Friday, 12 August 2011

Death to the living

In recent posts by Cynwise and Shintar (and the comments associated with them), there's been an interesting debate about whether the Forsaken could be considered evil. I'm not inclined to buy the "an entire race is evil" theory, but it does raise the question of whether the leadership of the Forsaken (which is pretty much Sylvanas alone these days) are evil. At the core of this is the use of blight and the extent to which Sylvanas intends it to be employed.

1. Did she know of & approve of the development of the blight in general?
I don't think many people would dispute that.

2. Did she intend to use it against the Scourge?
Again, I'd say yes.

3. Did she intend it to be used at Wrathgate?
It's hard to be sure about this one. My suspicion is that Putress was given instructions to use it if he thought there was a good chance of taking out Arthas in one hit. Would anyone have complained about the loss of Bolvar and Saurfang Jr if Arthas had been defeated at Wrathgate?

OK- perhaps Varian would have made a fuss for form's sake, but one suspects that in private he'd have been quite happy to sacrifice a potential rival in return for a quick win against the Scourge. Was Bolvar a potential rival? If he got home and saw what Varian was up to in Westfall, quite possibly.

4. Did Sylvanas intend it to be used as a weapon against the living at some point should it prove necessary?
Again, I'd say yes.

5. Is the eventual use of blight against the living her plan A, or merely a "don't mess with us" deterrent that would only be used as a last resort?
Pre-cataclysm, it would be possible to argue this one either way. However, the invasion of Gilneas clearly shows that Sylvanas intends to deploy blight liberally as a weapon of war. Whether this is fundamentally more evil than disembowelling people with spears or charring them to a cinder with fireballs is a question for another day.

6. Is Sylvanas "scheming quietly about how to destroy all life on Azeroth and how to become the Ultimate Queen of Uber Evil".
The key part of this question may be the word "is", i.e. the use of the present tense. As Rades has pointed out in his series of posts on Sylvanas, it's entirely possible that she has changed as a result of her raising by the Valk'kyr; indeed the "Sylvanas" we see now may not even be the same person as the one we saw before. The Arthas part of the Lich King has been defeated, but it's less clear that the Ner'zhul part has been.

Perhaps the clue lies in the suspicious changes of appearance she's undergone over the years. Are these really the same person?

Who'd have thought that joining the ranks of the undead made your lips progressively poutier?


  1. I gotta disagree that Varian would ever be happy to see Bolvar die, even if it was for the greater good like taking out Arthas in one swift shot. Bolvar wasn't a rival to Varian, he was essentially the closest thing he had to a father figure. It's the primary reason Varian took the events of the Wrathgate so personally.

    He's a jerk, but he absolutely would give up his kingship in a heartbeat if it meant he could have Bolvar back.

    Otherwise, great step-by-step analysis. :D Largely agree! I think you almost need to look at things individually, it's such a vague, murky chain of events and motivations.

  2. Who'd have thought that joining the ranks of the undead made your lips progressively poutier?

    It also leads to Incredible Shrinking Armour! Who knew?

  3. Honestly, I think that the cult of personality around Sylvanas is more the problem than the individual herself. The mob will do things in her name that she may approve of, but it's that it influences me as a player to either go along with it (and coexist with Forsaken society), embrace it, or reject it (and reject the Forsaken nation.) It's not comic-book style evil that I object to, but rather the underlying casual acceptance of torture, imprisonment, and medical experimentation.

    The morality around using the New Plague as a weapon of war is an interesting one. It's similar to the ban on chemical weapons in our own world; those things *are* horrific, but they also tend to inflict a lot of civilian casualties - something I don't think the Forsaken mind all too much, since casualties can now be turned into reinforcements. But ultimately, dead is dead.

    I think you're on to something with the pouty lips (and shrinking armor!) theory, though!

  4. My personal take on Sylvanas is that she's been vengeance-driven for so long, she's never really had time to think about the Forsaken as a people. In the months between Arthas's death and the Shattering, however, I think she's been taking a good, hard look at herself--hence why we see a little of the old Sylvanas, the one who was a mother to her men and who ran a crack army in Quel'Thalas. She needs a new direction in life, so she's devoted herself to what's best for the Forsaken.

    Going by the quest in Silverpine where you ride with her to the Sepulcher, though, it seems like the Alliance has been attacking her lands and are following through with Varian's desire to claim Lordaeron for the Alliance. That brings me to the next point--her Plague usage. I think initially the idea was that she would have it the same way most first-world powers (and some third-world dicatorships) have nukes: a deterrence, a "If you fuck with us we'll unload every vat of this we have on you" to keep the Alliance from seriously committing to an attack on Forsaken territory. With Gilneas, however, it seems to be a matter of pragmatism, since the Forsaken are a finite resource and the worgen cannot be raised into undeath due to the Curse. So rather than lose any more troops than they did after the Battle for Gilneas City, Sylvanas has ordered the use of the Plague to clear out the Worgen. Since it proves effective enough that the worgen are actually pushed out of Gilneas with it, and only return when the Alliance commits to warring with the Forsaken over the Ruins of Gilneas, she continues using it with the same objective in mind: maximize enemy casualties while minimizing hers. What I find really interesting is that apparently there are multiple strains as well, some of which seem to be approved for use by the Horde--in Shadowfang Keep, Cromush is suspicious of the plague usage but seems generally pacified (if still suspicious) at Belmont's insistence that it's nothing but a strain designed to repel the worgen with nonlethal consequences.

  5. I find Sylvanas utterly fascinating. The Silverpine Forest questline is one of the best in Cataclysm, in my opinion - especially if you do it as a character from a race other than the Forsaken. My little goblin was quite disturbed at some of the things Sylvanas asked her to do "for the good of the Forsaken".

    I think the point about Sylvanas is that she's trying everything she can to protect her race. The safety and prosperity of the Forsaken come above all other concerns to her. She's willing to do almost anything to further that end, including murdering Alliance citizens and using her Vrykul to resurrect them as new Forsaken. She's straying dangerously close to Evil Overlord territory, but I don't think she actually realises that. Her story throughout the Warcraft universe has been a tragic one, and it doesn't look set to end just yet.

    Johnnie @ MMO Melting Pot

  6. @Johnnie

    One of the recurring themes of Warcraft (e.g. Arthas, Kael'thas) is that people who take extreme measures in pursuit of what they believe to be a higher goal end up being corrupted by the process.

    It will be interesting to see if Sylvanas can escape this fate. Given that her name sends in -as too, I don't hold out much help. Perhaps it's Blizzard's mark of doom.