TBH, that’s a very narrow view of what WoW brought.
Yes, it is terrible in many aspects. But it brought a ton of good too.
Yes, there are many big lore characters from WC3 that were effectively ignored in WoW. But that perspective comes from only seeing WC3 and expecting it to be touched upon. For most players whose first foray into the Warcraft universe was WoW, they don’t really have that bias or expectation. What I actually liked about early WoW was how they didn’t glorify characters like Malfurion and Rexxar and Jaina. They simply existed as characters in the world. What that did was allow us to explore the world and focus on our own story, rather than follow in the shadow of epic heroes who run the show.
Arguably, IMO the lore has turned for the worse once they actually started characterizing these established heroes. So its a catch-22. From what I gather of your particular argument, what you wanted wasn’t a World of Warcraft, what you wanted was WC3 Expansion in MMO form. That’s not exactly what the game was about, even if we did have some big notable characters front the story.
By and large, WoW was about our adventures. That’s what I realized very early on, and what really gripped me about the game even when I was a lore buff interested in the post-WC3 storyline. It’s only the recent shift to becoming a linear narrative that’s really bugged me about WoW. I wouldn’t be able to pinpoint where things went astray, since linear story is so interconnected with our own character-driven story. It’s just messy.
But I don’t think there’s a question of what WoW brought to the table at all. It brought to us a much wider world to explore than the RTS could ever have hoped to. WoW is a fully immersive realization of the ‘Role Playing Strategy Game’ that Blizzard initially wanted out of Warcraft 3. There’s much more to the game and what it brought than just its linear storyline. There’s the races they introduce, the locations we visit, the enemies we fight, and much more.
I am fully aware of WoW’s story downfalls, but I don’t think that’s a sum of the whole. Half of everything that made WoW so good was its immersion and the stories it told without saying a word of text. There’s nothing in WC3 that compares to getting on a boat to Darnassus the first time, or getting stomped on by a ninja Devilsaur, or seeing Naxxramas appear high above in the Plaguelands. That’s immersion at its best, and I don’t think it should be overlooked for the sake of ‘LOL Arthas got pwned by 10 people’
Even from a lore perspective, all of those immersive experiences added to the slowly-unfolding mystery that lead to a lot of exploring, and eventual revelations. Oh, the Night Elves built their capital city on the new World Tree. Oh, these dinosaurs are here because of a Titan experiment. Oh, Naxxramas is here because of KEL’FRIKKEN’THUZAD!
The journey is what made WoW memorable.