for a scant few years before tragedy struck. An ancient menace besieged Gnomeregan during the time of the Third War, and Fizzik and Elismyr decided to retreat to the young settlement of New Tinkertown while the warriors attempted to save Gnomeregan. Fizzik insisted that Elismyr go on ahead with some of his friends, as he believed that one of his devices may prove useful to the defenders. He promised he would join her in New Tinkertown the next day. Reluctantly, she let him go.

Fizzik never returned.

Elismyr was devastated with grief. She felt wronged and abandoned, though she knew Fizzik was not to blame. She felt isolated and bothered by those around her all at once, and began to regress into her former misanthropic ways. These tumultuous feelings did not heal with time, and Elismyr grew to be a bitter, solitary gnome on the edge of New Tinkertown, sometimes going weeks without talking to another soul.

Eventually, talk of a new race of people called the Pandaren came to Elismyr’s attention. The news was old, of course; Elismyr rarely engaged in idle gossip. These Pandaren lived by the way of the monk, an ideology as much as a way of fighting. They believed in a harmony of the soul, the importance of being at peace with oneself. A band of them had recently arrived in Dun Morogh, and were accepting trainees. A few years ago, when her grief was still raw, Elismyr wouldn’t have bothered. But after many years of struggling with her own mind, the idea grabbed hold of her. Without a word to anyone, Elismyr gathered up her meagre possessions and left. She would never turn back.

Writer’s notes: Elismyr is part of the reason why I took so damn long to write this third Volume. I am, historically, a hater of gnomes. They are small and crude and irritating. But monks are not any of these things, bar small, if you so choose. And so I created Elismyr, a gnome in race only. I wanted her to be more of an introvert, an outsider, as I feel any gnome who wishes to pursue the ways of the monk would be. Also, I thought it would be hilarious to kill giant Pit Lords as a tiny, zen-fuelled gnome with some powerful palms.

Coming next: Champions of the Horde, Allied Races and short stories from the perspectives of some of my characters, during the most important moments of their lives. My Druid Kritigri may have something to say about the Burning of Teldrassil.

 

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My World of Warcraft Characters’ Lore: Volume 2

Firstly, thank you everyone for the wonderful feedback on Volume 1! Such positive comments! Feedback of any kind is what motivates me to write more, so without further ado, here is Volume 2. And I promise, I’m all out of Night Elves.


Sisters of Light and Shadow

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In the verdant plains of Nagrand in a village named Telaar, two young draenei sisters played among the fields. The eldest was named Aeonaar, and she was often seen scurrying after her mischievous younger sister, Dionaar. They were too young to know of Argus or of the army of demons hunting their people, but they would learn soon enough.

The sisters were often schooled on the ways of the Light in Telaar, and soon enough the sisters had grown from children into studious young women. Dionaar grew out of her mischievous ways, and despite being the younger of the two sisters, she became the more promising pupil of the Light. She was awestruck by the benevolence and healing properties of the Light, and whilst Aeonaar was no novice, it was Dionaar who advanced through their class in leaps and strides whilst her elder sister struggled to keep up.

As the sisters grew, so too did orcish aggression against their people. The orcs had been corrupted by the Legion in one of their many attempts to break into Azeroth, and as a side effect, the draenei were being hunted in alarmingly high numbers. The sisters quickly found themselves becoming wartime medics, using the Light to heal their injured friends as they stood their ground against the orcs. During these times, Aeonaar found herself motivated by her younger sister’s talent and sheer determination to right the wrongs of the world.

Eventually, an orc by the name of Ner’Zhul would bring catacylsmic destruction to Draenor after ripping the fabric of the world apart too often with his portals. The world buckled, and parts of Nagrand exploded into the sky as the apocalypse wrought its toll on the ancient land. The draenei sisters held each other close as they waited for the end, but after many days and nights, the rumbling stopped. Cautiously, they emerged from their broken village to find that the world as they knew it was gone. The sky had been replaced with the chaotic energies of the Twisting Nether; the seas had fallen away into the abyss; the mountains remained stationary in the air, defying gravity. Draenor was dead. This new land would come to be known as Outland.

Aeonaar despaired, but Dionaar told her that it was a miracle of the Light that life still persisted on this broken shelf. Talbuk still roamed, and Elekk still thundered through the grassy plains. Nevertheless, what remained of Telaar was not safe. Dionaar had received a vision urging them to journey to a region that would come to be known as Zangarmarsh, where Prophet Velen was amassing their people. The sisters rallied as many of the surviving villagers as they could, and began the long journey. They would join with his band and journey with him for many years thereafter. During this time they would make the journey to Shattrath city, and discover the naaru that awaited them there, a being of pure Light which had come to them from the cosmos. Aeonaar was enamoured with the benevolence of this being, and she felt her connection to the Light grow stronger after spending time in its presence. As for Dionaar, she had met a handsome draenei leatherworker named Dalren in Shattrath, and despite her best interests to refrain from becoming distracted from her holy mission, fell completely in love with him.

Eventually, a plan was formed to venture to the Netherstorm and take control of an interdimensional craft named the Exodar, so that they might journey to Azeroth. Aeonaar, Dionaar and Dalren all volunteered to join the expedition, and they reached the Exodar with little opposition. As they assaulted Tempest Keep in order to seize control of the Exodar, however, they met resistence from the blood elves, and a stray arrow struck Dalren in the throat, and felled him.

