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WoW: Shadowlands

WoW Shadowlands: What We’re Looking Forward To

As excited as we are about Diablo IV here at Gaming Instincts, we’re equally as thrilled about the upcoming World of Warcraft expansion, Shadowlands.

As with Diablo IV, out of all the Gaming Instincts staff, two team members in particular are passionate about World of Warcraft. Earlier this week, Leo and Jennifer offered their thoughts on what they were most looking forward to about D4, and they have come together in another collaboration—this time offering their thoughts on what excites them the most about the features coming up in WoW: Shadowlands.

Both Leo and Jennifer have enjoyed World of Warcraft since its inception, taking part in all aspects of the game from PvP to hardcore progression raiding. Leo’s favorite WoW expansion was Wrath of the Lich King, while Jennifer preferred The Burning Crusade and Legion. Both have their own thoughts on what features they will enjoy the most in Shadowlands, though they can agree on one thing—Torghast sounds amazing.

What Leo is looking forward to the most in Shadowlands:

1 – Maldraxxus and the Necrolords covenant:

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands is quite exciting for me, particularly because of its atmosphere, story, and most importantly, the zones themselves. Zones in World of Warcraft are like characters of their own—actually, they are characters of their own, due to each one’s unique aspects. One Shadowlands zone in particular that caught my attention is Maldraxxus, because it’s been quite a long time since we’ve been to another Scourge region.

As a matter of fact, I think the last time we visited any area that involved the Scourge was during Wrath of the Lich King, and that expansion was probably my favorite era in World of Warcraft. It’s where I met most of my best friends, created new friendships and relationships, and had the most fun during my World of Warcraft career.

The new high-resolution abomination models shown in the gameplay trailer made me really enthusiastic, because I always enjoyed fighting those, ever since the Stitches days back in vanilla. The dark, atmospheric look and feel of the area is another reason why I can’t wait to spend a good portion of my time in Maldraxxus. The zone will be quite a nice contrast after all the bright, vivid zones in Battle for Azeroth, such as Stormsong Valley and Zuldazar.

Another added bonus to Maldraxxus is the Necrolords covenant. I’m really looking forward to allying myself with the Necrolords, seeing what they can offer me in the way of abilities, cosmetics, mounts and so forth. It opens up a lot of potential for lore, and I think out of all the covenant campaigns, the Necrolords will be the most fun to play through.

2 – Solo Viable Progression:

World of Warcraft slowly started to introduce more solo content over the course of its many years, such as the Mage Tower in Legion, Brawler’s Guild in Mists of Pandaria, and more. Battle for Azeroth’s upcoming 8.3 patch will also introduce Horrific Visions, which is the next addition to solo play. A player is pitted against the Old God’s visions in their home city, such as Stormwind or Orgrimmar, where they must race against time before they go crazy to obtain rewards.

Shadowlands takes the solo progression inspiration further, and will be bringing something called Torghast—the Tower of the Damned—which is an instanced dungeon that can be run solo, or in any size group up to five people. The player may use any role they want, whether healer, DPS, or tank. In the tower you will climb infinite floors to see how far you can go, and the further you get, the bigger the rewards. You are not racing against time, which allows players to fully explore each floor at their leisure, and decide what mobs are worth their time to kill.

For the first time in World of Warcraft history, players will be able to obtain legendary items through the Tower of the Damned by finding and looting special crafting materials that are used to craft specific legendaries. This is exciting, because this system introduces a whole new solo gearing progression to the game, and these legendary items might be the most powerful items in the expansion. However, we have yet to see what they do or how they operate exactly, so only time will tell. What I can say, is that if you are a solo player, there is a lot to look forward to in World of Warcraft: Shadowlands.

3 – The streamlined leveling experience from 1-50:

The World of Warcraft development team has finally decided to attempt the unthinkable—a gigantic level squish across 7 expansions (8 when Shadowlands releases). Existing level 120 characters will turn into level 50 characters, and level 60 is the new max level cap for Shadowlands.

