I’ve made it no secret that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed my time with WoW since I returned. Having written more than a few pieces for Keengamer involving WoW, It seems fitting that I give my two cents on the newest content update, Chain of Domination. I couldn’t wait to try out the new area, learn more about this expansion’s story, and get to tackle the new dungeon and raid. So is it worth it, and does it do enough to justify its long wait?
Story (Spoilers are here, naturally)
What has transpired so far in this patch has piqued my interest. The Jailer is starting to put his plan into motion and as a result, it feels like the game’s plot is starting to pick up speed.
After months of helping to rebuild the covenants, Chains of Domination sees players finally going on the offensive. Kicked off by a surprise attack, Bastions leader the Archon is attacked by a now seemingly evil Anduin, who leaves her wounded and steals away a mysterious sigil. If you have seen the Chains of Domination trailer, this is old news. After this attack, it becomes clear the Jailer isn’t screwing around. With this realisation, the heroes of Azeroth, the covenants, and you begin to push back as the Jailer starts his assault on the Shadowlands. The battle for Ardenweald, the first chapter of the new campaign, proves exactly that.
It’s a bit of a slow burn so far. After the Battle of Ardenweald, the next few chapters mainly serve as a way to introduce and unlock the new content. You’ll first discover the new area Koritha with the help of the illusive Ve’nari, then have an encounter with the Legion’s Odyn and his Val’kyr involving the Eye of the Jailer. But after the intention setup, some great moments unfolds. New characters appear and some surprises begin to unfold, and we finally start to see what the Jailer’s plans could be, which if some theories are to be believed, could change up the WoW universe in a major way.
I believe some of the best parts of the story of the Shadowlands are yet to come. Despite the slower pace so far, we have seen some reunions between old friends, family, and comrades only possible in this expansion. The lore surrounding this mysterious world has been one that’s enthralled me unlike any other for a while. I hope that this continues into this patch and further ones down the line because so far it looks like we could be heading for something big.
One of Chains of Domination’s biggest additions is the new area Korthia, the city of secrets. A landmass pulled from the mysterious in-between, this new zone comes with a few quirks for players.
The zone itself is… kind of drab; it’s certainly got a bit more colour and variety than the Maw, but that’s not saying much. It’s also not that big, probably only being about half the size of the previous area players have been exploring. What it may lack in size it makes up for in density. Korthia offers up a ton of rare and elite enemies to find (when they haven’t been killed) that rotate and spawn periodically. Along with that, there are always treasures and loot to be found in every direction.
It’s not quite as big as I was expecting, and in some regards is a little bit of a letdown. But so far there seems to be enough to do for a few hours at a time. With some of the other additions to the Maw it works out as a nice addition to the overall package, albeit a slightly smaller one than I’d have liked.
The Maw Grows
The Maw has now become a far more important aspect of Shadowlands thanks to a few key changes. The most notable is the now complete freedom players have to explore this once time-restricted and often frustrating area.
After a few story chapters and with a little help from some Valkyr, the constant gaze of the Eye of the Jailer is no more. Finally, the Maw can be explored to your heart’s content after the eye retreats to its master’s side. No longer do you have to worry about running out of time or stopping halfway through quests to escape. Along with that, ground mounts can FINALLY be used within the Maw.
To top it off, the new covenant assaults are a welcome addition to your time in the Maw. These see two covenants, one leading and one assisting, doing battle in sections of the Maw against the Jailer’s forces. For players, this means you get a bunch of quests to help them in their efforts that are rather diverse. Some are simple “kill X amount of enemies” quests, but some funnier ones like distributing Venthyr tea to your allies makes for a nice mixture. Plus who doesn’t like a good cuppa?
All these changes have allowed the Maw to become a proper zone alongside the previous ones. For the story, it makes sense given the situation of the Shadowlands and feels like a natural progression of the plot and how it will unfold. For content, it means the Maw has something more to offer, which is nice considering the whole time restriction and Jailer’s Eye had gone from a cool idea to a frustrating one pretty quickly. Now I just hope these changes don’t wear thin too soon.
Reputation and Currencies
Chains of Domination bring with it a few new resources, reputations, and currencies for players to grind, and is easily this content update’s biggest setback.
