Blizzard continues to explore social, political, environmental themes in Wrath of the Lich King's Borean Tundra

Leaky oil pipelines creating slicks and killing wildlife.  Animal rights activists pitted against hunting groups.  Outrage over the desecration of tribal burial grounds.  All set against the backdrop of the pristine northern tundra.  Alaska?  No, Blizzard's Wrath of the Lich King (WOTLK) expansion's Borean Tundra. 

Tackling real-life world issues is nothing new in Blizzard's World of Warcraft.  Azeroth, the fantasy world in WoW, has already been the backdrop for issues such as conflicts between strip miners and conservationists in Stranglethorn Vale, diseased animals in Darkshore, pollution in the Barrens, animal overpopulation in Un'Goro Crater, and invasive species in Silithus.

Within the Alliance and the Horde, the two major factions in the game, there are several interracial conflicts as well.  In the Thousand Needles, tauren tribe fights tauren tribe.  In Stranglethorn Vale, trolls are at odds with each other.  The liberated undead fight against their former friends-turned-Scourge.  Even the powerful dragons are split by conflicts.  Yet all manage to band together and prevail against the dark forces of the Scourge, Illidan, and Kil'jaeden. 

In the new WOTLK expansion, Blizzard continues to explore these social, environemental, and political themes. Players in both the Alliance and the Horde factions have a chance to offset the effects of poaching and oil spills, and improve trade relations with the various indigenous tribes of Northrend. This article focuses on the issues from the Horde side in the Borean Tundra region of the expansion.

Indigenous tribal relations and burial grounds

When Horde players get to Warsong Hold in the Borean Tundra, they encounter the indigenous Taunka, relatives of the Tauren.  The Taunka are wary of the Horde captains and ask individual players to partner with them in their efforts.  Near one of the Horde outposts, a caravan ran through a Taunka burial ground and upset not only the elders of the tribe, but the spirits as well.  Players are asked to put the spirits to rest, then kill the spirit of the leader of the caravan to rectify the error. 

Oil-soaked caribou
Oil-soaked caribou

Oil slicks and industrial pollution

The Taunka also ask players to pick up after the gnomes, who have built an oil pipeline near Taunka'le Village.  Players clean up defunct metal parts, destroy malfunctioning robots, and fight off mechanized gnome workers.  One area is covered in oil slicks, with the animals and birds also covered in oil. 

D.E.H.T.A. against poachers

D.E.H.T.A. (Druids for the Ethical and Humane Treatment of Animals) is an animal rights group with a camp somewhere between Warsong Hold and Taunka'le.  If a player kills any animal in the Borean Tundra, they are immediately covered in blood and D.E.H.T.A. will be hostile to them until the blood curse wears off (a three-minute debuff).

D.E.H.T.A.'s opponents are Hemet Nesingwary's poachers.  Nessy, as he's affectionately referred to as, is Azeroth's greatest big game hunter.  This time, he's turned his sights to Northrend.  The druids offer quests to free animals, kill poachers, and generally mess up Nessy's operations. 

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