During the World of Warcraft: What’s Next panel at BlizzCon 2019, Game Director Ion Hazzikostas dove into an overview of the world, story, and features coming in the next chapter of World of Warcraft—Shadowlands. Discover what lies beyond the veil between Azeroth and the realm of the dead. Shadowlands takes players on a journey to explore the mysteries of the World of Warcraft universe’s afterlife. Source: Blizzard
THE WARCRAFT AFTERLIFE
Unlike previous expansions, to fully understand what’s happening in World of Warcraft: Shadowlands, you must first learn the rules of the place players will be venturing into. There is more involved than a mere journey to a distant continent—Azeroth’s greatest heroes are going to the land of death itself.
It’s the spirit healers who decide when it’s time for a soul to cross into the Shadowlands. Souls who arrive here are brought before the Arbiter, a mysterious and ancient being whose existence predates all memory—even older than the Titans, according to some accounts. Those brought before her have all of their deeds, memories, and experiences—the very contents of their souls—laid bare, and are judged in a mere instant. Once measured, the Arbiter sends them off to one of countless realms of the Shadowlands. We’ll be visiting four of these, but not every soul is filtered into these specific places.
These four realms are ruled over by Covenants—ancient and powerful orders who have existed since the Shadowlands were shaped long ago, and who bear sacred duties to help maintain the afterlife’s ecosystem. To achieve their goals within the Shadowlands, players will work hand in hand with these Covenants, and eventually align themselves with one.
Every living soul bears a vital force—an energy known as Anima. This essential force is the lifeblood of the Shadowlands, allowing trees to grow, rivers to flow, new things to be forged, and more. Great or important souls—like those of Arthas, Garrosh, or Varian—bear more Anima than others.
THE REALMS OF THE SHADOWLANDS
Players’ adventures in Shadowlands will take place primarily across four new zones: Bastion, Maldraxxus, Ardenweald, and Revendreth.
The Kyrian Covenant—who are the forebears of the Val’kyr and the Spirit Healers—rule over Bastion. They are messengers, couriers, and some of the purest souls in the Shadowlands.
Bastion is ordered and purposeful. Souls naturally drawn to service are sent here by the Arbiter to examine their lives, cleanse themselves of their burdens, and work toward a state of virtue so they might ascend to serve the Shadowlands.
One such soul that has taken up within Bastion’s vaunted halls is Uther the Lightbringer, whom players will encounter through their journeys.
After their time in Bastion, players will move on to Maldraxxus, which is ruled over by the Necrolord Covenant, and represents the heart of the Shadowlands’ military might. Warlike souls who never yield or bow—and are willing to strive against one another for greatness—will find a home in Maldraxxus.
While Maldraxxus is home to wicked beings like necromancers and abominations, not everyone here is evil. The Necrolords welcome all who are mighty and driven, such as the indomitable Warlord Draka, who players will meet in Maldraxxus.
If the Emerald Dream represents spring and summer, Ardenweald represents autumn and winter in the cycle. This place of rest and hibernation is presided over by the Night Fae Covenant, who tend to spirits who were closely tied to nature, preparing them to return to the world of the living.
The demigod Cenarius spent time recovering in Ardenweald so that he could return to Azeroth during the events of the Cataclsym. It is a beautiful, yet deceptively dangerous land.
Home to the Venthyr Covenant, Revendreth is a land of gothic spires and dark secrets and not one souls hope to be sent to. This is where flawed souls are sent who haven’t been able to leave something behind whether it’s pride or some other source of downfall. Souls sent here are not quite ready for service in one of the Shadowlands’ other domains, and is the duty of the vampiric Revendreth to prepare them—through unimaginable torment. It is much like a purgatory for souls who need to atone for past misdeeds and shed the burdens of their life. The journey is not an easy one, however.
The former sin’dorei prince Kael’thas Sunstrider is one such soul who has found himself in Revendreth for the deeds of his life.
JOINING A COVENANT
There are four ruling powers that control the Shadowlands, each of which is in desperate need of aid from the heroes of Azeroth and what they can bring. In exchange for help, the Covenants are willing to share a piece of their power and access to what they have to offer such as rewards, riches, and more.
