The next World of Warcraft expansion, Shadowlands, made its alpha debut on Thursday, and the game’s early stages of public testing are already showcasing many trends that are heading in the right direction.
With the launch of the alpha, Blizzard introduced several new features to be tested, as one of the expansion’s zones, Bastion, and its respective dungeon, the Necrotic Wake, are currently available for testing.
And while the prospect of new playable content for WoW seems obviously intriguing on the surface, what’s truly eye-catching is the string of promises made by game director Ion Hazzikostas in regards to the game’s developmental direction. Not only did Hazzikostas and the WoW development team unveil a slew of changes coming to each class in World of Warcraft, affecting the way the game is played on an individual-by-individual basis, but a decent amount of overarcing changes to the game’s core mechanics were announced, affecting the playerbase on a more global scale.
For starters, the headline of the updates and unveilings over the course of the past week was the confirmation that Shadowlands will not feature Titanforging, Corruption, or any sort of similar system, effectively removing the RNG-oriented side of the process of gearing up. Additionally, Shadowlands is confirmed to release without the addition of any Artifact Power system. Dating back to Artifact Weapons in Legion and the Heart of Azeroth in Battle for Azeroth, some variation of the Artifact Power system has been a staple of new WoW expansions, so to see it done away with completely ahead of Shadowlands is most certainly a step in a different direction.
And frankly, it’s a direction that’s long overdue. Players have long been at odds with the grind that the Artifact Power systems of WoW have offered up. The methods were incredibly unfriendly to alts as the process took a decent chunk of time to complete for one character, and the rewards of said grind (namely essences for the Heart of Azeroth in BfA) weren’t account bound, making players hone in on one character potentially throughout the course of the expansion. With the growth and progression of alt characters effectively being stunted, BfA pigeonholed a large portion of its players into the process of dedicating themselves to a character that they might not want to play. But, since they’ve already invested an unreasonable amount of time into that character – and fear the enormous mountain facing any alt =- they’re actively discouraged from progressing at all.
Shadowlands does away with all of those mindsets and concepts. At its core, WoW’s next expansion is what an RPG is meant to look like. The expansion is set to revolve around a decent array of core gameplay features and mechanics – such as the freedom and creativity granted to players through systems such as Covenants. Additionally, with incentives to push those mechanics to their boundaries through methods of progression, the next WoW expansion is certainly headed in the right direction. Mainly, this newfound sense of hope for the game comes from a standpoint where many players can take a deep breath, smile a little bit and say “finally”.
And while it’s fair to temper expectations for Shadowlands after the disappointment that was Battle for Azeroth, it’s a positive sign of things to come that the game’s developers are listening to the playerbase and implementing changes that will most definitely send WoW in the right direction.
Photo Credit: World of Warcraft, Blizzard Entertainment