Not so Forsaken anymore: how Sylvanas & co. surprised me in Silverpine

MMO Melting Pot has a link to a post by Cynwise up today in which he discusses the Forsaken, why he considers them evil, and why he doesn't really like playing them. It's both interesting as well as conveniently timed for me, because I played through Silverpine Forest on my own undead hunter last night and was left with an urge to post about the experience and how it changed my view of the Forsaken in general. (Unlike previous "I quested in this zone" posts, this one has some very explicit spoilers. You have been warned.)

To start at the beginning, I used to feel ambivalent about the Forsaken. I didn't like them enough to play one of my own until I rolled my death knight, but I enjoyed their company and liked to spend time in their zones. They always struck me as the Azerothian equivalent of that misanthropic guy in your circle of friends whom you suspect you'd really dislike if you got to know him more closely, but as long as you keep him at a safe distance he makes for great company, because he's also clever, sarcastic and funny.

Looking at it a bit more closely and seriously, the Forsaken have always been giving quests that were considerably more evil than those that you got anywhere else. Yes, all factions ask you to kill people, but the Undercity was the only place where they made you think that you were actually helping the one you were going to get killed and considered this perfectly normal behaviour.

And yet, despite of this, I could never get myself to truly dislike them, probably because I was also feeling a bit sorry for them. They are not like other races, they aren't even really a "race" at all. They are sentient abominations, forced to exist in a sort of limbo between life and death where they are unable to truly enjoy anything and have no real purpose in life undeath. For every evil apothecary poisoning people for the hell of it, there was usually a quest about a sad Forsaken trying to recapture some of their lost humanity and failing. More than anything, they are simply some seriously messed up people.

Wrath of the Lich King was a big expansion for the Forsaken, because it went back to their roots and gave them purpose, reminding everyone of how it was the Lich King who was responsible for their current plight and that it made perfect sense for them to want revenge. But then the Wrathgate happened... and it was painful. I'll never forget the shivers that ran down my spine as I watched the cinematic for the first time and saw Putress appear, threatening Arthas with the wrath of the Forsaken (yay, here come our crazy but ass-kicking allies) - until he added "and death to the living" to the end of his speech (oh shit).

After that I felt that things kind of went downhill for the Forsaken. Before that I had always considered the apothecaries a sort of extremist group that wasn't necessarily representative of the undead as a whole, but the Wrathgate made it very clear that they were indeed the ones in charge. Sylvanas denied all responsibility afterwards, but I challenge you to find anyone who actually believed her story.

Now the Forsaken weren't just poor disgruntled monsters anymore, they were traitors. While it had been easy to feel at least some sympathy for them in the past whenever they seemed uncaring or unnecessarily cruel, this was personal, outright treachery and simply inexcusable. I was sad about this because it felt to me like this development really eliminated a lot of shades of grey from their character as a race and just left them as this purely evil people that couldn't be trusted even by their own allies.

As such I wasn't actually looking forward to seeing how their story would develop in Cataclysm, especially after I had heard reports about Sylvanas going mad with power and effectively becoming the new Lich King.

Let's just say, the new undead starting area was surprising.

Tirisfal Glades not so much, as it's retained a lot of the old starter quests; the experience has just been smoothed out considerably. Yes, there are some new quests and they are fun, but nothing that struck me as really out of the ordinary. The only thing I found notable was how different the reception of my new undead character felt compared to the old starter zone. Pre-Cataclysm, it basically said to a newly risen Forsaken: "Oh, you woke up too? Sucks to be us, let's try to make the best of it." Nowadays it says: "Welcome! We brought you back to life so you can serve the wonderful Lady Sylvanas!" The atmosphere is almost... friendly, like you're being inducted into a special club.

When you enter Silverpine, that's where things get really interesting. You immediately get to witness Sylvanas explaining her newest scheme of having Val'kyr intentionally raise new Forsaken to Garrosh, and her choice of words is fascinating. "I have solved the plight of the Forsaken," she says, and "as a race, we Forsaken are unable to procreate". I've seen people brush this off as her simply wanting to "produce" more soldiers for the Horde war effort, but to me those are not the words of a warlord talking about her cannon fodder. You want your people to procreate, Sylvanas? That sounds awfully... maternal.