Aeonaar had never heard her sister scream in such a way. Not even during the destruction of Draenor.

As they boarded the Exodar, the sisters dragged Dalren with them, begging the Light to heal his wounds, to undo the hole in his throat and restore his ability to breathe. As benevolent as the Light was, however, there were limits to its powers, and Dalren had already passed beyond the mortal veil. Aeonaar knew that their attempts were hopeless, but would not give up, for the sake of her sister. Eventually, however, it appeared that there were blood elves on board the Exodar, and that they had sabotaged the ship; Aeonaar’s attention was demanded elsewhere. Dionaar refused to leave Dalren’s side, even as the Exodar shuddered and began hurtling out of control towards Azeroth through the Twisting Nether. Before they crashed, Dionaar’s eyes found the stars, and she found herself fixating on the darkness between them.

When at last they crashed on Azuremyst Isle and began making an account of the survivors, Dionaar was nowhere to be found.

Aeonaar, Lightforged Draenei Holy Priest

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Aeonaar was deeply disturbed by the disappearance of her sister. She wished to search the island, and indeed search parties were sent out to look for her and others. But her expertise with the Light was needed here, to save as many of the injured as she could. It was agonising for her to refrain from joining the search for Dionaar, but she believed in the sanctity of life above all else. She couldn’t allow those around her to perish due to her own selfish needs.

She would never find her sister in those coming months and years. Her grief ran deep, but she never felt that she had erred in her decision to serve the holy Light and heal as many survivors as she could that day. Instead, she dedicated herself to the needs of her people and the peoples of the Alliance, who had provided her people with aid when they needed it most. Over the next decade she followed armies back into Outland to slay the traitor Illidan; she journeyed with them to Northrend to end the threat of the Lich King; she travelled the world as a healer after an all-too familiar cataclysm wrought tragedy across the world; she healed the casualties of the Alliance and, secretly, the Horde during their conflicts in Pandaria. She kept herself busy, all the while keeping an ear to the ground regarding the whereabouts of her sister. After the siege of Orgrimmar, Aeonaar decided to take some time and scour the globe in search of her sister, in an attempt to put her mind at ease once and for all.

She found nothing. If Dionaar was out there, she did not wish to be found.

Aeonaar might have had time to despair, had her people’s hunters not chosen that moment to finally break into Azeroth and launch an all-out invasion. She found herself called back into the line of duty, and as events unfolded she was given the opportunity to march upon Argus, her ancestral homeland, to bring an end to the Legion once and for all.

Many draenei, upon setting hoof on Argus for the first time in their lives or in millennia, found themselves overcome with sorrow. What had once been a jewel of a civilisation had crumbled to ash, to fel rock and hatred. Instead, Aeonaar found hope. The very fact that they were able to land here and take the fight to the Legion was a testament to the determination of the mortal races and their desire to bring peace to the world. Furthermore, they met with the Army of the Light, largely composed of a sect of Lightforged Draenei who were even more attuned to the Light than she and her fellow priests were. And it was with the power of this Light that they were able to fight and to keep their allies fighting, until they finally assaulted the Burning Throne and removed the Legion’s threat once and for all.

After the celebrations, Aeonaar received a summons from High Exarch Turalyon of the Army of the Light. He was looking for new recruits, strong in the ways of the Light, to join his golden army. He explained that the Legion was not the only threat to Azeroth, or to the other worlds of the Great Dark Beyond. The greatest threat was that of the Void, a direct antithesis to the Light that would devour everything in its path until darkness enveloped reality. To fight it, he would need all the help he could get.

During the trial to become Lightforged, a draenei was confronted with their darkest, most personal fears and regrets. In Aeonaar’s trial, Dionaar appeared, blaming her for the death of Dalren and scorning her for not searching the island for her sister before it was too late. Aeonaar nearly withered before her sister’s accusations… but eventually, her rational side won out. She reaffirmed her faith in the Light and its cause, and emerged from her trial changed. Her attunement to the Light was stronger than ever before. She had become Lightforged.

Dionaar, Draenei Shadow Priest

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When the Exodar crashed, Dionaar came to her senses before many others. As she got up, she heard a moaning coming from the far side of the room. Stumbling towards the murmuring, she found a dying engineer. Shaking off her dizziness, Dionaar knelt and did what came naturally to her: she called upon the holy Light to help her heal this injured soul.

The Light did not answer her.

Dalren’s dying face flashed in her mind, and she froze. She’d been unable to save him. Did that mean that the Light had now forsaken her? But that was cruel. She had tried her best. It wasn’t her fault.

Shaken, Dionaar tried once more to heal the dying draenei, pleading the Light to help her, begging it to. But it refused to answer her call. The Light was content to let this innocent person die because it no longer believed in her as a worthy conduit.

Years of learning from the Light, of putting faith in it and revelling in its benevolence, died then and there. Dionaar would never wield the Light again. She stormed from the Exodar and did not return.

What she did not know, would never know, was that the Light knew her faith had been shaken when her lover had died in her arms. It had denied her call in order to test her, to see if she would do anything to help the dying draenei on her own. When she did not, the Light decided she was lost, and roused another nearby priest so that they may help instead.