First, let’s get some background. In the case of reputation, there are two new factions to contend with. The first is Death’s Advance, a coalition of the 4 covenants and the big names of Azeroth like Thrall, Jaina and Bolvar. Doing the new content found in Korthia gets you this rep, so doing your daily and weekly quests, killing rare enemies, finding treasures, the usual stuff. The other is the Archivist’s Codex, which is increased by finding relics and items that you converted to catalogued research.
This same research is one of the numerous currencies added in patch 9.1. With it, you purchase items and upgrades from that faction’s store. You also have soul cinders, a separate currency to soul ash that further upgrades your legendary items. There are also stigya embers, which upgrade the new domination shards you find from the new raid. Then you have… you get the idea.
It’s my and many other players’ biggest gripe with this patch. Having to earn, well let us face it, grind for one or two resources is already a bit of a nuisance, but Shadowlands has made quite a habit of adding more and more of these into the mix. Seriously, why do we need so many? It makes the game feel bloated, grindy, and at times more like work than playing for fun. You should try to avoid that in an MMO, not encourage it.
Having to spend time looking for one resource to upgrade on an item and then doing it all again to unlock another item is just asinine, even for a game like WoW. Hopefully, we don’t see more of this as the expansion goes on, because I can’t imagine it will go down well with the players, especially those already fatigued.
It’s not uncommon for existing mechanics and content to get a facelift after launch. In this case, Torghast has had quite an extensive, and welcome rework.
This rogue-lite, dungeon style content was an interesting idea at launch but quickly lost its lustre. Players would spend ages clearing through the multiple layers and floors, only to have that effort completely nulled after losing too many lives. Not only that, the time it took to grind soul ash (another addition to the endless list of currencies) and its very limited use meant this content could largely be ignored after a few weeks. To fix that, this piece of endgame content has undergone some major changes.
The best of these changes is the removal of lives, which has been replaced by a scoring system. Now players can earn up to 5 stars as they clear through each layer, with 4 stars unlocking the next layer. You have Torments, rotating modifiers that buff enemies and debuff players that change daily and blessings that do the opposite, making you or your group stronger.
On top of that, players who fancy a bit more challenge can try to enter the Adamant Vaults, a special section of extra floors only accessible by earning 5 stars in that layer. These offer up more challenging enemies and give some achievements and unique rewards. Then to give players that little bit of progress, Torghast now has its own skill tree thanks to the box of many things. Using tower knowledge earned through playing Torghast, you can add and unlock abilities and buff certain traits whilst you explore. These can increase survivability, add more blessing to your runs, or improve existing mechanics like the new empowerment buff.
It’s quite an extensive list of changes, but they all work to the game’s benefit. Playing through Torghast now feels more rewarding. Not just in how you play, but what you can earn and do whilst you play. Having talents adds some nice progression, having the chance to unlock some new items and achievements is a great addition, and the Adamant Vaults are perfect if you fancy testing yourself and seeing everything Torghast has to offer. Now instead of reluctantly slopping my way through, I feel more eager to step back into the Jailer’s personal prison and raise some hell.
Tazavesh, the Veiled Market
Now we get to my highlights of patch 9.1, starting with Tazavesh, the Veiled Market.
This new mega-dungeon takes place in the elusive market of the broker cartels. After learning about a particular merchant’s fascination with a stolen artefact, you fight your way through the markets and a portal jumping heist to stop this broker from realising her plans.
This by far and away has been my favourite new addition in Chains of Domination. The dungeon itself looks stunning, filled with merchants and interesting characters that give a little insight into broker life. But aside from looking stellar, it offers up some of the most fun gameplay I’ve experienced in this patch. Each boss in Tazavesh felt unique, with every one of them offering up mechanics that felt interesting and challenging. Each boss throws out a few more mechanics than your usual dungeon.
You’ll need coordination, communication and understanding of each boss’s unique quirks and mechanics. You’ll get to perform music in Au’myza’s oasis to a rowdy crowd, find yourself in an auction gone wrong, or fight a pirate dragon (yes, a pirate dragon). That’s just a few of the encounters you’ll have in this dungeon, but they are all expectational in their own ways. Not to mention you get some sweet loot out of it. Plus, it can be tackled on normal or the extra challenging hard mode.
