World of Warcraft's epic saga will continue with the arrival of Shadowlands, an expansion that takes players to the realm of the dead after Sylvannas Windrunner broke the crown of the current Lich King, Bolvar Fordragon. New areas, dungeons, raids, and many other surprises will await players in the Shadowlands, but that's not what we'll be addressing in this preview.
Eventually, we will take a closer look at the new content, probably when there's a beta version, but for now, we decided to take advantage of the alpha version to look at the other big attraction of the expansion; a brand new way to experience World of Warcraft, suitable for those who have never played it before, or haven't played in a long time.
One of the biggest changes that Shadowlands will bring to World of Warcraft is a cut in the level system. Currently, with Battle for Azeroth, the maximum level is 120, but when the next expansion arrives, that limit will be cut to 60. In fact, the current experience available will be from 1 to 50, while Shadowlands will be indicated for players 50 to 60.
This dramatic cut aims to solve a series of current World of Warcraft problems, starting with the fact that 120 levels is a daunting climb - with an experience of 1 to 50, the player will be ready for Shadowlands considerably faster. Another problem is that in the current format, there's just not enough skills or rewards for every level, making for a less exciting levelling experience. With the new format from 1 to 60, the player will receive something every time they level up, whether it's a new skill or access to a higher mount category.
It's a new WoW that presents itself as soon as you boot up the game, putting you in a revamped version of the character creator. This version features a more minimalist and 'clean' interface, but also a number of new options for customising the characters. In the version that is currently in the alpha, some races are still missing, but it's enough to give us a good idea of how it will work, as you can see in one of the videos adjacent to the article.
Once you have created your character, your path will depend on whether you are a new player or not. If you are a new player, that course will be dictated by you, through what Blizzard believes is the best way to experience the game. If you are more experienced, you can choose to follow the new optimised path, or define your own, starting with a choice of where to begin.
One of Shadowlands' new features (which will be available to all players, not just those who buy the expansion), is a new starting area, Exile's Reach. This zone is essentially a huge tutorial that will take you from level 1 to 10 before unleashing you on the world. If you are a new player, you will start in Exile's Reach without any other options, but if you are a veteran, you can start here, or choose the traditional starting areas for your race.
Upon reaching level 10, the novice player will be transported to Stormwind or Orgrimmar, depending on their faction, and will be immediately launched into the current expansion, Battle for Azeroth. In other words, the new optimised experience essentially follows Exile's Reach, Battle for Azeroth, and Shadowlands, which means that it will carry the player over a more coherent story and gaming experience, leaving behind current WoW's broken continuity. As for all you veterans out there, you can choose any of the old expansions to get your new characters from 10 to 50, before leaving for Shadowlands.
This also implies changes in two very specific classes, namely Death Knight and Demon Hunter, which now leave their respective areas at level 10. Death Knight, in particular, will go through a completely new starting area, with a current story based on Bolvar's version of the Lich King Bolvar, as Arthas is dead in this timeline. Other races will also have access to the Death Knight, including the Pandaren.
As for the new area of Exile's Reach, it is essentially an island that you discover after being shipwrecked onboard your Horde or Alliance ship. This is an island closed to other players, which means that from 1 to 10 you will be completely alone to learn how World of Warcraft works. Both the story of Exile's Reach, as well as its missions, were designed to teach the player the peculiarities of the interface, the game mechanics, and the functioning of their class. For example, in the case of the Paladin, you will have to use the Divine Shield to collect an item, positioned within flames that will kill you if you don't have the shield activated.
From what we've seen from Exile's Reach - the zone is unfinished and only supports Alliance at this point - it seems it will be by far the most effective tutorial World of Warcraft has ever had. Moreover, the whole new structure and experience of levelling up seems to us to be an excellent idea, both for beginners and for those who want to raise new characters. It remains to be seen how everything will actually work out in the final version, but our first impression tells us that there has never been a better time to start - or return to - playing World of Warcraft than with Shadowlands.
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