Musings on Warcraft in the Waning Days of Shadowlands

It’s probably a bit premature to call them “waning days” as there’s probably best part of a year (minimum) left in the expansion. However, we’re into the last patch and I have some swirling incoherent thoughts, that I’m going to try and make sense of and write down.

There have been eight Warcraft expansions thus far. I start off with this fact because I don’t feel like I can really evaluate Shadowlands without also referencing what came before it. I would also be remiss if I didn’t mention the very real impact outside factors have. I first started playing Warcraft at the end of January 2010 – over 12 years later I’m still here, but I’m 12 years older and a lot has happened in those intervening years. There is always the question when the ‘rosy-tinted glasses of nostalgia’ come out, as to whether the game was better back in the day, or whether it was the place I was in my life that influenced how I viewed it.

So what did I think of Shadowlands then?
I phrase it as ‘what I thought’ because this is a highly personal evaluation. It’s not what was objectively good or bad – it’s how I felt about it. I said to someone yesterday that what I thought sucked, might have been what someone else thought was the best part – and this is probably why blizz struggles so much. They literally can’t please everyone. Quite often I feel that then leaves them pleasing nobody, as they try to find the middle-ground, but I digress.

It is absolutely no secret (except to this blog because I haven’t done a post about Warcraft since 2019 apparently) that I haven’t vibed with Shadowlands. But why is that? Let’s take points one by one.

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Not good company to be in

I’ve been dwelling on the Shadowlands announcement trying to work out what was bothering me about it.

Is is the lack of clarity regarding levelling and the future of the game? Because as I said in my previous post if it’s Classic-BfA choose your poison, then Shadowlands, that’s cool with Shadowlands being the new thing BUT what about when the ninth expansion comes? Will it be Classic-BfA choice, then Shadowlands, then new thing? Isn’t that just restarting the cycle? Also people will be sick of Shadowlands and the levelling curve will be weird.

Is it the lack of clarity regarding levels and what they will do to the ability to solo old content and also what about flying? Because yes they have confirmed we should still be able to do everything we can currently re: farming old raids etc. BUT how exactly will that work? Also I currently can fly everywhere. So if I want to quest in Kul Tiras/Zandalar and level an alt flying around then I can. In Shadowlands when the BfA level range becomes 10-50, what about then? Are they going to take away what I can already do? I see the backlash riots from here.

Is it the lack of concrete information and conflicting statements on levelling? Because I did some quick and dirty math and Ion said that “getting a level every 15 minutes doesn’t feel epic” so I’m assuming they don’t want that BUT they have said levelling will be 60-70% faster and that 10-50 will allow completion of an expansion. The two don’t mesh together very well as using Mists as an example, when that was current it was approx a level per zone, which splitting 40 levels makes for 6.6 levels a zone. It did not take anywhere near 7 hours to do a zone, more like 2-3 which makes for a level every 25 minutes or so? Now I’m not bothered by this I like the whoosh sound, I just want confirmation it will be faster because it takes so long now I’m completely demotivated by it. (also I will not be levelling until Shadowlands).

Or is it simply the feeling of dread about lack of a real key feature?

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Blizzard isn’t taking enough risks

Shadowlands Editoral on BlizzardWatch
My Response:

You hit the nail on the head with exactly what I was thinking watching the panel last night. I hadn’t expected they would take risks so it wasn’t unexpected I was just disappointed anyway. I felt like they’d missed a big opportunity. This is Warcraft’s big year with the 25th and 15th anniversary. When Vanilla launched it kinda set the blueprint a lot of MMO’s have followed since, I mean up until Wrath – the group-finder, it was a big deal and MMO’s don’t launch without one now. I felt like blizz could have been innovative this year.

I also feel like they aren’t thinking about what happens next. I know it’s ridiculous to talk next next expansion when they just announced the next one yesterday but seriously what happens post-Shadowlands? Will levelling be 1-50 of pre-Shadowlands content, then 50-60 of Shadowlands and then 60-70 of what comes next? Isn’t that just basically just setting the scene for trouble down the road again? Plus what is the levelling curve going to be like? If 1-50 is the length of a single expansion that is much faster than it is currently. Going forward 1-50 and then 50-60 is going to be feel really unbalanced.

