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World of Warcraft

10 Dec 2020

WoW Shadowlands Review in Progress: World of Warcraft's Best Expansion in the Last Decade?

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Shadowlands Review

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The Great Vault

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Leveling

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Covenants

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Torghast, Tower of the Damned

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Dungeons (Mythics, Mythic+, Mechanics)

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PVP

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Castle Nathria

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Verdict

World of Warcraft players have not been shy about claiming the game's best days are more than a decade in the past. But in this WoW Shadowlands review, we'll look over why this new expansion could change the course of the series' future.

Here's what we think of WoW Shadowlands so far.

Shadowlands Review

While there's still plenty of content to come from WoW Shadowlands, with its first raid Castle Nathria, first PVP season, and first Mythic+ Dungeons coming out at 5pm EST on 8 December, there's a lot to talk about already.

Let's dive into what WoW Shadowlands has to offer today, and what's soon to come.

The Great Vault

The Great Vault is a massive new part of the WoW Shadowlands ecosystem.

WoW Shadowlands Great Vault Items Dungeons Raid PVP Rewards Quest
OPEN UP: The Great Vault offers players fantastic gear each week if they put in the work

Loot chests have been widely criticized by World of Warcraft players for its RNG elements and unfavorable outcomes for players.

With this in mind, Blizzard reworked the system with The Great Vault to smooth out this randomness, and give players more options to progress their gear.

This customization means players can get massive items in their Great Vault each week if they do PVP, Mythic Dungeons, or Raid content. And instead of empowering their choices only with each bit of progression, players add relevant choices to their Great Vault each week by completing more of these different ares of content.

WoW Shadowlands Great Vault Weekly Chest Raids Mythic Dungeons PVP
OPTIONS: The Great Vault gives players gear options for their weekly reward

The Great Vault is finally active in Shadowlands as of 8 December, but its first opening will happen on 15 December.

As it stands, it looks like The Great Vault is a massive positive for WoW Shadowlands, offering more diverse pathways to gear up, and giving players incentives to go outside of their comfort zones.

Leveling

The leveling experience in any MMORPG can be the defining factor of the game. World of Warcraft leveling has always been a tough balance between beautiful worldbuilding, storytelling, grinding, and more.

WoW Shadowlands Leveling Questing Zones Threads of Fate
NEW MARK: Main story quests are clearly defined in Shadowlands

Some WoW expansions have done leveling horribly, with players feeling every step of the long journey. WoW Shadowlands is not one of them.

The WoW Shadowlands leveling experience is fantastic, and one of its strongest aspects so far.

READ MORE: WoW Shadowlands: Castle Nathria COUNTDOWN - Release Date, Time, Raid, Bosses & more

Bouncing from the many unique and engaging zones in The Shadowlands feels less like a line and more like a gripping story where players engage with four unique and interesting Covenants.

With players tasked with choosing between these four Covenants, and a home zone, at the end of the leveling experience - everything feels consequential and personal.

READ MORE: WoW Shadowlands Legendaries: How to Craft, Missives, Memory of the Runecarver & more

While the Threads of Fate experience could use some redoing, this is only a minor aspect of the Shadowlands leveling journey, only done after your first pass through the main story is complete, and is entirely avoidable.

Covenants

Covenants in WoW Shadowlands were the biggest x-factor heading into the new expansion, and they've been done wonderfully.

WoW Shadowlands Covenants Night Fae Necrolords Venthyr Kyrian
NATURAL CYCLE: Shadowlands covenants offer incredibly engaging choices

Players engage with each Covenant significantly through the main story.

Despite the massive differences between each Covenant, each has some great writing and stand on their own as a viable choice.

The Kyrian of Bastion have an enthralling storyline that slowly unfurls with perfect pace to reveal a dark underbelly to what seems like the perfect world.

The Night Fae of Ardenweald have perhaps the most beautiful zone we've seen in years, and fantastic writing that mixes comedic timing with tense emotional moments.

READ MORE: WoW Shadowlands Rogue Covenant Abilities

The Necrolords of Maldraxxus have a fast-paced action-heavy plot of war and treason that keep players engaged in the massive conflicts.

And the Venthyr of Revendreth have a uniquely twisted and political storyline consisting of misinformation, treachery, and world-ending implications.

