6 months ago, I wrote an article about returning to World of Warcraft (WoW) after a ten-year hiatus. Having been away so long, I returned to a completely different game from the one I remembered. I spoke about my thoughts and feelings of the game, its new systems, and completely revamped progression, just to name a few; I had a blast jumping back into this behemoth of a game.
So, now I’ve had a chance to experience even more of the game and its current expansion, Shadowlands; it gives me the perfect excuse to write about WoW some more. I’ve seen more stories, played more content, and tried some new aspects of the game in my time back. So, what do I think of it, and does it make it worth the return to Azeroth?
17 years of stories to explore
When I first returned to WoW, it would be fair to say I was out of the loop. Aside from a few tidbits and a brief overview, I had no clue what events had transpired in Azeroth or beyond. Now having played through nearly all my missed expansions, seeing the plethora of areas and characters on display, I’ve ended up feeling more connected to this world than I ever did before.
Since writing my original piece, I’ve managed to cover a lot of ground when it comes to the story. Across multiple characters, I’ve finished Mists of Pandaria through to the current expansion Shadowlands. So I’ve been pretty busy. But to my surprise, the story of WoW ended up becoming one of my favourite aspects the more I played; And I’ve said more than once how I’m not interested in a game’s story.
Sure, some parts were better than others, but being able to go back and see each chapter in this now 17-year-old game was tremendously rewarding, with the horde’s BFA (Battle for Azeroth) campaign and Illidan’s return in Legion being a few personal highlights.
As for the current storyline, it’s been pretty stellar. Shadowlands manages to integrate new, unique areas and characters like the jailer into the world with ease, as well as drawing from WoW‘s past to help enrich what looks to be an incredible future for the game’s plot.
These, along with the many events and actions that have shaped WoW, are a testament to the WoW team’s writers, whose effort hasn’t gone unnoticed by this avid player. Shadowlands feels like the start of something big, and I, for one, can’t wait to see where my journey into the afterlife takes me next.
We’re in the endgame now
When I rejoined WoW, I was lucky to have returned around the time of the “level squish“, a move that saw everyone’s level be brought down, with 60 becoming the new top level. That, along with the huge changes to levelling have made the journey to 60 a more concise and satisfying one, and whereas before I was in the midst of my levelling experience, I’ve now experienced WoW’s infamous endgame for the first time.
In case you weren’t aware, this is where the game can get pretty grindy. Having said that, there is a good amount of varied content to play once you hit this milestone. For me, this was a whole new experience, and I’ve enjoyed a lot of what I’ve played since I got on my grind.
First off, let talk about one of my favourite features of Shadowlands and its endgame. In these realms of the afterlife, there are four distinct groups known as the Kyrian, Necrolords, Night Fae, and Venthyr, each wholly unique in appearances, purpose and ideals. These make up the covenants.
You’ll gradually be introduced to them as you play through the game’s campaign, learning their roles in keeping the Shadowlands operating smoothly, as well as some of their less favourable qualities (roleplayers can have a field day with this).
Once you have had a chance to see them in action and reach the top level, you’ll get the chance to align yourself with one of these factions, each having its own campaign that expands on the story and struggles the realm faces. This is where you come in. As you embark on your quests, you’ll often be rewarded with anima, this expansion’s resource and the lifeblood of the Shadowlands. By spending this currency, you’ll not only get cool mounts and armour but can unlock and upgrade areas in your covenant sanctum, each with its own benefits. Considering a lot of the content and story revolves around these new factions, it’s a good thing they are interesting.
You’ll also see a bit of extra progression with your class, thanks to soulbinds and conduits. This talent tree-like system adds a little extra variety to your class’s abilities, reducing cooldowns or even adding some secondary effects. What more, you’ll get a few extra spells depending on your choice of the covenant, one signature ability available to all members and one unique ability specific to your class.
Along with other small additions, these covenants add depth to the gameplay and the lore of the Shadowlands, filling out the world and all the new places you see as you explore the afterlife. I look forward to seeing what comes next for them and hope that brings along even more content and gameplay options as a result.
So you’ve seen the Shadowlands and chosen your covenant. So what’s there to do now?
If you have played any MMO, you probably have done a few dungeons at some point; WoW is no exception. I’m quite an avid PvE (player versus environment) player and enjoy learning the tactics that come with each dungeon, working with my party to clear dungeons in style. But once you have mastered the normal and heroic versions, it can become quite stale. That’s when it’s time to take it up a notch.
This is where mythic+ comes in.
This dungeon level presents a new challenge for players to master and does quite a bit differently from its easier counterparts. Unlike the other difficulties, this mode requires you to do a bit of legwork. For one, these dungeons require an item called a keystone. You are awarded this item at the end of your first mythic dungeon, with the key being for a specific random dungeon that changes with each successive use. You also can’t use the dungeon finder to automatically group with players for mythic+ dungeons. Instead, you post your key and let players apply to join your dungeon, with the party leader choosing who to accept.