Many have wondered how it’s even possible to condense levels spanning several expansions into a much smaller number, and how leveling would work across all the stories that we’ve experienced in the last 15 years. Well, I believe Blizzard has done something really exciting here.

When leveling a new character, long-term players can choose to begin in their race’s original starting area, or any of the other existing starting zones in the game. Once you hit level 10, Chromie will appear, and ask what expansion you would like to play through until level 50. This is where the player can pick and choose their favorite expansion to play through, and once they’ve completed, for example, Wrath of the Lich King, they will be level 50 and ready to go to the Shadowlands. No longer will players be confused at what’s happening in the story, or in the overall universe of Warcraft. This is absolute genius, because now it’s a lot less overwhelming, and you can enjoy the expansion you want to level through the most.

Blizzard did not stop there, for completely new players will start off on an island called Exile’s Reach, where they play through a small story campaign involving an Ogre necromancer—who is looking to raise a zombie dragon and create chaos. The zone will introduce basic mechanics to new players, and ends with a mini dungeon that completes the story of Exile’s Reach, and can be done solo, with a friend, or in a group of five.

What Jennifer is looking forward to the most in Shadowlands:

1 – The better alt experience from 50-60.

I know I wasn’t the only altoholic in the world with a big smile on their face when Blizzard announced the new alt character experience that we can take advantage of when Shadowlands launches. The past few expansions have been unfriendly to players who enjoy having more than one max level character. Artifact power grinds, items and recipes locked behind multiple faction reputations, and the need to play through entire campaigns to access certain dungeons or areas makes creating and playing multiple alts time-prohibitive.

Along with the smoother level 1-50 experience Leo talked about earlier, alts in Shadowlands content will be treated better than they ever have in all Warcraft’s history. When you get to level 50 and head through the Maw, you can choose your alts covenant immediately, and begin working on some endgame content through your covenant sanctum. Even better, you can decide which zone you start in and play through Shadowlands any way you want when you’re leveling an alt, as you won’t be locked to the overarching campaign. Alts will even be able to do world quests, which means they can earn that end-game reputation before they get there—or you could even level through world quests alone if that’s what you want.

This really fits in with the idea of player agency and choice that Blizzard seems to be embracing in both Shadowlands and Diablo IV. Most WoW players like having alts—something to break the boredom that comes when you spend every hour in game playing the same class and doing the same things over and over. Leveling and playing an alt should feel just as fun as leveling and playing your main character, and this new alt experience should go a long way toward facilitating that feeling.

2 – Joining the ranks of the Venthyr and visiting with an old… flame.

I’ve always found vampires and vampiric races or species interesting in just about any setting you can find them, and the San’layn—WoW’s original vampire elves led by Blood-Queen Lana’thel and later Blood Prince Dreven—are no exception. So, imagine my delight when BlizzCon developers revealed the zone of Revendreth and its covenant, the Venthyr.

In appearance, Revendreth is a place full of mist and shadow, with dark, gothic castles stretching their black spires into a foreboding night sky. The realm’s denizens are those whose pride or other flaws have prevented them from reaching one of the other places within the Shadowlands; and the vampiric covenant of the Venthyr rules over them, dishing out punishments deserved by the unworthy. I absolutely adore the aesthetic of Revendreth. The darkness, the dim lightning, the atmosphere of fear and terror.

There was one other thing besides Revendreth’s appearance that the BlizzCon team revealed which made me insanely eager to visit the zone. One of my favorite characters of all time in Warcraft lore will make a reappearance in Revendreth. I am, of course, speaking of the Sun King himself, Kael’thas Sunstrider. It’s no surprise to me that he might end up in Revendreth after all the setbacks he endured at the hands of WoW players during Burning Crusade. I’m really looking forward to seeing him again, and hope that he actually rose into the ranks of the Venthyr himself, because the poor guy deserves something after Jaina chose Arthas over him.

