In classic World of Warcraft expansion "Wrath of the Lich King," Alliance soldier Bolvar Fordragon replaced Arthas Menethil as the avatar of the Lich King, ruler of the undead Scourge on Azeroth. Pledging to keep the ravenous dead at bay, Bolvar was sealed into the Frozen Throne, entombed in the haunted armor of the Lich King. It looks as though Bolvar is set to play a central role in the next WoW expansion, tentatively dubbed "Shadowlands."
What is World of Warcraft: Shadowlands?
Following a few high-profile leaks, including key artwork, we finally have a look at the next big WoW expansion, which continues events from Battle for Azeroth.
The Shadowlands has long been referenced in World of Warcraft lore, but their origins and true nature remain a mystery. One thing is for certain; the Shadowlands are inextricably tied to death and decay. It stands opposed to the verdant spiritual realm of the Emerald Dream, which represents a vision of reality untarnished by corruption and mortal intervention.
In previous expansions, entities like the Loa of Death Bwonsamdi, ex-Forsaken Queen Sylvanas Windrunner, and corrupted titan watcher Helya all have spoken of the Shadowlands, and for some, the desire to conquer it. Sylvanas' character arc throughout Battle for Azeroth ends with her seeking to control death itself, indicating that she will play a pivotal role in Shadowlands.
In the opening cinematic, Sylvanas shatters the Helm of Dominion, breaching the veil between the material realm and the Shadowlands, an ancient dimension where the dead coalesces for judgment. Sylvanas' actions have upset the natural balance between life and death, and it's on players to enter the Shadowlands itself and repair the cycle before it is too late.
World of Warcraft: Shadowlands TL;DR feature overview
Some of the features unveiled for World of Warcraft: Shadowlands are as follows:
- The story shows Sylvanas taking the Lich King's helm, destroying it. In the process, the Banshee Queen tears a rift between the world of the living and the dead. The realm of the dead is known as the Shadowlands.
- The Shadowlands is the "afterlife" for all life on Azeroth. It predates the titans.
- It's the source of all necromantic power, and deceased characters may return. It's not all evil. The noble Val'kyr hail from there, the spirit healers that revive dead players, are also from there.
- New zones like "Revendreth," are filled with vampire-like beings. Zones like "Bastion" showcase a Titan Valahalla-like afterlife.
- Blizzard is adding tons of new character customization features, including different ethnicities for humans, Wildhammer dwarf skins, and various troll races skins, including Sandfury.
- The expansion revolves around "choice," players will be able to join a "Covenant." The factions are called Kyrian, Venthyr, Necrolords, and Night Fae. Each faction comes with specific bonuses and a unique story, similar to Legion's class halls.
- Torghast, Tower of the Damned, is a "replayable" dungeon with dynamic changing layout.
- Blizzard says max level 120 players will be squished down to level 50.
- There will be a new leveling system for 1-60, to try and make each level up feel more meaningful.
- Level 1-10 players will experience an updated starting zone, concurrent with Battle for Azeroth. Players can then choose to go to a previous expansion time traveling with Chromie to level between 10 and 50, or go into Battle for Azeroth and then Shadowlands for a more chronological timeline.
- All races will be able to become Death Knights, including allied races. If you pre-purchase, you can make one of the new Death Knights as soon as Patch 8.3 goes live before the end of 2019.
World of Warcraft: Shadowlands new dungeons and zones
Naturally, Shadowlands will have a heap of new areas to explore, including five new zones, a new central player hub, and several new dungeons and raids.
- The Ardenweald is a naturalistic realm said to be a mirror of the Emerald Dream, where death and rebirth are made manifest.
- Revendredth is a desolate land inhabited by the vampiric Venthyr, gothic, and dark.
- Maldraxxus has been described as Eastern Plaguelands dialed up to 11, full of death, decay, and rot.
- Bastion is a Light-infused land where noble warriors seek an honorable afterlife.
- Oribos is the new player hub city, and serves as an undying cross-roads where the dead are judged.
- The Maw is an end-game zone, and said to be where the most evil entities in the cosmos go after death.
Here are some of the new dungeons we know about so far.
- Torghast, Tower of the Damned is a dynamic, evolving end-game dungeon with roguelike elements, playable either solo or in a group of five. Each run of Torghast will have different enemies, traps, and rewards, and a separate progression system that helps you get further along the tower with each run.
- Levelling dungeons include The Necrotic Wake, Mists of Tirna Scithe, Theater of Pain, and the Halls of Atonement.
- Level 60 dungeons include Spires of Ascension, Plaguefall, The Other Side, and the Sanguine Depths. Naturally, all eight dungeons will have Heroic, Mythic, and Mythic+ difficulties for end-game players.
- Castle Nathria is a 10-boss dungeon in Revendreth, presided over by an evil Venthyr lord.
World of Warcraft: Shadowlands Covenants
Covenants are this expansion's headline feature, and function similarly to the class campaigns from Legion, albeit with some key differences.
Covenants represent the major powers within the Shadowlands, and each of the four sports a different aesthetic and goal. Throughout the leveling experience from 50 to 60, you will aid each Covenant and get an idea of their motivations and benefits. At level 60, you will select one to join, and the choice will be permanent.
Covenants grant two additional gameplay abilities, one being class-specific. It alters your playstyle. Covenants grant unique armor styles and special capes that look a little more like accessories. Titan-like Kyrian capes look more like angel wings, for example. Each Covenant has a unique campaign similar to those found in Battle for Azeroth and Legion.
There are four to choose from, who represent different sides of the cycle of death and rebirth within the Shadowlands.
- The Venthyr hail from Revendreth, and are vampiric beings that feed on the souls of the wicked.
- The Necrolords are a faction of necromancers from Maldraxxus, with a Sith-like code of promoting strength and casting out weakness.
- The Kyrians of Bastion seem tied to the Val'kyr, with Titan-stylings and reverence of honor.
- The Nightfae of the Ardenweald preside over the cycle of death and rebirth, tied to nature.
When will World of Warcraft: Shadowlands launch?
There's no fixed launch date yet, but Blizzard says it will be available in 2020. You can pre-purchase it now via Blizzard right here.
Still the best MMO
Still the best MMO out there
Despite loot RNG, under-tuned skills, and a broken leveling experience, Battle for Azeroth's end-game raids and dungeons remain a ton of fun to experience with friends, especially if you're not new to the game.
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