Games this Week... Shadowlands

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands launched last week, and I’ve since leveled up my main character to max and played through the first part of the main storyline, which takes you through each zone, introducing you to the various factions (called Covenants), their plights, and their allied abilities. 

Now, I went into Shadowlands expecting to be disappointed. The pre-release “event” with the Argent Crusade was a major letdown and barely made any sense in the grand scheme of the story, so I had very low expectations for the expansion (though I desperately wanted it to be good after the disappointment of Battle for Azeroth). Also, I’m still peeved at how we got to this expansion, with the complete character assassination of my favorite queen, Sylvanas Windrunner, and the lore retconning that ensued, with the game developers literally deleting or changing quests and dialogue that everyone played through at the beginning of Battle for Azeroth.

But, putting all of that aside, I was willing to go into Shadowlands with the hope that it would somehow be good, as long as I could pretend that the Sylvanas I know and love actually died at some point and was replaced with whatever the heck is masquerading as her now.

Logging on at launch, I was fully prepared for it to suck, and for Shadowlands to be the last World of Warcraft expansion I ever played. However, I am pleased to report that it does not, in fact, suck.

The first week of play was slow-going as I refamiliarized myself with my class and the changes that they made for the new expansion. I’m maining Holy Paladin this expansion, which is a bit of an adjustment as I have never mained a healer before. I’ve always been DPS in the past. But I wanted to do something a little differently, and I like the play style of Holy Paladin, so here we are. 

(In fact, this character was my first ever, and was originally a Retribution Paladin way back when I started playing during Wrath of the Lich King. That’s part of the reason I ended up maining her, as the gateway to the Shadowlands is in Northrend, and I had this idea that she’s just been chilling out in Dalaran, hanging with the Argent Crusade, and fighting undead since the fall of the Lich King… up until the sky over Icecrown Citadel shattered apart.)

I’ve done a couple of dungeons now, and healing is a much more demanding role compared to DPS, so I’ve struggled a little bit to get used to that. But I recently swapped some talents and refined my hotkeys for a more natural-feeling combat rotation, and now that I’m at max level, I was able to choose a Covenant and gain their allied abilities, so I feel a lot more confident with healing than I did a week ago.

I’ve also done a couple of runs through Torghast, the new rogue-like dungeon they’ve introduced in this expansion, with progressively harder enemies the further into the tower you go. Torghast is one of the things I was most looking forward to this expansion, and I can now say that running that dungeon is genuinely the most fun I have had playing World of Warcraft in a long while. It may, in fact, be the most fun I have ever had playing this game. Because of its design, my husband and I are able to play with just two players, so I don’t have to group up with random players to complete, so we’re able to go at our own pace, discussing combat strategy over voice chat, and exploring all the nooks, traps, and hidden caches along the way. Combat can be stressful, especially the further into the tower you go, but that’s part of the fun.

I’m now at the point where I’ve finished the introductory storyline and chosen which Covenant to ally with. The story so far is honestly phenomenal, which is a pleasant surprise. New lore is being introduced out the wazoo, with lots of unknowns and familiar faces in play, and endless speculating on my part as to how everything fits into the existing lore. I have cried a couple of times, not going to lie, and some parts of the story elicited stunned silence and numerous holy shits. There’s a lot going down in the Shadowlands, and a lot of it is bad.

Now that I’ve picked my Covenant—the Kyrian of Bastion, angel-like beings who act as ferries for the dead, kind of like the Norse Valkyrie (or Azerothian Val’kyr)—I’m playing through that campaign, collecting resources to strengthen their foothold so that they can restore balance to the Shadowlands now that everything has been thrown out of whack by the Jailer, this expansion’s Big Bad (as far as we know).

I’m enjoying the game far more than I expected, and for the first time in a long time, I want to log in and play, to learn more about the new lore, play through the new zones, and experience the story, not just because I feel like I have to because I’m paying a monthly subscription.

I can’t remember the last time I had this much fun playing this game. I just hope it holds up throughout the rest of the expansion.