World Of Warcraft: Shadowlands – Beyond The Universe’s Story

World of Warcraft has come a long way ever since it’s launch back in 2004. I remember that when I stumbled upon Warcraft III, not only was I hooked up to the game, but also with the story itself. Ever since then I became highly interested, perhaps a little obsessed even, with the events of the overall story and all of its branches. With Shadowlands, we’re entering for the first time in an unknown creative territory. If you look at the time of the Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne expansion, there are mentions of a lot of places and even planets that later on, we got to see and visit throughout the MMORPG.

We saw events occurring in the main continents of Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms. We visited Outland, the home world of the Orcs previously known as Dreanor, and much later on, Draenor as it was before it shattered due to Nerzhul’s fel magic. Then we moved on to Northrend and ended the Lich King’s reign… Sort of. When Deathwing reemerged we visited some unveiled parts of the old continents, as well as the Elemental Plane of Earth, Air and Fire, leaving Neptulon’s plane a little out of sight. After turning the Aspect of Death to dust, the heroes of the Horde and the Alliance moved to Pandaria and uncovered a Titan facility and the remains of an Old God, surprisingly ending the expansion in the Horde’s capital city of Orgrimmar. Afterwards, with an attack coming from the past, the heroes went back in time to Draenor before the corruption of the Orcish clans and ultimately thwarted their threat, where Thrall ended Garrosh’s life but in the end, Gul’dan managed to escape to Azeroth with Archimonde’s help before perishing.

With all the knowledge from the Burning Legion, Gul’dan activated a portal in the Tomb Of Sargeras, (visited in the Warcraft III. The Frozen Throne expansion), and initiated yet another invasion of the Burning Legion onto Azeroth. Although the conflict ranged across all of Azeroth, most continents suffered only skirmishes and the conflict was mainly based in the Broken Isles, where the Horde and the Alliance joined efforts with the mages of Dalaran to come up with a plan to halt the Burning Legion’s advance. Not only did we put a stop to the Burning Legion’s assault on Azeroth, but we also assaulted the Draenei / Eredar homeworld. In Argus, we revived the Pantheon and supposedly, Sargeras became imprisoned by them, with Illidan keeping him in check. I’m quite curious as to what happened afterwards because, they did practically the same thing with the Lich King, Arthas died, but the Lich King continued to exist to be used later on…

Then we’re back to Azeroth where the Horde and the Alliance ignite a war across the continents, burning Teldrassil to the ground and Undercity becoming a blighted hole, and while gathering new allies, we stumble upon Kul’tiras and Zandalar and later on, on Nazjatar, the last remaining places left to be shown, that were referred in the Warcraft lore and where key events had happened plus a lot of crucial figures hailed from them as well. The Horde and the Alliance bolstered their ranks with amazing allies, cleared a Titan facility of the corruption of the Old Gods, waged war against one another, tackled Azshara and her Naga, ultimately releasing N’zoth but putting and end to the Old God’s plans once and for all with the help of the Heart of Azeroth and fully reviving the planet from the damage caused by Sargeras’ hit on the planet, where Silithus was completely annihilated.

Everything mentioned so far within the game, was either visited in a way or another, and now, we get to trample on to another plane of existence. Being that the forces of divided into six categories, being them:

  • Life
  • Death
  • Shadow
  • Light
  • Order
  • Disorder

Shadowlands actually portrays to be the realm of Death, rather than Shadow, where supposedly the Void lords hail from, alongside the amalgamations of flesh that we call as Old Gods. So this is actually a first time since, practically ever, in the Warcraft universe, where Blizzard could actually start from scratch since there were practically no previous mentions about the realm and its denizens whatsoever. And I must say, that I’m quite happy with how the story is going on for now! Stay tuned, this will include spoilers, theory crafting and an analysis to the overall game, but mostly aiming for the story here!

Synopsis

After leaving her position as Warchief of the Horde, Sylvanas Windrunner visits Icecrown Citadel once again, but now far stronger than before. Atop the Frozen Throne, she faces Bolvar Fordragon, the man cursed with the Lifebinder’s flame who took the weight of the Helm of Domination after Arthas perished against Tirion Fording and Azeroth’s heroes. She defeated the current Lich King and shattered the Helm of Domination, creating a link between Azeroth and the Shadowlands, more precisely, the Maw. With agents of the Jailer having taken some of the Horde’s and the Alliance’s most important figures, the Heroes of Azeroth are then tasked to brave through the veil and march into the Shadowlands alongside Darion Mograine and the Knights of the Ebon Blade to rescue their leaders.