When you join a Covenant at maximum level, you’ll get access to its unique Covenant Campaign. You’ll also gain two abilities specific to the Covenant—one class-specific, and one universal ability available to all Covenant members. You’ll be able to try out these abilities before you choose the Covenant you’ll ultimately join as you level, so rest assured that you’ll have a chance to put them to the test.
To learn more about the Covenants, including information about end-game progression systems, be sure to watch the Deep Dive panel on Saturday, November 2 at 11:15 a.m. PDT. Or check back for our panel recap here on the site.
Each Covenant also has unique cosmetic rewards, and provides access to a sanctum that players will be able to help restore to its former glory as a member of the Covenant. You’ll be able to upgrade structures and unlock additional content and rewards.
ORIBOS, THE ETERNAL CITY
An ancient city that stands in the heart of the Shadowlands, Oribos predates memory and serves as the nexus between the various domains of the Shadowlands. The Arbiter stands at its very core of this gathering point for various power brokers, wheelers and dealers, and soul-traders.
The Eternal City will serve as the main hub and base of operations for players in the Shadowlands.
This horrific prison houses the most vile and irredeemable souls in existence—ones deemed by the Arbiter to represent a threat to the Shadowlands if left free. Ruled by the enigmatic Jailer who none have ever seen—at least none have seen and lived to tell—the Maw inspires nightmares and legends even among the denizens of the Shadowlands. No one has ever escaped this vile place, and any foolish enough to venture there are never heard from again.
INTO THE SHADOWLANDS
THE BROKEN MACHINE
The machine of death is broken, and players entering the Shadowlands will find the realm of the dead in disarray. In the natural order of things, souls are sorted and sent on to an afterlife realm appropriate to the lives they lived, but now, but over the past few years, all souls who have perished—including the innocents slain at Teldrassil—are being funneled directly into the Maw. The Shadowlands are starving for anima even as the Maw continues to grow from the glut of fresh souls.
Sylvanas has been seemingly perpetrating acts to bring about great amounts of death and destruction. In partnership with the Jailer, they have been working toward a common end for some time.
King Terenas said long ago that there must always be a Lich King, and now, for the first time, there is none. Leading up to Shadowlands’ launch, the masterless Scourge will be marauding all across Azeroth. Off the heels of yet another brutal war, the forces of Azeroth will have to mount a counterattack and assault the source at the Icecrown Citadel.
Once Shadowlands begins, the world’s heroes will battle their way to the foot of Icecrown, en route to its pinnacle. The heroes of Azeroth will find an ally in Bolvar Fordragon, who now leads the Death Knights. With their ability to maintain a foothold in both life and death, they will help the heroes of Azeroth cross the veil into the Shadowlands—leading them straight into the Maw.
Within the Maw, players will discover that they are capable of doing what no one has ever been able to do—escape it. After breaking themselves free of the Maw’s horrors, they will find themselves in the city of Oribos.
Shadowlands’ story will send players through each of the four zones in order, telling an epic tale that will frame the role each Covenant plays in the cycle of death—and give players insight into the conflicts to come. Everyone will begin their journey in Bastion, then on through Maldraxxus, Ardenweald, and Revendreth, working with the leaders of the four Covenants that rule each zone. As you make your way through the story, the quests and creatures in each zone have fixed levels, ensuring that players will feel challenged by the creatures they encounter—and more powerful when they return to previous encounters.
As you progress through your journey, you’ll learn about each Covenant and the issues that face their domain. You’ll also work with them and borrow their powers. As you start to gain the trust of each Covenant, you’ll also have an opportunity to use their active abilities while in their domain.
Once you reach maximum level, and after you’ve been through all four zones’ experiences, you’ll be able to choose one of the four Covenants to join. You’ll then be able to take on some of their powers and champion their cause for the rest of your time in the Shadowlands.
