When and Where Does Warcraft Take Place?

‘Warcraft’ is the 2016 live-action adaption film of the eponymous renowned video game franchise known for its ambitiously expansive fantasy world-building— among other assets. The film follows the story of the orc populations’ arrival to another realm, where humans, elves, and dwarves are the local residents. Under their dark magic-wielding leader, Gul’dan, the orcs prepare for a war to lay their claim over this new realm and battle Llane Wrynn, the king of the realm and leader of the interspecies alliance.

However, as the overarching war wages on, Orc Chieftan Durotan realizes the true evil of his leader and attempts to foil him while human Commander Lothar teams up with wizard Khadgar and half-orc Garona to uncover the viper in their own ranks. Given the film’s origins in a high-fantasy game whose mythology expands across multiple games, novels, and comics, the cinematic world crafted within ‘Warcraft’ naturally remains rich in lore and mythology!

Azeroth: The Central World in Warcraft

‘Warcraft,’ directed by Duncan Jones, has a rich world of high fantasy fiction to build itself from, primarily mining the existing canon of video games to achieve its world-building. All the games thus far have been built around the world of Azeroth, a fantastical planet where magic is interwoven into the realm’s being. Therefore, the film also takes place on the same planet, brought to life through sweeping shots of scenic mountains, valleys, and medieval-adjacent kingdoms. While a lot more geographical background is present for the planet in the games, the film understandably only touches upon a few major locations to keep the mythology contained within the story’s plotline.

Notably, the kingdom of Stormwind receives a significant feature as the story focuses on King Llane’s efforts to combat the Orc invasion over numerous towns that fall under his protection. Other than that, the narrative also glimpses at the citadels of Karazhan and Kirin Tor, transporting the characters to the magic-centered areas as per the story’s requirements. The physical appearance of these lands— including the vast battlefields that occupy a significant portion of the story— remains reminiscent of the video games’ depiction of these locations.

Consequently, the film’s geographical setting presents a familiar place for fans of the video games, maintaining authenticity to the previous visualizations of the fictional world native to the franchise. Jones spoke about the film’s geographical world-building and its connection to video games in a conversation with The Guardian. “If you get it wrong, people are going to be very upset,” said the filmmaker.

“The thing you have to remember with ‘Warcraft,’ probably more than with any other computer game, ever, is that people spend more time in this place than in the places they live. It actually is like their hometown. So if you get that wrong— it’s a bit like the people in Notting Hill, who are still recovering from the ‘Notting Hill’ movie.” As a result, the film’s post-production, where the fantasy of Azeroth was perfected, fittingly lasted for twenty long months.

Warcraft Takes Place During the Orcish Horde Invasion

Due to the rich mythology weaved into the ‘Warcraft’ universe, numerous Azeroth-centered historical touchstones persist within the game, ready to be used as fodder for a cinematic adaptation. Thus, ‘Warcraft,’ the first Hollywood adaptation of the game, returns to the very start of the franchise’s genesis to present the story of the Orcs’ arrival in Azeroth. ‘Warcraft,’ the game, is famously known for its genre-bending premise that allows players to take on the form of various species, from humans and elves to trolls and orcs, to helm their narrative. Therefore, while a rich political history exists, the universe also allows for nuance regardless of species.

For the same reason, Duncan Jones wanted to preserve the invariably empathetic quirk of the ‘Warcraft’ world in his film and deliver a meticulous cinematic debut for the Alliance and Orcs alike. The filmmaker discussed the same with Wired in an interview and shared, “What we found— when we were describing what the film should be is that the most sensible thing is to go back to the very beginning.” As a result, in terms of chronology, the film takes place during ‘Warcraft: Orcs & Humans,’ the 1994 real-time strategy game that jumpstarted the franchise.

“It’s about that initial first contact moment,” Jones explained. “[You know] not knowing about each other at all, to begin with— and then meeting for the first time. And that really gives us the opportunity to explain who they [orcs and humans] are from each other’s perspectives.” Therefore, in ‘Warcraft’ lore, the film falls near the start of the First War, when the orcs arrived in Azeroth under Gul’dan’s leadership following the destruction of their own world. The setting significantly affects the characterization and interpersonal relationships of the primary characters, enhancing the complications of orc-human relations.

The timeline may be a departure from the familiarity of ‘World of Warcraft,’ the most famous game within the franchise. Nevertheless, by paying homage to the first game, the film’s setting in the build-up to the First War allows for historical nuance within the universe. Thus, it remains a compelling jumping-off point that caters to the fans of the franchise while also providing enough context to welcome newcomers into the high-fantasy world.

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