Maps in Games

Finding our way in the diaspora of game worlds

There – Now We Have a Shipping Lane

As the races of Azeroth face a new threat from the North, cautious plans are soon swept aside in favour of swift retaliation. Horde Warchief Thrall’s plans to scout the Scourge threat from Northrend have been dashed by a swarm of undead wreaking havoc upon the capital city, Orgrimmar. Following a harsh confrontation between Thrall and upstart Garrosh Hellscream, the latter’s request to lead an outright offensive in the region was granted, and so he now stands in command at Warsong Hold in Northrend’s Borean Tundra.

Garrosh’s command centre is an impressive area, dominated on the inside by his throne. It also features an extensive smithy, the zeppelin docks, and this floor map which depicts the island continent of Northrend in stitched leather hides. There’s one piece of hide to every region of the game, echoing the practical geography which guides players through each level-appropriate zone.

This map also frames Northrend as a real battleground – pointedly, below Hellscream’s feet – with units and flags denoting major encampments and bodies of troops from both Horde and Alliance armies. We also see tokens representing Scourge forces, which are amassed at the nearby Plains of Nasam, Icemist Village, and further into the region known as Icecrown.

By contrast, the eastern side of Northrend is shown as quite bare, in deference to the fact the Forsaken faction are waging their own campaign in that region. Their troop movements and tactics are kept secret from their Horde allies, for now…

In a rare instance, this particular map is also used to frame some in-world dialogue: as Garrosh argues with High Overlord Saurfang, he can be seen stamping upon flags representing the nearby Alliance camp at Valiance Keep. The task of clearing shipping lanes past such a fortification seems considerably easier when one is merely dealing with a map…

The main screenshot is taken from preview footage of the “Wrath of the Lich King” expansion, with an unknown orc player-character in attendance; the other is of my own character, midway through completing a quest for Hellscream as part of that chain which sees him destroying sections of the map.

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