But that’s not all that makes mythic+ unique. The biggest addition to this difficulty is the affixes. These modifiers change every week and add an extra layer to how you deal with the dungeon’s enemies and bosses. Some strengthen enemies whilst others place damage over time (DoTs) spells on your part. On top of that, you’ll need to defeat every boss in the dungeon, as well as a certain amount of enemies in a certain amount of time. If you do manage to finish in time, your keystone will increase in level, adding more modifiers and challenge the higher it goes, with the trade-off being better quality rewards.
So yes, they differ quite a bit.
They aren’t always the most forgiving, but I’ve spent a good amount of time playing through mythic+ dungeons, and I’ve loved doing so. Yes, it does mean you’ll replay dungeons ALOT, but with the modifiers and a few other changes to mechanics, it does help keep things fresh. Maybe as the expansion progresses, new modifiers will release alongside new content, and when it does, I look forward to tackling whatever new variations come my way.
So if like me, you enjoy the challenge or maybe are a glutton for punishment, then mythic+ is certainly a great way to pass your time.
Until recently, I had never taken part in a raid.
Back in my younger days playing WoW, I would never have had the patience, let alone skilled enough to do a raid. But since returning, I’ve had a real desire to jump into this piece of WoW’s endgame that I never experienced.
Boy, was I missing out.
To put it simply, raids are similar to dungeons in that you have bosses you fight with other players; Only these take that idea and crank it up to 11. Instead of the standard 5 party members, raids can go up to 25 and fighting your way through these mammoth activities can take hours to complete.
What sets these apart from dungeons is not just their length but the boss encounters. Most boss encounters aren’t a simple battle with a few mechanics thrown in, but rather a set of phases that each requires their own tactics and strategies to overcome. Players need to communicate, pay attention, and work as a team if they have any hope of getting through these often lengthy encounters. Hell, some of these battles last well over 10 minutes.
These can be gruelling battles that test your skills as a player, but they can also be some of the most rewarding experiences in the game. I managed to clear through all of Castle Nathria, Shadowlands’ first raid, and it was an absolute blast. Now I wish I had done one sooner. Learning the tactics of each boss and working as a big group honestly made me use every spell and item I had, and it certainly made me play at my best and I think ultimately made me a better player. Plus, you get some sweet loot and bragging rights to boot.
For those who fancy taking on the biggest PvE challenges WoW has to offer, then get a good guild and get at it. It’s worth the effort.
I’m not the most avid PvP (player versus player) guy, but even so, I’ve found a great deal of enjoyment when I jump in for a few matches, even if I’m a bit shall we say, rubbish.
For those unaware, you are pit against other players and covers a multitude of modes, including world PvP, battlegrounds, and arena. It also has its own rewards, which are earned through playing in either ranked or unranked matches.
First, let’s explain the options, starting with battlegrounds. These pits two teams of up to 40 players against each other with a focus on objectives like capture the flag or territory control. Having a good team composition is important, but even more so in ranked games, which requires a premade team rather than automatically joining a match.
If you fancy just beating on your opponents, then you’ll probably be an arena player. These focus purely on combat, with the only objective being to wipe out the opposing team. These are where players tend to show off their skills, with team communication and composition being of the utmost importance. These modes tend to offer the most balanced PvP experience you’ll find in the game and can be played in teams of 2 or 3.
Then you have world PvP. This aspect is a lot more spontaneous than its counterparts, as it takes place in the normal game world. Upon reaching level 20, players have the option to turn on war mode, which in turn activates world PvP. Once on, players can attack or be attacked in the game world by opposing players or in select areas and world quests.
It’s not the most balanced experience and can be very frustrating. But as a trade-off, the player’s also gain access to three PvP talents, altering or adding new spells to the players’ arsenal they can be used in the game world. Additionally, quests rewards and experience have a slight bonus to them whilst this mode is on, so for those wanting to level quickly or just fancy a bit of excitement whilst they play, this could be a great option to keep you on your toes.
It’s quite easy to feel overwhelmed if you don’t work together or know how to deal with other players, trust me. But once you start to learn the maps and strategies, it can be a ton of fun playing against your fellow player. Earning currency like honour and conquest lets you buy and upgrade PvP gear too, so those who take a liking to this style of gameplay can have the same feeling of progression as PvE players do. I played a fair bit of PvP once I initially reached level 60, but for me, the excitement has tapered off. That being said, it still offers some great content, and arguably some of the most intense moments you’ll experience in the game.
So those wanting to take the fight to their fellow players, you’ll be pleased to know it’s definitely worth your time.
This is one of Shadowland’s other new additions, and it’s arguably the most unique yet frustrating. Home to this expansion’s big bad, the jailer, the Maw is home to his armies and all the irredeemable souls of the Shadowlands, where nearly everything in the realm what’s to pummel you into dust.
Unlike other areas of the Shadowlands, this twisting nether can’t be explored forever, thanks to the eye of the jailer. This mechanic increases the threats you face across 5 tiers, and with every boss killed, objective completed, or quest finished, it only gets tougher. Eventually, it’s impossible to continue exploring the area without dying near-instantly, forcing you to leave and return the next day after the tiers reset.
