My thoughts on "A missing soul" and why it's being received poorly (Chromie/Alexstrasza quest)

#1 - June 15, 2023, 9:14 a.m.
Blizzard Post

I’ll start by giving the full context. For those of you out of the loop, an upcoming quest available on the PTR currently has Chromie and you traverse some of the darker moment’s in WoW’s history and ensure that specific things happen. One of these things is ensuring that the Dragonmaw clan don’t misplace the Demon Soul.

The quest starts fairly typically, with chromie cracking jokes about time being like cheese. She is, however, pointing out that this is a “tough one” and doesn’t want Alexstrasza to know about it. Starting the turn in, she first uses a bit of modern slang to further reiterate that Alexstrasza doesn’t need to know about what happened, and then in the completion prompt she acts theatrically and without much sensitivity to what the player just had to do or what they put Alexstrasza through, and states that she thinks they’ve been found out. Talking to Alexstrasza after this basically elicits a trauma response that she has to fight through to maintain her decorum.

Some lore history here:

The Demon Soul was used by the Dragonmaw clan in the second war to bind Alexstrasza/the Red Dragonflight to their will, with Deathwing’s assistance and direction. They were unable to use it to fully mind control the dragons, or even more than one dragon at a time, so for the most part it was only used to magically torture Alexstrasza whenever a red dragon defied the orcs. This is important because it means that the actions forced upon the dragons had to be carried out themselves, they were not mindlessly controlled.

The goal of this was to constantly and forcibly mate Alexstrasza to her consorts and her children, to produce young dragons that they could use as war mounts in the second war. To put this in the clearest terms possible, Dragonmaw orcs tortured Alexstrasza to persuade her family to SA her until they lost the ability to do so.

This is an exceptionally dark part of the lore, at a level almost never met by post-TBC lore. I will not be commenting on if I think this old lore or the idea of this new quest is good storytelling, needs to be retconned, or otherwise. I will be commenting on how this quest could touch on the subject better if they insist on doing this.

If you remember the book War Crimes, one of the events of the book, during Garrosh’s trial, is that they are questioning Alexstrasza about the Dragonmaw clan who Garrosh had pardoned and allowed back into the horde during Cataclysm. When she was pressed about it, she first recounted the events and described her imprisonment, and Christie Golden made sure to highlight that her voice was strained and she was very upset about it. Something to note, however, is the majority of the focus is put on something that was separate from the SA, which is what most people are fixating on here. The largest focus was on the red dragon’s absolute reveration of life and mortals, and her response to the fact that her children were forced to kill against their will in a war, was, I quote, “The Dragonmaw could not have forced us to do anything that appalled us more.” She highlights that while she resisted at first physically, her next attempt to stop them was to refuse food and die before more mortals could perish at the hands of red dragons.

When pressed for a sort of conclusion, five “charges” are first put against Garrosh for his amnesty to the Dragonmaw, one of which is “Forced Pregnancy”, which is essentially the only time that the nonconsensual nature of the production of dragons for the orcs is even referenced, outside of an implication of when she was questioned about how they were replaced, where she said her children were taken from each clutch she laid. The entirety of the testimony outside of this focused on how appalling it was to be used to kill mortals, and a small amount on how they and her consorts were treated cruelly.

Why is this important? I am certainly not diminishing her SA. What I am trying to highlight are two extremely important facets of Alexstrasza’s character - her unconditional love and grace and her extreme sense of duty as the Lifebinder.

The testimony changes tone with her being asked with how she feels about the Dragonmaw orcs, to which she says with no hesitation that she loves them, and has no quarrel with any race on Azeroth. When Garrosh’s accusers try to push for an answer that suits their case better, she continues that only creatures that threaten all life and are so consumed by evil that they cannot be redeemed, become her enemy. She mentions that the deaths of even Malygos and Deathwing were “bitter regrets” and that if she was asked by a Dragonmaw orc for forgiveness, she would immediately forgive them. Something very important to note is that during this change in the tone of the testimony, she began to smile and that smile began to grow.

Alexstrasza is not a human being. She is not a mortal. She is a magical creature given powers beyond what most of Azeroth’s most powerful demigod’s have, unfathomably ancient, and given a great duty by the Titans themselves. She is almost selfless, and prioritizes life above everything else. Her heart is so big and pure that she immediately gives grace to those who “could not have forced us to do anything that appalled us more.” Her writing up until Dragonflight has been free of resentment, of bitter hatreds, of anger. What has come from her in regards to the horrible things of the past has only been pain and sadness, for loss of life and needless cruelty.

To speak about the quest again, I think this is where it went wrong. Very little is shown to the player ingame about the weight of what you just did. You simply ensured something evil that happened in the past did in fact occur, and one of its primary victims gave a reaction at the end of the quest. This reaction is one of bridled fury, resentment, and conflicted feeling. This is NOT how Alexstrasza has been portrayed, and given that, people who don’t know what actually happened will just hear from the controversy “you just made sure that Alexstrasza kept getting SA’d”. Because of this, the quest just becomes a dirty, angry, gross thing.

The queen of dragons, the lifebinder, the mother of the red dragonflight should not approach the player like this. She should, with extreme grace and bearing as she has shown before, reassure the player that their mission was important. With a smile on her face, she should tell them that because of her commitment to preserving life, she doesn’t hold this event against you when you’re keeping the timelines from collapsing. She should speak in a way that conveys her love for mortals, her unending forgiveness, WITHOUT being apologetic or saying anything that can be interpreted as stating what happened to her was ok. She should give closure to the situation instead of storming off after gritting her teeth, and it should be written with all the merited emotional weight. They were capable of doing this in War Crimes, and they should be able to do it now. In addition to this, Chromie should not be cracking a single joke or using any modern slang during this quest.

My greatest fear from this situation will be that the feedback blizzard receives, or interprets as what people want, is that they should not be touching on grim, dark, disgusting subjects ever again. This would be a horrible thing for them to commit to. What they should commit to is being able to treat each situation like this with the seriousness it deserves, giving closure to the player when they have to involve themselves in it, and remaining consistent to the values of the characters who have roles in it.

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Community Manager
#25 - June 16, 2023, 6:42 p.m.
Blizzard Post

We have seen the comments in the community regarding some Chromie quests in Fractures of Time on the PTR and we understand your concerns. We’ve been iterating and discussing all of these quests internally, and we’re in the process of adjusting and removing quests. These changes will be available in an upcoming PTR build. Thank you for your feedback!