Dionaar fled to the edge of Azuremyst Isle and found an abandoned rowboat which she used to reach Darkshore. Knowing nothing of Azeroth, Dionaar was frightened to be alone in this alien land, but knew that she couldn’t face her sister or her people again, not after the Light had forsaken her. She forged a crude dagger and hunted herself a rabbit for food. She slept beneath the stars that night, plagued by memories of Dalren dying in her arms, waking up intermittently. Once, she awoke to the clear sky and found herself gazing into the void between stars, finding beauty for the first time in the darkness. She remembered the energies of the Twisting Nether in the skies back home, how they’d frightened her. It seemed foolish now. There was a beauty in that chaos. She’d simply been too afraid of a life without the Light to dare think it.

The next morning, she awoke to an ambush. Two figures, tall and with long ears and pale blue skin, assaulted her with blasts of holy Light. Alarmed, Dionaar swept up her hunting dagger, dodged the blasts of Light and threw it in desperation. It found the throat of one of the creatures. The other wailed, and fled into the early morning mists.

Dionaar had been assaulted by a pair of night elf priests who knew nothing of the draenei as a race, but had fought the demonic eredar in the third war, the draenei of Argus that had become demons. Dionaar knew nothing of this. She just knew that she’d been assaulted by a pair of native creatures wielding the holy Light against her. For the first time, it crossed her mind that the Light may not be entirely benevolent after all, if it was sending people to assassinate her. Flinching at the sight of the dagger in the night elf’s throat – her first kill – she retrieved her makeshift weapon and dried it off, before turning and heading south.

Eventually, Dionaar came across a roaming band of people of many races. They wore purple robes and introduced themselves as the Twilight’s Hammer, a group of people who wanted to make the world a better place using forbidden magics. A week ago, Dionaar would have turned her nose up at them, but since crash landing on Azeroth, her view of the Light had been changed somewhat. The prospect of wielding forbidden powers – perhaps more powerful than the Light – to do good was a path that seemed fitting for her. After some reluctance and much thought, she agreed to be tutored in the ways of shadow magic.

Over the next few years, Dionaar would slowly be converted into a willing participant of the Twilight’s Hammer cult. After years of a subtle warping of her mind, she grew to believe that the Hour of Twilight would indeed be a desirable outcome. No more life, no more love, no more grief. The Twilight’s Hammer took hold of her grief and expanded it, exaggerated it, turning Dalren from a lover into her sole reason to be, something the Light had wrenched from her. She would have continued down this dark path had she not run into her sister.

Aeonaar was in Loch Modan, seeing to the wounds of some warriors who had just clashed with Twilight’s Hammer cultists. Dionaar’s orders were to destroy this retreating band of fighters, and at this point, she had no objection – after all, before long all life was going to be eradicated. She didn’t know her sister was amongst them. But as she crested the ridge, she saw Aeonaar gazing down at the soldier she was healing. A look of intense care was on her face, a benevolence shattered when she looked up in alarm. Surveying the fighters, Aeonaar stared right at Dionaar.

Due to Dionaar’s Twilight robes and concealing hood, her sister didn’t even recognise her.

In that moment it was like a spell had broken in Dionaar’s mind. In a literal sense, the Twilight’s Hammer had been magically altering her perceptions and her way of thinking, and this had now been undone by the surge of love Dionaar felt for her sister. In another sense, Dionaar herself now realised that she’d been a fool. She immediately turned on her band and asphyxiated them with shadow magic. Taken unawares, they couldn’t do anything but struggle feebly as they suffocated.

When Dionaar had dealt with the cultists, she turned to her sister, only to find that she had fled. Dionaar didn’t think it wise to follow.

Over the next few years, Dionaar would travel alone and help the Alliance from the shadows, saving lives with her forbidden magic in a much less direct way than she used to, when she could wield the Light. Perhaps she could never make amends for what she’d done, but she could at least bring some good into the world before she would inevitably be captured and executed for her past crimes. She felt like this was a fate she deserved, and resolved not to fight against her captors were it to ever happen.

When events on Argus reached their peak and Alleria Windrunner embraced void magic, however, those who used forbidden magics came to be seen as antiheroes more than criminals. After some consideration, a lonely Dionaar gingerly crept into the capital of Stormwind and sought out the new void elves of the Alliance. With them, she found a place in which she could control her powers and be accepted for who she truly was. It was the first time she’d felt at peace with herself since leaving Outland.

Author’s notes: The story of Aeonaar and Dionaar is a little more fleshed out and extensive than most of my other characters, so I felt the need to do something a little different for their story. This is why their story begins not as a focus on one character or the other, but as their journey as sisters.

Coming next: Various heroes of the Alliance

My World of Warcraft Characters’ Lore: Volume 1

Firstly, I’d like to apologise for the lack of blog posts from me lately! I’ve been concentrating my creative energies elsewhere. I can’t promise that this is going to change anytime soon, but in the meantime I do have quite a hefty creative post for you part one of many, and whether you enjoy World of Warcraft or not, I’m hoping it’ll be interesting to you.

