In recent years, additions to World of Warcraft have been governed by a certain rule and if you believe it, Shadowlands was supposed to be one of the most successful expansions of the most popular MMO on the market. After spending a week in the Warcraft universe it seems to me that this is exactly what will happen.
World of Warcraft: Shadowlands is the eighth expansion to the world's most popular MMORPG
The game takes place in Warcraft's netherworlds, and the new storyline is a direct continuation of events from the Battle for Azeroth expansion
The expansion also puts a strong focus on the end-game, offering a variety of content for players at maximum experience level
Actually, since 2008 and the extremely warmly received add-on Wrath of the Lich King, World of Warcraft has had variable luck with subsequent expansions. After the clash with Arthas came the disappointing Cataclysm, then WoW returned to decent form again with Expedition to Pandaria, only to disappoint fans later with Warlords of Draenor. Next in line was the fantastic Legion, and most recently Blizzard has once again irked fans with the failed Battle for Azeroth. There were many indications that with Shadowlands World of Warcraft will once again return to high form, and after spending dozens of hours with this add-on I believe that this is exactly what will happen. I'll say more, it may be one of the best expansions in the history of this MMO.
A brave new world
World of Warcraft: Shadowlands is a direct continuation of the events from the Battle for Azeroth add-on. As you'll remember, at the end of that expansion Sylvanas Windrunner became public enemy number one for the Horde and the Covenant, defeated the Lich King and then destroyed his helmet opening the gate to the Shadowlands - the netherworld of the Warcraft universe where the souls of its inhabitants move. And it is in this location that the action of the new addition takes place.
Shadowlands itself has already been classically divided into several separate locations and we soon find out that Blizzard bet this time on a slightly different way of telling the story and gaining experience levels. Conquering new levels is almost one hundred percent subordinated to the story and if you don't feel like it, you don't have to touch the side quests. For me, reaching level 60 took 17 hours, reading descriptions of all tasks and doing only a few trips to dungeons or taking only a few optional quests.
And how does the story itself, which Blizzard tells while leveling up, compare? Well, this is really its first chapter, introducing us to the Shadowlands, the factions that inhabit them and the conflict that will drive the post-release content released in the coming months. If we judge it in these terms, it passes the test, although it's a bit surprising that only at the very beginning we have contact with more familiar characters from the world of Warcraft, which later in the campaign are practically absent. Of course, this has its explanation, but it's still a shame that Blizzard, at least for now, removed the main heroes of this world from the shadows.
End-game in the foreground
It's also safe to say that Shadowlands is an expansion pack heavily focused on the so-called end-game. It's here that it spreads its wings, although after reaching level 60 you look at the ten new levels with some disappointment. Blizzard didn't give us any new active ability, we didn't even get a new talent level. It's just leveling up for the sake of it, and the awaited "ding" at level 60 is not accompanied by any special excitement such as unlocking a new, powerful class ability. It's a pity.
Perhaps this approach is due to the fact that after completing the new story thread, we must choose the so-called Covenant, or one of the four factions inhabiting the Shadowlands, of which we will become a member. This is an extremely important decision and while it can be changed at any time, we lose all previous progress within the previously selected faction. Joining a given Covenant also opens up a whole new chapter in the end-game, and their idea is simply another variation on Class Hall from Legion or Garrison from Warlords of Draenor. Each Covenant also grants us two unique, active abilities, one of which is dependent on our character class. Each faction also has its own unique rewards, its own storyline, armor appearance and offers other methods of additional strengthening the abilities of our character. Fortunately, we can see all of this before joining a given Covenant, we can also test in practice the abilities offered to us.
Developing our Covenant, however, is only part of the end-game activities, which Blizzard has prepared for us. In Shadowlands debuts one of the most interesting novelties that the Blizzard team has ever introduced to their MMO. This is the so-called Torghast Tower, a special dungeon inspired by roguelike games, which we can go through alone. During the course of the escapade to the subsequent floors of Torghast, our character has a certain number of lives and also gains various, randomly generated abilities related to his class. At the end, of course, a special boss awaits us, and when we manage to beat him we gain a special currency, which we can then use to create legendary items.
In practice, Torghast is really nice, although it's hard not to resist the impression that the friendly RNG and finding the right buffs is more important here than our ability to play the given class. Some specializations also do better in this formula of gameplay and Blizzard certainly needs some work on balancing this element of the game. Torghast can be both extremely rewarding and quite frustrating experience, because a failed quest leaves us with nothing, and you have to spend at least a few dozen minutes on it. Despite this, I'm putting a plus on this new feature, because this type of single player content is something that WoW simply lacked until now.
The end-game also includes a special location, the so-called The Maw. It's a kind of Warcraft hell, which is also connected to expeditions to Torghast. In The Maw we perform tasks for a special character, which in turn unlocks various bonuses useful during our roguelike expeditions. What's interesting, Blizzard came up with a clever way to slow down the power-gamers, because by completing the tasks in The Maw we gain a special counter that makes the exploration of this place gradually more difficult, and which resets once a day. Thanks to this in The Maw practically all the time something is going on, and the location is teeming with other players. Their help is also very useful in performing various, not easy tasks waiting in this location.
Add to all this the return of well-known world quests and a whole range of new dungeons and it creates a picture of extremely extensive content for characters at maximum experience level. What's important is that all of these elements, from the Coventants, to The Maw, to Torghast Tower, to the world quests and new dungeons, work nicely together to offer a variety of content that gives you new reasons to log into the game every day. At the same time, Blizzard has also employed a few patches to ensure that all players are moving towards new attractions at roughly the same pace. This is certainly a nice nod to more casual players who don't want to or simply can't spend 10 hours a day at a game. But also towards people who like to have a few so-called alts.