What has Shadowlands learned from previous expansions?
Every expansion attempts to learn from the previous expansions. And of course, that means that new mistakes are made, and then the next expansion will come along and hopefully learn from those, while still making its own new mistakes. When a game has been around as long and iterated on as many times as World of Warcraft it’s practically a given that there will be things each expansion does right and wrong, and the subsequent expansion will attempt to improve on it. Sometimes this works out and sometimes it doesn’t.
This is a subjective topic, but I’m going to try and cover some things I think are fairly solid improvements, some things I am on the fence about, and one thing that straight up is worse in Shadowlands than it its predecessor, Battle for Azeroth. You will of course be encouraged to list your own ideas in the comments — like I said, I know this one’s pretty subjective.
The thing Shadowlands Improved
Azerite Armor vs Shadowlands replacement systems
It’s no secret I didn’t really enjoy Azerite Armor. I felt like it was a system with some promise, but ultimately, I didn’t like it — I felt then and still feel that there were too many bells and whistles to the system, that it was difficult to get the pieces with the Azerite powers you wanted and you ended up carrying sets of Azerite gear for multiple specs which was just maddening. While I am not completely in love with the Soulbind system either, I do think it is better than Azerite was — for one thing, you don’t have to worry about it until max level. For another, it generally feels less overwhelming and has more personality than the Azerite system did.
In general, I think just getting armor as you level and not having it grant special powers, and saving that kind of stuff for Soulbinds and Legendaries is the better way to go. It feels more easily understood even if it does also feel a bit grindy to get it all done. At least it’s not the constant treadmill of trying to get the Azerite piece that actually has the powers that would be useful to your chosen spec, then leveling the necklace to activate the next tier of your armor, and then repeating that process over and over again.
Horde and Alliance in the same zones again
I think having everyone play the same zones and see the same story — at least while leveling before you pick up a Covenant — is a vast improvement over Battle for Azeroth and the divided story of the expansion. The way we each saw only half of the game really made it hard to know what was going on — I still only know what was happening in Uldir because I eventually broke down and leveled my Tauren through Nazmir. Whether you like or hate a zone, at least you get to see it, and there’s no questline or story beats you’ll only get to see when you’re in one faction. Well, again, at least until you get to 60 and pick a Covenant, but that feels more like a return to Legion and the Class Order Halls, and I think it works.
Torghast vs. Horrific Visions
Now, this isn’t me saying that the Horrific Visions were bad, I just think Torghast is better. It’s got more replayability, it’s more varied, there’s just more to it. I’ve only run it a few times, and only once on live, and I died like a chicken, but that’s because I’m neither geared nor skilled enough and not Torghast’s fault at all. I really think this is a clear, unambiguous case of a feature improving between expansions.
I mean, I really feel like Torghast could last the whole expansion, and that’s definitely not something I could have said about Horrific Visions even if they weren’t a last patch addition.
Maybe better, maybe worse, I can’t tell
Mission tables vs Adventures
Honestly, I can’t tell you I really feel like Adventures are better or worse than the Mission Table. The Mission Table was never really a feature I enjoyed — didn’t like it in Warlords and haven’t been particularly excited to keep seeing it return in each following expansion. I didn’t hate it, I didn’t like it, it just kind of felt like it was there.
Adventures are, at least on paper, a conceptual improvement over the Mission Table. There’s more of a real simulation of a dungeon run or other actual gameplay element — it does tend to feel more like you’re playing a real minigame, or something you might actually play on your phone. But I don’t want to play a minigame, especially not in an expansion which is already pretty stuffed with endgame content thanks to the Covenants.
So I’m not really sure how I’d rate Adventures. I mean, I do think there’s more to them than there was with the Mission Table, especially in Battle for Azeroth, but it’s still not a feature I’m enjoying.
Oribos vs. Boralus and Dazar’alor
It’s not that I hate Oribos, but I don’t really prefer it to those two cities. I felt like both Boralus and Dazar’alor had charm and personality, and each felt real and alive. But then again, Oribos isn’t supposed to feel alive. It’s an ageless city existing in the featureless non space between the various realms of the dead, and it does a great job of conveying an alienating otherness.
It’s not bad, I just don’t know if I like it — and I do miss those other two cities.
Definitely not an improvement
The return of linear storytelling
This isn’t bad, per se, but I really miss being able to pick and choose which zones I go to. There’s just something I really don’t like about Maldraxxus and Revendreth, and I wish I could have gone to those two first and gotten them over with so that I could enjoy Bastion and Ardenweald in peace. It’s not that the zones were poorly designed or that the story isn’t good — it’s purely an aesthetic opinion here — but I really ended up missing getting to go where I wanted to go.
Again, this isn’t me saying the story in Shadowlands is bad, or that the storytelling is bad, it’s just that I don’t see having everyone go to the same zones in the exact same sequence is an improvement over the free-form way Battle for Azeroth handled it.
Honestly, though, that’s pretty much the only thing I miss from Battle for Azeroth so I feel like Shadowlands is doing pretty well here. And so, I now shut up and let you all opine away freely in the comments.
Please consider supporting our Patreon!
Join the Discussion
Blizzard Watch is a safe space for all readers. By leaving comments on this site you agree to follow our commenting and community guidelines.