World of Warcraft: Shadowlands, the point of the situation

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands, the point of the situation
The sudden postponement of World of Warcraft: Shadowlands may be the lowest point, but also the highest, that the controversial management of Blizzard has reached in recent years. This might sound like a crazy statement, but those who have played the Beta version of the expansion can assure you that this is not the case. For a company like (Activision) Blizzard that for years has made perfection its bulwark in game development, postponing a long-awaited title within weeks of its release is certainly a very bold move. And there was no "Soon ™" that held, this time: a slogan, if you will, with which the Californian developer used to date the launches of his titles. "Presto ™", yes, but only when they are ready. Of course, opinions on the content can vary from person to person, but denying that Blizzard titles were an example of polish and cleanliness would be unfair.

Well, the eighth expansion of World of Warcraft was about to arrive in all the homes of the subscribers in less than finished or clean condition. Complicated by the health problems that have plagued the whole world, and in particular the United States, but also a series of defections and second thoughts that have weakened the organizational fabric of the Irvine company in recent times, the Beta client of Shadowlands lent the side to a series of problems that the testers did not fail to report, worried that the developers risked putting on the market a product that did not meet the standards they have accustomed us to. Between bugs, crashes and flawed balances, Shadowlands could have been the first misstep in the long history of the MMORPG. So Blizzard took a step back, postponed the launch until a later date, apologized to its fans, promised to smooth out any rough edges and released the all-important preliminary patch, or Pre-Patch as it is called.

Let's recap: What is Shadowlands?

Shadowlands is the eighth expansion of World of Warcraft. It continues the story begun in the most recent expansions and focuses on the hunt for Sylvanas Windrunner, former Warchief of the Horde who has holed up in the Shadowlands, essentially the afterlife of this fantasy universe, after having torn the veil that separates the world of the living. from that of the dead. To do this, Sylvanas defeated the Lich King, then Bolvar Dragonbomb, and smashed the powerful artifact that gave him the powers, the Helmet of Ner'zhul: this opened a passage above the Icecrown, but also dealt a severe blow to the balance in the Terretetre.

The souls that once flowed into the different Congregations in which the afterlife is divided on the basis of their actions in life are now absorbed by the Fauce, the abyss destined for the most miserable of sinners, an eternal nightmare on reigned by the mysterious Jailer. As if that weren't enough, Sylvanas also captured the leaders of the Alliance and the Horde, plunging the two factions that had reached a temporary truce to face their common enemy into chaos.

a World of Warcraft veteran, Shadowlands' incipit should induce a vague feeling of déjà-vu. A former Warchief, hunted by both the Horde and the Alliance, escapes to another dimension and causes a lot of trouble: when did we hear it before? In 2014, it was the opening of Warlords of Draenor, another expansion that began with Garrosh Hellscream escaping into the past and changing the course of events, forcing players to hunt him down in an alternate timeline. The story of Shadowlands would seem to follow a proven script, in short, that the community has not embraced with great enthusiasm, but which nevertheless could reserve many surprises for lovers of the complicated mythology of World of Warcraft. Almost like a victory lap, the excursion into the Shadowlands will allow the writers to fish out some famous characters we thought we said goodbye, grafting them into the new storyline in a sensible and engaging way, starting with Uther the Lightbringer and Kael'thas Solealto.

It remains to be understood what role Sylvanas will play, who for some time now seems to be pursuing a plan of her own, and what is the identity of the puppeteer who is manipulating everything and everyone. The bets are open and many veterans only hope that it is not the very famous Arthas Menethil: Blizzard, moreover, has no qualms in exhuming popular villains - such as Illidan Grantempesta in Legion - to hit the heart of the most hardcore fans of the franchise. Lack of courage and creativity or the desire to focus on winning fanservice? Surely it is too early to say - also because in Beta the storylines were almost all truncated to save advances - and Shadowlands will have at least a two-year life cycle to deal with, but that the new expansion is very derivative is evident.

We discussed it in depth in our previous preview, which we recommend you read to learn more about all the news in terms of gameplay and content; however, an old adage says "team that wins, you don't change" and it seems that Blizzard has brought back all the best mechanics of the previous expansions. In short, let's go back to the paradox: despite everything, Shadowlands could be an excellent expansion de facto ... we just don't know yet when we will play it.

