After warlords we look as if we very well might be in the position for a burning legion expansion. I would like to offer a little bit of speculation about the idea that the burning legion expansion might not be next but a show down with Queen Azshara will be, or should be, instead.
There is still a lot of untold story left concerning the Queen with where we left off with Neptulon in the throne of the tide when Ozumat took off with him effectively leaving the seas to the rule of the Queen and not the elemental lord. She now controls the majority of what covers the entire world, water, and that has to count for something in terms of power or possible threat.
I've been asking about the Neptulon situation myself since cataclysm and I am sure many others have. It is, for me, the single most annoying thread left handing in cataclysm, the story left untold, and I believe an elemental lord going missing, even more so for this long, requires some story time dedicated to it and a Queen Azshara expansion would really cover that.
While it might seem like that is just a small loose thread left behind I believe if and when it is pulled it would turn out to be a very large string that could easily be the basis for an entire expansion. When you think that we, the heroes of azeroth, are all off planet and believed to never be able to return that Azshara might use this time to attack the land of a weakened Azeroth that just saw the factions warring and weak after recent events and then saw all of the strongest heroes left standing on both sides head off on what could very well be a one way trip.
With both the alliance and the horde in a weakened state and all their strongest and best headed off to a war where they can not come back to help if there are problems would leave both factions ripe for the picking from any real source of power, even more so for someone with the power of Azshara, which makes it seem likely that she might take advantage of this situation.
While all of this, to me, sounds like a very reasonable set up for the next expansion there is one small problem with it. Where in Azeroth would the new zones be. You can not have an expansion, at least not as we know them, without having new questing zones. We can not go the route of redesigning the world again like we did with cataclysm because we saw how badly that turned out. So we need to add a new land mass like we did with northrend and we did with pandaria. That is the only way an expansion on Azeroth can work.
Now it might be easy enough to guess where an expansion based on Queen Azshara might take place, at sea or underneath it, but what other options are there really for future expansions on Azeroth? I've decided to let my imagination run away with me for a little bit and try to figure out where we can expand.
We could very well go the route of an expansion based underwater but with the amazingly horrible reception of Vashj'ir as a completely underwater zone I do not see that ever happening again. The game is not designed for three dimensional fighting which is required for an underwater zone and anyone that has ever tried to charge, heroic leap, land a trap, or do any targeted ground effect underwater will tell you, warcraft is just not designed that way.
That does not remove the idea of an expansion at sea and underwater however. There could be underwater colonies we never even knew about, in bubbles, sort of like the lost city of atlantis, or to put closer to a way warcraft players might understand, bubbles, like where the colonies in netherstorm are located.
You could have an entire underwater world connected by a series of underwater tunnels so to speak. Were you can walk along the "path" unobstructed by the water around you but once you pass through the bubble barrier, you would be swimming. It could do a little mix and match with the underwater questing that maybe, just maybe, it would be less frustrating for the people that hated Vashj'ir. With some questing outside of the bubble and most inside in the covered colonies, this could very well be something that might work.
We have never really explored under the water and there is a massive amount of space to be explored there. They can easily add more content in Azeroth by having us experience it underwater. With the exception of the horrid wet dog smell the alliance would have to deal with thanks to worgens, I do not see any major draw backs to an idea like this, as long as they do not go full out Vashj'ir again. I am firmly planted in the "I hated it" camp on that one.
Would it be part of the Azshara expansion, very possible, but it does not have to be. There are so many islands out there including one that has been spoken up but unseen for as long as I can remember that was part of the original alliance of lorderon and run by Jaina's brother. There are many islands out there that have some mention but no implementation in the game what so ever.
It would be quite easy for blizzard to turn us into a group of island hoppers for an expansion. Whether it be a little fresh air to keep us from being under water all the time in an Azshara expansion or used for something else of its own, a south seas expansion as it may be, there are enough islands out there with a rich history to pull from that we can build upon.
The Other Side:
Did you know that once upon a time the world was viewed as flat and there were maps that displayed it as such? There is no reason to believe that the people who have made the maps we see in game are not just as delusional as the people that once thought the world was flat was.
Some might argue, and reasonably so, that the globes in ulduar do not show anything on the other side and the titans who made that would have known if there was something on the other end of the world. To that I counter, yes, the titans knew, but do you think the titans actually built that with their own hands or do you think they had their constructs build them?