Tazavesh shows a ton of creativity in both its design and gameplay. It showcases Blizzard’s ability to make some diverse, interesting, and fun content when they want to. Now this dungeon has particularly spoiled me, making me wish more dungeons or content felt and played like this. Hopefully, that will be the case in the future; till then I’ll just have to keep making trips to the market.
Sanctum of Domination
No content update would be complete without a new raid, and boy does this one deliver. With the now combined forces of the covenants and Azeroth’s heroes, players enter the Sanctum of Domination. Together, you must slay the Jailer’s most formidable servants in a desperate attempt to thwart the final stages of his plans.
The sanctum is a big step up compared to the previous raid Castle Nathria in multiple areas. For one it feels far bigger and more menacing. Sitting right in the heart of the Maw, the blackened corridors and chambers of the sanctum are full of traps, cages, and tools of torture. Though aesthetically similar to the Maw and Torghast, the sanctum feels oddly much more interesting. Whether that’s simply because it’s a raid or the huge scale of its winding corridors and arena, it sets a tone that feels akin to David and Goliath. You, a mortal hero, is up against the Jailer’s strongest and most violent subordinates, and it’s both intimidating and exciting.
The bosses themselves aren’t to be scoffed at either, with each being both a difficult but deeply rewarding battle. Much like Tazavesh, the sanctum has some great design when it comes to its boss encounters. They require a multitude of strategies and plans to deal with multiple mechanics that can bombard your raid team. This includes the Nine, who periodically use 2-3 attacks at once from a possible 6. They require moving into an attack, out of them, dodging, and soaking up damage. Kel’thuzad has players attack a remnant of his soul whilst others must deal with an onslaught of undead foes. Or the painsmith, who uses traps and deadly weapons that require careful movement and timing to avoid your death.
Of course for all the hard work you put in, you can expect to get some equally great loot and rewards. Along with some mounts and pets, you can get armour that features the new domination socket system. These pieces of gear can be socketed with special gems found in the raid, offering booms and bonuses to your character that can benefit both you and your raid. Plus, we finally get our showdown with Sylvannas Windrunner.
It’s quite an extensive addition to this expansion with new and interesting loot, great bosses, and some equally great story moments. Even players who aren’t usually into raiding, I’d wholeheartedly recommend trying this raid. It’s got everything great about WoW wrapped up in a pretty, albeit slightly evil bow. Trust me, it’s worth the effort.
Season 2 begins
The new season has started, so with it comes some changes to both PVP and Mythic+. PVP sees some changes to abilities, new gear to earn and rewards. While Mythic+ gets a new rating system and affix called torment. This has some of the Jailer’s force appear in the dungeon that drop anima powers to help give you an extra edge. Now it’s the perfect time to go get some cool new gear, and work your way to the top!
This new patch comes with 40 new Renown levels. With these new levels come new unlockables to collect. These include cosmetic gear, new mounts, a new legendary covenant item and new companions to send on missions. All this whilst helping your covenant grow strong. It’s a win-win!
Soulbinds have been given some new tiers to help further empower your characters. These covenant skill trees include new slots to add further conduits of your choice. Additionally, you get a few new abilities for each soulbind. With these, players can give some abilities new uses or make them more effective. It’s a welcome addition that gives a little more freedom and character progression. That’s always a good thing in my book.
Every new activity in patch 9.1 includes collectables. New cosmetics, mounts, pets, and toys can be earned and found throughout the new areas and content. So players who fancy some cool new transmog, a nifty toy, or an awesome mount will have plenty to unlock this patch.
We can finally fly in Shadowlands. That’s it. That’s the highlight.
On the whole, this patch is a winner.
The new area adds some extra quests and activities, and the Maw now feels more like a fully formed area. The new dungeon and raid are brilliant, offering up some of my favourite content I’ve played in WoW.
Whilst there are some issues with the pace of the story and the overabundance of currencies, Chains of Domination has so far been an enjoyable time. But like every MMO, it’s how long it stays fun that’s the real test. Though truthfully I don’t see it getting too boring anytime soon.
(Videos uploaded by SignsOfKelani.)