World of Warcraft: Shadowlands convinces with a gripping story in a beautiful game world and eliminates many problems from the past

The start of World of Warcraft: Shadowlands was a bit bumpy due to the canceled first release date and should have ruined the vacation plans for many players, but by now the anger should have largely dissipated in favor. The developers made good use of the extra time to finish the game and polish it up properly. If you had beta access, you know how much work it was, because Shadowlands was not ready for the planned release with the best of will. There were endless bugs, the balancing was piece of glue and some classes lacked one or the other skill.

But enough with the problems of the past, we come to the finished version of World of Warcraft: Shadowlands, with which Blizzard also fixes a lot of old problems. First of all: If you are already toying with the add-on and are only looking for the last impulse to buy in a test: Go get it! Shadowlands is certainly better than Legion or BfA! If you want to know why this is so, you should plan some time, because I could (and will) fill dozens of pages with what improvements Shadowlands brings for WoW. Not only has a new game world been added, a lot has also changed on the basic structure (much of it with the prepatch). It would be way too much to fit here, so I’ll only scratch a few of the most important things in the test – and even that means excess length!

Word of Warcraft: Shadowlands Test Plot:

WoW Shadowlands: The grind is gone! What do I do with my time now?

Anyone who has been traveling Azeroth for a long time should be familiar with the “we learned a lot” from the developers in the course of an add-on summary. Among the players it is considered a running gag and is usually dismissed with a – I put it neutrally and not in the wasteland chat – “Yes, I learned it, just not got any results”. One was already prepared that the next add-on would continue the same with the negative points … the seamless artifact power grind from Legion to BfA was the best example.

That has changed in Shadowlands! Really! They promised: “No more AP grind” and actually there is (so far) no more brain-melting grind that you have to grind through to keep up with other players – except for flower picking, hammering ore and gold farming. Instead, all the relevant cornerstones are “gated”, meaning that they can only be farmed up to a certain maximum per week. Even those who farm a wolf at the reputation of the factions in the first few weeks are finished after a few weeks. And if you lag behind, you can quickly catch up thanks to the catch-up mechanisms.

Old systems revamped: This is how legendary items should have been in Legion!

Old hands already know many Shadowlands game mechanics in some form. The soul bonds, for example, are a combination of Azerite armor and essences and the legendary items were last seen in Legion. So the wheel was not reinvented, but the systems were changed in such a way that they are actually “better”. The legendary items are a prime example: In Legion, chance decided which legendary item dropped. For many players, this led to the fact that the character was unceremoniously deleted and a new one was pulled up when two “rivets” were pulled, as the chance / duration of receiving another legendary item increased with each drop. Those who were lucky got their best-in-slot item right at the start, others were only “happy” after half a year. In short: it was unfair

In Shadowlands you screw the Legendarys together yourself. You don’t need a special job, just a few materials that are reasonably easy to get hold of: The “legendary effects” are collected in quests, PvP or in dungeon and raid bosses – and that with high drop chances … “no more grind”, you know. The “basic item” (an empty item with no values) can be tinkered with for the respective armor classes by the respective manufacturing professions or bought in the auction house. The same applies to the “fonts” that Inscriptions Kundler produce in order to equip the basic item with any two secondary values. Last but not least, you need “soul ashes”, which you can easily collect solo or in groups from “Torghast”.

If you have everything, you visit the “Runenmetz” – an NPC that you get to know in the course of the main story – and immediately nail the desired legendary together from the base item, legendary effect and two secondary values. For the time being you can only wear one, but there is nothing to prevent you from making other or all legendary items for different purposes or for collecting reasons. And if the item level rises later with a patch, the Legendarys can also be easily upgraded. In short: The system is well thought out and should have been like that in Legion.

If you are fast, you can already screw together your first legendary item at the Runesmetz this week (Week 2) (World of Warcraft: Shadowlands Test).

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands: It’s all about the four pacts and choosing the “one”

The focal point of Shadowlands are the four pacts that you get to know in the course of the main campaign. Each pact is located in its own zone and has a specific task. Peaceful souls are housed with the “Nachtfae” in the Ardenwald to wait there for their resuscitation, while guilty souls end up at the “Venthyr” in Revendreth, which functions as a kind of purgatory. Warlike souls come to the “Necrolords” in Maldraxxus to serve in the Army of the Shadow Ark, and the noblest of all souls become “Kyrians” and lead the souls of the dead to the Shadowlands.

