It has now been a full week since the launch of World of Warcraft: Shadowlands, and it’s time to sit back and take stock of what Blizzard has given us in reward for our patience. More importantly, I wanted to see what they would do to address the problems that were highlighted by BFA’s stinking, rotting corpse.
I haven’t put as much time into the game as I would like, but I managed to hit 60, spend time in Torghast, did some PVP, forged a legendary, and maxed out some professions. I have a pretty good idea of what I’m dealing with right now.
Anyway, here is my take on Shadowlands in terms of what I like and what I’m not feeling yet.
Hit: The Overall Story
A gaping hole was torn in the sky above Icecrown Citadel and we have to go through a portal on what looks like a suicide mission to save the world’s leaders. Sounds fair enough, right?
The story hits the ground running and sees the player become the Maw Walker, a being capable of coming and going from the Maw freely (apparently that’s not too common). From there, we travel to the different areas of the Shadowlands and try to figure out what the heck is going on.
As it turns out, souls are being sent into the afterlife, but they are going right into the Maw instead of being churned through the normal cycle. I’m paraphrasing, but that’s basically it. You figure out what’s going on throughout your quests, and it’s not pretty.
I have to give Blizzard props for taking a chance on such a dark story. The story is pretty grim and the fight seems more hopeless than usual. All I know is that I’m enjoying it more than I did the last two expansions.
If you didn’t fall in love when Thrall throws his axe at Helya in the Maw and then asks you to get him a new one, I don’t know what else to do for you.
Hit: The Leveling System Choices
Hi, my name is Kyle and I’m an alt-oholic.
I hit level 60 and started doing quests, covenant stuff, and Torghast. It wasn’t long before I wanted to level a melee class, but I was dreading the leveling process. The linearity of the story progression was not something I was looking forward to doing again.
But Blizzard had our backs. Much like Adventure Mode in Diablo III, once you’re done with the story, you can level another character without going through the story again. That was a major plus for me, and I am currently writing this instead of finishing off my level 59 warrior.
Instead of going through the linear story, you choose your covenant and where you want to start leveling. It’s a little slower in my experience, but it’s also a lot of fun.
Hit: The Return of Honor-based PVP Gearing
There’s not a whole lot to say about this topic. We’ve been asking for Honor and Conquest vendors to return, and now they’re back.
Sure, the PVP gear is lagging behind the mythic gear for now, but the set bonuses on your trinkets and the ability to do quests to get extra honor in week one are something that everyone should enjoy.
To say I am psyched is such an understatement. I am ready to get twisted and turned around by some Alliance people in BGs and arena skirms to get my hands on some of that gear.
Hit: The Quests
Maybe I’m just so happy that I don’t have to hear from the Tortollans ever again if I don’t want to, but I am liking the new quests.
I feel like there is a lot more diversity in what you’re asked to do instead of go here, kill them, and gather this. We get to interact more with the unique environment, like the bells in Bastion, instead of having the same quests in every area.
So far, I don’t think there have even been any really annoying side quests. In fact, I’ve found that hunting chests by jumping on the mushrooms, using the grappling hooks to get to new places, and doing that marathon around Maldraxxus is pretty satisfying.
Also, I love that they show you which quests are for the campaign and which ones are extraneous.
So far, so good.
Hit: The Covenants’ Complexity
The covenants in Shadowlands were implemented well. I’d lie if I said they didn’t look a little worrisome at first because I doubted Blizzard’s ability to juggle four factions since they’ve done so, so well with balancing the Horde and Alliance story over the past few expansions.
I was pleasantly surprised, though. Each covenant has its own personality, unique land, and interesting story. They’re not just different aesthetics, either. The powers are unique and can impact your play style. The quests, gear, and abilities you get as a member of your covenant will keep you coming back to finish your “callings” and upgrade your sanctum.
I chose to go with the Necrolords of Maldraxxus on my mage and I’m very happy with the choice. I know, I’ve been told to go Night Fae, but forget all that.
