Shadowlands Livestream Presentation: My Thoughts

Maw

I’ve completely forgotten about the actual time of presentation due to my unexpected IRL fun of trying to bake some apple pies in a new oven (the thing I never did since schooldays) – quite ironic, as I was hyped in the morning and planned to sit for the livestream :) Oh well, it was still available after, so I saw it in full nevertheless.

Blizzard addressed BLM and corona matters, a nice and necessary vignette, yet nothing too extraordinary – just a sane message of being kind to each other and uniting players via the game.

As of presentation, maybe I’ve expected more videos. Of course I did not expect a new cinematic – the high stakes are already set with Sylvanas/Bolvar trailer, and how the factions and heroes will answer the call is a matter of actual gameplay during pre-patch and launch. Still, some moving pictures of the features announced would be nice and would make the presentation look a lot more lively.

I’m still the least interested in the new talent trees – this time tied to “followers” or “friends” in the Covenant. Neither I’m excited about legendary item crafting. The reason is I’d rather learn it in the game when it goes live. As a non-competitive warrior of LFR, denying PvP and mythic dungeons, I’m not planning anything concerning character empowerement in advance. Like with current talents, I will just read the hover-on text and pick what seems nice.

I praiase and admire the Renown system. It looks extremely interesting: as you level up the new scale, you will feed anima to certain areas of your Covenant zone. This will grant you some perks: teleports, new quests and tasks, and also gradually change the environment. Once you reach the cap in this scale, the anima flow becomes constant, and what was temporary will become constant. That is, you will have a fully functional teleportation network in the Covenant zone of choice, a full access to all quests and everything. It is cool in several ways:

Covenant choices matter lorewise! Of course there will be stuff to do in other zones, but it seems you’ll be so attuned to your Covenant that you will not only get gameplay benefits, but also go a lot deeper into learning its whereabouts and secrets, and spend more time there than anywhere else. If this is what I think – this is going to split a good chunk of the players’ major endgame into 4 areas, caring about their Covenant zone. Emissaries of sorts and the Maw will unite us, but still… It’s going to be a very deep connection to the zone and its inhabitants.

You alter the environment. This is insanely important: making a difference by your actions, something we don’t see too often – or almost never. As we already know, the Covenant zones are dying from the lack of anima, and by our actions the drought problem is going to be solved. This will have an effect in the open world: shrines will be restored, groves will bloom again, and whatever those vampires want to get fixed will be fixed too. Most importantly, it is you who picks where the anima goes first, to which corner. Eventually you will restore all the zone’s areas and make it permanent, but it gives you a variety of options in the process.

The closest thing I could think of is Mount Hyjal questlines from Cataclysm: as you advance through the story, the Mount slowly heals Ragnaros’ fires and blooms again. Now it’s gonna be almost the same, BUT you have a say what you want to fix first, gives you benefits and provides new lore. And like with Garrison, it’s supposed to be phased for you to see the difference – ergo personal. What could have been better?

The only thing I would wish to happen is that as you fix your own Covenant, the other Covenants are fixed too. I’m talking only visuals here: it would be cool to see that other zones are cared for by other heroes, even if I obviously don’t get any benefits there. For example, I’m fixing a grove or a garden in Ardenweald, and when I come to Maldraxxus I will see that they repaired an outpost or something. Just a thought.

Variety. We’ve yet to discover the percentage of gameplay devoted to your Covenant compared to general all-player activities, yet as an altoholic I’d say: the more the better. It will make leveling and endgame alt gameplay most engaging, because you learn the new lore and hangout in a different environment. If Covenant-only gameplay will be stretched out more than we had with class order halls activities in Legion, this is just great.

The Maw is announced to be the most unwelcoming zone designed for endgame. I’d hate it to be Argus/Broken Shore unfriendly, because in that iteration the endgame was simply annoying, not hard: all this riding across the throngs of mobs. There’s gonna be some natural restrictions: like Jailer sending out hounds and other mobs to make our time difficult until we are chased away. So far it is Horrific Visions at its worst: as you’re supposed to fail at some point. I have no high hopes because in the examples above all Blizzard’s attempts to make a zone unwelcoming are bouncing between a sense of failure by the end of the round and simply annoying. Lorewise it’s fine, but it destroys the player morale at large, especially if there’s no mechanism to make us more enduring in this environment but gearing up.

Torghast took a lesson from Horrific Visions – and there will be no keys to farm. That is extremely great, as you may try there as you please – you may go there with groups, and you may also go solo if the group is unavailable, not caring about wasting any “keys”. The natural limit will be rewards: once you get your weekly share, you may just play Torghast or help your friends for fun sakes and no loot if you feel like running it.

In general Blizzard takes a firm approach to limit the endless grind: experience shows that no matter how small the AP (artifct, azertite or anima) rewards are, some people will still make the game a second job and scrape it clean. So caps it is.

Finally, mission table is worth mentioning. What I see now in the preview is a Disciples-like board and a turn-based gameplay. The coolest thing about it is that a mission could be apparently solved on spot – without waiting for 3-24 hours. This makes it a perfect mini-game for your phone: when away from PC, you can still play a bit and get some benefits for WoW. The downside is that you spend more time at the table than before – cause you need to actually play it.

What I wish is that they kept the rewards minor, like in BfA – making the table unobligatory. What I wish is that they dropped the purchased troops. It was perfectly fine in Draenor with champions only. It’s a very annoying thing to care about.

Beta is coming next week, and this is good news (it means the gameplay is ready). Yet the expansion is due to arrive “this fall” – I’m saying November around the “Blizzcon” dates. There’s still a lot of waiting time.

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