ALTS IN THE SHADOWLANDS
For those who choose to adventure with an alternate character in Shadowlands, once you’ve completed the level-up journey with one character, you’ll be able to choose your Covenant immediately upon arriving in Oribos. This will enable you to reap the benefits of that Covenant while leveling. You’ll also be able to progress through any of the four zones in any order you wish.
Alternate characters will also be able to take part in endgame progression content such as world quests, dungeons, and Battlegrounds, allowing a lot of flexibility in how you play.
RETURN TO THE MAW
At maximum level, players will return to the Maw to learn more about what’s really happening in the Shadowlands and what Sylvanas and the Jailer are up to. This max-level zone is a dynamic play space designed for exploration and open-ended play—but players will quickly discover the Maw is a terrifying and highly dangerous place with few spaces safe from the Jailer’s eyes.
TORGHAST, TOWER OF THE DAMNED
Within the Maw is a towering structure known as the Tower of the Damned. To uncover the secrets of the Jailer, players will need to venture into the tower. Inside, players will find an endless and ever-changing dungeon; you’ll be able to explore the labyrinthine halls either solo or with up to four friends, and the experience will scale based on the size of your party.
Great power is waiting to be discovered within the tower—but as you climb further up the tower, the dangers grow greater too. You’ll need to be resilient if you hope to survive; and should you find yourself unable to progress further, you’ll need to return more powerful and with new tricks up your sleeve to overcome the tower’s challenges.
The Jailer’s tower is vast and inscrutable, and the layouts of the halls, inhabitants, traps, and rewards will change with each visit. Along the way, players will find sources of powerful concentrated anima that can transform your abilities and augment them while you’re in the tower—and if you’re lucky, you may find the edge you need to survive the tower’s challenges.
NEW DUNGEONS AND RAID
Shadowlands will launch with 8 dungeons in addition to Torghast, Tower of the Damned—4 leveling dungeons and 4 max-level dungeons.
Castle Nathria, the first raid in Shadowlands, is a 10-boss raid set in Revendreth and ruled over by a Venthyr lord.
SYSTEM AND REWARDS
With Shadowlands, one of our core design philosophies is providing players with a better sense of agency. We want players to feel they have a choice over the destiny of their character and the types of rewards they want to earn. To that end, here’s some of the systems and themes we’re exploring in Shadowlands:
With the expansion, we want to step back and focus on class identity first over specialization identity. This means moving back some of the class abilities to all specializations that may have been moved into one spec or even restoring some abilities.
We’re still early in devising and refining these systems, but you can learn more in the Deep Dive panel.
World of Warcraft: Shadowlands introduces a smoother, more streamlined leveling experience. World of Warcraft—and as that continues to grow, we wanted to find a way to better pace the experience for players as they level. Over the years, we’ve found ways to speed up the leveling process, but we did so at the cost of a providing a complete experience for players, who would outpace a zone’s content and miss out on the ongoing narrative.
It’s also important for us to return to a time when every level is meaningful. This means that when you go from one level to another, you get something new such as an ability or spell, access to a dungeon, the ability to use mounts, or a new Talent tier.
We’re also updating the new-player experience to showcase more of the best World of Warcraft has to offer. New players will begin their journey in a whole new level 1–10 experience. Players will then be able to level from 10–50 in Battle For Azeroth or any expansion they wish to experience from start to finish. Finally, they’ll move on into Shadowlands, where players can go from level 50–60. This ultimately means that leveling will be faster, and players will be able to experience the complete story of an expansion while preparing to journey to the Shadowlands.
NEW CHARACTER CUSTOMIZATION
We’re adding even more options for you to be able to express yourself in game through your character. Each race will have their own unique options available to them whether it’s their tattoos, hairstyles, skin color, or even eye color. The undead will also be able to choose whether they show bones or not. There are a wide range of improvements coming for Shadowlands, and this is just the start of providing more options to your character creation.
DEATH KNIGHTS FOR ALL!
Death Knights will become available to all races, including pandaren and Allied Races, in Shadowlands. What’s more, players who pre-purchase Shadowlands will be able to make Death Knights as these races with the upcoming Visions of N’Zoth content update.