In my covenant, I get to build abominations, my skills are awesome and grant me some serious survivability, and the transmogs are going to be crazy good.
Hit: The Art and Music
I know that I am definitely somewhat biased because I like new places and music. Still, way to go, Blizzard art and music teams. Oribos has a much better layout than any new main city in a while. It’s tight and orderly, so it works with the general theme of the area while also meeting the needs of the players.
The new faction areas are simply gorgeous, too. Bastion might leave you snowblind, but the rolling hills and color scheme are, well, heavenly. I guess we’ll see how long it stays that way. The same goes for the gorgeous forests and gardens of Ardenweald, even though that was my least favorite place to be.
Maldraxxus is the brutal place that you’d expect of undead warriors, featuring lots of spikes and rot. Revendreth has a bunch of pompous vampires and gothic castles for you to explore along with the Ember Ward which is just disturbing in its nature.
The music is a little less prominent in this expansion than in BFA, and I like it that way. It’s not that grand fanfare from Boralus; it’s just in the periphery, but you’d still notice its absence.
Again, I might be a tad biased, but I really like the new zones.
Hit/Miss: The Launch
How did your launch night look? Mine was great for the first hour-ish. I almost got out of the Maw and then I got booted offline. Then my characters couldn’t be found. And it was like that for the next 12 hours.
I know things go wrong, but that launch sucked for a whole lot of people.
I also know that I’m whining like a crybaby.
We had some other bugs, too. I managed to get trapped in Torghast via an unending loading screen, too. That one is probably less common and more Blizzard’s fault, too. I’ve seen stories of other bugs, and we can argue about whether or not they should have happened with an extended development cycle. They did happen, and we’ve mostly gotten over it.
The launch wasn’t all bad. We managed to get a launch in 2020, something that many fans worried about after the first delay. While I wasn’t a fan of having the launch so close to Thanksgiving, it was cool that Blizzard was able to recognize and mitigate a lot of the problems right off the bat.
This one is a hit and miss for me, but more of a hit in my book.
Miss: Why Do I Hate the Alliance/Horde Again?
I launched a polymorph spell, turning some rogue into a sheep. I then unloaded on it with a barrage of spells until I trapped him in a ring of frost and finished the job with a greater pyroblast.
After I did the /hug on the body, I had to wonder—why the heck am I killing this guy? I mean, I know that I enabled War Mode and that entitles me to kill the other team.
Like Red vs. Blue over a decade ago, I had to think about why I even wanted to slay the enemy. The fourth war is over, right? We’re just going to the afterlife to save our leaders and solve the issues of the Shadowlands.
The problem is the game doesn’t give us a reason to fight the other team anymore. Maybe I’m looking into this too deeply, but for a game that has made it a point to give us a reason to kill the opposite faction for 16 years, it’s a little weird to stop now.
Miss: The Maw as a Zone (so far)
I know the Maw is supposed to be a place of crushing hopelessness, but Blizzard is going a little too far with the fantasy on this one.
Like many others, I don’t like the fact that there are no mounts in the Maw. Locking vehicles doesn’t serve a purpose as far as I’m concerned. “Oh, but you’re in the afterlife” feels like a weak justification to me.
The quests in the Maw are a little boring, too. They lack the diversity of the other quest areas.
One thing I do like about the Maw is the Jailer taking notice of what you’re doing and attacking you via chains, bombardments, etc.
I’ll wait and see what happens with the Maw, but I’m not too impressed just yet.
World of Warcraft: Shadowlands: Final Thoughts on the Hits and Misses
I didn’t put everything into a box that I would have liked because we haven’t gotten the full measure of the expansion yet. The dungeons seem pretty fun, but I can’t comment on them as a whole because I haven’t seen the new mechanics on Mythic to really see the design.
Overall, though, I am liking the expansion. I know that it’s early, but at least I’m not here with too much bad news.
If you’re on the fence about playing this expansion, I think it deserves a fair shot.