Analysis

Although reviewing Shadowlands is not the same as reviewing World of Warcraft in its entirety, there are still quite a few things to mention. To keep things organized I’ll divide this review into three categories:

  • PvE – Where I’ll mention the current state of the game for raiding, dungeons and general stuff to complete in the game, either daily or weekly.
  • PvP – I always always fond of PvP in any game, although I cannot say that I’m actually experienced in this area, as I pretty much never did Rated BGs, and I only went so far as 1550/1750 in 2s and 3s.
  • Story – What actually matters most to me and the main reason why I play this game for so long.

So without further adue, let’s start with the PvE!

PvE

The leveling experience is certainly good! And I mean, the experience of getting to enjoy all the elements of the game, rather than flying through the content, while skipping dialogue, events and even cinematics like the raiding fanatics did on launch. We get to visit the realms of the Shadowlands and slowly become aware of what its denizens have been through in the recent time, unfolding events that will change the realms of Bastion, Maldraxxus, Ardenweald and Revendreath, permanently. The pace felt adequate and to the point, where hardly the player will feel the need to check on a determined quest to progress through the campaign. The same has been done for some previous expansions, but I must point out that it was wise to use only a portion of the map for the campaign quests, rather than the whole of them, when I was done with the expansion I felt like I had only a glimpse of the maps and that felt good because I had a reason to go back and explore some more, either for the achievements or for the World Quests.

As for the activities, it’s basically more of the same chores. So far I only raided in LFR and completed 3 bosses in Normal. But I’d say the raiding environment continues the same, and for the bosses that I did, I particularly liked Lady Inerva Darkvein. It’s surprising how Blizzard still comes up with interesting ideas for boss fights after so many encounters designed over the years. Still, the Raiding environment did not change from previous expansions and as such, is still the same thing that it has been, where a large group of players group together to face an encounter to play it out through the rules that it has established, which in my opinion, is a high investment of time for little chance of reward, which is mainly gear, and of course, if you’re in a high-end raiding guild, the mount that the final boss awards and the extra phase during the encounter in the hardest difficulty. To me, it really isn’t an incentive to dump so many hours into wiping night after night. I’ve raided a lot before, even when there were mythic difficulties and there’s only an extremely percentage of people who get to clear that, because it is clearly an extreme environment where everything has to be played perfectly. I’m not an excellent player, truth be told, but to most people I think they’ll get discouraged from wasting so many hours, patience and effort for the current rewards that there are.

Castle Nathria the first Raid Tier of the Shadowlands Expansion.

Mythic Dungeons however, feel challenging and you can do them on your own pace with a group of five. As you increase the level of difficulty, the dungeons get even more afixes which will add yet another condition that will make it even harder to progress through them. Although somewhat repetitive as well since there are eight dungeons. The progress through their levels isn’t that much overwhelming compared to raids, because it takes a lot less time and logistics to tackle this part of the game, and the rewards are pretty much the same while compared to raiding, depending at which level you manage to complete of course. Again, I didn’t ramp through the levels in this category yet, as I only complete the weekly quests, but so far my threshold to do them is much higher than pursuing raiding.

As for the other activities, they involve the usual rep grinds, either by completing World Quests, the past Emissaries which are now called Callings, which not always have the same objectives as completing World Quests on an area. Now it also goes for a specific World Quest or Rare/Treasure Hunting. There’s also some dailies to do depending on the Covenant that you chose, and also another batch of them in the Maw, a zone where we’re not allowed to mount, where some areas are quite dangerous to travel alone. Besides the Covenant Campaign, which week by week we get one chapter of it, there’s still Torghast. And at first, Torghast was extremely difficult. I reached level 5 alone, but then I grouped with a friend to clear level 6 and 7 and it was very, very hard. But later I found out, that with a normal dungeon group, we could just “faceroll” through it, and so it was. First time I went to a level 8 we didn’t even die once. We just blasted through it like we were a hot knife cutting through butter. So it went from the most difficult content that I experienced in this expansion, to the easiest one. This is the piece of content where we gather the itens to craft the legendaries, so at first I was really intrigued by the difficulty, as we had to prepare each pull carefully and plan ahead on the animas used to increase our powers… But then, I just became aware that I could easily storm through all of it with a normal dungeon group, with a Tank, a Healer and the rest as DPS.

