World of Warcraft: Shadowlands

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World of Warcraft: Shadowlands
World of Warcraft Shadowlands.jpg
Developer(s)Blizzard Entertainment
Publisher(s)Blizzard Entertainment
Director(s)Ion Hazzikostas
Producer(s)John Hight
Platform(s)Microsoft Windows, macOS
ReleaseNovember 23, 2020
Genre(s)Massively multiplayer online role-playing game

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands is the eighth expansion pack for the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) World of Warcraft, following Battle for Azeroth. It was announced and made available for preorder at BlizzCon on November 1, 2019. Originally scheduled for release on October 27, 2020; its release was delayed until November 23, the sixteenth anniversary of the release of the original game.[1][2][3][4][5]

The expansion opens up the Shadowlands, the realm of the dead in Warcraft lore.[3] It features the game's first "level squish" and a completely overhauled leveling system, access to the Death Knight class for the races that did not previously have access to it, Covenants in the new zones, and new dungeons and raids.[1][6]

On February 20, 2021, Chains of Domination (Patch 9.1) was announced. A new location, Korthia, was added to the Shadowlands.[7] Chains of Domination also released a new raid called "Sanctum of Domination" which features iconic World of Warcraft character Sylvanas Windrunner as the final boss.[8] The patch went live on June 29th, 2021 for the US region, and on June 30th for EU.[9]


Shadowlands involves a level reduction ("level squish") with player characters at level 120 (the level cap in Battle for Azeroth) reduced to level 50, with level 60 being the new level cap (as it had been in the original game). In what Blizzard has called a "New Game+ experience", newly created characters have an updated starting experience on an island called "Exile's Reach", which introduces them to the game and its systems. For players new to World of Warcraft, characters who finish the starting experience on Exile's Reach proceed to Battle for Azeroth content, while veteran players who create new characters can choose the expansion experience they wish to play through to level 50, at which point they proceed to the Shadowlands.[10][11]

Shadowlands features five major zones - Bastion, Ardenweald, Revendreth, Maldraxxus, and the Maw. In the center is the city of Oribos, which functions as the main player hub similar to Shattrath City in Outland in The Burning Crusade or Dalaran in Wrath of the Lich King and Legion. There are four new dungeons for leveling, four more at maximum level, and a new raid. In addition, a new roguelike "endless dungeon" called Torghast, Tower of the Damned, was introduced for both solo and group play.[6][11]

All playable core races (not allied races) received new customization options (for example, humans are able to customize their ethnicities, dwarves and trolls gain tattoos, and undead are able to show varying degrees of decay). The Death Knight class (added in Wrath of the Lich King) was opened up to pandaren (added in Mists of Pandaria) and to all allied races (added in Legion and Battle for Azeroth); players who pre-ordered Shadowlands received access to death knights for these races with the release of Patch 8.3.0, Battle for Azeroth's last major content patch, on January 14, 2020.[11]


The four zones that the Shadowlands comprise are ruled by "Covenants", similar to the Class Orders introduced in Legion. Each Covenant has its own campaign, similar to the War Campaign in Battle for Azeroth, with gear specific to the faction and abilities both universal and determined by class. The four covenants are the Kyrian of Bastion, the Night Fae of Ardenweald, the Venthyr of Revendreth, and the Necrolords of Maldraxxus. Players experiencing the Shadowlands content for the first time are required to reach level 60 before they can choose to pledge themselves to a Covenant, while alts are able to do so at the start of the Shadowlands content.[6][11]

Throughout the Covenant campaigns players will be able to insert conduits into the "Forge of Bonds," a system which increases a player's stats and abilities.[12] The Covenant campaigns also introduced a currency known as Renown, which when raised gives the players rewards. The maximum Renown you can have with a single Covenant is 40. Completing dungeons and raids on any difficulty also awards players with Renown for the Covenant that they have chosen.[13]

Torghast, Tower of the Damned[edit]

Shadowlands introduced a rogue-like dungeon at launch, Torghast, Tower of the Damned. Parts of the Shadowlands campaign are centered in Torghast. The tower introduced runecarving memories, which you can augment into items to make them more powerful. In order to make these legendary items you need a clothing piece that coincides with your class and also soul ash, a currency found while progressing through Torghast.[14][15]


The story of Shadowlands serves as a direct continuation of the storyline of the previous expansion, Battle for Azeroth. After Sylvanas Windrunner murdered High Overlord Saurfang using otherworldly powers directly from the Shadowlands, she traveled to Icecrown Citadel and destroyed the Lich King's Helm of Domination, which ruptured the worlds of the living and of the dead.[16] Shadowlands reveals that Sylvanas was committing crimes on Azeroth because she had made some sort of deal with the Jailer, ruler of The Maw, a zone of eternal damnation.[17]

Azeroth leaders Thrall, Baine Bloodhoof, Jaina Proudmoore, and Anduin Wrynn are kidnapped by Sylvanas and imprisoned in Torghast, the maze-like Tower of the Damned within the Shadowlands, the realm of the dead. Heroes from Azeroth are tasked with finding a way to enter the Shadowlands by using the torn Helm of Domination as a portal. They succeed, but find themselves within the Maw and the Jailer's endless armies. Upon finding a waystone, champions escape the Maw and wind up in Oribos, the capital city of the Shadowlands, and home of the Arbiter, the judger of souls, who has mysteriously gone dormant, causing all souls to be sent straight into the Maw. In order to discover the cause of the disruption, stewards of the Arbiter send champions to the four realms of the Shadowlands to discover both the consequences and the possibilities of a remedy.

