And they’re off! On April 6th, Blizzard developers announced that invites for closed alpha testing on Shadowlands would go out later in the week. Datamining began in earnest on the afternoon of the 8th, and with less than 24 hours to process the countless nuggets of new content joy, those alpha invites dropped today.
While this round of testing is very limited, a few lucky content creators (including streamers) have snagged invites, so the rest of us casuals are getting a look at the offerings as well.
A quick summary of what can be expected in the new Shadowlands expansion:
- a journey to explore the realms of the afterlife (the Shadowlands), which are ruled by four different factions you will assist throughout your travels and later choose one to Covenant with
- updates to class abilities, resources, and talents
- a level squish (max level of 60 instead of 120) that will affect how both veteran and new players level fresh characters and experience past expansions
- updated character customization options: to include ethnicity choices for humans, jewelry, tattoos, eye color, etc.
- absolute scores of collectible mounts, pets, and armor/weapon transmogs!
Players have had glorious peeks at much of this content through the datamining process, with more sure to follow. The closed alpha testing is currently previewing the (presumed) starting zone of Bastion and its dungeon, The Necrotic Wake.
According to the official World of Warcraft website, “Those who have lived a life of service are drawn to Bastion to assume the highest duty of all–carrying souls into the Shadowlands. Amongst Bastion’s gleaming spires and sweeping vistas await challenges to test the mettle of the steadfast kyrians.” The zone has an ethereal atmosphere featuring weightless plateaus (à la Throne of the Four Winds/Vortex Pinnacle from Cataclysm) and regal blue and gold tones throughout. (I also find it reminiscent of Mac’Aree from Legion, which was one of my favorite areas of the expansion.)
The Kyrian faction represents this zone; their purpose in the Shadowlands is to guide to souls arriving to the afterlife. Players will experience multiple facets of this faction, from Kyrians who have successfully “earned their wings,” to those still training, to those who have failed the test. While each class will receive a tailored ability to use in Bastion, all players will also have the advantage of the Kyrian signature ability, Summon Steward. “Call your steward to bring you a Phial of Serenity that can be consumed to restore some of your health and remove all Curse, Disease, Poison, and Bleed Effects. Your Steward additionally offers access to a selection of useful amenities, each once per day” (Wowhead).
In addition to exploring Bastion and its dungeon, alpha testers are experimenting with some of the other newly announced features. One of these is an interface update that not only helps prioritize quests, distinguishing between campaign and side quests, but also designates quest objectives with a 3D indicator. Another feature is the numbers squish accompanying the new level cap of 60 (lower HP, DPS, and item level all around). Class changes are also live on the alpha servers.
The new 1-10 leveling experience, Exile’s Reach, is available for Alliance characters to play on the alpha. For brand-new players, this island will replace the original starting zones, with the intent of streamlining the story and gameplay mechanics of WoW. Experienced players will have the choice between Exile’s Reach or the typical racial starting zones.
Popular Twitch streamer Sloot, one of the fortunate few to receive an alpha invite, also had the opportunity to interview game developer Ion Hazzikostas today. A few notable tidbits from their discussion about the alpha and the expansion as a whole:
- Large systems/content changes are being pushed to alpha as soon as possible so devs will have time to gather feedback before launch.
- Mission tables are returning.
- Covenants are intended to bring back meaningful choice and story play without having to sacrifice player power.
- Tier sets are returning, but not in the first patch.
- There will be a reduced amount of loot in Shadowlands raids.
- Gear will no loner Titanforge, Warforge, or Corrupt. “Let loot be loot.”
- Emissaries will be replaced with “Covenant Callings.” (Similar idea but remixed.)
We already know that the next alpha test will include the zone of Revendreth and Torghast, Tower of the Damned: an endlessly changing, constantly challenging dungeon experience. I’m looking forward to both, as Revendreth boasts a vampire/gothic vibe, and Torghast will test an ambitious new system that combines elements showcased in Legion‘s Mage Tower and the Island Expeditions and Horrific Visions in Battle for Azeroth. For now, I’m going to go drool some more over all the shiny new mount models.