PvP

The PvP, for once, I find it to be interesting. In Arena, of course. Because in Battlegrounds the mechanics of them are simply abused by the classes that benefit of them the most, and… There’s no healing dampening there. To me, there should be no dedicated healers in PvP, but now at least, if I find them out in the open and I can lock them up in their casting, with my cool-downs popped, they’re just get nuked up unto space! So at least, now I have a chance to get them down. I still find ridiculous that hybrid classes still manage to deal a lot of damage, and a lot of healing as well. Feral/Balance Druids, Shadow Priests and Retribution Paladins deal a crap ton of damage, in their due right, but the healing they do, most of it instantly, is just obnoxious. You know, there’s defensive cool-downs and a healer here and there, but damn, you’re at 10% hp and then all of a sudden you’re back to 80% and rising? Doesn’t seem fair to me. Did you know that Paladins back in Wrath of the Lich King were able to use Divine Shield and later, or even before, could use Lay on Hands… On themselves? It’s like you were fighting Super Mario on mushroom steroids, you had to clear 3 or 4 health bars before he could actually die!

Sadly I’m very inexperienced on Rated Battlegrounds and I still don’t know how it is to play them. I’m pretty sure a lot changes in the maps in comparison to Random Battlegrounds, but I believe the game must be played really tight with an amount between 2-3 healers per raid group and some stealth strategies to defend points or killing the Enemy Flag Carrier. However, in Random Battlegrounds the experience will probably be very volatile, with some games proving to be practically one-sided, where easy victories will taste like nothing at all, while overwhelming defeats will take out the will to play in you, which in a game shouldn’t be the case, much less so in a game with a subscription fee.

Story

Now for the good stuff! Alright, so Sylvanas Windrunner was the maestro for the opera of destruction that ensued after the confrontation in Argus, and that culminated with Azeroth being grievously wounded by Sargeras after his imprisonment by the Titan Pantheon and Illidan Stormrage, all of the locked up together, containing both forces of Order and Disorder. But the events that led to such things were already in action much before that trigger point, and various ones at that.

By this point in time, we already know that the Lich King, or at least Frostmourne and the Helm of Domination, came from the Jailer and its maker, the Runecarver. Whatever link it had with Kil’jaeden as he launched it over to Azeroth, we do not know, but it’s a fact that it was indeed the Burning Legion Lieutenant that fused the Helm with Ner’zhul’s soul. Although I’m still not aware of what the Lich King’s purpose was, under the Jailer’s command. Now moving a little backwards in time, have you crossed the words Nathrazim and Nathria as in, Castle Nathria? Would it be strange to consider that the Nathrazim are Venthyr of some sorts, sent by Denathrius to do his bidding under the Jailer’s command throughout the various planes of existence? There’s a letter addressed to Sire Denathrius, reporting the results of various espionage efforts, indicating successful infiltrations in various factions across the cosmic factions like the Voidlords and even the Light. There’s also a hint that they’re in fact, responsible to turn Sargeras against the Pantheon. The writer of such letter also hinted that they managed to infiltrate the Light, and with it, the realm of Life as well, a Lifelands so to speak. Lothraxion, the Nathrazim infused with the Light, and part of the Army of the Light and even a Paladin Order Hall follower during the Legion expansion, could very well be that one agent referred in the letter. The following video explains how Denathrius set his agents across the cosmos to find and exploit the weaknesses of other Cosmic Forces in order to conquer them.

There’s a video that I totally recommend and it shows a lot of unconfirmed theory, although it makes a lot of sense, due to the chronological nature of the events passed before. I’ll leave it down below.

Even with the Jailer’s subtle manipulation into nullifying both forces of Order and Disorder by locking them up together, the catalyst that triggered his rise, could very well be the soul of Argus, which when met with the Arbiter, did something to her that made her lie dormant, and then the souls stopped being judged and went directly to the Maw, fueling the Jailer’s realm, thus causing the Anima draught on Bastion, Maldraxxus, Ardenweald and Revendreath, although this last one was simply a machination of Sire Denathrius to ration it, while the other realms, Bastion and Ardenweald suffered from it the most.