I don’t RP much in World of Warcraft (although I’d like to), but I do like to give my characters a bit of backstory to motivate them through the game’s questing. All of this stuff is typically in my head though, except for a couple of times where I’ve tried to write short stories from their perspective. Turns out, writing inside someone else’s world is more difficult than creating your own. Anyway, without further ado:


The Night Elf Brothers

Kritigri, Night Elf Balance Druid

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Born shortly before the War of the Ancients, Kritigri had the unfortunate experience of watching the horrors of the war unfold during his adolescent years, ending with the Sundering of the world. Experiencing such devastation was not easy on Kritigri, and he spent many years after meditating in the wilds to try to come to terms with the amount of death and destruction that had torn apart his homeland. During the war, his younger brother Virizard had been captured by demons, and dragged back through one of their portals, never to be seen again – this had also taken its toll on Kritigri’s mental wellbeing. But after many years communing with nature and observing the regrowth of the wilds, Kritigri became inspired by the resilience of nature and pledged himself to the path of druidism. He sought out a mentor and spent many years learning to become a druid, and then worked with them for centuries in the Emerald Dream.

Shortly after the fall of the Lich King, the Emerald Nightmare grew alarmingly in strength, trapping the druids within it until they were freed by Tyrande. Kritigri awoke to a changed Azeroth. The Night Elves had formed a new civilisation named Darnassus in the boughs of a new world tree, Teldrassil, and had entered into an Alliance with a collection of younger races. Kritigri knew some of this from what his druidic peers had told him as they had entered and left the Emerald Dream, but this was the first time he had personally emerged from the dream in centuries. Oftentimes, he found it easier to work in the dream than to walk the imperfect waking world, but he could afford to dream no longer. A cataclysm was coming, one that would shatter the world anew and remind Kritigri afresh of the horrors he’d witnessed during his youth. During this troublesome time, he would vow to himself to never turn his back on the troubles of Azeroth again – as he had during the third war – and would, in time, become a venerated hero of the Alliance.

Writer’s notes: Kritigri is my main character in World of Warcraft, and therefore I’ve always considered his story to match that of the general player character quite closely. He’d save Mount Hyjal, stop Deathwing, fight the Horde on the beaches of Pandaria, etc. But writing this backstory up gave me an opportunity to give him a more unique personality to carry through those Blizzard-crafted storylines.

Tolidar, Night Elf Arcane Mage

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A mere child during the Sundering of the world, Tolidar’s early life saw much upheaval. His family were grieving over the loss of his older brother, Virizard, and his eldest brother Kritigri was growing more aloof by the day, wandering the forests of the newly broken world whenever he had the opportunity. Kritigri’s love for nature soured Tolidar’s own opinion of the wild lands, and almost spitefully he opted to remain indoors, spending most of his reclusive adolescent-hood in the family library. It was here that he discovered books relating the arcane magics and how to wield them, and before long he was experimenting with them, conjuring food for mealtimes, and generally showing off to his brothers.

It was around this time that Malfurion Stormrage outlawed the use of arcane magic.

A furious argument broke out between Tolidar and Kritigri. Tolidar argued that his use of the arcane was harmless, and that Kritigri’s amateur druidic powers were no different to his arcane ones. Kritigri tried to convince Tolidar to stop his errant ways, now punishable by death, as it was that kind of thinking that had drawn the Legion to Azeroth. In Tolidar’s eyes, however, Kritigri had become too much of a druid to see what this new law was doing to his younger brother – that it was taking away the only thing that gave him reason to be – and the argument ended with Tolidar storming from the household and going to live in recluse, where he would practice his arcane arts in private. He briefly considered joining the Highborne in Eldre’Thalas, but the betrayal of Queen Azshara was too abhorrent in his mind to be associated with even this other sect of Highborne. He had not forgotten the Legion’s assault of Azeroth, or the kidnapping of his brother.

Thousands of years later, Tolidar’s life changed wildly once again. The Cataclysm had erupted into Azeroth, and Malfurion had awoken from the Emerald Dream – along with Tolidar’s eldest brother, no less – and declared that the Highborne mages deserved another chance. For a time, Tolidar rebelled against this notion, but thousands of years in recluse had made him quite lonely, and after ages of trying to hide what he truly was, the prospect of being a part of something was too good to resist. Gingerly, Tolidar approached the mages and asked if he could join them in their sorcerous ways, but after a swift examination they declared that his magic was nowhere near refined enough, and that to temper his magic he must make better use of it. Years of stifling his arcane abilities had rendered them weak and rough, and should he wish to join them, he should help the Alliance in ridding the world of the cataclysmic threats and prove to them that the Highborne deserved this second chance, all the while honing his arcane talents. Reluctantly, he agreed. Over the coming years, he would find that he had a place among the races of the Alliance more than he ever had within his own people. Rather than returning to the Highborne, Tolidar opted to take up residence in Dalaran.

Writer’s notes: Tolidar required a bit more explanation as he’s a Night Elf Mage, but not a Highborne. Originally, he had no characteristics at all, and was simply a character I’d made to use my Warlords of Draenor pre-order boost on. But after making a Night Elf Mage named Tolidar on an RP realm who was struggling to enter an academy of magic, I realised that a similar story could be applied to my regular mage. This is my first time reconciling that RP character’s story with my boosted mage’s.

