World of Warcraft: Shadowlands, the proven: we have completed the initial campaign

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands, the proven: we have completed the initial campaign
This sort of superstition has been around for years in the World of Warcraft community that Blizzard hits a yes, no expansion. Shadowlands was supposed to fall into a positive cycle, and the developer of Irvine had a lot to be forgiven: the clumsy, indecisive management of the previous expansion, Battle for Azeroth, had ended up alienating even the most loyal players, especially because it is not managed to stay on the very high peaks reached by Legion a few years earlier. The problems of Blizzard in recent years, between defections and slips, have made us fear the worst and the long and troubled development of Shadowlands, then postponed to just a month from the release date initially set, was only partially justifiable with the general slowdown that the sector has had to deal with due to the pandemic. In a world where even a giant like Blizzard has had to give up contact with its community, sacrificing the annual BlizzCon, the conditions for a disappointing expansion were unfortunately around the corner. And instead...

The premise

The Shadowlands are the underworld of Warcraft, a supernatural realm we've rarely had anything to do with in the past, which is why Blizzard had to rework the mythology of franchise in order to make sense of the scenario in which the new expansion takes place. The story continues the one that began years ago when Sylvanas Windrunner began to freak out, which culminated in his clash with Bolvar Domadraghi in the transition from one expansion to another: the former Horde warlord defeated the Lich King and opened a gash in the Veil by breaking the Helmet of Dominion. Allied with a mysterious otherworldly entity calling itself the Jailer, Sylvanas had the leaders of the two factions - Thrall, Anduin, Jaina and Baine - kidnapped and imprisoned in the Maw: this dimension, which we have come to know in Legion, is literally the hell into which damned souls fall.

Escaped prodigiously from the clutches of the Jailer in the prologue of the expansion, we found ourselves in Oribos, the nerve center of the Darklands around which his kingdoms revolve: the Bastion, Maldraxxus, Selvarden and Revendreth. The situation is very serious. Sylvanas's gimmick not only joined two incompatible realities, but also allowed the Jailer to wage war on the Shadowlands that had exiled him, diverting the flow of Animum with which the kingdoms feed Oribos into the Maw: the afterlife is literally drying up, and this drought of spiritual energy has cracked the relationship between the kingdoms and their own keepers. It will therefore be our task to investigate what happened, discover the culprits behind the plot and also find a way to return to the Maw, free the leaders and maybe mate Sylvanas once and for all, just to be on the safe side.

The campaign

For Shadowlands, the Irvine guys have devised a different progression system than usual. Rather than inserting the main storyline out of the way into the macro-stories that characterize each region, thus allowing players to freely choose in which area to start or continue their experience, Blizzard has opted for a more rigid but decidedly more satisfying solution from the point of view. narrative. All players start from the same point and follow the same order, completing one after another the missions that make up the so-called campaign, now marked by a different icon than the one that indicates the secondary and completely optional missions. The latter are not necessarily located in the same hubs as the campaign, thus representing an excellent incentive to explore the gigantic maps in search of new challenges during progression or at the level cap reached. The campaign, in this sense, is enough and advances: you level up at a perhaps even excessive speed and you reach the maximum level (60) even before completing the subplot of the last zone.

The advantage of this solution lies in a much more cohesive, compelling and intriguing narrative. Although inextricably linked to the others and to the main storyline, each kingdom has its problems and the script takes us from one to the other in an organic and natural way. The leitmotif remains the same for good or bad - Animum's drought - but the plot thickens from kingdom to kingdom with the introduction of new characters, old acquaintances and puzzling revelations that enrich the rich mythology behind the Shadowlands: the credit is also and above all of a greater number of high-quality cinematics, together with the dubbed dialogues that often intervene even only to accompany the player in the moments of exploration between one mission and another, since the NPCs will frequently follow us here and there . There is some contradiction with the history of Warcraft we know, some gimmick that doesn't make a lot of sense for an afterlife like that of the Shadowlands, but the story works, and also well, especially in the form of a victory lap thanks to a large cast of old acquaintances returning to the stage in unexpected roles.

What struck us most about this campaign is the way it overturned our expectations in virtually every region. The Bastion, the starting area, is probably the most mundane of the four, although it is also extremely spectacular as an entrance ticket, with its endless golden fields under a brilliant blue and otherworldly sky. In the Bastion Christian and Hellenic mythology are mixed: the look is incredibly inspired but, in the end, it is a bit of the umpteenth variant on the theme of rebel angels, complete with black wings.

