WoW Shadowlands: What to Expect

The much-anticipated new World of Warcraft expansion, Shadowlands will be launching on the 23rd November, with the pre-patch event starting on the 10th, less than 2 weeks away. Already in pre-patch 1/2, we’ve lost 70 levels overnight, and Sylvanas has been messing things up – again! – what can we expect when Shadowland actually goes live?

Levelling zones: choose your Covenant

Since our player characters don’t do anything by the normal way, we get to the realm of Death while still alive. This makes us very interesting to the local residents, since we will have powers they don’t have access to. Chief amongst those is the ability to travel in and out of the Maw, a zone that nothing and no-one had previously escaped. Four of the main Shadowland Covenants will seek our aid, and the levelling journey is designed to let us learn more about each Covenant in turn.

Bastion

Bastion is a splendid, light-filled realm. Credit: Blizzard

Covenant: the Kyrian

Famous Warcraft resident: Uther Lightbringer

This seems to be the Shadowlands’ paradise. It is reserved for souls that have a calling to serve others, and members of the Kyrian also fulfill that mission – we’ve encountered them before as valkyrs and spirit healers. Although from the teaser cinematics, it seems like some residents have a more selfish purpose than others…

Maldraxxus

It’s greenish and pestilent – yep that’s the Scourge we know and love. Credits: Blizzard

Covenant: the Necrolords

Famous Warcraft resident: Draka, mother of Thrall

This realm is the military might of the Shadowlands. It has neither a good or evil connotation – its residents respect strength above all else. It is the source of the Scourge, and of the forces called upon by the Lich King.

Ardenweald

We already know which Covenant Druid mains will go for! Credit: Blizzard

Covenant: the Night Fae

Famous Warcraft resident: Cenarius

If the Emerald Dream is spring, think of Ardenweald as its dark mirror based around autumn. This enchanted forest is built for (eternal) rest, but also renewal. Ardenweald is also connected to something we discovered much more recently in WoW: the Drust.

Revendreth

Concept art for Revendreth: spires, bats, dark pine forests… where is Dracula hiding? Credits: Blizzard

Covenant: the Venthyr

Famous Warcraft resident: Kael’thas Sunstrider

Our fourth and final covenant is a more controversial zone than the other three. With a creepy gothic aesthetic, Revendreth is the resting place for flawed and prideful souls who need to atone for their sins.

Endgame progression: the Covenant campaigns

As we level, we will get a taste of what life in each of the different Shadowland realms is. Covenants give their members access to additional powers, which we’ll have all tried out by the time we finish the storyline. Once our characters reach max level, they will have to choose a single covenant to bind their story to.

This will significantly impact gameplay as it means we’ll gain the powers specific to this covenant permanently – so choose carefully! Each Covenant will grant you two additional abilities:

  • A general one which all members of the Covenant can use – at the moment those all seem to be movement related;
  • A class-specific ability, which seems to be geared towards additional damage.

On top of the abilities granted, your choice of Covenant will significantly impact your endgame experience, as it will become your home in the Shadowlands. You’ll gain acccess to a Sanctum (similar to Legion’s Order Halls), and you’ll go through a campaign to power it up as well as your character – something inspired by the Suramar questline to rehabilitate Shal’Aran.

You will also be offered the option to “soulbind” with powerful members of your covenant, gaining more power through the form of situational buffs to secondary stats. Soulbinds are customisable and the more you progress in the endgame, the more powerful and flexible they will become. We’ve been promised that there will be no new AP-type grind required for that to happen, but it seems too good to be true. However, this is specifically one of the parts Blizzard are using the extra development time to rework (after delaying the launch of the expansion), so maybe there is hope for a completely new system.

Now that’s a bit more exciting than cloaks. Credits: Blizzard / Wowhead

Of course, membership of your Covenant gives you the usual cosmetic rewards: we’ve been teased mounts, armor sets, and even “backpack-style aternatives to cloaks” that will significantly change your silhouette. Let’s hope they have a less out-of-place aesthetic than the one currently in-game!

Dungeons and Raids: Torghast’s roguelike and Dracula’s castle

Finally, we also have some information on what group content will look like in the Shadowlands. Blizzard announced 8 new dungeons, 4 for levelling players, and 4 for endgame progression. The acclaimed Mythic+ system appears to be here to stay as it’s renewed for yet another expansion.

A fun titbit of information for Battle for Azeroth players: one of the max-level dungeons will be the home of fan-favourite character Bwonsamdi, the Loa of Death.

“Did you miss me?” Credit: Blizzard

Shadowlands will also feature a 10-boss raid at launch, inspired by the gothic aesthethic of Revendreth. Ion Hazzikostas, World of Warcraft game director, admitted that this was very much Blizzard’s recreation of Dracula’s castle – which sounds fun! This will be a wing raid, with two 3-boss wings you can do in any order to start the raid.

Finally, the endgame zone of the Maw offers a new type of replayable content. Torghast, the tower of the Damned, standing at the centre of the zone, will be an infinite dungeon in the style of roguelike games. Players will be able to pitch themselves against the Jailer’s armies either on their own or as part of a group of up to five.

Are you ready to take on the Jailer? Credit: Blizzard

The layout and type of enemies inside the tower will change everytime you enter – but skilled players will be able to collect specific loot and upgrades that will gradually increase your power level within Torghast. Some enemies will also drop Anima, one of the expansion’s new ressources, which players can spend to boost their powers and gain new abilities.

Should you progress far enough into the dungeon, you will also have a chance to earn Runes, which will allow you to craft legendary items usable in the rest of the expansion.

“Death takes us all” – or does it?

Coming out of the Blizzcon announcements, we were obviously hyped for this continuation of the story – but do the rest of the content hold up to scrutiny? As usual, from what we’ve seen up to now, the WoW Art team has done an incredible job on the new expansion, and we’re sure Shadowlands will be a stunning experience. It does seem like the developpers have listened to fan feedback as well, as quite a few player-beloved systems from Legion appear to have equivalents brought back – the Covenant Sanctums and campaigns for example.

More generally, as evidenced by the pre-patch, and the major changes to levelling, Blizzard are on a mission to change some of the core gameplay systems in WoW, notably to make more of the game accessible to new and returning players. For the moment, this all seems to go in the right direction and does make us very hopeful that World of Warcraft: Shadowlands will be an enjoyable experience.

What about you – are you looking forwards to playing Shadowlands? Or will you be one to skip that particular journey? Let us know why in the comments!

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