Jerrek, Night Elf Beastmaster Hunter

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The youngest child of four and born after the War of the Ancients, Jerrek did not suffer as his older siblings did. He did not witness the Sundering of the world and did not meet Virizard, the second eldest of his siblings who was abducted by the Burning Legion. Growing up in the aftermath of events he had never witnessed, he often felt like he didn’t have a part to play in shaping the world, like he didn’t fit in. As a result he was a quiet child, and while Kritigri was meditative and Tolidar was reclusive, both were at least talkatative when they were together, or argumentative later on. Jerrek simply observed.

One day, after a particularly explosive argument between Kritigri and Tolidar regarding the use of arcane magics, Tolidar stormed out of the house, claiming that he would never return. After some time, Kritigri left to meditate in the wilds, and Jerrek spoke up, asking if he could tag along. Seeing the opportunity to share his love for the wilds with his brother, Kritigri accepted. But while Kritigri rambled on and on about the types of plants and their roles within the ecosystem, Jerrek’s mind kept wandering. He enjoyed the atmosphere of the wilds, but didn’t find himself feeling any particular affinity with the flora around him. They were just… plants. What he did pay attention to, however, were the beasts that stalked the wilds around them. Jerrek had always had a way with animals, perhaps due to his quiet nature. Eventually, he began making his own expeditions into the wilds, where he would befriend the wildlife he found there.

Eventually Kritigri departed to learn the ways of druidism, and Tolidar didn’t seem to be returning either. Feeling isolated and a little abandoned, Jerrek turned to the Night Elven military to try and fill the gap his family had left in his life, hoping that as part of an army he might rise through the ranks and eventually make his mark on the world. Jerrek proved to have an innate talent for the bow, perhaps honed from his days hunting down food after Tolidar had departed. He also brought his prize falcon Wyllum with him to track and blind enemies in the field. Over the years, he would befriend many more animal companions that he could call upon in the field of battle.

Writer’s notes: Jerrek’s name in-game is actually Kritimal, a play on my username to include the word ‘animal’. This, of course, would not make sense in the lore, so I had to invent a new name for him. I believe Jerrek fits the bill. He is also my original PvP focused character, so I decided to include a military background for him.

Virizard, Night Elf Havoc Demon Hunter

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During the War of the Ancients, Virizard and his brothers came across a village that was beset by demons. Kritigri and Tolidar wanted to flee, run to the nearest band of Kaldorei troops and tell them that the villagers were being attacked. Virizard stood frozen, watching a young Night Elf child being eaten by a Felstalker while she was still alive. Her arms clawed feebly at the ground. No Night Elf regiment would be fast enough to save her, or her sister, who was frozen in horror some steps away.

Virizard told his brothers to run and get help, before turning to dash towards the village. He had no weapons or combat training. He didn’t know what he was going to do. He just had to try and help in any way that he could. On his way to save the frightened girl, however, a looming Felguard appeared, grinning down at him. It struck him over the back of the head, rendering him unconscious, before dragging him back to one of the Legion’s many conquered worlds through a dark green portal. It was the last his brothers ever saw of him.

Unfortunately, his story did not end there.

Virizard awoke in a cage barely large enough to contain him. When his eyes regained their focus and he cast his eyes around him, he initially feared that the fel-scarred world he was looking at was Azeroth. His fears were assuaged – and then replaced with larger ones – when he looked to the sky, only to see the Twisting Nether’s raging energies in place of Azeroth’s skies. The Legion had captured him, and many other elves, in order to fuel their soul machines. An eyeless Inquisitor gleefully informed them that they were being held on reserve until they were needed.

After some time, the attitude of the demons changed. They had lost the War of the Ancients, and failed to break through to Azeroth. They turned their rage on the prisoners, killing many, and torturing others. Virizard himself was tortured for many miserable years. Eventually his mind broke, and he became a gibbering mess along with many of the other Kaldorei prisoners. Finding no fun in torturing mindless husks, the demons turned their attentions elsewhere.

When a raid led by the Army of the Light appeared and emancipated Virizard and the other prisoners from their chains, Virizard’s broken mind believed it to be a trick. He fought against the Lightforged Draenei, who appeared to be a new breed of Eredar demon trying to abduct him. The Draenei subdued most of the prisoners, but Virizard managed to evade them, fleeing into the demonic wastes. He soon found a series of demon portals through which he hopped, from world to world, slowly regathering his senses until he regained his a portion of his sanity. How he evaded demonic discovery or capture during that time must be put down to pure chance.

There was no telling how much time had passed since he had been captured, nor how many years he spent hopping between worlds. When Virizard eventually realised what he’d done in fleeing the Army of the Light, he almost lost himself to madness once more. Instead, he turned to his dread into rage, and vowed to hunt the demons to extermination. Just how he’d do this remained to be seen. For now, he continued travelling between broken worlds, forging weapons out of whatever materials he could find, occasionally slaying some lesser demons or disrupting their forces.

Eventually, Virizard happened across a portal leading to Outland, and immediately he stopped. Throughout the years, he’d travelled across many scorched, dead lands. This one still had some life left in it, despite the fact that it existed in the Twisting Nether. For the first time in what may have been centuries, Virizard was able to feed himself on the meat of a living creature, as opposed to whatever fungal or lichen growth he could find left clinging to a fel-scarred rock. Furthermore, this realm harboured civilisations of people who weren’t demons. This was incredible.

