UPDATE: Steve Danuser announce on twitter that the Horde text is being changed in a future build.

To clarify, the Horde race descriptions that were datamined were for content not yet playable. They were placeholders and had not been vetted.

I agree that the tone is off, particularly in the Forsaken entry. This was not an intended change of perspective for the race.

The lines are being updated. Changes will appear in a future build. It’s alpha, so they (and other things) are always subject to change.

Thanks for calling out issues like this. Please know we have only the best of intentions. Apologies for the consternation this caused.

A fire’s sparked on twitter and various WoW discussion forums over some news about the Shadowlands alpha. Specifically, about the new player starting experience, Exile’s Reach. With a new starting zone comes a new intro cinematic and the datamined information about the Horde one has… not gone over well to put it lightly.

For those who haven’t kept up with the minutiae of the Shadowlands alpha, Blizzard has completely re-worked the leveling experience for pre-Shadowlands the continent content. New players will start in a brand new zone called Exile’s Reach, which introduces them to their faction, class identity, and how various gameplay functions work from levels 1 to 10. From there, new players are sent directly to Kul Tiras or Zandalar where they’ll level from 10 to 50. Then it’s onward to Shadowlands.

Players with at least one max level character can choose to have new characters begin in the old racial starting zones instead of Exile’s Reach, then pick any continent to level from 10 to 50.

The intro cinematic for Exile’s Reach gives players a brief summary of their faction and their race. While it’s a heavy work in progress, this is an example of what the cinematic looks like for a night elf character:

That the night elf summary mentions Teldrassil is its own can of worms. Once you finish Exile’s Reach, you go straight to Kul Tiras with a new intro that doesn’t involve or mention the Battle for Lordaeron or War of Thorns. Your character doesn’t even get the Heart of Azeroth necklace. That leaves me to assume night elf characters left Teldrassil to go to Exile’s Reach, spent a long while there, then returned to Stormwind to some very unfortunate news.

Right now only the alliance version of Exile’s Reach is available on the alpha, but the text for the Horde version of the opening cinematic was datamined in the first alpha build. But in the most recent, as of this writing, alpha build, Wowhead discovered the text for the Horde description and Horde race descriptions were completely changed. The differences are… stark to say the least.

Original Horde Description: You are a part of the powerful Horde, a unite group of disparate races seeking to carve their own path within Azeroth.

New Horde Description: You are a soldier of the mighty Horde, a diverse band of races from across Azeroth who fight for freedom and honor.

Original Orc Description: Your orcish blood thrives for adventure, and you seek to prove your strength and honor.

New Orc Description: Though the orcs came to Azeroth as conquerors, your kind has shed the thirsty ways of old and now stand in defense of your new home.

Original Troll Description: The ferocity and pride of the trolls are known throughout Azeroth. You set off for adventure to prove yourself amongst the many troll heroes.

New Troll Description: Renouncing the savagery of the other tribes, you and your fellow Darkspear trolls protect Azeroth with cunning ferocity.

Original Tauren Description: As a member of the wise and peaceful Tauren, you travel through Azeroth to preserve the balance of nature.

New Tauren Description: Representing the wise and peaceful Tauren, you bring both physical strength and spiritual resolve to the battlefield.

Original Undead Description: You bear the curse of the Forsaken, returned from the grave. It is your choice what you do with this second chance at life.

New Undead Description: As one of the undead Forsaken, you have been reanimated by dark magic. Though shunned by the living, you tirelessly strive to protect them.

Original Blood Elf Description: You left the comforts of Silvermoon City to find power and greatness within Azeroth, like many blood elves before you.

New Blood Elf Description: Your people, the blood elves, have perservered through tragedy and betrayal. You toil to ensure Azeroth never endures such suffering again.

Original Goblin Description: As a goblin, you know there’s no fame to be made sitting at home. You set out for adventure, glory, and gold!

New Goblin Description: Unlike other goblins, your Bilgewater cartel has abandoned neutrality to side with the Horde for the promise of adventure… and profit.

I should clarify these racial descriptions are different from the ones in the new character creation screen. That’s already led to confusion about the undead summary being “fixed.” As another example, this is the gnome character creation description compared to the gnome cinematic description:

Note how the cinematic description uses second person tense, just like the datamined ones.

Going back to the datamined text, the issue should be obvious. With the odd exception of tauren and goblins, every race’s description was changed to focus on them being heroic peacekeepers and protectors of Azeroth. For undead especially, being told your character “tirelessly strives to protect the living” is quite the shock. These descriptions also downplay the more gritty aspects of the Horde or state the race has moved past them to be more honorable and just.

Why the drastic shift in presentation? In my opinion, its part of an attempted identity overhaul. Following on from faction war epilogue in 8.3., Blizzard’s saying in no uncertain terms: “the Horde has one-hundred percent turned over a new leaf and won’t be nuking cities or doing genocides ever again.” While a noble sentiment, as one of the most common complaints about Battle for Azeroth was that the Horde shifted from morally grey/”noble savage” to straight up evil, this is a bit too far in the other direction.

Except the tauren and goblin summaries, the new versions are all worse in my opinion. The goblin description carries the same sentiment but adds more background about their history. It’s actually a big improvement. The tauren description is about the same as its predecessor, though I find it funny that it’s the only summary that made the race sound more aggressive than before, by shifting the discussion from protecting nature to being on the battlefield.

The two which stand out the most on the opposite end of the spectrum are the trolls and undead. Trolls are a particularly excessive case of stressing “they’re good now” with the comments about abandoning savagery. I think it’s a reference to an old piece of lore stating that the Darkspear tribe outlawed cannibalism and voodoo when they joined the Horde, but it’s been implied ever since that the trolls still practice both, legal or not. Also by changing the description to specifically be about the Darkspear trolls, that raises some issues with trolls getting non Darkspear tribe customization options in Shadowlands.

And of course there’s the undead. The original description was a perfect introduction to the race, as is the separate character creation summary. If the reactions I’ve seen on twitter or various fansite forums are any indication, the new opening cinematic text is a step too far. The Forsaken need a new identity with Sylvanas out of the picture, but going to tireless protectors of the living strays too far from their original concept. Again, the first version perfectly fit the idea of a new beginning for the Forsaken (“it is your choice what you do with your second chance at life”) while still adhering to the race’s themes.  

Since the descriptions were already changed once, hopefully they can be again. The summaries were alright to begin with and the character creation descriptions are good too. They had the right idea at one point and I believe that with proper feedback there can be a compromise between ensuring the Horde stays on a less villainous, Warchief-deposing every few expansions path while still remaining true to the original fantasy and theme of the faction and its races.

Ian Bates

World of Warcraft Writer and columnist for Blizzplanet. I am also known as The Red Shirt Guy (BlizzCon).