Castle Nathria… A Great Haunt

Nathria was the first raid introduced in World of Warcraft: Shadowlands, and also my favorite. With its design heavily taking inspiration from Dracula, and the general gothic theme of vampires, it was a delight to make progress on this raid. The raid encounters were equally delightful – where one boss fight takes place in the middle of a banquet, and the raid group has no choice but to participate in dancing, or die. I love this raid because it’s basically an extension of Revendreth, the zone this raid is located in, and it’s wonderful. While questing in the area, one can’t help but notice the Castle Nathria looming high in the distance.

BlizzConline 2021

This time around, BlizzCon was a bit different. It was shorter and pre-recorded, and no in-person cosplay contests. It was still good, and we did get information on patch 9.1, but Cons are social events and, even though I’ve never been lucky enough to go to BlizzCon, I could tell a certain excitement was lacking. My hope is that there is a need for only one BlizzConline.

Chains of Domination

The 9.1 announcement cinematic was rough, as we finally figured out the Jailer’s plans for Anduin. Or is he Arthas now? Arthuin? It’s clear he’s been mind-controlled, but who is he being controlled by? He seems to be sharing a body with someone and is fighting for control. My first thought when he turned into Death Knight Anduin was “…Arthas!” Even Uther seemed to recognize him. He may just recognize the same power that created his wound, but I’d like to think he senses Arthas’ presence in Anduin and Uther will help us save him, which will bring his own redemption.

Besides the cinematic, we got some info for a new 10-boss raid, an 8-boss megadungeon, and a new area connected to the Maw. Flying mounts will be enabled in 9.1 and continuing gaining renown with our Covenants will reward Covenant-themed mounts. My favorites are the Kyrian and Venthyr ones! The raid is going to end with us finally facing off against Sylvanas and will, as the developers say, shape the rest of our story in the Shadowlands. This translates to a really cool cinematic and I’m excited for it. The megadungeon takes place in a Broker trade city and will presumably give us more information on their mysterious ways. I’m thinking the Brokers are more important than we realize, and having a whole dungeon themed after them adds to my theory.

The new zone, Korthia, is seen in the 9.1 cinematic as being connected to the Maw by chains. The Jailer seems to be pulling it from somewhere? In any case, the zone has artifacts and attendants like the ones in Oribos and is hinted that Korthia is connected to the First Ones. The First Ones are probably unimaginably old beings that created the Eternal Ones who rule over each of the realms in Shadowlands. Who ruled over Korthia, and why is the Jailer interested in it? Was Korthia his realm before being chained up in the Maw? We haven’t seen any in-game screenshots of the zone yet, but I am very much intrigued.

Other Non-Warcraft News

While I am mainly interested in BlizzCon for the WoW announcement, there were some other great panels. In particular, Diablo 4 and the Rogue class announcement was fantastic. I was already excited for D4, but the new class looks like it’ll be a lot of fun. The Critical Role one-shot campaign set in the Diablo universe was probably my favorite part of the whole Con. News on Overwatch 2 was great, and the Overwatch world has lots of potential to eventually turn into an MMO, but it’s going to be a long wait. In general, I am glad Blizzard put BlizzConline together as a way to give us information on their games rather than update us through articles or blue posts. I do, however, hope that we will get a real BlizzCon next year and that one day I’ll be able to see it in-person.

Shadowlands Season 1 Begins

We are now just about three weeks into Shadowlands and so far it’s been a busy – and slightly obsessive – couple of weeks, with gearing up for raid and keeping up with all the new things to do. The most exciting new thing that released with season 1 is the first raid Castle Nathria, a gothic-themed castle that takes its inspiration from Dracula and Castlevania. As always, a new expansion means spending lots of time checking out the new features and I have thoughts on them.

This post is going to be a casual one, being that the expansion is very new and I’ll have complete thoughts about things around the time of patch 9.1. My favorite thing to do right now is spending time in the Maw, completing dailies and work on my rep with Ve’nari (maybe one day she’ll appreciate me.) Realizing the Maw is my favorite took me by surprise, because my early impression about questing in the Maw was that it was going to be a very bad place to be, and that I wouldn’t have a reason to stay. While the Maw is very dangerous and unforgiving – players lose a portion of their Stygia after death, which they need to run back to their body to recover – it’s so great to see so many people down there with me, whether it be for dailies or for the daily rare bosses. In fact, I wish I could spend more time there, but increasingly deadly penalties are placed on players by the Jailer who kill too many of his minions. Penalties reset daily, but it gets to a point where I just need to leave and wait it out. Besides that, I’m enjoying slowly uncovering the mysteries of the Jailer’s realm and learning more about the shady Ve’nari, who has somehow eluded capture for a long time.