Now, by the beginning of Legion, we also uncover in Shadowlands that it was Mueh’zala, the Loa of Death dethroned by Bwonsamdi, the responsible for misleading Vol’jin to name Sylvanas the Warchief of the Horde, which later led her to have the power to fuel the Maw with the souls of the mortals who perished during the Fourth War. Now keep in mind, Sylvanas had probably whispers of the Jailer already by the time of Legion, as she ran through Stormheim on her quest to subdue Eyir and through her, earn more ranks to her army. She failed, but… she was the crucial point, to rid Azeroth from the forces of the Void, by leading us to Azshara, and in doing so, freeing N’zoth and ultimately putting an end to the last remaining Old God on Azeroth. Thus clearing a path for the Jailer to claim the most powerful World Soul to himself, granting him the power to become pretty much invincible… Probably.

However, what we’re left to uncover, is exactly why the Jailer needs Anduin to become, is it a new Lich King? What was the blue stone he used to imbue the mourneblade? Could it be Varian’s soul? Does he need Anduin to be a conduit of the Light, just like Arthas was? They do have that in similar! I just wonder if there’s any other reason to have Anduin serve the Jailer on his own will, or if it’s simply Sylvanas’ own wish to do so for personal matters.

Now onto the story that was already unfolded!

I’m marveled as to how Blizzard created a whole after life for the souls of Warcraft! It’s so… Harmonious… In theory of course! If you’re noble, disciplined and correct, the Arbiter will send your soul to Bastion, where you can overcome your memories and ascend as one of the Kyrian. If I’m not mistaken, I believe the Kyrian and Bastion are inspired in Greek culture, as the names, architecture and even the cloths, armor and weapons do resemble to be of Greek origin. I was surprised to see Uther to be an agent of change this time around. He was always so immobile in his way of thinking. I guess the change to his character came while during the time where he reflected and meditated about what happened to him, his order and his kingdom, and he just couldn’t let it go. Angry with his fate, he contaminated Devos, the Paragon of Loyalty, and together they created the Forsworn to depose the Archon and rule Bastion while keeping the memories of their past lives.

If you led a life of battle and carnage, you will probably go to Maldraxxus where you will find endless battle for all eternity, and if you’re strong enough, perhaps find a place among the five houses… Before they turned to infighting ending up in destroying two of them almost entirely. With the remaining houses in league with one another, Draka and Alexandros Mograine lead a desperate battle against them at the Seat of the Primus after the Maw Walker recovered the Primus blade. As for the Primus himself… He’s long gone from this realm… There are suspicions that he might be the Runecarver in Torghast, as the Primus is referred in Maldraxxus to be the best Blacksmith ever to walk upon the Shadowlands. The Primus created the five houses so that they would be the best defensive mechanism of the Shadowlands, but instead, during this chaotic time, they were led to fight among themselves. The House of Eyes and Plagues had just fallen before the Maw Walkers arrived in the Shadowlands, leaving only the House of Rituals, Constructs and Chosen left, or at least with some kind of leadership ruling them, while the other houses had their bases decimated. Later on the campaigns, it is known that the Lich, Kel’thuzad is behind the conspiracy that set the Houses to each other’s throats, when he is compromised, the Lich is defeated but is timely saved by the Mawsworn, upon a line declaring that his purpose had been fulfilled and that he was to return to his master.

