This year’s Blizzcon has brought a landslide of new announcements, from Overwatch 2 to Diablo 4, but in this article, I will just be looking at the World or Warcraft announcements as there are some pretty big changes on the horizon.
As many had expected the next expansion was announced, Shadowlands, which will take players to the realm of the departed. The new expansion will bring a new city Oribos and five new zones:
A place of duty and gleaming spires and home to the steadfast kyrians.
A vibrant afterlife and domain of endless restoration tended by the mystic night fae.
The birth place of necromantic magic.
A realm of keeps and gothic villages, home to the Venthyr the harvesters of sin.
A hopeless land where the vilest souls are imprisoned forever.
The early glimpses of the new zones look very promising. Blizzard does have a good track record for delivering excellent settings for their expansions. Battle for Azeroth, despite its shortcomings, does have some of the best zones ever seen in the game. I have little doubt that those in Shadowlands will top those. The question is will the gameplay, mechanics and storyline live up to them, something BfA has struggled with?
Shadowlands will introduce covenants which it seems will function similar to the class halls in legion. The player will be able to choose between four Covenants each of which will have its own campaign and sanctum. Progress with the covenant will reward the player with unique abilities, mount, and visual appearance and allow further skill customisation. The four covenants are as follows:
Kyrian – Set in the Bastion Zone
Venthyr – Set in the Revendreth Zone
Night Fae – Set in the Ardenweald Zone
Necrolord – Set in the Maldraxxus Zone
Also announced for Shadowlands is Torghast, Tower of the Damned which will be an endless replayable dungeon which will reward unique abilities and items. This will be able to be run solo or in a group.
You can check out the new features announced for shadowlands in the features trailer below:
Leveling, which had long become a time consuming and unwieldly process, will be getting a major shake up in the new expansion. A level squish has been announced which will reduce the maximum level back to 60, which some may remember was the original maximum back during WoW’s original release. A new level 1 to 10 zone will be introduced for new players which will teach them how to play. For levels 10 to 50, a player can choose to level in the base game or any of the previous expansions. The new expansion, Shadowlands, will start at level 50 and will take the player to level 60.
Many would agree that this levelling revamp is long overdue, and many will look forward to only having to play their favourite expansions to hit current content. It has been confirmed that for those who still want to experience the content in its original release order, this will still be possible as an added option, as well as still being able to out level and solo older raid content.
World of Warcraft has long had a rather pitiful range of character customisation options when compared with most other MMORPGs. This is set to change with the release of Shadowlands, as the resources usually directed towards making new playable races, will instead be directed into creating new customisation options for all currently available races. This includes new ethnic skins for humans and many other races, which have long been missing. While it is true that the long overdue provision such basics are hardly a cause to celebrate. It does show that Blizzard may finally be acting on long term player feedback and taking a step in the right direction.
While it is far too early to celebrate, the above features and changes do look extremely promising. The covenants should give the new expansion more replayability, something which Battle for Azeroth is sorely lacking. The levelling changes should make it easier to level alternate characters and make the game much more approachable for new players. My only concern is that the release date has been announced as before the end of 2020. Depending when that is in 2020, it could lead to a short alpha and Beta phase. One of the reasons Battle of Azeroth has had such a hard time, is that by the time problems came to light in the alpha and beta phase, it was too late for the development to team to take action which resulted in what is, arguably, the most unpopular expansion to date. Many will hope that the endless grind for azerite is at an end and that the new expansion will have less time gating.