The Ardenweald Covenant campaign has been great so far, with provides some insight into Tyrande’s descent to madness. Everything involving my Covenant Sanctum – and doing daily quests for Marasmius – has been fun, and there’s tons to do. I can’t wait to see how the story with Ardenweald and Tyrande will evolve.

So far my guild has only raided Castle Nathria once since it was released, and it was obvious after a couple pulls that we were under-geared. Next week our full raid schedule will resume, and I’m interested to see how we’ve improved as well as the tuning Blizzard has given to some bosses. I’m getting a good feeling from the raid though, and the bosses that we’ve fought so far have been fun and interesting. In particular, I like the Artificer Xy’mox encounter.

I’m eager to level alts and start delving into the other Covenants’ stories, even if gearing up for raid is my main priority right now. I hear the Kyrian campaign is very good, which is the least exciting new zone to me, however I still can’t wait to catch up.

A New Chapter Begins

I meant to write this post a few days ago but, well, I was too busy playing the game. I’ve been having a blast playing Shadowlands so far and while it isn’t the perfect expansion and I have some gripes, I already love many things about it.

The Launch

The launch was relatively smooth in that I can’t really remember a better one save for the Legion launch – and even then lots of players on the EU servers did not have a smooth launch. For me, the transition to Shadowlands was pretty painless, except for the fact that the world server was down and players couldn’t teleport from Boralus to Stormwind (or from anywhere else) to start the beginning quest for about 30 minutes. Even so I was among the lucky ones as I had been logged into the game about 2 hours prior to the release, Guildies who were attempting to log in right at launch were having the familiar “character list not found” problem.

Some players were able to log in after an hour, while some continued to have login issues days after launch. It wasn’t pretty, but I’m almost positive I can recall worse launches (I’m looking at you WoD). One of the reasons this launch had minimal issues is due to Blizzard’s use of sharding, a relatively new instancing technology that allows them to break up realms into smaller groups of players to lessen the load. This was very apparent during the introductory quest in the Maw, where I only noticed a few other players in the zone with me at a time. A couple days after the launch, they relaxed the use of sharding which has helped make the world feel real again.

The leveling and zones

I planned on writing separate posts that analyzed each zone and the story found therein, but I was surprised to find how quickly I reached level 60. I may have rushed a little, since I need to be ready to raid in a week, but leveling is just really fast this time around. A nice touch is that the main story quests are highlighted both on the map and over the questgiver’s head, but that leads to some interesting results. Several people in my Guild reported running out of main story quests around level 57 and needed to level up before continuing the story. I’m not sure if this is a result of plainly marking the story quests so that’s all most people will go for, or if the leveling experience is unbalanced. Something about it felt awkward, but I still enjoyed each zone.

Bastion is a beautiful depiction of Blizzard’s version of the ideal heaven, with rolling golden fields and inhabited by actual angels – the Ascended Kyrian. My favorite thing about Bastion is its nod to Greek mythology and how each Kyrian NPC has an ancient Greece-inspired name. The adorable Stewards are a very close second; delightful owl servants who work as helpers to the Kyrian – every single one of them is just the best. The story was focused on the trials and sacrifices new souls must overcome when sent to Bastion, as well as the doubt rapidly spreading among the aspirants. It was a great story but even so my least favorite of all the zones, but did a great job of introducing players to this new world.

Maldraxxus had the most memorable opening quest for me, as I was thrown into the Theater of Pain arena and fought my way to victory. I felt like a gladiator fighting for my freedom, it was just awesome. While the landscape is barren and kind of gross, the Maldraxxi are a vibrant and kooky bunch. The story here is centered around the different Houses, and their fall into civil war. The quests ended with learning some very interesting information about the Jailer and his origins, definitely a good setup for plotlines in the future.