Eventually, Virizard heard word of Illidan Stormrage, and his army of Demon Hunters at the Black Temple. Enamoured by the prospect of seeing his own people again – of seeing people who hunted demons with the same vengeance as he – Virizard made his way to Shadowmoon Valley, confronting the army and demanding to be given a chance of joining. The Demon Hunters accepted his request, but with a warning – each of them had a demon inside of them, and the process killed more than it transformed. Virizard wasn’t phased. He’d seen more than his fair share of torment in his life. This would be no worse.

He was wrong.

When at last he emerged from his agonising transformation, he accepted his warglaives with pride. Never again would he be helpless against the Legion’s cruelties. It mattered not to him that he would never lead a normal life on Azeroth again. After millennia of torture, he’d even forgotten his coward brothers’ names…

Writer’s note: Out of all my characters, this might be the one that feels the most like edgy fanfiction. But I feel like that’s all in the spirit of what a Demon Hunter is. Edgy felves coming to angst you up.

Stalward, Night Elf Frost Death Knight

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The druid Kritigri didn’t come out of the Emerald Dream until the encroachment of the Nightmare forced him to. These are the way events took place in our timeline. But in another, he was convinced to exit the dream to defend Mount Hyjal against Archimonde’s attacks, and from then onwards he remained outside the dream. Some years after defeating Archimonde and joining with the Alliance, Kritigri joined a Stormwind expedition into Northrend to end the Lich King’s necromantic horrors forever. Kritigri saw undeath as a plague upon nature, and stood side by side with other champions as they invaded Northrend.

Kritigri died on the shores of Borean Tundra.

Some time later, Kritigri felt himself stirring. Ice coursed through his veins, and he awoke in the belly of Acherus, one of the Lich King’s floating necropolis fortresses. The Lich King’s voice echoed in his mind, telling him to make himself useful, to grab a weapon and join the other Death Knights in an assault on the Scarlet Enclave. Eager to obey, Kritigri tested his attunement to nature, and found that he was no longer able to call upon the wilds as he once had. Some deep part of him stirred in unease, but he shrugged it off and instead picked up a pair of swords. These would work just as well.

Kritigri descended upon the Scarlet Enclave, slaughtering villagers and delivering the Lich King’s will to the fools who tried to wield the light against him. He rode alongside Darion Mograine as they assaulted Light’s Hope Chapel, and fought against the light-crazed forces inside. He slew…. he slew…

The Lich King’s will abandoned him and all at once, he felt stained by the blood on his hands.

Mograine declared that they would stand against the Lich King as Knights of the Ebon Blade, and Kritigri knew that this was the only way he could possibly begin to make amends for what he had done. But still, the call of nature eluded him. Still, he wielded his swords with a deathly, necromantic power. These were the powers with which he had to fight, and now when he touched a leaf, it withered before his eyes.

So be it. He was Kritigri no longer. Kritigri had died on the shores of Borean Tundra. He was a new entity, forever changed by his raising into undeath. Kritigri took on the name Stalward, and made sure to always wear heavy armour in public so as to never be recognised by his brothers. They would surely be devastated were they to ever learn what had become of him.

Writer’s note: I was originally going to try and find a way to bring Stalward into the main timeline using the Infinite Dragonflight or the Bronze Dragonflight or something, but found that I couldn’t do this without taking liberties with the lore and turning from roleplay into outright fanfiction, which isn’t something I wish to do. Therefore, the world Stalward exists in remains the same as the regular one except the druid Kritigri does not exist. I chose to make Stalward my druid’s alternate self because I couldn’t pass up the cool factor of having a what-if Death Knight version of my main. Also, the Alliance expedition into Northrend is not the one that takes place at the beginning of WOTLK (as the Ebon Blade plot had already happened by then) but is one that takes place beforehand.

Coming next: Sisters of Light and Shadow, and Miscellaneous Heroes of the Alliance

No Man’s Sky – The Escalating Outlaw Incident

So I’m wandering around upon the pink, dusty service of the quaintly-named planet Okopfiessaont-Nish when I come across some containers that need destroying. It occurs to me that I’ve been playing the game for a good 5 hours and I haven’t even created my first weapon yet. So, without further ado, I create my bolt-caster and get to work.

My destruction immediately alerts a Sentinel drone, but I’m not too alarmed. I’ve heard some alien traders talking shit about these things, and there’s a whole statistic dedicated to how many you can down, so I figure that these things are public enemy #1. So I shoot the first drone down – a satisfying experience, having seen them hovering around the place, getting up in my face like I’m something to be examined. Satisfied, I return to my work.

Not long after destroying the second container, I get an alert. Drones again – two, this time. Alright. I take them out fairly easily and when no more come in for the attack, come to the conclusion that these things are pretty flimsy and not to be taken too seriously. Nevertheless, when I get attacked by three at once I decide that the party’s over and that I’d rather just take what I’ve collected and haul it back to the local station for sale. Lazily, I give the Sentinel drones the slip and jump into my trusty Rasamama S36, exiting the planet and cheating the things out of their vengeance.