Also I do wonder what will happen with allied race heritage armor which currently requires manual levelling up to 110/120. Plus I know it’s just a number but I have spent a lot of time levelling up characters and to have them all wiped down makes me a little sad. I hope there’s at least feats of strength saying that they were once known as 120/110 etc.

Looking on the Shadowlands website there is a * saying that “you can still crush old bosses for transmong if that’s your thing” which phew relief as for me farming old content is a big part of my playtime BUT how? Is the power jump from 50-60 going to be Legion sized? Ensuring we can wreck everything below us. Isn’t that then a problem come next expansion as Ion already said that “feeling like you are levelling up and getting weaker is bad”? I mean power creep is always an issue hence why we’ve had at least two ilevel squishes but this goes with my previous point. When I login on pre-patch at level 50 will everything crush me? Or will I be able to go and solo Dragon Soul and ICC as normal? Those are the lowest of what I farm, I mean obviously I do run Legion stuff too.

I’m not negative btw I’m thinking. I did like a lot of what was said. I LOVED the talk of 4 narrative arcs as my favourite thing is story. Legion class halls were my fondest dream for Warcraft realised, I’m just sad that was a one-expansion only deal but I digress. The tower thing working for solo people is also great. I’m not knocking the expansion so much as just wondering about the future, and also agreeing that I’m not seeing an expansion defining feature. A new race wouldn’t have done the trick imo as we’ve had so many allied races. I think a new class could have worked but I get the balance headache. Personally I would have thought this would have been prime time to announce player housing. That could have supported professions as well by making unique models for things available to crafters. It would also fit the player agency/customising theme they are going with.

Anyway I’m going to shut up but honestly I have to laugh at myself. For half a second when they started talking about all the hundreds of hours of content in the game I thought they were going to bring to life my second fondest dream – heroic world missions. Alas not to be, I don’t think they will ever leverage the immense wealth of content they have, it’ll always be the new shiny zones and then move on.

Edited to Add:

I forgot a couple of things so I’m just going to bolt them on here.

1) is the announcement that the decision Horde players made to choose Saurfang or Sylvanas no longer matters, not even a little nod. Given the ‘player agency’ theme I find this again another missed opportunity because player agency is choice and having choices be meaningful and just having everything wiped away expansion after expansion sucks a little bit. I get new players shouldn’t have to go through everything and that if some people haven’t made a choice then it gets weird. Still I feel like a $variable with yes/no/didn’t choose to influence a line of dialogue wouldn’t have been tough and would have been an unexpected delight.

2) I didn’t explain what I meant by heroic missions. I meant they have phasing on Darkshore for example with max level world quests. It would have so cool to have a $variable test to see if a person’s account had the achievement for completing a zone and if yes that opens up this max level quest hub which continues that zones story a little bit. Alts could redo the zone to refresh memories or not bother. If there were say a dozen of these spread all across the different continents/expansions, each day 1-2 was available. Now the big thing I would have done was to put a cap on grinding. Having a new emissary everyday and letting it stack to three but no more is a good model imo. So people can do more than one a day/stacked three but they don’t get a chance at gear/combat related progression, they get gold or chance at non-combat stuff – not mandatory in other words.

I’ve always wanted this because it would open up Azeroth more rather than just making everyone congregate in the same new zones. Then the new expansion drops and we abandon those for the new ones – rinse and repeat. It’s a big world, we should get to play in all of it.

ETA 2:

I totally forgot to say and want to put somewhere so I can point later if I’m right…

I think the jailer is either Gorak Tul (Drust guy) or it’s whatever spawned him as the silhouette and the blue eyes is really similar. I know we supposedly killed Gorak Tul in Thros when we rescued Jaina hence why it might be his father type deal. Sylvanas has definitely been powered up to be able to do what she did. I mean wasn’t Waycrest all about Gorak Tul finding a way back to Azeroth? So perhaps he needed Sylvanas to break a hole in the world so he could escape The Maw.

Also calling it now, the new zone we get in 8.2 is going to be Dragon Isle. Oh and don’t think I didn’t notice about the 4 covenants, and there being 4 dragonflights – there’s some kind of echo going on there. I just hope it ties into the actual lore of Azeroth being a corrupted baby titan (do we even know how we heal Azeroth yet? I’m presuming we do) and they made too much of the Void vs Sylvanas and also what happened with Vol’jin not to follow up.

I also hope Talia gets to meet her father, as painful as that will be :/