Popular fantasy MMO World of Warcraft has come under fire for a questline that pushed up against some of the darker parts of the franchise’s lore, and it was not flattering.
To explain it as simply as possible for those who don’t play World of Warcraft, the quest (called A Missing Soul) was first part of the game’s Public Test Realm, which allows players to try quests and other content before they go live in the main game. This included the Fractures of Time update, which included a quest that involved preserving the timeline after an opposing force attempts to change history. The trouble is, the history the player has to help preserve involves a character named Alexstrasza, an ally to the player character, going through a traumatic event that was a major moment in the game’s lore.
Content warning for sexual assault
The quest required the player to ensure the Demon Soul, an artifact used to control dragons, isn’t displaced in the timeline and can still be used by the Dragonmaw Clan. In World of Warcraft lore, Alexstrasza was bound by the Demon Soul to the Dragonmaw Clan and is forcibly impregnated so the Clan can use her offspring as battle mounts. Polygon has a more extensive explanation of the quest for those who want more lore details, but the long and short of it is, the quest had the player ensuring a rape survivor would still endure the traumatic event because it was a moment in the original timeline. Not only did it bring attention to just how messed up the Warcraft lore is, but fans were also rightfully upset at how the game handled the subject matter.
The quest as it existed on the PTR does point out just what you’re preserving, and while Alexstrasza isn’t happy, she acknowledges it had to be done for the sake of the timeline. But beyond that momentary acknowledgment, the quest feels tonally jarring because the reality of it is treated as an awkward footnote at the bottom of the quest description. Chromie, another ally to the player, is facilitating this quest, and pretty much just looks away and mutters not to tell Alexstrasza.
Fans on the game’s forums weighed in on the quest, and Blizzard said it was looking to adjust or remove quests after community feedback.
“We have seen the comments in the community regarding some Chromie quests in Fractures of Time on the PTR and we understand your concerns,” community manager Liam Knapp said in response to the thread. “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!”
As of this writing, the quest has been removed from the PTR, but what form it will take in the final game remains to be seen. Speaking as a person who has mostly experienced World of Warcraft through osmosis, I’m surprised Activision Blizzard is willing to even touch on topics like this after coming up on two years of public controversy surrounding its workplace culture, which involve accusations of sexual harassment and discrimination that Activision says it has investigated and declared it never had a “systemic issue with harassment, discrimination or retaliation.” Sure, some of these pieces of Warcraft lore are years old and probably merit reconsideration, but drawing such direct attention to them with a new questline is an easy way to draw comparisons to your company’s current situation.