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Ardenweald

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NeutralArdenweald
Level: 55 - 57
Ardenweald art pack.png
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Ardenweald is a realm of the Shadowlands founded by the Winter Queen and inhabited by the Night Fae Covenant. An enchanted, mystical forest of rest and hibernation, Ardenweald is where Wild Gods and other spirits of nature travel upon death. Giant dream trees across the forest draw in anima, which is then used by the Night Fae to rejuvenate the spirits as they slumber inside wildseeds and prepare them to be reborn into the world of the living.[1][2][3][4] In addition, Ardenweald serves as an afterlife for mortal souls who shared a close bond with the natural cycle, like druids and hunters. Upon arrival, these souls can choose an animal form infused with Ardenweald's celestial magic and spend an eternity caring for the wilds.[4] Ardenweald can be compared to the Emerald Dream, but where the Dream represents the spring and summer of the cycle of life, Ardenweald reflects autumn and winter.[1][2] In essence, the realm is the highest expression of the relationship between endings and beginnings—between Death and Life.[5]

Ardenweald is where the demigod Cenarius recovered after his death during the Third War, before returning to Azeroth during the Cataclysm.[1][2] Recently, Ardenweald has suffered more keenly from soul-drought than any other realm in the Shadowlands. For the first time in endless ages, the Night Fae's Winter Queen must choose which of the land's formerly lush groves—and which souls—will be fed the last precious drops of anima and which will fade away forever.[3] In addition, Ardenweald is also under attack by the Drust,[1] who are invading from their realm of Thros in order to use the rebirth mechanisms of Ardenweald as a means to escape their fate.[4][6]

Geography

Maps and subregions

Map of Ardenweald.

Undisplayed locations

Dungeons

Instance name Level range Group size Approximate run time
Instance portal Mists of Tirna Scithe 50 - 60 5
Instance portal Da Other Side 5

Travel hubs

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Adjacent regions

Zone Name Faction Level Range Direction Access
Oribos HordeAlliance Northeast Entrance at the Starlit Overlook


Development

Although we’ve created lots of cool forest zones in the past like Val’sharah, Ashenvale, and Hyjal, Ardenweald is higher concept, more unreal world than we’ve explored so far.
Sukjoo Choi, character artist[5]
Concept art of Ardenweald plant life.
Latticework sketches.

Ardenweald is inspired by a piece of old, unused concept art that the art team found during the development of Shadowlands and which depicted a forest with specks of starlight on the ground. The developers initially wanted to include this theme as part of Bastion, thus splitting the zone between a light, heavenly side and a dark, celestial forest side, but they eventually decided that the latter idea was unique and interesting enough to deserve its own separate zone.[7]

When designing Ardenweald, Blizzard's artists decided to not include any traditional architecture and instead focus on using the forest's natural elements to create the setting. They were partially inspired by the treetop arakkoa structures in The Burning Crusade. However, since these areas could often make navigation and gameplay difficult for players, they strived to instead keep Ardenweald's structures and areas open-air. Since the trees and groves are what make up the villages of the Night Fae, the artists managed to avoid the necessity of typical buildings and ended up not using any real-world references, instead leaning on their love of folklore, fairy tales, and the work of fantasy artists like Brian Froud.[5]

Ardenweald's connection to the Emerald Dream was important to the team, who used every chance to create something similar but with different colors and shapes to convey Ardenweald's distinct purpose. While the Dream (as portrayed in Legion) is bright and vibrant, Ardenweald is somber and tranquil, with blue and purple colors and smooth, swirling shapes designed to create the feeling of a "celestial nursery" where nature spirits come to rest and be at peace. The cool color palette immediately reminds viewers of night time; the sky's color was based on reference photos of deep blue and purple skies taken in northern England.[5][8]

From the beginning, the artists pictured Ardenweald as a cosmic space that combined the celestial look of galaxies with natural tree canopies, which led to the design of the towering dream trees that dominate the forest. An early discussion about the zone's ecology and the decomposition process led to the invention of the gorm, creatures which ended up becoming fairly central to the zone's storyline. Early in the design phase, the artists knew they wanted to distinguish Ardenweald's inhabitants (such as the vorkai) from other creatures they'd designed in the past by giving them a wild feel and more animalistic features.[5]

The artists normally try to ensure that a zone's environment feels natural and well-thought out, such as thinking about where a body of water is coming from or deciding if a mountain is shaped by erosion or tectonic shifts, but in Ardenweald's case they allowed themselves to include a few supernatural details, such as water pouring into a pond from a tree canopy, specifically because they wanted the zone to feel magical and outside the boundaries of the natural world.[5] The artists created several new particle effects for the zone, including a brand new water type, weather systems where an "anima rain" is happening, leaf effects, as well as dust and debris effects to give the anima-starved areas a sense of disintegration and deterioration.[9]

The anima branch latticework found throughout the zone was designed by environment artist Gabriel Gonzalez, who wanted to establish the branch-like lattice as a defining shape for Ardenweald. The lattices were designed to have some heft but also convey the elegant and magical way in which Ardenweald's inhabitants shape their environment. The shapes were inspired by Art Nouveau jewelry and the 1982 film The Dark Crystal. The zone also contains tree roots shaped together to form archways. The idea for these was that they were constructed by the tirnenn, who stick their arms into the ground to force roots out of the ground. The flowers of the zone are the result of the artists being allowed to create their own ideas of the perfect fairy tale flowers by combining parts from different real-world plants.[5]

Ardenweald's soundscape was created by sound supervisor David Rovin, who wanted the sound to capture the zone's story—a land of rebirth and gentleness whose magic is cool and tempered, but which turns dry and brittle when said magic is absent. Rovin gravitated to the world "astral", which carries connotations of contemplativeness and stillness but also spirituality. He started from organic sounds like birds, chimes, and wind, which have an innate tonality that mach the zone. These sounds also help create contrast with the dead areas that have been deprived of anima and have more earthy timbres like dirt, dry winds, and twigs.[5]

Gallery

Concept art

Patch changes

References

 

External links