Oribos is the new capital and forms the center of the Shadowlands, so you can quickly get to any of the four zones or the gorge.

Since I want to spoil as little as possible of the great story, I can only reveal this much: The events surrounding Sylvanas and her allies have meant that each of the four pacts has to struggle with massive problems and Shadowlands themselves are threatened. As it should be for a good “champion”, the player grabs the beings who have been regulating the afterlife for eons and shows the colleagues how to solve the trouble!

This begins in the course of the restructured Shadowlands level phase, which is a bit unusual for old hands. You no longer choose any zone for leveling like in the past and then move on, but follow the linear main campaign in a fixed order through the four zones. Only at the end of the main campaign and when you have reached the maximum level do you get access to the endgame content. Reaching level 60 is easy: if you take side quests or dungeons with you, you are already in the second or third zone at the maximum level. The campaign, on the other hand, has been going on for longer. Even if you know everything from the beta, you have to plan at least six to ten hours. Anyone who follows the story, explores the landscape in between and takes a detour for every puzzle or flower,

If you have reached the endgame, you can / must first decide on one of the four pacts. Depending on the class or role, this decision means a lot of headache, as the respective pact skills and associated bonuses are not always, but quite often, approximately the same. The decision is not set in stone, but changing the pact involves some effort. This has to do with the pact campaign, which gradually grants access to things like the mission table, fame system, armorers, and soul ties. If you change the pact, you start over from scratch on these points.

The mission tables in Shadowlands are significantly simplified versions of what is known from WoD or BfA. Nevertheless, the companions can bring home nice, small rewards (World of Warcraft: Shadowlands Test).

The fame system is the primary reward system of a pact. Here you unlock further bonuses with each new level. These include the three candidates for a soul bond, new campaign chapters and quests, offers from the quartermaster, cosmetic items for transmogging, mounts and all sorts of passive bonuses and pact improvements. The level of the item level of world quest items is also dependent on the fame level. So that you don’t unlock everything immediately, the fame system is “gated” – so you can only unlock a few levels per week.

The soul bond system of a pact is what the talents of Azerite armor and the heart of Azeroth were in BfA. Each pact offers three different soul companions, but you can only enter into a “soul bond” with one of them at the same time. This gives you access to his talent tree, which offers some predefined talents and a few empty slots for flexible talents – the so-called “media”. The skills of a soul mate are unlocked via the fame levels and the talent trees offer different skill paths. It might sound quite complicated, but if you take a quick look at it, you can quickly find out what best suits your role distribution / idea.

The new soul bonds give you additional skills and improvements. Various media can be used in the empty slots to reinforce specific skills.

WoW Shadowlands is perfect for newbies and twinks!

With its countless quest and story lines, WoW had long had the reputation of not being particularly beginner-friendly due to the umpteen add-ons. Therefore, with the Shadowlands Prepatch, the leveling and first-player experience has been completely revised and improved. You don’t have to start with your new level 1 in the lonely ethnic starting zones and then have to work your way through umpteen zones and add-ons up to the maximum level, but meet with the other newcomers on the new starting island “Island of the Exiles” to learn the basics of the game together.

Newcomers are now introduced to the basics step by step in WoW (World of Warcraft: Shadowlands Test).

If you have reached level 10, you choose one of the seven old add-ons as a further level zone in order to advance to level 50. It doesn’t matter whether you’re just exploring the Outland of Burning Crusade or whether you’re going from Northrend (WotLK), via Draenor (WoD) to the BfA islands – all opponents and zones are automatically scaled. On top of that, leveling up to level 50 is much faster. We’re talking a couple of hours, not days or weeks, to get a brand new character into the Shadowlands.

