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Shadowlands has the potential to make World of Warcraft Great Again

During this expansion, the dissatisfaction of World of Warcraft players have grown by the day. The way we receive items can be compared to giving a spin on the slot machine at the casino and a lot of mechanics in the game feel like a chore instead of fun and engaging gameplay. During Blizzcon 2019, Blizzard announced Shadowlands, and thanks to the Deep Dive panel we have learned a lot about what’s in store for the game, and more importantly, what Blizzards vision is in the future. It seems that Blizzard wants to put the best of both Classic and Retail WoW into Shadowlands, making it the best version it can be.

So, what are the current downsides of Battle for Azeroth. The expansion still has millions of loyal and loving fans playing the game each day, but a lot of them are also voicing their concerns on the forums and through social media on certain mechanics in the game. These are mostly features that have creeped into the game and are perceived as normal now. These feature feel like chores that you have to do each day or week before you can actually play the game. It feels a little bit like your mom making you do your homework before you get to go and play. The World of Warcraft equivalent to this is doing World Quests, collecting Artifact Power, doing Island Expeditions, your weekly Mytic Plus, just to give some examples. This makes you feel like if you don’t do this chores, you are left behind from the rest of the group. This puts a lot of pressure on people, which shouldn’t be the case, especially when doing these chores isn’t that much fun. The journey has to be just as fun as the destination doesn’t only apply to leveling and endgame, it’s also important in the endgame itself. Doing stuff to get stronger, should just be as fun as being strong enough and doing cool stuff like raiding.

During the Blizzcon presentation, Ion Hazzikostas gave the perfect example. Each week, players do their Mythic+ to get a chest with a valuable item. The stats and which item you’ll get even, are completely random. The first weeks after release, these items can be of use to you, but after a while you’ll go from disappointment to disappointment, to a point in which you won’t even be excited to get an item. The chance of getting something you need is so small, and even then it has to have the right stats.

With the release of World of Warcraft Classic it became evident that players apparently did want they thought they wanted, even though Blizzard at first thought they didn’t. In classic you can get your weapons and items at your own pace, and they are always the same when you get them. If you get Bonereaver’s Edge, you’ll actually get the item. In BFA you get the item and still need to keep your fingers crossed to get the right stats from it. Getting an item in Classic feels way better than in BFA, and Blizzard seems to have learned from it, among other things.
One of the most important parts Ion mentioned in his presentation, is that they will tackle the way we get gear. Players will collect points on a weekly basis which they can turn in to get an item, an item of their choosing. Each week you get an upgrade and you decide which one it is. Blizzard first thought it would be boring for players to know which item they were going to get and that they could map out when they would get it, but apparently they changed their minds on that one. Players know what they want to get, and they can work towards it, without any slot machines being involved. This gives players a feeling of control and shows how far they have come in their journey. Even more importantly, they can show other players how much time and effort they have put in. In BFA a new player can, if he’s really lucky, have the same item or even better, than a player that has invested hundreds of hours.

Next to that, Shadowlands will ring in the return of Legendaries. This was a very prominent feature in Legion, the expansion that was critically acclaimed by many thanks to the enormous amount of content, updates and cool story elements. The Legendaries had some downsides to them, you guessed it already, THEY WERE RANDOM. In Shadowlands players can do quests in order to craft a Legendary item of their choosing, like players are doing right now in World of Warcraft Classic. No more slot machines, yay for crafting!

Next to that, professions will play a bigger part in Shadowlands. The feature got less and less important throughout the history of the game. Especially crafting professions got boring since they didn’t give any good stuff. Engineering is still cool, since the items you can get really add something to your experience, and the professions that give items for raids are still interesting, but that’s it. In Shadowlands, players get to decide with gems what stats will appear on an item, and if these items are of any use, this could be great for progression and shaping your character. If the items aren’t worth it though, the professions will neither, regardless of the fact that we can decide the stats on it.

The most important lesson that Blizzard learned from the Vanilla book, is the return of a big number of spells for classes and a new leveling system. Players are complaining for a long time now, that classes are easy and lack a certain form of identity. The classes look different and have different spells, but mostly feel the same, since the play styles do not differ that much from each other. Each class has a big spender that does damage, either AOE or single target, and the other spells are just filling up the time to charge up the spender. In Classic there was more identity, with for example mages, whom are very important to give everybody free food, Shadow Priests giving a buff so other players can do more damage, having a Warlock for certain fights and situations with banishes for example, and so on. The difference in classes and the special powers they had was prominently visible and most of all awesome. It seems that Blizzard wants that feeling to return. Old fan favorite spells will come back and Blizzard has said that some classes will see some big changes coming to them. We will learn more about that in the coming months.

Next to that, the leveling system got so long and stretched over multiple expansions and stories, that Blizzard decided to put in a level squish, all the way back to 60. It’s probably not a coincidence that this is the same amount as Classic, since Classic was an awesome test case for them. All level 120 players will go back to 50 and then will charge into the Shadowlands to level to 60. If you make a new character, you’ll level it to 10 in a new starting zone and then go to Chromie and choose one of the expansion to level to 50. You’ll experience the story of one entire expansion, instead of doing one zone in Pandaria and suddenly you are building a Garrison and staring Grommash in the eye. This made the story really vague at some points and really unfriendly towards new players.

The way your character will progress during this level will also change drastically compared to how it is nowadays. Again, Blizzard looked at Classic what makes it so awesome, and decided that players should feel stronger each time they gain a level. So, in Shadowlands you’ll get something cool each level. We are still getting the current talent system it seems, so what Blizzard means with each level has to be seen. We won’t be able to spend talent points, so we are very curious as to what we can expect on that front.

All in all this was quickly explained, not in too many detail, why we are excited for the announcements that were made during Blizcon. It’s good to see that Blizzard is listening to feedback from the community and that they are looking at why people are enjoying Classic so much. It is almost like Classic was a test case for them to see if people really liked it, and pull more people to retail. If the games are more similar in how it feels to play them, more people are inclined to switch between the two. I can already see myself playing PvP in Classic and doing tons of stuff in retail as well. The feeling that WoW gave us in Vanilla until somewhere at the end of Wrath of the Lich King, seems to be returning, and we can all be very happy about that.