There is one area that’s safe, however, and that’s in Ve’nari’s hidey-hole. This strange character has somehow managed to survive the horrors of the maw undetected and takes a particular interest in you. On top of being a great sport to hide, she also has her own selection of items you can acquire with stigya, a currency found in the maw that helps to make your time in the maw a little less taxing.
The maw is also home to the endless jail known as Torghast. This towering structure acts in a similar way to dungeons and can be played solo or with a 5 player group. Except this dungeon changes with each visit, with different wings open to players with different enemies and visual styles at the start of each weekly reset. As you progress, enemies get stronger, but so do you, thanks to anima powers. These powers spawn randomly and drop from certain enemies and bosses, granting powerful traits to your character that can alter how spells work or certain aspects of them.
Torghast, however, is an absolute blast through and through. Whether playing with others or solo, fighting through each layer and growing more powerful is incredibly fun, and some of the powers and combinations you can get are just bonkers and makes for some pretty impressive damage and experiences. Plus, its ever-changing nature makes it fresh and exciting with each visit; Even if you are only able to get rewards once a week.
Overall the Maw is a mixed bag, with great ideas that sometimes cause more irritation than enjoyment. Its haunting visuals and setting match perfectly with the feeling of hopelessness it’s meant to create. Torghast is definitely the most engaging part of the Maw, and I’m curious to see how it will develop over the course of this expansion. I’m eager to see what the jailer has in store for us as we take the fight to him, and I’m sure plenty of other players are too.
Sometimes you find a piece of gear that looks so cool; you wish you could wear it forever. Well, now you can thanks to this surprisingly brilliant feature.
Transmogrification (or transmog for short) lets players change the appearance of armour and weapons whilst keeping the armours stats the same underneath. Before I used it, I had never considered how my gear looked. But now I’ve spent entire evenings playing old dungeons and raids, searching the auction house just to find one piece of gear to complete my look.
It may seem gimmicky at first, but getting to choose your look makes your character that much more unique and personal, so when you tackle bosses or battle other players, you can do it in style. I wholeheartedly recommend this if you want to give your character that extra wow factor.
It’s not just the armour that makes the hero; it’s also the mount.
At this point, there are hundreds of mounts to collect in WoW with a plethora of ways to unlock them. PvP, raids, achievement rewards, or simply buying. But much like transmog, having the right mount can bring your character’s style and looks together. As well as some bragging rights if you are lucky enough to bag an ultra-rare mount. For me, I’m just happy with my unique hunter mounts for now.
If you’re a completionist, this is definitely an activity for you. It will take a LONG time, but isn’t that part of the fun?
Guess what? More collecting!
The toy box is your collection of vanity items; They don’t really do much other than look or sound cool. But hey, nothing wrong with a bit of fun between the countless wars and battles you’ll have to endure.
These can be just about anything from costumes that change your looks, kegs of beer, a picnic basket, a toy train; I could go on.
They are not exactly the most important aspect of the game, but every once in a while, it’s nice to bust these out for a little light-hearted fun. I’ve played my harp with many new players and just chatted for hours around my tea set just because I could.
Not everything has to be for a reason in a game like WoW; sometimes, you can just have fun for the sake of it. If that’s the case for you, then you’re sure to find some great use for your toys.
It’s only natural to expect cool bonus events in an MMO, or any live service game for that matter; And WoW has this covered pretty well.
Every week, a bonus event will have a passive bonus to a certain area of the game. These could be bonuses to PvP rewards, more loot drops in dungeons or my personal favourite, timewalking, which lets you play through old dungeons from a select expansion all scaled appropriately.
On top of that, you have seasonal events that take place during Christmas, Halloween, Valentine’s, to name a few, with special rewards that can only be earned during the event.
It’s just an extra bit of content or better rewards for the content you already play. So I’m not complaining.
It wouldn’t be an article about WoW if I didn’t mention the community, and for the most part, it’s been great to become a part of it again.
Yes, they are always going to be some unsavoury players in a game like this. But I’ve been lucky enough to meet some great people who I’ve played with countless times since I’ve been back. I’ve managed to play with people I never would expect, joined a guild (shoutout to Eternal Honor), and had far more good experiences than bad.
If you decide to jump back in, know that you’ll be joining some great people who just love to play games, especially WoW, and more than likely, you’ll meet some great new people to play with.
I’m now 6 months back and have been lucky to meet some cool members of the community and become a pretty good player to boot. Truthfully, I didn’t expect to be this entrenched when I first returned, but now it seems I’m in for the long haul, and despite some shortcomings, the game has been tremendous fun to play.
I’ve still got more to explore, but having now played much more content, learned more plot, and met even more players, I’m more than happy to say I’m a WoW player and one who will probably be around for quite a while. Now with the recently announced chains of damnation update, I’m eager to try all the new content it brings and see how the story of the Shadowlands continues.
I’m ready for whatever comes next, and if you like the sound of what I’ve been talking about, maybe you should jump in too.
Fancy jumping back into World of Warcraft yourself? How are you finding the game so far? Feel free to let us know in the comments!