Let's not beat around the bush, World of Warcraft: Battle for Azeroth was one of, if not the worst, expansions for the longtime MMO. Coming into the next expansion, Shadowlands, Blizzard had a lot to prove. The premise of Shadowlands was intriguing at the very least, but after the previous expansion, it was hard to have much faith. But darn it all, Blizzard's done it again. Just when I thought I was out of World of Warcraft for good, they sucked me back in with a really incredible leveling experience by taking players to the land of the dead.
This is an impressions piece of the leveling experience in World of Warcraft: Shadowlands while I explore more of the expansion's current endgame content. Look for a full review in an upcoming article.
Exploring the Realms of Shadowlands
The leveling experience in Battle for Azeroth was awful. It took far too long and the zones weren't all that great, either. It wasn't an alt-friendly expansion, so it felt like a massive chore to get your characters to max level. Implemented in the Shadowlands pre-patch was a much smoother and faster leveling experience, and this persists in the expansion, as well. There are a total of five zones, four of which you level in. Each one offers an expeditious but very fun leveling experience.
The first zone of the bunch is Bastion and is by far one of the most beautiful zones ever created by Blizzard. The soft pastel colors of Bastion is a literal feast for your eyes. It's a strangely alien world clearly inspired by Greek mythology.
Maldraxxus is the second zone you'll visit, which serves as a direct contrast to Bastion. Maldraxxus is a crude, disgusting world filled with bone, horrible organic growths, and perpetual warfare. It's, well, badass. The introduction to this zone is just so hardcore. For an area so focused on war and combat, the lore is probably the deepest of the bunch as you learn about the different "houses" ruling over the harsh land.
Again acting as a contrast to its previous zone, Ardenweald is a magnificent forest. There's plenty of forests in World of Warcraft, but nothing truly compares to the beauty of the twilit Ardenweald. In the distance looms gargantuan trees which look unreachable, but are in fact locations which can be reached. Right after this zone is Revendreath, a land that reminds me much of Bloodborne. The citizens of this zone torture the souls of sinners—souls can possibly be redeemed. Redeemed souls carry a Sinstone which chronicles their misdeeds during life, like an ever-looming reminder.
Right away, you'll probably notice a more interactive and intriguing questing experience in Shadowlands. Each zone's story has a clear goal and paces itself well. If you explore just the main story, you'd do yourself a disservice. There's plenty of side quests that offer ample experience and fun. These quests comprise more than just your "kill this amount of monsters." Rather, quests are more interactive and might consist of several objectives. This creates a more engaging and enjoyable questing experience. It also gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in the lore of each zone. The Shadowlands is uncharted territory for lore buffs, and there's just so much here to learn about.
The Many Dungeons of Shadowlands
As you level up, there are several dungeons for players to explore. Upon reaching the maximum level, even more become available. Since I've reached 60 in just a few short days, I was able to experience all of vanilla Shadowlands' dungeons. These delves are one of my favorite parts of a new expansion, and for the most part, Blizzard did a good job creating these new experiences.
There are two dungeons in every zone, so there's equal representation. As an example, Maldraxxus' dungeons are chock full of undead, disgusting goo, and plague-ridden enemies. Artistically, Blizzard hits it out of the park with dungeons. Each one is unique from one another; for example, De Other Side is a spooky realm where trolls' dead souls travel to. It's like a crazy, dreamlike version of previous expansions' many troll areas, but feels so very unique.
Boss battles in these dungeons also have some clever mechanics to them, so they don't feel like damage sponges. It is evident that Blizzard as much thought into the bosses as they did with the visual design of these dungeons. The layout of these new little adventures feel a bit uninspired, though. Many of them contain wide, open areas with lots of packs of enemies. There are still a few standouts, such as the Theater of Pain and Mists of Tirna Scithe. The former is less linear than others, while the latter has a maze mechanic that feels fresh.
Onward Into the Maw
Reaching the maximum level is just the beginning in Shadowlands. There's an almost overwhelming amount of content to explore after you've peaked, including Covenants and the roguelike-inspired Torghast, Tower of the Damned. I feel like I've just brushed the surface; after all, we're a week into this expansion.
My thoughts so far are very positive, however, and Blizzard is taking Shadowlands in the direction many fans have hoped for. With so much awesome content and extra quality of life changes (so many that it's hard to chronicle every single one), this might just be the best time to get back into World of Warcraft.
TechRaptor previewed World of Warcraft: Shadowlands with a copy purchased by the reviewer.