My Problem with Varian Wrynn
As someone who "grew up" as Alliance,
(shown here in his old digs at Stormwind Keep) was something of a fixture in the Alliance and generally his storyline, quests and dialog seemed to be pretty well-written. Aside from that, many of us appreciated how awesome he was when we first saw him fighting off the
Onyxia's Elite Guard
that were hiding in the keep, surrounding Bolvar.
These days, we're looking at
instead. I didn't think too much of it when Wrynn first showed up, but then I read up on his lore and I found myself rather unhappy with the general nature of the story and his background. My gut reaction was to dismiss the lore behind him as being simply
. I wouldn't have a problem with him if the story didn't have the somewhat perplexing sense of an attempted shoe-horn of a new character into WoW. I use the word perplexing because the word was used by the loquacious, frenetic and not-safe-for-work video game reviewer Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw (of
fame) in describing a somewhat similar shoe-horning of another character into
Half-Life 2: Episode 2
; specifically, the introduction of a Dr. Arne Magnusson.
Please allow me to present my evidence. From
A human amnesiac who washed up the shores of Durotar in World of Warcraft: The Comic has been confirmed to be Varian Wrynn.
According to Blizzard, Varian Wrynn will become a major player in the Warcraft universe; a super-dynamic human character which will replace the human heroes that are either old, dead, or super-villains. He has even been described as the "anti-Thrall".
Although Varian is certainly not new to the WoW universe (previously located under Alcaz Island), to the best of my knowledge there was never a great deal of design for him. Let's remember that WoW started in late 2004, but it wasn't until 2007 that Metzen made some interesting comments. From
Thrall's WoWWiki talk page:
Metzen discusses how he personally views orcs as noble, and loves the theme, but most people at Blizzard view their orcs as evil gankers, and bad asses. Not wishy washy, poetry readers. He sees Thrall as a messiah character, to find racial idenity and their powers again, so they don't have to be monsters. He then says there is a need for an anti-thrall character, a human character, someone that can perceive them for the threat they could be.
Let's continue. The rest of the basic background on Varian Wrynn is fine and certainly falls in line with the game as we've played it for a while now, including his eventual kidnapping at the hands of the Defias. It's at the moment of his escape that the story begins to take a somewhat, in my opinion, "forced" direction:
somehow managed to escape his confinement
and leave the island, though his bid for freedom was not wholly successful. Half-drowned and
suffering from memory loss
, he was found washed up on the shores of Durotar by a caravan of orcs led by the gladiator trainer Rehgar Earthfury. After
successfully fighting off an enormous crocolisk using only a stick
, he was captured and enslaved as a gladiator by the impressed shaman. Unaware of the human's true identity, Earthfury humorously nicknamed his new slave "Croc-Bait" and threw him into a cage with his other two gladiator slaves...
Now, certainly if he is to be designated as the Anti-Thrall, it would stand to reason that he'd be set up with a background that would conflict with Thrall's or provide another perspective. The problem I have is that the story smells suspiciously like the Thrall story itself, minus of course the "Croc-Bait" aspect of his background.
Eventually the three traveled to Dire Maul in Feralas where the gladiatorial contests took place. After a bloody battle, they emerged the victors. Impressed by Varian's skill at arms, the crowd gave him the orcish moniker "Lo'Gosh" — which means "Ghost Wolf".
As a side note, Broll and Valeera appear in the Alliance quest
So, fierce in battle. Fine, no problem. I can accept that one if he's been trained as a gladiator. I can even except the name "Lo'Gosh" because, hey, it's a nickname. Why the name "Ghost Wolf" would be used to designate someone with "skill at arms" is a little beyond me, but I'll even let that go. The problem I have with using this nickname is as follows:
Broll and Lo'Gosh were invited to the tent of Hamuul Runetotem, elder druid of the tauren. He told Varian the legend of the original Lo'Gosh — a massive, white wolf-beast renowned for its ferocity in battle, already 10,000 years old when the Burning Legion first invaded Azeroth. According to the arch druid, the wolf's legend extended through Azeroth to trolls, goblins and dwarves who all had their own version of the story.
In each tale, Lo'Gosh's unyielding will and sheer ferocity enabled him to push through the boundaries of the afterlife to aid his people.
The rest of the story details a massive retcon and shoe-horning of Varian into the lore, including his rescuing of
, therefore negating the quest once associated with him:
. This also negates the Onyxia questline.
I think I and everyone else who follows the lore would be much happier with the story of Varian if he weren't structured the way he is. I believe a better story line could've been developed with Varian returning to be the king, happily re-accepting his crown, then suffering the tragic loss of his old friend Bolvar; all of which could be put together to still construct him as the Anti-Thrall without also trying to construct him as a "Thrall clone." If we also peruse the other faction leaders, Varian is the only one of the batch who seems, in my perception, to be completely bent on a singular ideal. Compare him to any of the Horde leaders (
Lady Sylvanas Windrunner
) and by all appearances, Varian appears to be the most outwardly aggressive. Though one might wonder if Sylvanas is up to something, I think it's fair to say that she was not aiding
. Then compare Varian against the Alliance leadership (
King Magni Bronzebeard
) and Varian certainly would take the title of being not only the most aggressive one out there but also the only one who isn't considering the effect of his actions - in fact, the hot-headed nature of Varian almost makes him a foil of
Lady Jaina Proudmoore
. He's even got a similar attitude of her late father,
. From WoWWiki:
He was a staunch enemy of the Horde, refusing to believe that it could ever change its ways — he greatly hated the orcs and would have been more than willing to see them all dead.
So Varian's not only, in my perception, pushed into the story; he's extremely...blatant. Following the trailer for the Ulduar patch, I'd almost have to agree with Garrosh.
Why am I making such a big deal over lore? Well, I've always appreciated the back story of Warcraft. I've played through all three original RTS games and enjoyed all of them. I retained a much greater interest in lore until about the time Draenei and Blood Elves showed up, but that's another story. My main issue is that Varian is annoying enough in my eyes that he's actually a distraction. Noxy made a
about this. Where hilarious, he's also yelling "People of Stormwind, your king speaks!" - I almost feel that Blizzard is trying to remind us through a repeated bludgeoning that Varian's the king. The human /silly which details a humorous WoW-canon re-write of Lord of the Rings comes to mind; "With the climactic end called, 'Hey, the King's back!'"
But perhaps I'm being too harsh on old Varian. Obviously he's not going anywhere and will continue to excite us with his hatred of the Horde and his dogged pursuit of justice for "his people." Certainly there are other characters in the WoW universe who also have weak backstories or subplots; what're your opinions? Does Varian fit well into the story? Is he badly inserted? Or, "who cares, LFG H VH!"
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