Recently, it was announced that patch 5.2 would be the last major content patch that updates the Pandaren environment. The focus here on out will be the war between the alliance and the horde. It was also announced that patch 5.3 will be similar to patch 5.1 in being a smaller content release while 5.4 more than likely will see a major raid.
With those hints, we can start to speculate on what these two next patches will look like. One thing for certain is that we will not see anymore Heroics for the remainder of this expansion. My guess is that 5.4 will end up being the Siege on Orgrimmar where both the alliance and horde battle against Garrosh Hellscream. Quite possibly, it’ll be the last major patch before Blizzcon and possibly lead the way to what might be the next expansion that I assume will be announced at Blizzcon.
5.3 is something that might not be much at all. I can’t see them adding yet another daily hub. Already, we’ve got quite a bit and for anyone just coming in, it’ll be pretty tough completing each daily quest on top of a new daily hub. A friend of mine suggested that we will finally see the item squishing. Some people have speculated over this aspect in the game, but I have a feeling that this might not ever be handled. I think the problem is that the numbers between expansions have risen exponentially and reducing everything at this point would be a futile exercise.
It’s possible that they could still add things like scenarios to provide a lead into the new patch. However, scenarios by themselves are not all that exciting. I can’t see them doing a few scenarios and making them repeatable without adding substantial rewards. They would have to provide something like the new Treasure Room scenario to make it worth the effort for players to re-run.
But I think the patch everyone will be most interested in is 5.4. Everything is pointing to the epic battle with Garrosh Hellscream at this point. 5.1 demonstrated the obvious tension between each of the leaders (except for Sylvanus, but we already had seen their mutual dislike in Silverpine Forest, especially with Garrosh directly calling her a bitch). While it’s been known for sometime that the last raid will be Garrosh Hellscream, the real thing we should be asking is: why?
I’m not talking about what makes him a leader that no one respects and most hate. But how do we go from what could’ve been a great leader as demonstrated at the final quest in Stormtalon Mountains, to an irredeemable prick that even Green Jesus starts to take issue with?
The answer for me lies all around with all the various hints dropped during the expansion. For instance, we saw the orc when you first land possessed by the spirit of the Sha as well as the second greeting with the Pandaren after you slay the captain that was similarly possessed by a Sha. Then there was the cryptic message the Klaxxi gives you when you reach exalted with them in saying that the gods aren’t the gods we suspect. In short, one must question if all these elements are related, including Garrosh Hellscream.
The other thing we need to ask is what role does the Panderan play in all of this? They act neutral for the most part. However, the mural after the epic encounter in The Jade Forest alludes possibly to how the Sha operate and manifest through anger and hatred. Lorewalker Cho seems to best understand how the Sha operates and probably will use his role to teach us of the consequences of our own anger.
More than that though, we still need to answer or return to the question of: “Why do we fight?” Is it the same as the Panderan where we do such because we are protecting our homes? Everyone outside of Garrosh seem to fall under this side of the equation.
So the question becomes, “Why does Garrosh fight?” Or better yet, is Garrosh whom we think he is? Or is he possessed by the Sha? Or better yet, is he the Sha or some ancient deity that has blinded us?
I think from a logical point of view, Garrosh will turn out to be a Sha manifestation or at least a Sha who possessed Garrosh a while back. Doing this storyline would help explain the different skins between Nagrand, Northrend and from Cataclysm onward. It would also explain his inexcusable blood thirsty nature (although the other part is obviously attributed to his connection to his father who was tainted).
Still, will Blizzard make Garrosh a redeemable hero in the aftermath? Would all this lead up becoming a tragedy where we see only at the end that he was not in control over himself?
Or could Blizzard pull something even more complex off such as him explicitly desiring the power of the Mogu’shan and having visions that helped shape his route to Pandera. Perhaps, he could be a willing agent, someone who learned about the Sha and found ways to contact them in exchange for great power.
I think if we go for my first proposed scenario, it would make for an excellent lead in to the next expansion. I feel that as our toons approach level 100, one of the main goals in the game should be a way for characters to essentially become or gain similar power to gods. Having Garrosh possessed by an ancient spirit and showing that the Sha manifestations are all part of a greater and more powerful species provides a great story lead in as the characters elevate themselves.
The other big thing is how the game will eventually end. Although PVP will always exist in some form, the bigger question is will the alliance and horde always fight each other? Does this expansion and the possibility of being forced to fight gods and those of supernatural power suggest that both sides permanently join up to salvage their own existence? The mural of the two panda forces battling and causing a rift to open up should hint to both sides that the eternal battle will only lead to the extinction of both sides.
One other major thing that was talked about was the possible death of Thrall. With the assassination attempt against Vol’jin, we can only suspect that Garrosh is becoming paranoid. Also, as the Dominance Offensive quests gradually opens up the storyline, we see how each of the horde leaders demonstrate their distrust of Garrosh’s decisions and ambition. Despite this, there still has not been sufficient motivation that will lead to the Siege of Orgrimmar.
That’s where I think Thrall’s potential death may come into play. If 5.3 adds more content, then one must have scenario would be Thrall’s death that will lead into patch 5.4. Despite the Green Jesus bequeathing, Thrall remains one of the most beloved characters and leaders in the World of Warcraft series. Having him murdered by Garrosh in cold blood is the perfect impetus to have the entire horde (and possibly alliance) launch an assault against one of their own.
Of course, I’m speaking from the viewpoint of a horde player. While I have played alliance, I only did so in a small manner. I have not yet been able to see much storywise from them in this patch. Outside of the general prejudice between the horde and alliance, the question is what exactly will motivate them in doing a full scale assault? To me it would make far more sense just to let the horde beat themselves up for a change as opposed to incurring more losses. And with Jaina’s recent expelling of elves (and horde) from Dalaran, I imagine that it would be just easier for them to just hang out in Dalaran and watch the fireworks from the distance.
Thrall does make an interesting figure for the alliance. He does have a positive relationship with Jaina and it’s mostly been Garrosh who has caused a great deal of tension between both factions. Varian Wrynn might be a butthead too but I’m betting on the friendship and respect between Jaina and Thrall which pushes Jaina into rallying the alliance to make an assault against Orgrimmar.
Either way, my guess is that the next patch should be out around July while 5.4 comes out probably in August or September. That ought to give us enough time to hammer on Garrosh for a bit and chomp at the bit as the next expansion’s announcement will be made in November.