It would not be unreasonable to believe that the people who built that, to the titans instructions, built a globe as they believed it to be and not really how it was in reality. Just like if someone had built something like that on our very planet so very long ago there would be maps of the world showing it were flat. If we, as a real race in a real world, could easily have been so wrong, how would it be so hard to believe that a made up race in a made up world of fantasy might also be wrong?
The globes prove nothing. Only that they were made by people who believed the world looked like that. Nothing more.
There could be another side to Azeroth, and more so, it could even be ten times larger than what we already know to exists. There could be a few large land masses the size of the eastern kingdoms and there might be night elves there too, and tauren as well. Maybe when the expansion comes when we stumble upon that land mass, one of the many there, we find that those night elves wish to join the horde and the tauren we met seem to agree with the alliance. It would work as a reasonable lore explanation why there is some, if not all, races that can play both sides just like the pandaran did.
I can only imagine how much of a wealth of game play could be had from slowly bringing us to more of the world and showing us, a little at a time, that the world is a lot larger than we had believed it to be. That the map, as we know it, is only one small piece of a much larger world.
This is something that could very well make a lot of sense to do to expansion while being able to keep us on Azeroth. As long as when they add new masses they never give us absolutes, and never connect one side with the other leaving that "gap" we know nothing about there. For as long as that is there, there are new lands to be found on our very own planet. There are new zones for expansions to come.
Blizzard has shown that they are not exactly adverse to the idea of underground content. Many raids and dungeons have lead us underneath the soil of Azeroth. Many of those underground areas showed us some amazing architecture which surely means that there is intelligent life living down there. If they could build that little piece we looked at in a dungeon or raid, what great and expansive cities and dwelling underground could there be that we never even imagined?
In cataclysm we had an entire zone that was underground. In case you do not recall Deepholm was entirely underground. While some did not like it the zone was not nearly as disliked as Vashj'ir was and for the purpose of expanding on our own planet it is a very good idea. One I would argue is even better than the thought of an underwater one.
For the most part people did not even realize that they were underground. Sure there was no sun or moon in the sky but the zone of Deepholm worked just fine as a questing zone that allowed the person not to feel claustrophobic.
There are many land masses and that means there are lots of spaces to easily add underground zones. It was rumored back in early wrath production that they were going to add an underground zone but it was instead scraped and we only ended up with two dungeons that were a tiny portion of the much larger world that existed underneath Northrend.
There is a great deal of lore to be experienced and lots of races that we have been introduced to that could easily fit into the idea of an underground zone. Not to mention there is the possibility of some old god lore, and we know so little about them really, that can be explored underground because that is where they are trapped. So built in races, lots of land space to be used, existing lore to be expanded on, and the mystery that happens to be the old gods all make an underground zone a very good possibility for expansion on Azeroth.
In The Sky:
When I first heard of the skywall in the early development of cataclysm I had high hopes for it. An entire zone up in the air with a city floating in the air. As it turned out we had a dungeon and a raid and it was not like you could even walk from one to the other in the air. So the skywall ended up being nothing special and most definitely not a wall at all.
That does not change the fact that blizzard can still easily add land masses in the air in various types of ways. Either an area where we had never been to before that has lifted land masses floating in the air with full questing zones all above the ground or perhaps some sort of alien invasion were we go up to their network of ships which are like huge land masses. Think something the size of the ships in V which were as large as a city. Both those ideas would give us more than ample space to quest, to explore, to learn lore, and to experience an expansion without leaving our own world, even if we do have to step into the sky a bit to experience it.
Perhaps when blizzard gets tired of sending us to other worlds, finding ways for us to experience different time lines, or letting us visit alternate realities, we can get back to finishing off exploring our very own world, because as I see it, there is still a great wealth of content to be added to the world proper as we know it. There is really no need to send us elsewhere. Lets finish exploring our own back yard.
So while I like the idea of facing the burning legion again and am not adverse to taking the fight to them and visiting Argus so we can fight them in their stronghold, I would like to hold off a little bit on that. The burning legion expansion is supposed to be the "end game" and with so much left to explore in our own back yards, I am just not ready to go down that route yet. I say lets get back to exploring our own world. There is so much left to do.