Twinks were also considered extremely time-consuming in the last add-ons (Legion and BfA) – after all, you had to provide the supporting characters with good equipment and the “burrowed powers” (artifact weapons, legendary items etc.) and keep them constantly up to date. The long story quests that you HAD to play through for the umpteenth time contributed to the rest of the frustration. Here, too, improvements have been made with Shadowlands. Thanks to the revised level system, leveling up with twinks is quick and you can skip the long Shadowlands main campaign and jump straight to the pact selection, if you want. The unlockable pact features and legendarys take some time, but don’t turn into endless tasks. Twinking is fun again!

The throat aka “I want to mount, but nothing happens!?!?”

One of the most important innovations in Shadowlands is the endgame zone “The Maw”. According to the developers, they wanted to create a “dangerous” and “absolutely hostile” zone that “doesn’t make a stay very pleasant”. We succeeded! Apart from the small starting area, where you have your peace in front of NPCs and PvP people, the extensive area is crammed with countless annoying enemies, rare elite opponents and heavy bosses that you can use for daily tasks, special events or just to collect loot and fights reputation.

There is no innkeeper, no NPC guards, no flight point and only one trader (Ve’nari) who sells useful items for “Stygia” – which is collected from opponents. In addition, you are “observed” by the jailer, which is shown on an extra bar called “the jailer’s eye”. It has five “threat levels” and fills up when you collect Stygia or complete quests. Each level makes staying in the gullet more uncomfortable, as additional difficulties such as additional opponents, artillery fire and even accelerated death at level 5 are added.

The throat is the realm of the “jailer” who always keeps an eye on you. The hostile environment strongly reminds me of my first wrong track through the Rotting Scar in the devastated lands in the vanilla times … then as now it didn’t always turn out well for me (World of Warcraft: Shadowlands Test).

On top of that, the threat cannot be reduced: it is only reset once a day with the daily reset. With level 5 you should leave the gullet as quickly as possible, otherwise it works like a lost battle: You bless the time and lose 20% of the collected stygia. You can get the latter back, but you have to go back to the place of death. Again, this is not easy as a ghost, because when you die you are resuscitated at the nearest spawn point – and that is usually quite far away. So you have to fight your way through all opponents again and maybe die again.

Most annoying, however, is the fact that you cannot use any of your 600+ accumulated mounts in the Maw. Druids and worgen have a huge advantage, because their “travel form” or “Wilde Hatz” work, but those who do not belong to the club have to torment themselves at normal walking pace or can grab a temporary mount that occasionally runs around in the gullet and up to a minute serve as a mount. There are two mounts that can be used without restrictions in the Maw – the “Mawbound Soul Hunter” and the “Corridor Crawler” – but both are hard to come by: the former is a rare drop from a Maw boss and the latter is a reward for the eighth level of winding corridors in Torghast.

The Dark Legacy Comic No. 750 sums up my feelings. Probably I could finance the season until the end of my life if I got 1 gold for every unsuccessful mount attempt.

So why should one visit the throat? Quite simply: Only here you can find “Redeemed Souls”, which you need for the weekly “Glory” quest and sanctuary upgrades of the chosen pact. In addition, you will find the highest quality handicraft materials (nightshade, elethium ore, fabrics, etc.), which are burned in large quantities for the manufacturing professions. Last but not least, Ve’nari wants to collect reputation because the trader has a few unique items – including sockets for armor parts, an important crafting recipe, a legendary item effect and more. The gullet will always remain relevant because of the base alone, but further content will be added later.

Torghast, Tower of the Damned – not endless fun, but fun!

Torghast is a special instance that you visit alone or in a group of 5. The basic idea was an endless dungeon, which gets more and more difficult until you get stuck, with a lot of skills and strengths that you will never see in the normal game world (because too powerful). Nothing came of the “endless” – quite early in the beta the instance was compressed into six different corridors, each with eight levels and six corridors, due to “difficult tuning”, of which only two are available per week – but the strong abilities aka “Animaboni” exist. And they are really fun!

There are dozen of anima bonuses for each class, talent distribution, and pact that bring different bonuses. This ranges from a simple value boost to additional damage / healing / survivability / mobility to greatly improved skills or additional talents. You feel “slightly overpowered” when you knock down enemy hordes with one or two attacks. Even if the structure of the corridors is always the same, the various animaboni, opponents, events and so on provide enough variety.

