World of Warcraft‘s next expansion, Shadowlands, is on the horizon. The world of Azeroth will face peril once again, as you and your allies are pulled into the Maw after Sylvanas Windrunner. You manage to escape, surprising the locals of Bastion, the Kyrion, since you are still a living mortal rather than the souls they would expect. You’ll have to prove your worth by Ascending to pursue Sylvanas, as well as warn the Kyrian of the dangers of the Maw.
Azeroth’s Champions will have to find out about the trials that await them soon enough, what with needing to contend with the near depletion of the Kyrian’s anima fueling these citizens, but with Steve Danuser, Lead Narrative Designer of World of Warcraft, let us take a step back and see Bastion as it was in its glory days. It has, after all, managed to stand the test of time for this long – even if time itself has little to no meaning in the realms of Death.
Arrival at Bastion is merely the first step. Souls will be eased into their new afterlife, as it were, by helpful stewards and familiar wildlife. Then, they will begin the process to shed all their mortal wants and desires over who knows how many centuries or eons, including even the most noble of souls. All worthy souls will be given new form as an azure-skinned Kyrian no matter whence they came. These would-be Aspirants will need to earn their acceptance. Souls with promise can still be unable to overcome the trials they will be given to achieve enlightenment, and will then be exiled from Bastion to be reassigned a less arduous afterlife.
Aspirants who are successful then undergo tutelage under the Paragons, overseers of Bastion’s glorious temples. Each temple is dedicated to a particular virtue that its Paragon embodies: Purity, Courage, Humility, Loyalty, and Wisdom. And higher still is the Archon herself, the one who laid the path of all Kyrians, part of the pantheon of Eternal Ones from the dawn of the Shadowlands, focused on her singular duty of service.
Overcoming all trials will see Aspirants become Ascended, the Archon personally overseeing the ceremony to grant them their wings before the Crest of Ascension. Further still will these Ascended journey on one of several paths of service:
- Becoming a Watcher of the mortal realm, to determine if a soul is truly ready to pass on
- Becoming a Bearer to carry a ready soul to be judged by the Arbiter in Oribos
- Or simply remaining in Bastion to serve their fellow Kyrian
Wherever they might go, the Bastion will remain, to fulfill its sacred purpose of preparing mortal souls for the eternity that lay beyond them.
The idea of Bastion works to evoke glory, triumph, with bells to complement the kyrians feelings towards duty and service, akin to that of a religion. It needed to have flowing aesthetics, and a touch of the angelic, and goes ever upwards. The plants and creatures populating the area would similarly feel familiar enough to be recognizable, but with a mystic, ethereal quality.
With all that said and done, the game isn’t complete without its sound choice and music. The bells aren’t simply to complete the aesthetic; they are part of the ambient music as well. Bastion was made with a purpose: to train Kyrian Ascendants. This hub of the afterlife will sound meditative and peaceful, the perfect place in which you can work towards tranquility. Of course, the sound will become increasingly strange and distorted should corruption spread…
With an overview given by Michael Hill (senior sound designer) and Glenn Stafford (principal composer), the bells are critical to complete the whole area. Remember, this place is sacred. Those who have passed on can potentially reach an even higher plane through ascending. The anima is represented by the choir of voices; pure and clear, distant and ethereal. Should the anima be cut off, the doubt begins creeping in.
But let us think of the glory of Bastion for now. Imagine your arrival to this hallowed place, given the chance to become an Ascendant. How will you weather the trials to shed all your mortal baggage? You will need to, if you’re going to help the denizens be aware of the troubles that loom ahead. Hold on to that peace, Champion, for it is fragile, as you will need to rise up for both the living and the long dead.
We also spoke with Johnny Cash, one of Bastion’s quest leads, for even more details regarding the upcoming zone for Shadowlands. As you might have noticed, the stewards in Bastion are based off owls. Cash talks about how owls kept coming up in their drafts. The story here is very simple: an artist pitched it, everyone fell in love with the idea, and that was that. They definitely did draw on a lot of inspirations in order to craft Bastion, including Ancient Greece and Rome, as well as touches of the Middle East, with a melting pot of influences from everyone on the team.
“You will see this reflected in Bastion as we tell these individual stories… players will find the Kyrian complex with a lot of depth to them – there will be a lot of characters with personality flaws as well triumphs and heroic moments.”
Even with all the glory of Bastion, the Anima is dying out when you arrive. Souls arrive here to undergo the arduous training to Ascend, but not all will make it. The system has been there for countless of ages, but the souls have gradually lost faith, resulting in the Anima drought. The Forsworn have risen, and now, Bastion faces the clashing of two different ideologies regarding how they should proceed with their timeworn ‘tradition’, so to speak. Clearly a change must be made, and the Forsworn are going about it in a more destructive way. Players will have to see how this conflict comes to a head for themselves, and Cash certainly thinks there’s plenty of interesting things for the Kyrians, by extension, the player will learn, throughout this story.
All the Kyrians have been the races of Azeroth, having been noble in their life. While we can assume that these virtuous souls will be arriving at Bastion, Cash also says that this is merely one of many afterlives. Bastion in specific is one that represents duty and service, which you can find in its entire structure: that rigidity, that ceremony; it’s all over the place.
With Bastion being merely one of the afterlives, what connection does it have with the rest of the Shadowlands? Those paying attention would already know that the Kyrians of Bastion would be the ones who send the souls to the Shadowlands to begin with. Cash likens them to the spirit healers, being the mediator and judge to decide if a soul is ready to move on. Revendreth would be where any souls can go to be ‘rehabilitated’, lest they be cast to the Maw, a place where souls are truly lost. Should these lost souls regain a glimmer of hope though, then perhaps they may make their way to Revendreth yet. If they do, they may be able to work their way back to Bastion, or just end up in a totally different afterlife befitting them.
As the first zone, Bastion also serves as your introduction to the Shadowlands as you progress through the zone quests. It’s different from the mortal plane of Azeroth, so you are eased in to this new realm, learning its past glories, its current state and where it might go if you don’t step in. The bigger picture is one thing, but the team also wants you to know about the characters that populate this world. After learning their motivations, once you reach the level cap, will you be making the decision to join the Kyrian covenant, or will you move on? You might be surprised at what story hits you once you’re here.