Champion of the Arena!

Next I was sent to Ardenweald, the wondrous moonlit forest of my dreams. I love everything about this place – the lovely trees and glimmering waters, the mischievous fairies, the music. The whole place seems to be inspired by a Midsummer Night’s Dream, and also Ori and the Blind Forest somewhat. The quests involving the Drust are fascinating and the last questline with Ysera made me cry. Ardenweald is my favorite Shadowlands zones and perhaps one of my all-time favorites, and I couldn’t be happier by choosing it for Aurashot’s covenant.

Lastly was Revendreth, yet another fantastic zone. Revendreth and the sinful Venthyr differ from Ardenweald in pretty much every way, yet I loved exploring this zone as well. The vampiric architecture, music, and personalities of the NPCs remind me of Castlevania and Dracula – another fun theme. The dredgers with their accents are among my favorite new things, and I actually had a hard time picking between Revendreth and Ardenweald for my covenant. The story went into detail on the process Venthyr use to punish the worst souls, serving as a last chance before spending eternity in the Maw. Revendreth is also home to the expansion’s first raid, and thus had one of the stronger campaign stories. I look forward to returning to Revendreth for world quests and exploring, and I can’t wait until one of my alts joins this covenant.

the Covenants

I had high hopes for this major Shadowlands feature and so far I am not disappointed. Ardenweald feels like my home, and it gives a similar sense of belonging as the Legion Order Halls. While this is still week 1 and many things such as renown levels and covenant story quests are being time-gated, I enjoy what I’ve played so far.

My induction to the Night Fae covenant was THE BEST
Torghast and the maw

I’m enjoying the Maw and how it truly feels like a dangerous place. You do your dailies, get in and get out. The story unfolding with Ve’nari is intriguing and I look forward to finding out why she’s been in the Maw and how she has eluded the Jailer for so long. The place is huge, even more so because we can’t use mounts, and only half the zone is explorable right now.

Torghast has also been super fun, even if I don’t fully understand its purpose yet. I mean, I get that we need to clear floors in order to collect Soul Ash to give to the Runecarver to use to craft our legendary armor with. Other than that, it just seems like a blast killing bad buys and seeing how far you can make it. I hope they add more incentives to it – like mounts, pets, and possibly gear to collect. For now, I’m enjoying the unfolding story of the Runecarver.

The Upper Reaches level is so cool

Besides everything else, I’m excited to raid Castle Nathria. I’ve only done a couple normal dungeons so far, but I like what I see, and I’m very eager to get back into the routine of raiding.

Shadowlands Pre-patch Week 2

Zombies and Scourge Invasions are back! This week’s events conclude and wrap up the transition into the new expansion, coming in just a few days. This week’s content is a throwback to the WotLK’s Scourge Invasions and although Blizzard has apparently rehashed this event before, this is the first time I remember participating in it since WotLK.

The invasions this week are just pure fun, and its great seeing so many people working together to either spread the invasion or fight against the zombies. The Horde invaded Stormwind and even Goldshire, which was almost entirely populated by zombies when I was there.

The Stormwind portal room is a popular haunt

There really wasn’t too much new this week besides the invasions and a few new quests in Icecrown, which investigated the mysterious Valkyr-like creatures that descended from the sky. It’s been good fun, especially with the turn out of players enjoying the new content alongside me. I have some idea of the things that are coming since I got a beta invite a while back, and I’m psyched for them to be in the live game soon.

“Hello fellow cultist!”

Since PvP is automatically enabled in capital cities during the event, I’ve been reminded of why I stopped queueing for battlegrounds. It’s fun at first, but quickly raises my blood pressure. I much prefer to experience PvP in small doses, like what the Scourge Invasions are providing. Although, having seen the PvP sets for season 1 in Shadowlands, perhaps my opinion can be swayed, and I can learn to like it again…

With most of my characters geared up for Shadowlands, I’m slowing down on farming gear from the rare bosses spawning in Icecrown. I’ll enjoy these last few days of BfA being the endgame, and continue to prepare for the beginning of something new.