Animaboni can either be found from opponents or can be bought from a vendor all three levels. They remain in Torghast for the duration of the excursion and even add up (World of Warcraft: Shadowlands Test).

Apart from the fun of the game, Torghast is primarily about “soul ash”, which is needed to produce legendary items. There is soul ash for every completed level. The higher the level, the more ashes. You don’t have to go through all levels every week, you can also choose a specific level or the highest level. You then simply get the soul ash from all the levels below.

For those who like it a little more difficult, there will soon be the “challenge mode” in the “winding corridors”. There are three levels to choose from, which are randomly selected from the six wings and patched together, resulting in a run with a total of 18 corridors. As a reward, however, there is no ashes of the soul, but “only” cosmetic items and satisfaction.

Torghast is teeming with opponents, but that’s not a problem – there is no time limit and with the animaboni you are much stronger (World of Warcraft: Shadowlands Test).

What’s new in Mystic + Dungeons, Raids and PvP?

The basic structure of the available endgame content remains the same with Shadowlands. Means: PvE friends can conquer instances, dungeons and raids, while PvP fans make battlefields, arenas and open-world PvP unsafe.

Small improvements in PvP and sometimes poor alancing of pact skills

PvP fans can once again smash their skulls on battlefields and arenas in Shadowlands or assassinate innocent flower pickers for weekly PvP quests and PvP events in war mode. Apart from the new arena “Coliseum of the Elysian Feasts” and the fact that the weekly reward box has now been integrated into the new “Great Treasure Chamber”, there were no major changes to the PvP system, just a few adjustments. This includes the return of the gladiator trinket to remove CC effects, the increase in game speed intended by Blizzard, or PvP equipment that can be upgraded with honor / conquest points and always has “Versatility” as a secondary value.

The class balancing that is quite good in PvE is currently causing some frustration in PvP. Of course, the junky starting equipment does its part here, but the main problem is the sometimes overly strong pact skills. Even tanks with defensive CDs are wiped out by poisoner villains, 1-button-I-kill-everything-cats, brain-melting shadow priests or permanent wing palas with three four attacks. That doesn’t change in group PvP either, because here more people simply beat up a victim. Here Blizzard should once again improve the PvP scaling of the pact capabilities.

New raid and new effects (affixes) in the mystical + dungeons

On Wednesday (December 9th) the first raid, Castle Nathria, opens its gates and gives way to ten new bosses. The Nathria raid closes the last chapter of the Revendreth story (so no spoilers at this point), but you can look forward to a very nicely designed raid instance with a gloomy mood and interesting bosses. In any case, the tests on the beta server were promising.

The first raid, Castle Nathria, is waiting for its first visitors (World of Warcraft: Shadowlands Test).

The Mystic + Dungeons also start on Wednesday and from what I saw in the beta, the first M + season should be quite interesting. M + dungeons have long been popular with Blizzard and players alike, because they are varied and challenging. On top of that they offer similar loot as the raids and are easier to organize. At the start, Shadowlands brings eight new instances with them, all of which have their own peculiarities and certainly give interesting races with high keystones.

To achieve this, the developers also tweaked the most annoying affixes. “Bursting” now inflicts a fixed damage value and can be removed as a magical debuff, volcanoes cause significantly less damage, the bloody puddles disappear faster and so on. There are also four new affixes: Inspirational (certain opponents have a strengthening aura), Stormy (opponents summon hurricanes like the golden snake in King’s Rest), Malicious (undead rise from defeated opponents) or the new Season 1 affix “Pride”. Here a “manifestation of pride” appears every 20% of the opponent counter, which leaves a strengthening buff on the players when they die.

New weekly reward box and fewer loot sources

The weekly reward box for PvE and PvP players is an important means of equipping characters. In the last add-ons, however, the box caused more frustration than joy, as the “random item” was just too random – hands up if you’re still waiting for your weapon or piece of jewelry and pants for 5 weeks in a row, Looted chest, helmet, etc. For this reason, Blizzard has fundamentally redesigned the reward box with Shadowlands.

