World of Warcraft's latest The War Within trailer has players simping hard for big baddie Xal'atath—and I'm not exactly surprised

World of Warcraft: The War Within is shaping up to be, well, pretty dang good—as pointed out by recent MMO-enjoyment-whirlpool victim and fellow PC Gamer staff Fraser Brown, the game's experiencing a bit of a golden age.

This is for a few reasons: Dragonflight rolled up its sleeves and tended to some much-needed housekeeping, there are a ton of different ways to play now, and Mists of Pandaria: Remix is both massively complained about and also really busy which, you know, isn't ideal, but a love-hate relationship is better than a hate-hate one.

Speaking of hate-hate relationships, the upcoming expansion's central antagonist, Xal'atath, appears to be everyone's new parasocial goth girl crush.

If that sentence gave you psychological whiplash—first off, sorry, second off, I don't get to decide who the internet thirsts for, I only get to talk about it. Take it up with the general public's draw towards women who want to kill them slowly, not me.

The driving force behind this most recent bout of thirst for Xal'atath is a new story teaser posted to the game's YouTube channel, titled Shadow and Fury. In it, several important characters (Alleria Windrunner, Anduin Wrynn, Jaina Proudmoore, Magni Bronzebeard, and Thrall) all suffer existential crises at the hands of an ominous voice over from Xal'atath herself. Happens to the best of us.

What's really set people stammering "mommy, sorry", however, is Xal'atath's smirk at the end of the trailer which—in fairness—is downright deviously animated. Among the initial quote-tweet response over on Twitter, one user writes: "SHE FLEW THE MOTHERPLANE INTO THE C*NTAGON". This has added two new very exciting words to my vocabulary, and let me tell you, I cannot wait to upset my friends with them in casual conversation.

(Image credit: @kitchegoldwatt on Twitter/X.)

(Image credit: @MorisDreadvale on Twitter/X.)

Players are fanning themselves over on the game's subreddit, as well. "Oh sh*t, here I go simping again," writes one player. "I can fix her," adds another, who absolutely can't. "I for one welcome our new knaifu overlord," chimes yet another moth to the flame—knaifu is a portmanteau of "knife" and "waifu", by the way.

Here's another thread where things are panning out similarly. "She can ruin my life tbh", "The real War Within is wanting to save the world but needing to do whatever she asks us to" and—perhaps my favourite (in response to another "fix her" comment): "She can ruin me." I respect the honesty.

Look—Xal'atath is pretty, yes, but so was Sylvanas. However, by the end of her fumbled villain arc in Shadowlands, the player base was pretty much through with her. Still, one might ask themselves—why the simping this time around? My personal theory is that WoW players have been starved of a villain that is both overtly evil and hot for years.

Xal'atath finishes the breath of fresh air that Dragonflight started (but didn't quite finish) with Fyrakk. For those unfamiliar, Fyrakk was a surprisingly-popular star of the Dragonflight expansion's patches, because his performance via the illustrious Matthew Mercer was—well, very good at chewing the scenery. Player issues with the bland and boring Jailer mostly landed on the fact that he was 50% "pitiful mortal" in a big booming voice, 49% big dude in armour, and 1% "there's a bigger threat out there" rugpull.

Unfortunately, Fyrakk's post-raid death didn't really capitalise on his unhinged villainous energy, the cinematic instead focusing on a drawn-out exposition dump that was pretty poorly received.

Anyway, point being, people like morally complex villains sure, but they also like villains who are fun to watch—so capturing that Fyrakk energy in the body of a hot person is bound to hit right, and people are more likely to fawn over a pretty lady than a monster made out of rock and magma (though I think that shouldn't stop you if you're brave enough).

I could thirst after Fyrakk if I put my mind to it, but I'm built different. (Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

It's part of why Illidan was similarly popular and, to be fair, also thirsted after: "You are not prepared!" is a corny line, and while Mr. Stormrage had plenty of great character moments in Legion (where he was more of a Vegeta-esque antihero), being the Warcraft universe's all-time hater is a pretty straightforward job. Xal'atath looks to fulfil a very similar niche.

As a long-time FF14 player, Xal'atath also gives me immediate Zenos yae Galvus vibes—in case you're unfamiliar, Zenos is a big, tall, heinously powerful pretty-boy who really, really, really wants to fight you—and that's essentially his entire deal. It really doesn't get much more complicated.

Xal'atath's plans might be a little more complex, but she carries the same energy of, well, wanting to play with her food. And let me tell you, people went wild for Zenos over that—so it tracks they're also going wild here, especially since the pool of WoW villains has been starved of her uniquely potent combination for so long.

It's also entirely possible I could be overthinking this. There may be zero environmental factors contributing to the Xal-mania other than "scary, pretty lady mean to me". It worked for Dimitrescu, it's no surprise that it's working again now.

Harvey Randall
Staff Writer

Harvey's history with games started when he first begged his parents for a World of Warcraft subscription aged 12, though he's since been cursed with Final Fantasy 14-brain and a huge crush on G'raha Tia. He made his start as a freelancer, writing for websites like Techradar, The Escapist, Dicebreaker, The Gamer, Into the Spine—and of course, PC Gamer. He'll sink his teeth into anything that looks interesting, though he has a soft spot for RPGs, soulslikes, roguelikes, deckbuilders, MMOs, and weird indie titles. He also plays a shelf load of TTRPGs in his offline time. Don't ask him what his favourite system is, he has too many.