Shadowlands Pre-patch Week 1

Shadowlands is finally on the horizon and as such Blizzard has released the real pre-patch event which leads us into the story of Shadowlands. This time the pre-patch only spans two weeks instead of BfA’s three week event, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. When I wrote about BfA’s pre-patch I commented that there really wasn’t enough content to warrant three weeks, and I still agree with that statement. BfA’s pre-patch had some great stuff in it, but I think it would have been received better if the quests and story wasn’t stretched as thin as it was. Shadowlands seems to be a short and sweet event, with a gear catch-up system that involves killing Scourge in Icecrown – a location from a fan-favorite expansion.

I started the event by accepting a quest from Genn Greymane to kill Nathanos Blightcaller, who was sighted at his home in the Eastern Plaguelands. He was apparently waiting for all of us adventurers to stop by and take his loot, a challenge I happily took.

Nathanos is there somewhere, under all the magic effects

After a pretty cool cinematic involving Tyrande and Nathanos’ neck, I left for Icecrown to help with the Scourge that are quickly getting out of control. On the way there I couldn’t help but wonder what Nathanos’ plan was – he’s no doubt on his way into the Shadowlands, but why didn’t he just tag along with Sylvanas to begin with? Questions that will most likely be answered in just a couple weeks.

The rest of the content for this week involved a funny quest where you help a Gnomish engineer (it’s always a Gnome) test out his mind control device on a Ghoul, dailies that reward currency which can be turned in for gear, and timed spawning throwback WotLK bosses throughout Icecrown.

The new customization options for Night Elves are insane!

Even though there hasn’t been a ton to do during the event yet, I’ve been having fun with what we have. I had so much fun flying around Icecrown to get to the next world boss, and hanging out with TONS of other players while we wait for them to spawn. There is palpable excitement and energy in the game leading up to a new expansion launch, and I’m happy to be a part of it every time. I expect that things will get even crazier next week when the Scourge invasions unlock, and players will be able to turn into zombies via crates of infected grain in capital cities. I remember taking part in the zombie mob back in WotLK, and I look forward to the hilarity it’ll cause this time around.

Waiting…

Keeping the other things I mentioned in mind, possibly my most favorite update from the pre-patch is the addition of map pins! This is a feature that is common in many other games, especially those with large maps or lots of places to explore. It’s a welcome and overdue addition to WoW, and I love that players can link their map pins in General chats. For instance, when asking where the next world boss will spawn in Icecrown, people will just link their map pin which creates one on your own map. It’s a small feature, but it makes a huge difference.

I look forward to Tuesday and the chaos that the weekly reset will bring, if only for a short time. When it was announced that Shadowlands was going to be delayed, in the back of my mind I knew there was a possibility that it wouldn’t release this year. I would have been fine with that if that’s what it took to polish the game enough for release, but I’m also pretty impatient and pretty happy that we’re at the 10-day mark. I’ve played some of the beta, and while I avoided most of the spoilers I could, what I saw looked pretty good. I couldn’t help myself from trying out Torghast, and I’m glad I did. It’s a blast and I expect it’ll be even better in the live game.

Soon!

Shadowlands Delayed… But We Got a Pre-Patch Release Date!

It was announced today that Shadowlands isn’t going to make it here on time for the global October 26th/27th release date initially planned. As sad as I am about waiting longer to play the latest stuff, in the same blue post Blizzard confirmed that players will have access to most pre-patch features on October 13th! While we won’t be getting the scourge invasion event that will be occurring much closer to whenever Shadowlands is going to release later in the year, soon we will have access to features such as the new leveling experience and level squish, and the revamped character customization UI and options.

It’s a relief just to have a date for the pre-patch and, let’s be honest, to have the new customization options on the live servers. Playing around with all the cool new combinations you can make on the Beta is fun and all, but it won’t feel quite right until I can give Aurashot a makeover. I’ve been planning on starting a new character as well and have been waiting for the leveling overhaul to do so, so it’s nice that won’t be on hold for much longer. Plus I’m hoping that these shiny new features will be what I need to distract me long enough until the expansion is here.

I had a few posts lined up that all mostly hinged on content released in the pre-patch – including an analysis of my favorite and least favorite parts from Battle for Azeroth. I’m anxious (in a good way) to write them, and looking back at my last two years of game time is especially fun and nostalgic.

Release it when it’s ready, Blizzard!

2020 Isn’t All Bad

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.