The whole thing is now called “The Great Treasure Chamber” and combines the reward box for PvP and M + dungeons and also brings the raids into play. It works like this: Every week Schatzkammer offers an item that you can choose from up to 9 items. For this, different endgame content has to be played (kill raid bosses, run M + dungeons and / or play PvP). The amount and quality of the items available for selection depends on the number and performance of the content played. With these changes, Blizzard is taking some RNG out of the box, but you have to play more content if you want the maximum selection.

The large treasury offers different items to choose from every week for endgame content. If you play a lot, you have the maximum choice (World of Warcraft: Shadowlands Test).

With Shadowlands, Blizzard has also generally contained the flood of loot. For example, dungeon bosses only drop one item for the whole group, there are fewer world quests and thus fewer item rewards and the bonus rolls are gone. Certainly not everyone likes that – especially not the top 100 raids that farm items via split raids – but for my part I think that’s pretty good, because you have to do a little more for your equipment again and don’t have after a month the BIS-Gear together. In addition, raid leaders should breathe a sigh of relief because the usual “Stop! Don’t pull the boss yet! I have to get bonus rolls !!!!” disappears before every boss.

The class balance and its problems in the future

Apart from the fact that you are (once again) limited to ground mounts and there is no “flight master’s whistle” in the afterlife, only one thing worries me at the moment: the balancing. Don’t get me wrong, Blizzard has put a lot of time into fine-tuning (delayed release makes it possible), so the classes are currently relatively close to each other – at least in PvE, in PvP some class pacts are out of control. It’s great for the moment, but how does it look in the future?

One of the main reasons for the lengthy balancing in the beta was the many “Burrowed Powers” that had to be lined up for all classes and talent distributions. In Shadowlands there are more of them than ever: One of 16 legendary items, one of four pacts with their respective class and signature capabilities, three possible companions for a “soul band” that brings an individual talent tree with permanent talents and slots for media talents . Sounds complicated? It’s not really in the game, but on a mathematical level there are an extremely large number of variables, to which you also have to factor in the character skills and skill synergies.

The developers managed the balancing quite well at the start. There have always been small differences, but they don’t really matter (World of Warcraft: Shadowlands Test).

The developers have currently managed this difficult tightrope act, but what happens if there is new game content with Patch 9.1 / 9.2 / 9.3? A new piece of jewelry or a second legendary item could break the balance. There are simply classes that benefit from two Legendarys significantly more than others. On the one hand, this is due to even better synergies. On the other hand, it is the sad fact that some classes only have one “good” Legendary and the rest falls into the “Meh” to “Garbage” category.

The correct answer to such a shift in forces would be a subsequent balancing round on the part of the developers. But that would take weeks, so I think it’s unlikely. As a result, I’m afraid it will be the same as with the Thunderclap Warri in BfA: In the beginning hardly noticed, in the end warriors made up more than 60% of all tanks (depending on the server / region) because its synergies are totally out of place despite nerfs Oars were running. So I hope for the former, but expect the latter and have the mop ready for the tears of the arena players, MDI professionals and top raiders (and a large handkerchief for me).

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands Test Fazit

With Shadowlands, Blizzard proves once again why World of Warcraft is still one of the best MMORPGs. The developers have made a noticeable effort to iron out bugs and problems of the last expansions and to satisfy all players as possible. The story is compelling, requires some important decisions and gives hope that something big is going to happen between the cosmic forces. The revamped graphics now also support ray tracing and show the different worlds of afterlife in the best possible light. Even the manufacturing professions are now worthwhile again! In addition, the interface has been improved and the level system has been completely revised – the new entry or leveling twinks has not been so pleasant since Darenor.

In short: Shadowlands is a fantastic expansion and basically the better Legion and the better Battle for Azeroth – and that’s saying something, after all, the two add-ons weren’t bad either. However, the future has to show how the developers deal with potential problems such as strong differences in power between the classes. There is still some work waiting for the developers here. If everything goes well, Shadowlands could become the best WoW add-on of all time – the potential is there!

  • Developer / Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment / Blizzard Entertainment
  • Platforms: PC, Mac (tested on PC)
  • Release-Datum: 24.11.2020
  • Language: German, English and others
  • Price: from around 40 euros