After what has at times felt like an interminable wait Ardenweald has finally arrived on the World of Warcraft: Shadowlands Alpha for testing. Although most players I know have been freaking out about Revendreth, and yea, I do love the gothic feel of that zone, what I have been most interested in seeing is Ardenweald. It isn’t just because I main a Druid, and it’s the Nature section of the Shadowlands, and I’m all naturey and stuff… well ok, that’s a lot of the reason. Also, I remember seeing the concept art for it hanging up during BlizzCon 2019 and just being blown away at the beauty and immediately wanted to go exploring. So, I have been waiting for a while. As always, I’m going to keep to minor spoilers only, so it’s pretty safe if you care about spoilers.
I was almost afraid to make a character and play through the storyline because I had been looking forward to it for so long I was worried I’d be disappointed. I had nothing to fear, though. My first reaction was enthrallment, and I felt like I had arrived home. Both Bastion and Revendreth are beautiful in their respects, Ardenweald wins on this count as it is also the most varied zone I’ve seen so far. From absolutely lush and thriving forests to drought-ridden and dying groves, and everything in between, Ardenweald covers a full range.
Of course, the basic storyline is the same as the other zones. You’re sent with an urgent message for the leader of the zone, but they are too busy with, you know, the anima drought that they don’t have time to see you. So, I found myself running around doing more random things all over the zone so I could get the White Queen’s attention. One way in which this paradigm was slightly different in this zone is most of the tasks revolve around looking after the inhabitants and taking care of the wildseeds. In case you haven’t seen it anywhere else yet, wildseeds are what happens to powerful spirits after they die, to prepare them to be returned to their world.
Almost half of the main storyline in Ardenweald revolves around the fate of one wildseed in particular who takes a liking to us. This wildseed ends up being a very prominent and significant character, so I’m not going to reveal their identity. However, this entire section of the questline was very well executed and stratified what I wanted for this character, which was a pretty tall order. It’s also worth mentioning that once I figured out who the wildseed was, I was a bit frustrated when the questline moved away from helping it for any amount of time. This isn’t saying anything negative about the rest of the questline; I just cared about this one wildseed so much that everything else seemed like a waste of time. I mean not really because there’s a lot of bad things going, but seriously I just wanted to take care of the wildseed from the moment I met it.
One other thing I wanted to mention about the questline, has to do with a part where I went into a vision to experience two significant moments from the wildseed’s past. I don’t know if the labeling for the creatures there is final or not, but I sincerely hope it is. There are a few labels that are just hilarious considering who’s memory I was in but, some of the others were interesting and had a few layers to them. I hope those names, in particular, are final, because it added some more depth to this character and helped in understanding who they are, not just our perception of them.
In addition to the wildseeds, souls of people who were particularly attached to nature can go to Ardenweald for their final rest. These souls get to pick what kind of animal they get to be for eternity; there’s one questline with a few of these souls, which was hilarious and fun. One soul, in particular, is named Choofa, and I had a lot of amusement trying to decide if he was squirrely because he was a squirrel or if that’s actually how his personality in life was and it was a fitting animal choice. Additionally, while helping him out, I noticed we were fighting boggarts. So now, in my mind, Harry Potter and World of Warcraft take place in the same universe.
Spending so much time in Ardenweald also allowed me to spend a lot more time using the conclave abilities. I was particularly interested in this because the Druid Night Fae ability recently received an update, so it’d prefer your current spec’s abilities over others. Unfortunately, this was a bit of a negative change. The RNG nature of this ability can cause it to feel bad if you get a lot of heals at full health when you were hoping for some damage. However, as a Guardian, using this ability and getting mostly all thrashes is also disappointing. It’s cool seeing some of the other spec abilities going off as well, and that’s what I mostly look forward to using it. I don’t know if taking player health when casting the ability in addition to spec would be the right answer or not though. I almost think having it do four skills from each spec every time, but in a random order, would be better.
One thing I was surprised by in Ardenweald is the main storyline doesn’t lead directly into the Mists of Tirna Scithe dungeon the same way it does for Bastion and the Necrotic Wake. Everything that happens in Mists of Tirna Scithe makes a lot more sense now that I have spent time in the zone, but I wasn’t lead to it. I hadn’t made it to that section of the zone when I was shepherded off to Oribos and on to Revendreth. There were parts of the questline near the end, which clearly weren’t implemented yet, so it’s possible one of those steps would lead players there. However, having played through the dungeon a few times, it seems more likely it would be side quests that would lead to the dungeon.
This city is frankly spectacular. Even when it was initially opened, and there were a ton of temporary portals, and barely any NPCs walking around Oribos was impressive. In the last few weeks, the temp portals have been removed, and more NPCs are now wandering around. It almost feels like an actual city. One thing not to be neglected, though, is running around the outer platform and checking out the sky. It’s awe-inspiring to see, and you can clearly see the anima from each zone being sucked down into the Maw. Although I don’t know if this will change but be careful sightseeing, it is possible to fall off the city.
I also finally got to see how we would be getting between the zones. It looks like after opening each zone, we’ll be able to take a flight point between the zones, but getting there the first time was the real question. Well, when I finished the storyline in Ardenweald, the Winter Queen sent me back to Oribos to head on to Revendreth with a request from her. Once in Oribos, I went to the upper floor, which is one big gateroom. After turning in the quest, an NPC opened a gate so I could travel to Revendreth in a very Stargate reminiscent way. I mean, I was riding on a mana worm, but we were going through a tunnel with anima flowing through it, and it just reminded me of Stargate. So now the question is, do we go to Oribos or Bastion first when we escape from the Maw?
In addition to Ardenweald and Oribos opening up, Maldraxxus has also been opened for leveling. I haven’t had a chance to level through there yet, so that’ll be my focus for next time. However, with all of the leveling zones implemented and most of the leveling dungeons, and also considering the fact we are well into the summer now, we should see a shift from Alpha to Beta soon™. Along with that shift, I’d expect more of a focus on balancing classes and abilities as well. Of course, there’s still the intro experience and the max level Maw zone though I wouldn’t be surprised not to see those until late beta. Either way, everything has been marching steadily along, and Shadowlands is shaping up nicely.