Now, if you were a noble spirit, a servant of nature, you will be sent to Ardenweald, where eventually, you may even resurrect back to life as you once were. Now we know what kind of journey Cenarius went through after Grom Hellscream killed him. Cenarius returned to Mount Hyjal at the Gates of Sothann to fight Ragnaros and the Cult of the Twilight Hammer during the Cataclysm. It’s funny, that even in the realm of death, life flourishes anew. This the realm where Loa and Wild Gods come to when they die. It’s curious though, I was not expecting to see Ysera there, since she was previously a protodrake that was blessed by the one of the Pantheon’s titans, Eonar. It was certainly great to watch her being reborn! But there’s something even more spectacular happening in Ardenweald, the Mawwalkers save Hireek, Shadra and Ashamane from the Maw but also… Vol’jin becomes infused with the essence of Rezan and is granted a chance to be reborn in Ardenweald… I guess we will be seeing more of the Darkspear Shadow Hunter some time later on! Still on a last note, remember that the Winterqueen called Ysera, her sister’s pet… Could it be Elune, or could it be Eonar? Which one would make more sense? I’m certainly more inclined to Elune because, there’s certainly a connection between Ardenweald and something that is related to life, or the “Lifelands” to be exact. To be reborn surely means to have life and with Eonar, even with the title as Lifebinder, I don’t think it to be the case because of how Argus was slain and his very soul altered the Arbiter. The Titans would probably have never crossed paths with any of the inhabitants of the Shadowlands, since they are bound there. I believe it’s Elune, because not only is Elune a Goddess with Holy Powers and which grants the power of the Light to the Nightelves, but she’s also the supposed mother of Cenarius, whom Malorne is the father, and Ysera alongside Malorne raised Cenarius in Kalimdor. Still I’m pretty divided, but that’s what I’m inclined for.

Then, mostly based of the Seven Deadly Sins, if you’re prideful or envious for example, you’re sent to Revendreath, where the Venthyr will gladly show you the path to humility and shred some anima out of your soul as you atone for your sins. Souls here may also take ages to repent, but when deem-able unworthy to do so, they will definitely be thrown to the Maw. As you are aware, Sire Denathrius later reveals himself to be in league with the Jailer after fending off not only one rebellion, but two against Prince Renathal and his insurgents, which to me, was kinda anticlimactic, seeing as everything we went through to reach Denathrius, Renathal was bested without the Sire lifting his hand whatsoever. Still, the Renathal and his loyalists survived after the Sire unleashed a cascade of Anima towards the Maw. Then, if you choose the Venthyr Covenant like I did, we start a base in Sinfall and we gather our allies once more, recovering the medallions from the Harvesters, where ultimately, considering the events so far, we will merge all of them into a singular weapon for later use in the campaign. Surely not against Denathrius since at this point in time, he was already bested and imprisoned. My idea is that this weapon, alongside the blade of the Primus, and perhaps Ysera as well, will play their part in the next patch of the Shadowlands. Not really sure what Bastion has to offer, but I’m sure there will be something from the Kyrian as well!

And finally, if you’re deemed completely irredeemable of atonement, you’re then sent into the Maw, where you will suffer for all eternity for the acts that you committed in your life. However, we discover that the Jailer had tried to carry on his own agenda before, as he conducted an insurgency against the Pantheon of Death and their purpose. However, the Eternal Ones joined forces and proved to be superior against Zovaal and banished him for all eternity. Although it seems to know if Denathrius actually aligned in this directly or not, and also how Zovaal was able to break free from his bonds. It seems that ever since Sylvanas was brought to life by the Valkyr in Icecrown, that she had the Jailer’s whisper in her ear, and has been acting towards his goals ever since. The story seems to go around the creation of a new Lich King, with Anduin being its only candidate. There are a lot of similarities between him and Arthas, although Anduin is a lot wiser than he was at the time, as to what purpose he needs a new Lich King, it’s still unknown, we know that Zovaal helds Bolvar as a failure because he resisted his command, but as to what purpose does an Eternal One need a new Lich King? With the amount of anima that the Jailer has at his disposal at the time, what could Anduin do as a Lich King that Zovaal himself couldn’t? Probably something back in Azeroth but still, not enough of a hassle to for something like his predecessor… Perhaps an incursion in the supposed Lifelands? Perhaps…

TL;DR

All in all, Shadowlands sets out to be a solid expansion. I’m pretty happy with the story, mythic dungeons and the PvP so far, as they feel quite accessible and simple to follow.

For the raiding scenario, my feelings remain the same. I know it’s been there for years and it will probably continue to go as much, but still… It’s too much of a hassle to get into. It’s a lot of time invested for quite the lack of reward besides relevant gear. I do get the enjoyment people get from them, but to me, raiding while progressing through it is pretty much unnecessary and I don’t feel one tidy bit to do it besides clearing the raid in normal difficulty to see how it plays out.

I’m definitely looking forward for the end of the Covenant Campaigns and where all of this will lead us in the next patch! This was without a doubt one of my extensive reviews but I’m quite happy for writing it. Perhaps I’ll pick up the Night of Dragon this next Quarantine week and make a review of it as well.

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