Or so I thought. Upon exiting the atmosphere I get a message – LOCAL AUTHORITY SHIP INCOMING. I’ve been attacked by Space Pirates™ before, and was able to open my communicator to bargain for my life. Figuring I can do the same here, I open the quick menu only to find that the option isn’t there any more.

More drones, then. No big deal.

I’ve engaged in space combat once before, and I whooped ass. But on that occasion I was up against a lowly space pirate who’s eyes were bigger than his stomach. This unmanned Sentinel ship (I assume), however, comes packing lasers hot enough to take my shields down in just a few moments. This guy hurts.

I consider my options. Fight or flight? I think I could win, but not without cutting it close, and besides, I’m not sure what the penalty for defeat is. A crash landing? Loss of cargo? Reverting to my latest save? Uncertainty plagues me. But the space-station is six and a half minutes away if I boost the entire time, and my pulse-boost engines (the speed one grade above boosting and one grade below FTL) are disabled in combat.

I decide to fight.

The following combat is pitiful. Every time I manoeuvre my Rasamama in the correct position to blast my adversary, it’s closed the gap and has begun to open fire with its devastating lasers. I flee towards the closest cluster of meteorites, figuring that I could use my advanced (see: novice) space piloting skills to my advantage in a more hazardous environment. As it would happen, Star Wars lied to me, and this doesn’t actually change the playing field all that much.

The Sentinel ship takes my shields down and causes critical damage to me twice, lowering the amount of little ship icons on my HUD from 5 to 3. I, in turn, learn how to recharge my shields at any time via the quick menu, and employing some sharp turns and sacrificial charges to get some shots in, eventually land the killing blow. I’m rewarded with a Dimensional Matrix. I’ve yet to find out what it does.

I breathe a sigh of relief, but the satisfaction is short-lived. Before I know what’s happening, another red alert is flashing on my screen – LOCAL AUTHORITY SHIP INCOMING – and I’m on the run again. This time there’s two of them. I could barely defeat one ship – no way can I defeat two. I start charging my way towards the space station, only to discover that these new ships have blasters instead of lasers, and can easily keep my pace.

Okopfiessaont-Nish looms to my right. How close? I can’t get the tooltip to pop up, so I just boost towards it and hope for the best. Another few moments and I’m re-entering the atmosphere, hoping that the original drones from earlier have forgotten me. According to the game’s HUD, I’m still being chased by the two ships from earlier, but they don’t seem to have followed me into the planet’s atmosphere, so I land and hastily craft the components for FTL fuel which will allow me to jump systems. Will I be able to do that in combat? It’s my only hope.

I don’t wait to see if my enemies try to ambush me on the surface. Wasting no time, I deploy from the planet’s surface once more and exit the atmosphere. Bad news – the galactic map isn’t available on the quick menu, much like the communications icon was missing earlier. No FTL escape, then. The good news, however, is that I shook one of the enemy ships off my tail, so now I only have one Robocop to deal with. And the Space Station is only 3 minutes away by this point, so there’s really only one option left.

What followed were the tensest three minutes of my space-faring career. The Sentinel often got close enough in range to open fire, and I had to bob-and-weave all the way to the station, where I didn’t know if the Sentinel would follow me in, or if there would be more authorities waiting. Thankfully, I was able to dock peacefully and watch the little notoriety icon disappear shortly after landing. I don’t know if I’m now permanently a wanted man in this sector – all I know is that I’m jumping systems the moment I exit this station!

Oh, and I’ve renamed Okopfiessaont-Nish to Direscapus. It sounds far less cool now that I’ve confirmed the name, but there’s no changing it. Now whenever I gaze upon that ugly name, I’ll always be reminded of my, erm, dire escape.

I need to work on my naming game.

Music To My Thumbs

When I was younger, I scoffed at the notion of soundtracks and sound design being an important aspect of video game development. I’d never taken the time to appreciate what it adds to the atmosphere, to the aesthetic, and therefore dismissed it as a minor piece of the puzzle. But growing older, as I came to learn more about what’s behind the screens (sorry) of video games, I finally realised why playing a game on mute makes it less enjoyable.

I can actually remember the first time I sat up and took notice of soundtracks. I was watching Youtube Let’s Player Chuggaaconroy making note of the soundtrack in the game he was playing, and it occurred to me for the first time to pay attention. (I think it was in his Super Mario 64 Let’s Play, but this was a very, very long time ago, so I may be wrong.) I must have been about thirteen or fourteen. I don’t know why, but it acted as some sort of switch, because every game I’ve played since then, I’ve picked up on whether the soundtrack is good, or even good enough to listen to independently of the game. I’ve even bought a few soundtracks; Robot Roller Derby Disco Dodgeball’s soundtrack isn’t my typical choice of music, but it’s very nevertheless much enjoyed.

One of the great things about a good soundtrack is the way it stays with you, eventually drawing you back to the game. I’m sure most of us will be able to hum Sonic’s Green Hill Zone under our breaths with hardly a moment’s hesitation, revisit Pokemon’s Lavender Town or evoke the Legend of Zelda with a good ol’ rendition (see: butchering) of the Song of Storms. I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s been dragged back, kicking and screaming after being hit by waves of nostalgia or that creeping realisation that you never truly 100% completed that game.

