World of Warcraft players have not been shy about claiming the game's best days are more than a decade in the past, but Shadowlands proves there's still plenty of life left in the grandaddy of MMOs.
While we still have plenty left to experience, here's what we think of WoW Shadowlands so far.
Big Changes Behind The Scenes
While there's still plenty of content to come from WoW Shadowlands, with its first raid Castle Nathria, first PVP season, and first Mythic+ Dungeons launching on 8 December, there's a lot to talk about already.
Loot chests have been widely criticized by World of Warcraft players for its RNG elements and unfavourable outcomes for players.
With this in mind, Blizzard reworked the system with The Great Vault to smooth out this randomness and give players more options to progress their gear.
This customization means players can get massive items in their Great Vault each week by engaging with PVP, Mythic Dungeons, or Raid content. And instead of empowering their choices only with each bit of progression, players add relevant choices to their Great Vault each week by completing more of these different areas of content.
The Great Vault is finally active in Shadowlands as of 8 December, but its first opening will happen on 15 December.
As it stands, it looks like The Great Vault is a massive positive for WoW Shadowlands, offering more diverse pathways to gear up, and giving players incentives to go outside of their comfort zones.
A Whole New Level
The levelling experience in any MMORPG can be the defining factor of the game. World of Warcraft's levelling has always been a tough balance between beautiful worldbuilding, storytelling, grinding, and more.
Some WoW expansions have gotten things wrong, but Shadowlands is not one of them. The WoW Shadowlands levelling experience is fantastic, and one of its strongest aspects so far.
Bouncing from the many unique and engaging zones in The Shadowlands feels less like a line and more like a gripping story where players engage with four unique and interesting Covenants.
Players choosee between these four Covenants and a home zone at the end of the levelling experience, making everything feel consequential and personal.
Each Covenant has some great writing and stand on their own as a viable choice.
The Kyrian of Bastion has an enthralling storyline that slowly unfurls with a perfect pace to reveal a dark underbelly to what seems like the perfect world.
The Night Fae of Ardenweald has perhaps the most beautiful zone we've seen in years and fantastic writing that mixes comedic timing with tense emotional moments.
The Necrolords of Maldraxxus has a fast-paced action-heavy plot of war and treason that keep players engaged in the massive conflicts.
And the Venthyr of Revendreth has a uniquely twisted and political storyline consisting of misinformation, treachery, and world-ending implications.
Each results in new Covenant abilities, too, tying gameplay possibilities and lore together.
While the Threads of Fate experience could use some redoing, this is only a minor aspect of the Shadowlands levelling journey, this is post-campaign content and can be sidestepped entirely.
That Damned Tower
Torghast, Tower of the Damned is a brand new PVE experience in WoW Shadowlands that will shake up how this content is done in the future.
This roguelike style activity offers something wholly unique to World of Warcraft, and it's a breath of fresh air.
The setup is simple – players enter Torghast in hopes of grinding important weekly resources and build out their character with tons of random skill rewards and abilities via Anima Powers. Each floor includes some randomly generated pieces, which make it incredibly rewarding and challenging all the same.
Torghast introduces plenty of strategy with groups working from 1 to 5 people, choices for different Anima Powers around every corner, and vendors to add more customization.
By not tasking players to be the fastest with a clock, and instead limiting players in Torghast by death count, Shadowlands pushes an engaging and immersive roguelike experience that players can take at their own pace.
Torghast may end up being the best new addition to the World of Warcraft series.
It's not the only hefty new PvE content, either. Dungeons in Shadowlands are varied, offering a wide range of experiences, settings, and stories.
These dungeons also feature a good mashup of mechanics, ranging from the most simple of 'tank and spank' fights to the more intense raid-like content, balancing massive group-wiping abilities on a dime (looking at you, Mueh'zala).
While WoW Shadowlands Mythic+ dungeons are coming 8 December, so there's plenty more to see, dungeons are already in a great spot.
One of the most underserved player bases of World of Warcraft's history is its PvP audience, but Shadowlands offers somewhat of a mea culpa in that regard.
Shadowlands brings back PvP vendors, Honor and Conquest point/gearing systems, PvP gear upgrades, and scales the cost of gear to be more accessible.
While the first WoW Shadowlands PVP season starts on 8 December, things are looking promising on the PVP side.
World PVP has been improved with War Mode separating groups that want to engage with it and those that don't, as well as quests that incentivize players to look for Shadowlands PvP.
At times it feels like damage is too high, which was a problem for the Shadowlands pre-patch, but we expect this will be tuned throughout the expansion with gear.
WoW Shadowlands has plenty more to offer over its lifetime, and tons of content is just around the corner.
For this reason, this WoW Shadowlands review is still in progress.
Check back in as we update this Shadowlands review to cover the massive new content - including the first raid, Castle Nathria, its first PVP season, Mythic+ dungeons, and more.