Once players dedicate themselves to their covenants, fantastic questlines await as you sink further into your home zone and build it up from within.

With awesome Covenant Ability offerings for each class as well, Blizzard knocked WoW Shadowlands Covenants out of the park.

Torghast, Tower of the Damned

Torghast, Tower of the Damned is a brand new PVE experience in WoW Shadowlands that will shake up how this content is done in the future.

WoW Shadowlands Torghast Roguelike Anima Powers Bosses Tarragrue
ROGUELIKE: Torghast brings a brand new roguelike PVE experience

Torghast introduces a roguelike gameplay experience to Shadowlands, and it's absolutely amazing.

The fit is perfect - players enter Torghast in hopes of grinding important weekly resources, and build out their character with tons of random skill rewards and abilities via Anima Powers. Each floor includes some randomly generated pieces, which make it incredibly rewarding and challenging all the same.

READ MORE: WoW Shadowlands System Requirements: Can your PC run it?

Torghast introduces tons of strategy with groups working from 1 to 5 people, choices for different Anima Powers around every corner, and vendors to add more customization.

By not tasking players to be the fastest with a clock, and instead limiting players in Torghast by death count, Shadowlands pushes an engaging and immersive roguelike experience that players can take at their own pace.

Torghast may end up being the best new addition to the World of Warcraft series in Shadowlands, and its only one of many massive positives.

Dungeons (Mythics, Mythic+, Mechanics)

WoW Shadowlands dungeons are as varied as its Covenants and zones, offering a wide range of experiences, settings, and stories.

WoW Shadowlands Dungeons Bosses Mythic+ Heroic
CHALLENGE: Shadowlands dungeons set the bar for PVE challenge

These dungeons also feature a good mashup of mechanics, ranging from the most simple of tank and spank fights to the most intense and raid-like fights, balancing massive group-wiping abilities on a dime (looking at you, Mueh'zala).

While WoW Shadowlands Mythic+ dungeons are coming 8 December, so there's plenty more to see, dungeons are a fantastic note for this expansion that players will enjoy progressing through.

PVP

One of the most underserved playerbases of World of Warcraft's history is its PVP audience. This isn't the case with WoW Shadowlands PVP, which brings back some of the game type's best features from previous expansions.

WoW Shadowlands PVP Season Arenas Conquest Honor Upgrade
PROGRESSION: PVP Vendors are BACK!

Shadowlands PVP brings back PVP vendors, Honor and Conquest point/gearing systems, PVP gear upgrading, and scales the cost of gear to be more accessible.

While the first WoW Shadowlands PVP season starts 8 December at 5pm EST, which means real arenas have yet to be seen, things are looking fantastic on the PVP side.

READ MORE: WoW Shadowlands PVP Guide: Conquest, Honor, Vendors, Gear Upgrades & more

World PVP has been improved with War Mode separating groups that want to engage with it and those that don't, as well as quests that incentivize players to look for Shadowlands PVP outside of BGs.

At times it feels like damage is too high, which was a problem for the Shadowlands prepatch, but we expect this will be tuned throughout the expansion with gear.

Castle Nathria

Because Normal and Heroic Castle Nathria haven't released just yet, dropping on 8 December at 5pm EST, we can't give a review on WoW shadowlands first raid just yet.

WoW Shadowlands Castle Nathria Raid Bosses Loot Guide
BEWARE: Not many who enter Castle Nathria leave alive

From what we know of its bosses, however, and their mechanics, Castle Nathria could be a massive PVE hit.

READ MORE: WoW Shadowlands: Castle Nathria Guide - Countdown, Release Date, Bosses, Loot & more

We'll expand on our thoughts here as Castle Nathria releases, but for now, Castle Nathria looks to be one of the most engaging first raids of the last 3 WoW expansions.

Verdict

WoW Shadowlands has plenty more to offer over its lifetime, and tons of content is just around the corner.

WoW Shadowlands Review Torghast
IT'S COMING: Our Shadowlands review will complete as new content arrives

For this reason, this WoW Shadowlands review is still in-progress.

Check back in as we update this Shadowlands review to cover the massive new content - including the first raid, Castle Nathria, its first PVP season, Mythic+ dungeons, and more.

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