A bit later you get to ride side by side with her as she explains the history of the Forsaken to you. Usually when your character gets to interact with an important NPC, this strikes me as a way of trying to make you feel more important: you're such a great hero that even the Warchief himself (or whoever) comes to have a chat with you. In this case I got the opposite impression though, namely that this conversation showed that Sylvanas is a leader who genuinely cares about her people, even a lowly schmuck like my level twelve hunter.

In a later quest, you get sent on a rescue mission to save the survivors of an ambush. Rescue mission? What? Are these the same Forsaken that asked me to mercilessly kill any of their number that were unlucky enough to get captured by the enemy in Dragonblight?

During another quest, you accompany a group of soldiers into a cave where they end up getting ambushed. Before I had time to properly process what was happening, the leader of the group shoved my character out of the blast radius, with his last words being that I should tell the Banshee Queen. The way I sat in front of my monitor in stunned confusion must have been a pretty good reflection of the way my character must have felt about this strange act of heroism. "But... I'm just the rookie, and yet he bothered to save me. I don't understand."

Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that the Forsaken have suddenly turned into a bunch of fluffy bunnies. They are still ruthless and cruel, but something has changed for sure. They don't just loathe everything and everyone anymore, including themselves. They stick together. They care about the survival of their people. Up until Wrath, it was all about them killing and bombing their way towards the Lich King, no matter the cost, but with Arthas dead, what was left for them to do? Lie down and die?

It seems that Sylvanas has decided to make the Forsaken a "proper" people. They are still undead and messed up, but they also want to have their own land, procreate and get some joy out of their existence, even if it's just from worshipping their Dark Lady. This is a huge change in my opinion, and one that makes them a thousand times easier to relate to. Sure, you can still hate their methods and that's fair enough, but at the end of the day their goals are now not so different from those of the other races. They just want their people to flourish, in their own undead way.

As if to drive the point home, the zone ends with you having to work with the new bosses from Shadowfang Keep for a while, and those guys are bastards. They combine all the worst traits of the old Forsaken philosophy, loathing not just their enemies, but also their allies and even themselves. During the aforementioned rescue mission, Lord Godfrey sometimes randomly pulls out a rifle and shoots the soldiers you just saved because he thinks that they are worthless. This is perfectly in line with old Forsaken quests (refer to the one in Dragonblight I linked above!) but as a player of a "new" Forsaken you can't help but hate him. You're being taught to care for your fellow undead, even if you don't care for anybody else, and you just don't treat them like that!

Later in Hillsbrad, there is a similar situation where you encounter a crazed apothecary for a while who has clearly gone off the deep end and is raising mindless zombies everywhere. I immediately felt uneasy when I saw his whole operation and started to wonder whether I had overestimated the "goodness" of the new Forsaken... until I found Master Apothecary Lydon locked away in a cage and together he and I went back to kick some butt and clean up the mess, because again, this was actually not acceptable by the Forsaken's new standards.

I certainly didn't expect the Forsaken to come out of the Cataclysm more likeable than ever, but there you go. This is my interpretation of their quests at least. I get the impression that a lot of people seem to think that Sylvanas is still scheming quietly about how to destroy all life on Azeroth and how to become the Ultimate Queen of Uber Evil, but I have to admit that I have trouble seeing that side of her, going by the way she behaves in game. Yeah, she hates Garrosh, but who doesn't? She is genuinely saddened by the loss of her Val'kyr companions, and when she deals with Crowley at the end of the Silverpine story, she honours their agreement to let his daughter go unharmed. I think that she just wants to see her people prosper, and while she definitely still has a bone or two to pick with certain people, I doubt that she's hell-bent on world (or even Horde) domination.


  1. To be fair, I think the events following the Wrathgate - Sylvanas losing control of the Undercity - pretty firmly establish that to at least some degree, Putress & the Apothecaries were indeed rogue agents and not directly following Sylvanas' orders. If the Battle for Undercity did not exist, then yes, it would fall on her shoulders. But I think these events were intended to prove that, at least outwardly, she wasn't behind Putress' actions...or at least, not all of them.

    I am so glad you experienced the crazy farm in Hillsbrad and didn't come out of it thinking "man those Forsaken are SO EVIL" like SO MANY people have. It's not THE FORSAKEN, it's one nutjob who, with the assistance of another Forsaken, you help put down. So crucial, yet hardly anyone notices this distinction.

