There's new adventures in the world of Azeroth! Or actually, not really in Azeroth. World of Warcraft’s latest expansion, Shadowlands, released earlier this week. This time, instead of finding a new continent, the heroes explore the afterlife of World of Warcraft after love-to-hate-her Sylvanas tore open reality. Because Sylvanas.
Because Shadowlands is so new, I am going to try my best to not give any spoilers. The expansion is story-heavy, so the last thing I want is to make you enjoy that any less. Here are my first impressions, though, and I’d love to know your thoughts as well!
Shadowlands Questing is Questing
The questing is just like any other WoW questing… which is no surprise and something I am glad to see. I am a weird anomaly who enjoys WoW's questing. There are new quest markers that they have created for this expansion (which I like), but otherwise it's all basically more of the same as far as mechanics and structure. There are a plethora of side quests that you can do. At level 54 I still didn't have all of the Bastion map visible! (Bastion is the first zone you enter in Shadowlands proper.)
There is a lot of content here. In fact, that leads into my one minor complaint so far: it feels as though the leveling speed is too fast. For me to be already 54 and still have three whole zones that I haven’t even unlocked seems off. Although I know I will still be enjoying playing all the content even once I have hit max level.
Heroes from the Get-Go
It is exciting to open the expansion with seeing our well known leaders in the Maw: Jaina, Thrall, Anduin, and Baine. I was secretly hoping for a happier immediate resolution, but of course that would probably make the rest of the expansion not as powerful. Seeing Sylvanas there was also a powerful motivator to want to discover more of the story! However, I do feel that every character who has been in that introduction will need some serious therapy when this is over. This expansion is intense.
I am loving this turn that it is taking. The story unfolding with the explanation of how death and the afterlife are handled in these worlds is inciting curiosity and moving me forward. There are aspects of so many different mythologies and religions meshed together beautifully to create something powerful.
The storylines in the Shadowland zones are masterfully written to guide you to alter your perceptions as you move forward. The story of Bastion is particularly impressive at the subtle parallels you as a player begin have with that of others in the story. It's hard to wax too poetic about that without spoilers, but the narrative is worthy of a philosophical study.
Of course, I haven't seen how all of the expansion story plays out just yet, but so far I am enjoying the journey. Probably a lot more than my character is. Again…Shadowlands is intense.
Maybe You Can Take It With You
I am curious why the enemies in the Maw and other zones here in the afterlife have money on them. I guess there are stores to purchase items, but their appearance seems to be a recent development… so why would anyone have had it before? Azerothian money spends just fine in the afterlife. And that's kind of weird.
Art Direction and Music
These are beautiful. The teams at Blizzard succeeded at making each area have the perfect aesthetic to evoke the feelings they wanted. You can't play this expansion without recognizing a significant jump in graphical quality, as well as just quality of presentation.
Also, every time I travel from Oribos to a new zone, I can't help but be reminded of Doctor Who! It's a lot of fun.
World of Warcraft Is Hard to Compare to Anything But Itself
The fact remains that World of Warcraft is still hard to compare to anything. It is a behemoth which has led the MMORPG scene since 2004. What other game comes close to it? Maybe I'm biased because of my love for the game, but in looking at comparisons there just isn't any.
Compared instead to the last expansion, Battle for Azeroth, I feel that the Blizzard teams did a wonderful job at upping their game. Both figuratively and literally. While I personally enjoyed Battle for Azeroth, there were several things about it that I did not enjoy. Shadowlands seems to be doing a good job of satisfying most everyone with the artistry, story, and overall level of FUN that you can get from this new content.
I am so excited to see where this expansion goes and what direction it is pointing the game toward future expansions. I am sure as I play more there will be more faults I find as well. There always should be more fishing achievements, but that's just me. However, World of Warcraft is a game that has given me thousands of hours of relaxation and entertainment thus far… and I don't see that ending soon with Shadowlands.
What do you think about Shadowlands so far?