Well, let’s start with the juiciest part: the new cinematic Kingsmourne!
First of all, it’s good to see that we’re not left in guessing until the mid-patch or raid what happened to Anduin – a lesson well learned from vagueness and mystery of BfA. His story has got an immediate development, and intriguing as such.
I need to wave away all Arthas parallels immediately. While the terms of corruption remain the same – namely, Runes of Domination – the vessel/champion part is not. Arthas was ready – and did sell his ass to corruption before the blade even managed to offer anything, being a power hungry, passion consumed, maximalistic and frankly, a pretty dumb character. His WotLK plan to lure champions into Icecrown was no doubt the making of other half of the Lich King – Ner’zhul, sharing the entity. The former prince could have never come up with something that clever :)
Anduin, on the other hand, is all about good through diplomacy, empathy and compassion, and all the time in Torghast did not manage to sway him at the very least. We clearly saw – and see now – that he was forced to serve, retaining his true self. This is Jailer in a hurry, pragmatic to the core where he sees everything and everyone as merely means to reach his ends. He does not seek to make Anduin his devoted follower as long as he can make him do his bidding. And that will be his undoing: it requires only a minor weakening of the bonds (with Runecarver/Primus’ help) for Anduin to break his new bonds and restore himself in full, uncorrupted self.
I enjoyed all the nods to Arthas though :) A passer-by Uther, an iconic consumption of the key (and Archon’s soul?) by the runeblade, the general palette of a gold/blue champion of Light swapped to the bleak undead colors, were all good.
Archon’s fate? It’s unclear if she’s dead yet. If she is, we have an Yrel situation here. For those unfamiliar with Kyrian/Bastion campaign, Blizzard were rapidly building Kleia character in the manner of the draenei acolyte in WoD, and she’s a likely new Archon if Kyresthia really kicked the bucket.
Jailer and His Keys
The most questioned part to me now is the “keys”. Yes, it’s crystal clear that Pantheon chained Zovaal/Jailer in the Maw using their combined powers, and it requires four of them to break him free and do his “plan” whatever it might be. Yet, why on Earth “three keys remain”?! Obviously, the keys are carried by the Covenant leaders. Anduin nicked one, that’s fine. But, but! Shouldn’t Jailer already have another two? Denathrius should have given it to him willingly, as a crowned traitor, and Primus is captured, do whatever you please to him to extract it. That’s weirdm and we’ll need to learn more – I hope that this plot hole is explained in the game.
Onto the next parts of this juicy patch – it all looks very great.
First of all, Blizzard intends to breathe life into the Maw – partly by plot and partly by players hating it so far. Mounts in the Maw – check, and that change alone would make it 50% better. Covenant footholds – amazing, this is what we lacked, and hopefullly they’ll also be scattered across the terrain to ease the travel – but most importantly, to have some rest and resurrection hubs. There will be a new story which makes it worth visiting, and the new location Korthia – think Broken Shore, Argus, Nazjatar, whatever, which is always super welcome just for a change of scenery, but also story, achievements, new faction, secrets, world bosses and what not.
The New Mega-Dungeon: Tazavesh
I did Mechagon before its heroic version, and it felt (and was) actually a raid for 5 people. I did it only once – properly, on Mythic group, for story and achievement – and never been there ever since. I think it’s gonna be the same with Tazavesh now. It’s definitely worth seeing to me, because Brokers, a rip-off the Arabian bazaar theme (all their hilarious accents and vibe), will be extremely fun to deal with, and I won’t wait until it’s nerfed to group finder and heroic. Yet I’ll put off the fun of farming the exotic goods to later expansions.
The New Raid: Sanctum of Domination
Blizzard have announced a lot of bosses already, and it’s surprising how so many lieutenants we already know about are to be slain that fast. Kel’Thuzad, Sylvanas (and obviously the Maw version of Nathanos as a separate or part of Sylvanas boss), Eye of Jailer (which is the missing Eye of Odyn, tie in Helya), Tarragrue – this is an extreme collection of well-known villains we rarely see in raid. Have you left anything for the final patch, guys? :)
Flying s gonna be unlocked in basic zones, and as promised, there’s no rep requirement. From what I’ve heard in the presentation, we will only need to reach Renown cap (with added levels in the patch, no doubt), and that’s it?
As I said before, I don’t mind weaving in exploration of all the former and future zones, but please, please, no treasure/rare hunts! It’s even harder in Shadowlands, because too many of them have special requirements to summon or reach them.
Gameplay Systems and Miscellaneous
Ion says that they’re happy to have a strong foundation that does not need a massive overhaul, and I agree. Conduits, Soulbinds, Legendaries and all the crap work pretty well imo, allowing devil-may-care, put a cube in a cube-shaped hole attitude for casuals like myself (and still making a character stronger!), or min-maxing for competitive players. Obviously there will be tweaks and new stuff coming, but at least there’s nothing to change drastically and no exploring of new slotpanels.
Visuals for collectors are really, really great. While Covenant armor sets are fine but not too stunning (gotta catch them all though!), the mounts were really breathtaking. I can’t wait to grab all the riding options both from Maw/Korthia and the Covenant rides!
The patch 9.1. looks very strong as a content update. and there’s a lot of stuff to do for everyone. Blizzard surprised me considering story development once again – but this time by the speed of said development. I’d say that now there’s a great chance that we will see only two major patches in Shadowlands. Patch 9.1. takes the story where it takes, and Patch 9.2. will conclude the arc, because we are supposed to kill all Jailer’s lieutenants already in Chains of Domination, leaving just him to deal with. And it’s good, because as fun as this vacation might be, it’ll feel well to get back on Azeroth or another planet where we can have proper villages, towns, rivers and… seashores, that’s what I miss the most.
Shadowlands 9.1. Chains of Domination Release Date?
SoonTM. PTR is about to start asap, and this time it’s gonna be mostly story content, bug and raid testing. I’d say that 9.1. is going live about May-June, which will make it last for 5-7 months, and then we get a final patch for 9-12 months of farming Jailer before the next expansion drop in November 2022.
Obviously, we will wait for the next expansion announcement this fall.
Yet there’s no hurry, as there’s a massive amount of anima awards to farm, and more are likely coming.
P.S. Oh yes, I’m so hyped!