The Pre-Patch

For those who don't Whether he knew it or was new to the mechanics of World of Warcraft, the Pre-Patch is a major update that precedes the launch of an expansion and usually brings major changes to the game's structure. In a way it is a moment of celebration, which follows a more or less long period of transition in which the game remains to "decant" for a few months, waiting for Blizzard to complete the development of the expansion. This means that the Pre-Patch often signals the introduction of new content that is also worth renewing your account, if you suspended a few months earlier when support and publication of relevant updates is slowed down or completely stopped. The changes made by the Pre-Patch can be of a particular or more general nature; they usually contemplate the introduction of a limited-time event that involves all players and paves the way for the expansion to come out on the narrative front.

In the new Pre-Patch, for example, the event is titled Impending Death and sees the Scourge spreading again throughout Azeroth following the destruction of the Dominion Helmet that allowed Bolvar to control it: for this reason , players will face a new invasion of the Undead and must establish an outpost in the Icecrown, in Northrend, where they will be gradually introduced to the Shadowlands storyline.

The Pre-Patch also touches up many items and mechanics of game. It, for example, turned off the effects of Corruption on equipment that was marked with this feature, implemented in one of the latest updates of 2019, and made some changes to the Heart of Azeroth, the legendary amulet on which it focused a lot. part of the vertical progression during Battle for Azeroth. These changes were introduced to simplify the game at higher levels and reset, in a sense, the status quo ahead of the race for the new level cap in Shadowlands. For this same reason, if you are old players, we strongly suggest you study the official patch notes and all the news related to the various classes: some have been profoundly changing, others a little less, but in general, as always happens at start of a new expansion, you will have to deal with several changes that some players will appreciate and others will not.

Starting to play with the Pre-Patch

One of the questions we have been reading the most these days is: does it make sense to start playing World of Warcraft right now? Many potential players fear confrontation with an MMORPG that hit level 120 in the seventh expansion, and we can't blame them. The Pre-Patch, however, answers the above question in the clearest way: yes, this is the best time to start a character in World of Warcraft, if only because the progression system has been completely revised. The maximum level that can be reached before Shadowlands is released is no longer 120, but 50: Blizzard has in fact "compressed" numbers and statistics to make them more intuitive, simplify progression and, at the same time, speed it up. At the same time, this choice emphasizes each new level reached, making it more meaningful thanks to the continuous learning of spells and skills that stimulate the curiosity and interest of the players.

Even the first steps move differently already. in the character creation screen: the interface is now more refined and full of options, which include a greater number of distinctive signs, hairstyles and more. And if a player regrets how he created his character, he will no longer have to resort to paid services to change him in the future, as it is now possible to completely alter the appearance of the avatar in barbershops located in the city, including the chosen gender at the beginning of the game. Once the choice of class and race has been overcome, old players who have already reached level 50 (that is, 120) with another character will be able to choose whether to start the adventure as usual or start from a new area, called Island of Exile, which is instead mandatory for newbies. It is a playable prologue lasting about an hour that explains, through a fun storyline, the basics of the gameplay: the missions, the interaction with the environment, the movement, the combat.

Passed the Island of Exile - or the initial zone that distinguishes the race chosen for the character - and reached approximately level 10, the progression resumes directly from Battle for Azeroth with a scaling system. At this point, however, players who have at least one other character at level 50 will be able to choose whether to continue following the storyline of the previous expansion up to level 48 - the minimum level required to start Shadowlands - or participate in the so-called Time Travel Campaigns: speaking with Chromie in Stormwind or Orgrimmar it will be possible to choose the expansion in which to progress up to level 48. We really liked this solution, which scales the levels of the old areas and makes the leveling experience more cohesive and interesting. In the past, the reduction in experience points needed to progress was reduced from expansion to expansion, and players would end up whizzing between zones and storylines without absorbing them.

The World of Warcraft: Shadowlands Pre-Patch, in short, has refreshed a gaming experience that has remained stale for too many months, and awakened the interest of old and new players in the blockbuster Blizzard. For the guys from Irvine, the next few months will be challenging: they will have to come out with the expansion, first of all, and then show that they still have the numbers to make their mark on that MMORPG market that has dominated for many years and that today has become unrecognizable.

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