I'm going to revisit the concept of neutral factions here. With the emphasis on Horde vs
Neutral factions do not live in a vacuum. They exist in a tenuous position that is defined by the actions of the superpowers of their time, in this case, the Horde and the
During WWII, both
Ultimately, in a fictional world, characters are expressed through two methods, narration and demonstration. Narration is being told what attributes a character has. Demonstration is being shown those attributes in action. In the majority of cases, to create a believable character, the two attributes must match. A character who is stated to be dangerously unhinged needs to do unhinged things. A character who cowers in the face of danger can't be built up as a brave man.
This is where Blizzard has failed spectacularly with regards to neutral factions thus far. Nearly every neutral faction has more or less acted in a vacuum. Despite a host of previously introduced factions being updated and brought into the current timeline, every neutral entity acts as if they existed within a bubble, completely oblivious to anything that happens outside of their demesnes. It doesn't matter if you murdered their god, murdered members of their organization, or are engaging in actions so foul to their beliefs that they were previously willing to travel across the world to hunt someone like you down, the neutral factions don't even so much as express their displeasure with a strongly worded letter.
Particularly egregious are the failures of the
There were a couple neutral organization that I thought was handled well in the Cataclysm story, the Knights of the Ebon Blade and the Zandalari Tribe.
The Knights of the Ebon Blade had one purpose, to bring ruin to the Lich King by whatever means necessary. Come Cataclysm, the Scourge has been by and large neutralized, and the death knights of Acherus find themselves without a purpose. When previously in this situation, Blizzard would leave them to rot in their expansion, *cough*Shattered Sun Offensive*cough*, but this time, Blizzard decided to come back to them. Rather than taking a side in the conflict, the Ebon Blade tore itself apart, with individual death knights taking sides in the conflict, as shown with Thassarian and Koltira in the conflict at Andorhal. There they brought the characters full circle when their previous associations began to color their actions in the battle, leading to Sylvanas taking Koltira down, and Thassarian, rather than stay in Andorhal to try and rally the Alliance forces, deserts the battlefield in an attempt to find his friend.
The Zandalari Tribe was introduced in Vanilla as a group of Trolls who sought to prevent the summoning of Hakkar the Soulflayer by the Gurubashi Trolls in Zul'Gurub. Once Hakkar was banished, they lay fallow for the next two expansions, until their return in patch 4.1. Seeing the threat that the increased belligerence of larger factions would devour the troll tribes piecemeal, the Zandalari sought to unite the troll tribes and establish a new troll empire that could stand against groups like the Horde,
Both those factions were incorporated into the fabric of the storyline, they saw opportunity, or lost purpose, and shifted their actions accordingly. Other factions, however, were not so lucky. As a paladin main, I find the treatment the Argent Crusade got to be particularly egregious. Rather than reacting to new threats, they just sit in their town and ignore everything going on. While I truly enjoyed the role that the Argent Crusade and their offshoot, the Brotherhood of Light had in Eastern Plaguelands, in Western Plaguelands, where the story is defined by the battle at Andorhal, the Argent Crusade is overshadowed by the Ebon Blade and the Forsaken. After pushing through Andorhal, the segment of quests in Hearthglen seem less like an actual part of the story, and more like a cameo that hung around too long. All the T9 gear floating around, and the huge statue of Tirion, with no real substance just comes off as going "Hey! Remember ToC? Wasn't that awesome?" Did being frozen in a block of ice at Icecrown give Tirion such a brain freeze that he doesn't notice that his neighborhood is being engulfed in a necromantic war that threatens to undo all the work that Tirion has put into reclaiming the Plaguelands from the plague and blight that afflicts it?
Complacency has its place in the arsenal of characterization, but only when given justification. It would have been better if they had left Tirion in Northrend. Inaction due to non inclusion in the story is irritating, but it doesn't savage the flow of the narrative like inaction against character type does. Tirion has been built up as a man of action, both in the narrative, and through demonstration. His inactivity in this situation makes absolutely no sense.
If I were writing the script, I would have thrown out the Argent Crusade questing as it stood, it's not necessarily a bad questing area, but it serves no purpose within the larger narrative, and that fact makes it stand out like a white quarter panel on a red car. I would questing line along factional lines at this point. The Alliance players go to Hearthglen to demand an explanation from the Argent Crusade as to why they permit Val'kyr to run wild so close to their seat of power. There they meet with the Brotherhood of Light, one of the more reactionary subsets of the Argent Crusade.
Horde players would travel to Hearthglen for a different reason. Garrosh, knowing that there was going to be a confrontation between the Horde and the Alliance at Andorhal, and knowing that the Argent Crusade's might could turn the tide of battle if they discovered the questionable methods being employed by the Forsaken in the area, Garrosh took steps to keep Highlord Fordring's men off the table. To accomplish this end, he commands Eitrigg, a close friend of Highlord Fordring, to keep the crusade from deploying in opposition of the Horde.
This sort of storyline could end several different ways, and hinges on the development of several characters. Depending on the wording of the orders, Eitrigg may or may not be aware of the extent of the crimes the Forsaken are committing, and what initially seemed like an innocuous request to keep Crusade forces clear of a conflict that did not concern them might come to shock Eitrigg. Or he might view the unity of the Horde as paramount to their survival, and place those concerns above all others. The Horde players might be successful in concealing their actions from Fordring, or the