    GREAT analysis of these early zones, and I completely agree on so many levels. :D I wrote about the extremely close bond Forsaken would have with one another as brethren in one of my comments on Cyn's post; you might find it interesting, given the context of your post!

  2. I never considered the unity and loyalty between the Forsaken until I read this, and you bring up some excellent points. Sure, there's a lot of sadism among the undead, but they obviously care a great deal about the Forsaken as a people. I especially like your take on Sylvannas, that she's doing what is required to ensure the security of her people. It's a very different leadership mentality than, say, Baine Bloodhoof, but that doesn't mean it's black-and-white evil.

  3. @Rades: Oh, I have no doubt that Putress went rogue, but considering how clever Sylvanas usually is, it's hard to believe that she really was completely blindsided by his actions instead of say, going along with his plans to an extent but then denying any involvement after he turned on her. Anyway, my point is that after seeing the way she acts in Silverpine, I actually can believe her. She just doesn't strike me as hating "the living" in general.

    Do people really read the farm story like that? :O That's sad! I thought it was very clear from the beginning that the guy was dodgy, considering how much he tried to (needlessly) deny that he had anything to do with the bad state of the farm; and a Master Apothecary lays the smack down on him in the end, "in the name of Sylvanas" and all - I thought it was quite obvious that his actions were not supported by anyone.

    And I did see your comments. :) Did you feel that the Forsaken always had this bond? Because as I said, to me this seems like a really recent development - not that they weren't "brothers and sisters" before, but there was also a strong sense in the past that everyone was pretty expendable because the Forsaken existence sucked, they had no real future, and the Lich King was making more of them all the time anyway. Now it's like they suddenly realised that they can make a better future for themselves if they start looking after each other more.

  4. I strongly suspect a lot of people who read the farm story as proof that the Forsaken are evil fall into two categories:

    1) The Alliance, who can never do the quests or read the quest texts, and will always be in the phase where the farm is up and running, and

    2) People who are *already* completely convinced that the Forsaken and Sylvanas are evil and are selectively reading what the game tells you to that purpose.

  5. I have to admit, I was one of those folks who was so totally horrified by the Sludge Farm that I added it to my list of Reasons Why I Greatly Dislike The Forsaken... and promptly forgot that it was, in fact, a rogue Putricide-wannabe, and that he's taken down by a senior RAS member who says in no uncertain terms that those actions were unacceptable. Now I remember that I appreciated that detail of the quest chain resolution a lot when I played through new Hillsbrad.

    I'd been thinking that playing through the new version of Hillsbrad once was enough, but perhaps I should play through it again so that I can think some more about how my (1st gen) Forsaken Mage feels about the New Forsaken.

    I'm still utterly creeped out and disgusted by the spider egg parasites on bears thing, though.

  6. Nice writeup. I always felt there was an element of this in the forsaken (live together or die alone, etc), but they were always quite nihilist as well. As if they were going through the motions and I think you're right that it was all about surviving and sticking with the horde long enough to get Arthas.

    No one who played a forsaken character thinks Sylvanas knew about Wrathgate, because she'd have been smart enough to not use the full plague on allies there. But anyhow, I think you're right and since the death of Arthas they seem to have acquired some hope for for the future.

  7. Another nice post on this topic.

    My response was getting to big for a comment, so I've put it here instead:

  8. You know, I actually have a quiet theory that Sylvanas - whether she intended the Wrathgate to happen or not - was fully aware of the plotting Putress and his conspirators, and was waiting and expecting the coup, so she could use this to flush out all her dissenters and eliminate them all in one swift blow. After all, they're all gone now, right? (Also, would-be rebels would think twice now, after seeing what happened to Putress.)

    Xanatos gambit to the max!

    I do think the brotherly/sisterly bond did exist before, but it was vastly overshadowed by the all-consuming desire for vengeance on the Lich King. I think it's exactly what you said - they were so driven and so determined and committed to taking down the Lich King, that when it finally happened, they looked around and, in shock, realized "Oh, hey...we can actually LIVE now!" (So to speak.)