And then there’s those soundtracks that stand on their own. I’ve not played any Final Fantasy games, but one dosage of One Winged Angel was all I needed to become interested in the character and story of Sephiroth, a character whose demonic tendencies were introduced to me immediately through the frankly outstanding soundtrack. It led me to find the somewhat more metal version of the song, found amidst the Advent Children animation of Cloud vs Sephiroth. (I’d go ahead and listen to the original game soundtrack first. It’s excellent by itself, but the metal version adds a whole new layer of sound that will make the original feel lacking if you listen to them back to back.) In fact, in writing this, I’ve now become addicted to the damn song again! It’ll take an absurd amount of time to break out of this.

Right, well, if you survived that sea of hyperlinks and still have the remaining attention span to finish reading this blog post, then I have the ability to finish writing it.

Whilst I have my issues with narrative-driven game Life Is Strange (some of which are born from the fact I’m not exactly the target audience), I also have many commendations for it, one of which is the soundtrack. Without it, I’m not sure I would have been interested in the story so much; the songs chosen to portray emotion in the game are sometimes whimsical, sometimes deeply resonating and usually a combination of both. Whilst I may not have liked Chloe and didn’t identify with colloquially-defunct Max, something about the setting and plot of going through life challenging issues during teenage education reached out to me, and the soundtrack was the rope that tied me to it. And for all of its flaws, both critically and personally founded, I’m glad I was able to experience it. Again, the soundtrack to this game isn’t the kind of music I’d usually listen to, but I highly value it and regularly go out of my way to listen to it outside of the context of the game.

Well, anyway, I believe I’ve left you with enough music to listen to should you be so inclined. If you’d like to hear more about my typical choice of music and thoughts considering the matter, click here. Or, if you’d like to read up on my thoughts considering narrative driven games such as Life Is Strange and its contemporary counterparts, click here. Or do none of those things. It’s up to you, honestly. You’re probably all hyperlinked out by now.

Choices That Matter

Firstly, if you don’t want to risk becoming jaded to the make-your-own-choice type games (typically Telltale), I’d recommend not reading this blog post. At the risk of sounding self-congratulatory, it may open up a few behind the scenes workings which change how you approach the games and allow less enjoyment from them.

Now, I have a bit of an issue with the choices-matter type games that have been appearing as of late. When I first heard of them, I thought they were amazing, a concept which I didn’t know I wanted but totally did. Even more so on Telltale’s part; I was now able to create my own story within a pre-existing universe. And I won’t fault them; the writing is superb, from what I’ve seen and played. I’m very much enjoying Game of Thrones, the one I’m actually playing, and have enjoyed others by watching them played by streamers or Youtubers.

The problem is that they have many episodes to go through, and should all your choices affect the game world as much as you’d expect them to, they’d end up branching into so many varying paths that you’d require a massive amount of development to pull it off. I understand that. The issue is (minor spoilers ahead if you can gather which game and plot point I’m vaguely referring to) that some options break this illusion entirely. For instance, if I have the option of saving a character or running for my life, I don’t expect that character to pop up next episode a little miffed and giving only the vaguest “you wouldn’t want to know what I did to survive” explanation. This character was done for, and the fact that they survived was completely immersion breaking, but they were obviously required for a later part in the story.

Another problem is that you grow to expect these algorithms; if I’m given the option to send someone from the room, then there’s probably a reason for it, and so I expect a betrayal. If I’m given the option to kill or spare a major character, I realise that whichever option I choose won’t matter because it’s such a major plot point, the character will end up wherever the story requires. Most of your options change people’s attitudes towards you, nothing more.

That said, I must emphasise that this does not entail bad writing. I’ve still been completely shocked by a betrayal, by a death, by an outcome. I still very much recommend the genre. I just hope that it’s built upon, given larger development teams in order to truly create the sense of decisions that matter. I would love to sit back some day and try and write such a story, whether it be in game format or some other invention.

There are two notable games that have not been made by Telltale Games that I’d like to discuss here. Firstly, Life Is Strange. At this time of writing, we’re waiting for the last episode to come out. This game is very similar to Telltale Games’ style barring one thing: you can travel back in time. This is interesting as it allows you to see the outcomes of many options, though at the same time makes decision feel less consequential as a result.

The other game is Until Dawn, which does things a little differently. The game focuses heavily on the Butterfly Effect, mentioning from the beginning that the choices you make in the early game could impact the entire outcome of the story. However, having watched only one playthrough, I’m blind to whether this really is the case; sadly, I’ve heard from a few sources that the possible story doesn’t change all that much, with the characters seeming to get over deaths incredibly quickly due to various nature of the game. Characters are acting on the basis that their friends, from a technical standpoint, could or could not be standing beside them, and this puts characterisation in jeopardy. One thing that I absolutely commend Until Dawn for, though, is the fact that characters can and do die based on your decisions and skills, and adds an extra element of player control to the picture which Telltale type games currently lack. You genuinely feel tense and on edge; the life of the person you’re controlling really does depend on you. And that is brilliant.

This genre has an incredible amount of potential and as a storyteller and someone who is personally very interested in the idea of a butterfly effect, I can only hope that it continues to grow. Maybe it will become a new, standard method of storytelling someday, such as movies and manga and the like are today. I believe that, done right, it has the power to more readily encourage people to stop and consider the effects that their decisions have in everyday life.