World of Warcraft's Shadowlands Beta has been live for almost two weeks at this point and has had a chance to check out all of the covenant questlines and poke around at their various halls. More people in beta have had an opportunity to wander the Maw at max level and put their toes into Torghast. We also found out heirlooms won’t give XP bonuses anymore, which is both a problem and not a problem at all. I’ve also personally seen a lot of fixes for bugs I had previously encountered, which is edifying. Things seem to be steadily rolling along towards launch.
I both love and hate the covenants. They are all so different and exciting, and their individual campaigns remind me of what was done in Legion with the Order Hall Campaigns. Thankfully, there’s only four this time around, so even alt challenged people like me can still have the possibility of seeing all of the other storylines. Each leveling zone pretty much works as an introduction to each covenant and the problems plaguing it. The campaigns pretty much all pick-up where the leveling story for each zone left off.
The one slight exception to this is the Night Fae Campaign. There is a character who we help during the leveling story in Ardenweald, who, once they learn of everything which has transpired while they were gone, decides to help us gain closure on some of the events which happened during Battle for Azeroth. In particular, as it relates to the burning of Teldrassil. One of the first things we learn after entering the shadowlands is all souls have been going straight to the Maw for a while. This means everyone who died in that massacre went to the Maw. Initially, I was a bit dismayed we didn’t tie up the loose end with Tyrande before heading to the shadowlands, but this is honestly better because what could we have done for the dead from Azeroth? This way, it isn’t just about Tyrande.
What continues to be a problem for covenants is players continually fretting about which covenant will offer the best abilities for their preferred content. It can get even more complicated for people who like to play multiple kinds of content as what’s best for your role in raids may not be what’s best for PvP or even Mythic+. Things get even more complicated when you start considering the various passive buffs which come into play with the soulbinds. Some soulbind abilities have parallels in other covenants, but not all do. I certainly understand disliking the pull between multiple covenants, but at its core, I like being pulled in multiple directions and having to choose. The fact it’s a hard choice makes it more interesting than if the decision didn’t matter at all.
As is always the case, there will invariably be a choice that is better for certain kinds of content. In raiding, certain tanks are best; in M+, there are always certain comps that are most efficient, heck even what race a character can influence how well a player performs in a given role. Over the years, things have loosened up a bit with the ease of switching talents and specs and having main stats on gear switch with you, but at its core, WoW has always been about making choices that can have a direct influence on your power. The only way for perfect balance to be achieved is to make everything the same… which is also incredibly dull. They could drop all of the class-based active abilities, but honestly, at least for Druid, all of those are interesting and have been fun to use. Hopefully, the balance can be found close enough for the majority of the player base it’s not much of an issue. People at the cutting edge of content well always feel pressured to make certain choices in this game; it’s just the nature of WoW and isn’t a new thing.
Leveling Through Old Content
Despite being challenged when it comes to alts, one of the significant changes I was looking forward to was being able to level through an entire expansion without over leveling the content. Being able to relive old expansions again and experience their story is a huge boon for me. I was especially looking forward to playing through Mists of Pandaria again because I never really finished any of those zones and honestly didn’t play much of it at all. There are whole chunks of the story I’ve been missing out on, and I was looking forward to finally getting to experience it all.
It wasn’t until I watched Taliesin & Evitel’s video about the leveling system this week that I realized I had made a pretty massive assumption about how all of this would work. The thing with expansions is the leveling storyline is only the beginning; our first introduction to everything that will happen during the expansion. Throughout every expansion, the storyline has progressed, and important things happened before we ever got to the final fight at the end of it. One of the main reasons LFR was implemented in the first place was so more players would have the opportunity to experience the story which takes place in the raids. With Blizzard’s stated goal of telling a cohesive and complete story, it just made sense to include all of that content too.
This is a huge issue when it comes to BfA in particular. By the time a player finishes the leveling storyline, both the Horde and Alliance are gearing up to go all out on each other. If you then go right into Shadowlands content where we are happily working together, that would be a bit of a confusing shift. It would be even more confusing for Horde players who go from Sylvanas is their Warchief, to there’s a council instead of a Warchief, and Sylvanas has runoff, and we all hate her now. I’d argue a player would need to experience the full war campaign to understand everything which unfolded during this expansion. Keep in mind, BfA is the default content for new players, so not having to the cohesive story leading them into the current content is a pretty huge misstep.
I don’t think leveling 10 – 50 should take more real-world time. Especially since players won’t have the xp benefit of heirloom gear anymore, we’ll still have the benefit of equipment that levels with us and is generally higher ilvl than anything obtained while leveling though. If the goal is to have a complete story experience, then players need to have access to all of the expansion content while leveling, or at least access to a truncated version of it. This should include zones that opened during the expansion and all of the campaign questlines for expansions that had them.
I’m hoping in the coming weeks we might be able to start working on crafting legendaries so we can get more of feel on how that all will work. We have learned we won’t be limited in how many we can make just how many can be equipped at the start. Obviously, we’ll also be limited on how much legendary crafting material we can get so everyone won’t be able to grind out ten legendaries a week after launch. I’ll also be keeping an eye on how balancing the covenant abilities continues to go. If there’s any particular content in the beta you’d like me to check out, just let me know ??