    Also, I forgot to mention this initially, but I was also - not surprised, but impressed, almost? - that she dealt with Crowley honorably and upheld her part of the bargain. Then again, that's assuming that Lorna doesn't have some sort of hidden enchantment or latent plague within her now... ;)

  9. @Kamalia: Haha, that spider egg quest... that's got nothing to do with whether the Forsaken are evil or not, but I agree that it was gross. Usually I'm not affected by things like that in game, but the way you had to click on every single egg individually and they kept making those squelching sounds... yuck! :P

    @Sven: I like your conclusion. :D

    @Rades: That's a brilliant theory, I love it! Not to say that I believe that this is what actually happened, but it's kind of nice to imagine it. ;)

  10. I've always blindly zerged through quests, grabbing at the xp and moving on ASAP, chasing the next level like it was my job. I may have to level a toon sans BOAs, so I can follow the story somewhat. Thanks for the great post!

  11. I've always considered Putress' actions as being the equivalent of the Secretary of Defense firing off a nuke and then declaring martial law in DC. I got the impression that Sylvanas tasked them with creating the plague, but intended to use it as a threat to prevent the living from wiping out the Forsaken when the Scourge were gone. (Or before.) I honestly believe her anger at Putress was not for using the plague, but for using it at the wrong time and wrong place. (And maybe a little for not checking with her first.)

  12. Never really thought of wrathgate as the forsaken committing treason. It's putress and the apothecaries.
    Immediately after it when you go back to ogri, there's hundreds (exaggeration obviously) of forsaken refugees and pretty much no forsaken when you go back to UC on the attack.
    Just never felt right that Sylvanas would just write off the fast majority of her folks to carry out just one, bit poo, attack. You could go paranoid and say the refugees were some sort of guerilla force, but seeing them its evident that is an exercise in grasping at straws.
    I loved going through the new undead stuff, it took me awhile to get why I loved it- you've highlighted what I love about it. Its fantastically grey, but at some points pure black and white in what your doing.
    The farm when you hit tarren mill is just amazing, its got the B-movie vibe then something will come out the blue that just hits you (A bit like that darkshire quest... you know the one whith the pedo school master and the scraps that take you all over the place...)

    Also at the farm you get a spade... you can use that spade to splat a human's head while he's buried helpless in the ground, you can do this anytime you feel like it.


  13. I think it was in the Arthas novel, there is a page where she is talking to some of the apothecaries about what they are working on.
    They drag a couple humans and undead in, force a potion down their throats, and then she watches the results.

    Sylvanas then asks if the potion effects all the races, or just humans, and the apothecaries respond that all will be effected if exposed.

    I cant imagine how anyone can think that Sylvanas is innocent. Between the story, and the amount of old apothecary quests we did before Cata, there has never been any doubt in my mind that shes a bad apple, and shes out to bring everyone else down to her level.

    That being said, I was shocked several times when my toon was rescued by or was sent out to rescue other forsaken... when they used to be all cannon fodder, a means to an end.

    I think that the sudden turn of heart has to do with Sylvanas realizing that no one is immortal and that if she kept going on the way she was, she would never, ever reach her goal (after Arthas' death).

  14. Loved the post, Shintar!

    As I mentioned, I have not yet quested through Silverpine or Hillsbrad, and I'm trying to keep an open mind and see if they change my opinion of the Forsaken.

    It's very interesting how much discussion Sylvie generates. :-)

  15. Loved the post, very insightful!

    You really put into words many of my feelings towards the Forsaken. Now, whenever someone asks me why I like them I can just send them here and get you some extra traffic. :3

    Where I do agree with all the nay-sayers is how much the Forsaken still resemble the Scourge, but not necessarily in a bad way. The Forsaken have lost everything they once held dear whilst being alive. Not only that, they had no will of their own and may even have hurt them unwillingly. Now, free from the Lich King's grasp, they are left without purpose, so they turn to Sylvanas to give them purpose and a meaningful un-life.

    Their affection for her keeps her able to do the best she can for her people and in return, her people have a general direction to walk in as a race. Thanks to her they have the opportunity to see the good things in life once more and enjoy the things around the and more importantly, themselves.

    Eventually they'll be able to be less dependant of Sylvanas and move on from the Lich King-esque rule they live in now.

  16. @Cynwise: Let us know how those zones work out for you!

    And Sylvanas really seems to be more of a hot topic than I anticipated; I love how the comments really range from "it was all Putress, don't blame her" to "it's all been her work all along". I do think those are all valid interpretations, considering that we don't really know what's going on in her head!