Surprising Maldraxxus, on the other hand, a map on which we would not have bet a cent: at first glance the usual region infested with monsters, abominations and horrid creatures, is instead a kingdom of proud and proud warriors called Necrosignori who rise to keepers of the Shadowlands, now torn by an intestinal war on which we must clarify while we try to find out what happened to the ruler Primus.

Selvarden is the philosophical kingdom. Visually stunning to say the least, the reign of the Winter Queen has squeezed the creative flair of Blizzard artists beyond imagination. It's an incredible map, wonderfully rich and complex, with a great variety of scenarios that stay true to their fantasy identity. Selvarden is the land of the Night Sylphs, a kind of bucolic idyll that refers to the cycle of death and rebirth: despite its colorful appearance, the storyline here takes on extremely dramatic tones and ponders the meaning of sacrifice.

Revendreth, the realm that comes full circle, was perhaps the funniest of the four, and to say that it looks like a kind of gothic world filled with vampires and creatures that would have been fine in the Addams family: clearly inspired to the aristocratic vampires of the darkest fantasy literature, the Venthyrs will draw us into a dense web of intrigue and conspiracy that will result in a revolution. We won't tell you which side you'll end up on, but the campaign ends right at the gates of the first raid, Nathria Castle, which opens next week.

Climb from 50 to 60

Mandatory stop before, during and after the campaign, the Fauce is an interlude that insinuates itself in a logical and natural way in the leveling phase, riding the storyline that leads us to those parts from time to time: the coming and going from the kingdoms delle Terretetre alla Fauce for short blitzes moves the campaign, breaking the sensation of linearity, and gradually introduces us to what will become one of the main top-level content. The campaign, in fact, ends only temporarily with the Revendreth region, and will continue in the next major updates of the game; once the story is complete, in fact, the real game literally begins, made up of important decisions - the Congregas - and micromanagement of currencies, times and loot. We will return to the endgame in the future review, anticipating that it is really rich for better or for worse, but here it is worth pointing out that the leveling phase also had some gray areas.

The most relevant concerns without doubt the growth of the character, the feeling of a real progression reduced by the absence of new skills, spells or talents. In the ten levels between 50 and 60 you learn just a few degrees of existing skills, while the parallel scaling of the enemies on the one hand continuously maintains the player's attention, on the other hand it does not transmit significant improvements in the way in which one approaches the fights, which remains the same up to the maximum level. The two skills that each class unlocks in a specific region certainly do not change the cards on the table, also because they are temporary and are lost as soon as you change the area: they are actually a training for when we will learn them definitively by choosing the relative Coven. Until that moment, in short, the leveling phase focuses entirely on the scenario and the storyline, putting aside the concrete progression of the characters that in essence only increase in parameters without a real feedback on the battlefield.

This is probably why the campaign is relatively short and the maximum level is reached in a few hours. It is basically the same principle according to which Blizzard has restricted the previous 120 levels to only 50, accelerating the initial leveling phase to better mark the learning of skills and always keep the interest of the players high. The feeling that Shadowlands is a short expansion, which says it all in the campaign, is precisely this: a feeling. The temporary conclusion of the main storyline with the arrival of the first foray opens the door to an incredibly vast endgame for all groups of players on which we will focus in the actual review. For now we can only promote the campaign with flying colors, in the hope that the next updates will maintain the same, extraordinary production quality.

Our first hours in the Shadowlands have been extraordinarily fun: Blizzard, inspired with never level purely artistic, he put together a fantastic campaign, full of quotes, twists and contents. Shadowlands certainly does not revolutionize World of Warcraft, but it works with the best we have seen in many years of expansions, especially on the narrative front. The campaign has been promoted with flying colors, net of a not exactly exciting leveling mechanism, we refer you to the review that we will publish once the rich endgame component has been scrutinized. Stay tuned, but know this: the initial campaign alone is worth the purchase of Shadowlands.


The campaign is fantastic thanks to a brilliant and articulated narration Blizzard's art direction reaches very high peaks DOUBTS The character develops little in the leveling phase between 50 and 60 Those who do not know the history of Warcraft well will miss many goodies

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