World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth has thrown a lot of ideas out there, some of which have been better received than others. Sylvanas Windrunner and her war campaign, for instance, has been controversial. Other fans have disliked the turn that the Night Elves took after the expansions’ launch. There’s one really cool part of Battle for Azeroth that has largely flown under the radar, and that’s the Eye of N’Zoth. It’s effectively an elaborately cursed item, and it’s driving some player characters mad.
If the above paragraph reads as nonsense, then I envy you, because it means you are not embroiled in World of Warcraft lore like I am. What an enviable fate! Nevertheless, here’s a summary of the situation, made understandable even for someone who has never gone on a a single mission in World of Warcraft.
One of the big bads in the Warcraft lore are the Old Gods. They’ve been showing up since the game first launched, some fifteen years ago. The Old Gods are basically Lovecraftian creatures with their own agenda, which they like to whisper into the minds of mortals. These whispers are said to inevitably drive anyone who experiences them mad. Because this is a fantasy world, the corpses of their old servants are often out in the open. The Gods themselves are burrowed beneath the earth, so it’s relatively easy for them to go about their dark work unobserved.
Over the course of World of Warcraft’s storyline, players have been told that one Old God was killed before the timeline of the game even started. We’ve stopped the remainder through various other means. There’s just one Old God left. His name is N’Zoth, and he’s said to be the weakest one in terms of sheer strength. On the other hand, he’s also the smartest, and he’s caused the most in-game trouble for players so far.
The first time we heard N’Zoth, or saw a glimpse of him, was in the pre-Battle for Azeroth short film called Warbringers: Azshara.
In Warbringers: Azshara, we get to see the fall of Queen Azshara and her empire 10,000 years ago. In her final moments, N’Zoth appears to hear and offers her a deal. The entire short is cosmic horror that works even if you’ve never stepped into Azeroth; the design of the Old God and the sheer scope of him next to Azshara is equal parts striking and terrifying.
While the war between the two factions was at its most heated in Battle for Azeroth, players could do a quest that would lead them directly to N’Zoth himself. Instead of instantly murdering us, he seems pretty interested in recruiting us. He granted every player who participated in this quest an item called the Eye of N’Zoth, which is a dark crown emblazoned with one of his eyes.
Players then had the ability to cleanse this gift, and most people did so, including my main character. She’s a Paladin, after all, and she doesn’t want to meddle with anything even close to Cthulhu. In fact, after cleansing the crown, players were granted a toy that would grant them a cosmetic version of the original Eye once more. Problem solved, right?
Here’s where things get really cool. Players had the ability to just … not cleanse their Eye of N’Zoth. They could keep it, and this Eye has significantly different effects than the cosmetic toy. For one, every player with an Eye is invisible … unless you have an Eye as well. Everyone rocking the Eye of N’Zoth can see each other, creating their own little secret society. Everyone who cleansed the Eye, however, is in the dark, so to speak.
To recap: an unknown number of players in the World of Warcraft community are just sort of hanging out corrupted and totally on board with the agenda of the Old Gods. That’s probably fine!
As Battle for Azeroth has progressed, things have begun to get even more interesting. The Eye of N’Zoth is now whispering to players. New dialogue has opened up around the world. For Horde players wearing the Eye, they can hear the following from NPCs in Dazar’Alor:
“Mommy tried to send me off to meet his voice, so I could play forever. Daddy had another plan, now mommy will never age again.”
“Behind my eyes… I can feel their teeth. They nibble, they bite, they tickle my brain. Get closer, sweet one, let them taste you.”
The Alliance can find Shady Individuals in Boralus, the Kul Tiran city, who have their own Eyes of N’Zoth. These effects are only visible to a small percentage of the player population who have an Eye and did not cleanse it, so rumor of these interactions is spreading by word of mouth. That makes it all the more effective and creepy.
As the story advances, and players descend into the new zone called Nazjatar, those whispers have become more distinct. Players are now making out words and short phrases. As Battle for Azeroth continues, it seems likely that this will continue to escalate. Blizzard is experimenting with player choice, and one of those trees relates to the faction war. This choice is far more intriguing, and I can’t wait to see how it resolves.