“Every dream has its nightmare, and every nightmare has an end.”
(Spoiler Alert: if you’re a WoW fan who hasn’t played through the first part of Legion, the topic of this post will ruin the ending in Val’Sharah for you.)
World of Warcraft is primarily known as a massive multiplayer online role-playing game, or MMORPG for short, filled with a massive mythos and list of characters that players have come to adore for easily 15 years. The game has also been known to pull massive player punches by killing off certain characters in absolutely heartbreaking ways.
In the 6th expansion for the game, Legion, Ysera the Green Dragon Aspect of Nature and Dreams became another victim of a corrupting force. In a moment of vulnerability, Ysera is infected with the influence of the Emerald Nightmare, a cancer-like darkness threatening to consume the realms she presides over. Unfortunately for any victim of the Nightmare’s corruption, once you become tainted, the only way to escape it is to die.
For Tyrande Whisperwind, the leader of the Night Elf faction in World of Warcraft and one of Ysera’s closest allies, this was an incredibly painful moment. Ysera, under the maddening influence of the Nightmare, is manipulated into attacking the Temple of Elune, the moon goddess of WoW, in Val’Sharah. Because Tyrande is the High Priestess of Elune, and long ago swore an oath to always defend the temple if it came under attack, she was obligated to defend her sacred place of worship against one of her oldest friends.
Alongside the Temple’s priests, Tyrande battles against the enraged Ysera, begging her multiple times to fight against the Nightmare’s influence and wake up. But it was already too late. Ysera had been corrupted too deep. It was not until her dying breath that she finally snapped out of it, and wailed her final words:
“Forgive me. It felt…so real.”
And thus, one of the saddest cinematics in the history of WoW commences.
Fun fact (more like sad fact): “Elune Adore”=”Elune be with you”=the WoW version of “The Lord be with you”.
For those of us who adore this game and its lore, none of us were prepared to see Ysera of all dragons perish. But more than anything else, none of us expected for the game developers to unveil what Elune is capable of doing.
What happened in this cinematic can simply be described as the moon goddess performing a tragically beautiful act of divine intervention, cleansing Ysera’s soul of the Nightmare entirely. What makes this even more poignant in-game is that the goal of this region was to obtain an artifact called the Tears of Elune, the gem we see at the end of this cinematic. The corrupted gem was used as the medium to defile Ysera and only Elune herself was capable of purifying it. The goddess was no doubt in grief that her Tears were used to harm her ally. It can be inferred that the moon’s dark face, and the twinkling energy falling down on the Temple in the cinematic are symbolic of Elune weeping over what happened to Ysera.
Something I’ve wondered is how this one cinematic is capable of reducing even the most stoic of players to tears every time we watch this. Unfortunately, I think I may have found the answer.
There is a certain kind of grief that Ysera’s death subtly touches on, and that is the grief of losing a beloved pet.
Her gentle sigh of blissful relief as Elune’s moonlight touches her, her peaceful body disappearing as verdant foliage appears at her resting place, and the sheer sadness on Tyrande’s face… all of these are painfully reminiscent of pet owners watching their animal partners sleep for the last time.
No wonder Val’Sharah has become arguably the most infamous zone in the Legion expansion. The heartbreak it keeps putting before us is simply too much to bear.