After struggling through a long period of time marked by lack of motivation, in no small part due to the current pandemic (but also pure laziness), we got some awesome news that Shadowlands – the eighth expansion to World of Warcraft – will be here on October 26th! With the upcoming pre-patch most likely coming in a month and the expansion itself just about two months away, I have some some posts to tie up beforehand. Funny how a new expansion announcement and amazing new cinematic can provide the energy boost I’ve been lacking for months.
Most Anticipated Expansion Features
I’ll start with the obvious addition that I’m excited for – tons more customization choices for all core races (Allies Races have some new options, but the focus is on the main races.) I’ve been hoping for more customization – hairstyles/colors, face shapes, jewelry options – for years and when Ion Hazzikostas finally announced it on stage at BlizzCon 2019 I yelled at my TV with glee. I’ve always though Night Elves were particularly lacking, mostly because I play NE characters almost exclusively and after a while it’s easy to run out of unique looks. All of the new Human options showcased at BlizzCon are amazing, and after getting an invite to the Shadowlands Beta I’m happy to say that it’s even better than what we were initially shown. Humans were given the most attention seeing as (as far as I know) only Humans play World of Warcraft, and being able to create a character in game that looks close to their real-life counterpart is really exciting. Plus being able to have more unique-looking characters in the game is just more interesting.
I also tested out the new starting area, Exile’s Reach, which will be required for brand-new players to quest through for their first time but players with existing accounts will be able to choose between Exile’s Reach and their race’s starting zone. I went through the entire zone’s questline and it’s fantastic. So nice to finally see an updated new player experience, and it does a great job teaching the game’s mechanics. I can’t wait to try it again on the live servers.
Aside from spending most of my time customizing new characters – the UI got an overhaul and there’s animations specific to each class too! – I did create a level 50 pre-made character and start part of the introductory questline into Shadowlands. The first quest you get is to run into the Maw after several Horde and Alliance leaders are thrown in there (I’m going to keep this broad since I didn’t read much of the quest details to avoid story spoilers.) I did some of the questline before forcing myself to stop before something really important was spoiled. My original goal was to take a look at Bastion, but I didn’t realize that players were stuck in the Maw for so long before escaping and making it to Bastion.
Although I didn’t spend much time in the beta and being that we don’t know much yet about Shadowlands, it’s really hard to tell if it will go into the books as a “good” expansion.
Brief tirade on “good” expansions – it’s taken me a lot of years playing this game to realize there is no expansion that is the ultimate good or bad. I have found enjoyment and boring/uninteresting parts in each expansion. For example, Warlords of Draenor is infamous for being a “bad” expansion, but the more I think about it the more I realize I have been too harsh on it. I played the game a lot during the WoD era and still remain a huge fan of the garrison feature. There were flaws with it, being that pretty much every resource was gathered in your garrison with no incentive to leave it often. Or the first implementation of the mission table could have been handled better. But it was also a turning point in terms of art, animations, and overall technology in the game. It felt like a big step up in ways I didn’t notice in other expansions. When I go back to farm transmog in WoD dungeons or I start leveling a new alt in Draenor I still notice it. Yes, the months without a big content patch or, even worse, the shipyard update, was pretty bad. But I also have very fond memories. I hope that Blizzard didn’t scrap the garrisons feature for good because of backlash and that it finds its way back into the game in one form or another. Ok, rant over!
Putting Shadowlands into my “Favorite Expansions” list remains to be seen and I probably won’t be able to make a reasonable decision until the end of Shadowlands, around two years from now. But with the Afterlives cinematic showcasing the new Bastion zone and starring classic Warcraft lore character Uther the Lightbringer, it’s hard not to get butterflies. I mean, those animated shorts they release are always top-notch but man. I got teary-eyed the first time I saw Uther being delivered to what is basically Warcraft heaven. And if that wasn’t enough, I caught the feels again when Uther hesitates dropping his former pupil, a boy he has watched grow up into a man and train into a Paladin, into the darkest depths of the Maw. The look on Uther’s face when he takes one last look at Arthas before casting him away is heart wrenching. When a cinematic makes you feel bad for Arthas Menethil, former Lich King, purger of Stratholme, murderer of Uther and Sylvanas Windrunner and countless others, you know the cinematic was good. I have great hopes for Shadowlands and, even though I’ve only seen glimpses of what’s to come, everything I’ve seen is good.