3 – The return of class identity over spec identity.

My career in World of Warcraft began on November 23, 2004—launch day. I fell in love with the game, and over the years I watched as class identity was slowly stripped away, beginning with Warlords of Draenor and continuing through Battle for Azeroth. I distinctly remember logging in to my hunter one day and realizing that half my class-defining abilities were gone. What hit me the most, oddly enough, was the absence of Hunter’s Mark.

I remember when the game first launched, this big floating red arrow that would appear and let me know that a hunter was trying to kill something near me. When I made my own hunter, I would put that big glowing red arrow over my own prey, and it let me feel like a hunter. It didn’t matter what spec hunter I played; all hunters could use Hunter’s Mark. Then all of a sudden this wasn’t true anymore, and it was the same for other classes. Abilities that were once baseline for all were suddenly tied to specialization or gone all together. You weren’t just a mage; you were an arcane mage. You were a shadow priest. You were an arms warrior.

In Shadowlands, this is no longer the case. Blizzard has seen that emphasis on specialization is taking away from the overall fantasy that comes with playing a certain class. Many iconic abilities are coming back, and others that were made into talents or honor talents will return as baseline abilities. To top it off, once again all paladins have auras, all warlocks have curses, all shamans have totems, and all hunters have Hunter’s Mark. They’re also bringing back Eyes of the Beast, because I wasn’t the only hunter who missed mind controlling her pet and running around the game world.

What Jennifer and Leo are both looking forward to in WoW: Shadowlands:

If there’s one thing about Shadowlands that we’re both looking forward to in equal measure, it’s the experience players will have traveling through the Maw at max level, and braving the tower of Torghast at its center.

The Maw is the first zone in World of Warcraft to offer free-form outdoor gameplay, with a hostile environment actively working against you. Unlike other zones in WoW, there is no friendly haven in the Maw. No vendors, no place to set your hearthstone, nobody to repair your gear or sell you water. The Maw is the domain of the Jailer, and as you go through it and kill things, he notices what you do—and he’s not very happy about it. So, he responds by changing the environment. Certain mobs may aggro from further away, or you might find yourself beset by an assassin squad sent to kill you before you can reach the gates of Torghast.

Torghast is, of course, the main destination for players traversing the Maw, and in another first for Warcraft, is an ever-changing dungeon inspired by roguelike games. Each floor in Torghast is randomly generated, so the layout will never be the same two times in a row. As you climb, the enemies get harder and you can collect anima from them to gain extra powers to help you ascend higher and higher. You can also gather runes as you climb Torghast, and it’s these runes that allow players to forge the special legendaries that are the ultimate goal of the challenge. Unique to Shadowlands legendaries, players will be able to choose which slot they go in, what powers they have, and even what secondary stats they bolster.

Another cool thing about Torghast is the difficulty scaling as you ascend. Higher floors will have traps and environmental hazards, puzzles to solve, and locked doors that players must bypass in order to progress further. And since Torghast can be run through solo or with a group as a player chooses, it offers yet another option to fans in an expansion Blizzard has said is all about player agency.

Final Thoughts:

Shadowlands seems like an expansion that might bring a lot of interest back to WoW—from both current players and past players alike. As with Diablo IV, it appears that Blizzard may have learned its lessons from previous expansions like Warlords of Draenor, which saw a massive player exodus due to a botched launch and player dissatisfaction around the stripping of class identity, among other issues. No more artifact power grinds, the return to class identity, an easier system for leveling alts, streamlining the 1-50 leveling flow, and lowering maximum level to 60 are all steps in the right direction. The addition of a dungeon such as Torghast to the game also proves that Blizzard is, indeed, always trying to come up with something new to entertain their fans, and we here at Gaming Instincts look forward to following development of World of Warcraft: Shadowlands up until launch and beyond.

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