The heroes visit the four realms of the angel-like Bastion, the chaotic undead of Maldraxxus, the forests and fields of Ardenweald, and the vampiric demons of Revendreth to learn the ways of the denizens of each zone. Each realm is short on anima, the energy of souls, due to all souls being sent straight into the Maw, causing droughts and famines everywhere. It's in Revendreth where champions learn that their leader, Sire Denathrius, has been aligned with the Maw and feeding reservoirs of anima into it. Rebels within Revendreth team up with Azeroth heroes to snuff out and put an end to Denathrius's regime. All the while, Baine, Thrall, and Jaina are recovered from Torghast thanks to the insight of former Lich King Bolvar Fordragon, but Anduin is kept hidden in secret.

Chains of Domination[edit]

Growing short on time and patience upon losing Denathrius as a pawn, Sylvanas and the Jailer force Anduin to become an agent of the Maw. The Jailer's next target is shown to be sigils held by the rulers of each realm after he sends Anduin to attack the Archon, ruler of Bastion, and claims her sigil. At the same time, he targets the hidden realm of Korthia, where it's believed the missing Maldraxxi leader Primus hid his sigil, and chains the landscape to Torghast so his minions can begin their search. During an invasion of Ardenweald, the Jailer uses Anduin again to claim the sigil of the Winter Queen, ruler of the realm. During the ordeal, Tyrande Whisperwind appears and attacks Sylvanas for what she did to Teldrassil. As she goes in for the kill, the powers of Elune's Night Warrior fade away, allowing Sylvanas to escape, but not before sowing doubt in the Banshee Queen's mind about trusting the Jailer since she was unaware of the death of Nathanos Blightcaller, who Tyrande killed before entering the Shadowlands.

With the retrieval of the 4 covenant sigils, Revendreth's being handed over earlier by Denathrius and the Malraxxi sigil taken from the recently discovered Primus in Torghast, the Jailer prepares to attack Oribos to claim the dormant Arbiter's sigil, the final key. Azeroth's champions band together with Jaina, Thrall, and Bolvar to stop the invasion by breaching the Jailer's personal fortress, the Sanctum of Domination. The incursion ends for naught as the Jailer successfully acquires the Arbiter's sigil, transforming himself into an armored behemoth. His plan in full motion, the Jailer reveals his goal of forging his own reality where all serve him, going against Sylvanas's previous desire of breaking the unfair cycle of death. Recalling Arthas Menethil's previous demand for her to serve during the Third War, Sylvanas cuts ties with the Jailer, denouncing any servitude. For her aid in his cause, however, the Jailer "rewards" Sylvanas with her soul that was taken by Arthas's mourneblade. This causes her to pass out, while at the mercy of Azeroth's leaders, as the Jailer and Anduin escape.


Shadowlands has received generally favorable reviews with a score of 83 on Metacritic[18] and an 8 out of 10 from IGN.[19]


On launch day, World of Warcraft: Shadowlands sold 3.7 million copies, breaking the expansion sales records tied by Legion and Cataclysm, and even breaking records worldwide.[20]

Player reception[edit]

While the players' initial reaction to the launch and first weeks of Shadowlands' late-game progression has been positive,[21] the overall sentiment has gone down considerably by the time the expansion's first major patch, Chains of Domination, came out. The majority of complaints pertained to several of the game's late-game systems,[22] the developer's tendency to artificially extend game time by time-gating important gameplay and story milestones,[23] as well as an unusually long delay between the expansion's release and the launch of its first major patch.[24]


  1. ^ a b Sirani, Jordan (November 1, 2019). "World of Warcraft: Shadowlands Expansion Announced at BlizzCon 2019 - IGN". Retrieved November 1, 2019.
  2. ^ Marshall, Cass (November 1, 2019). "The next World of Warcraft expansion is Shadowlands". Polygon. Retrieved November 1, 2019.
  3. ^ a b Messner, Steven (November 1, 2019). "World of Warcraft new expansion revealed: Shadowlands". PC Gamer. Retrieved November 1, 2019.
  4. ^ Fahey, Mike (November 1, 2019). "The Next World Of Warcraft Expansion, Shadowlands, Takes Players Into The Afterlife". Kotaku.
  5. ^ "An Update on Shadowlands". October 1, 2020.
  6. ^ a b c Blizzard Entertainment (November 1, 2019). "Prepare to Cross Into the Realm of the Dead in World of Warcraft: Shadowlands".
  7. ^ "BlizzCon 2021 Announcements and Reveals, From World of Warcraft to Diablo". IGN. February 20, 2021.
  8. ^ "WoW Chains of Domination release date: Shadowlands update time, new features, trailer, news". April 14, 2021.
  9. ^ "Everything we know about World of Warcraft: Shadowlands' Chains of Domination update". February 24, 2021.
  10. ^ Carter, Chris (November 1, 2019). "World of Warcraft: Shadowlands is completely overhauling WoW's leveling system". Destructoid.
  11. ^ a b c d Messner, Steven (November 1, 2019). "Everything we know about World of Warcraft: Shadowlands". PC Gamer. Retrieved November 4, 2019.
  12. ^ "World of Warcraft Shadowlands Conduits Guide". November 26, 2020.
  13. ^ "Become a Shadowlands celebrity with this Renown guide". December 4, 2020.
  14. ^ "World of Warcraft: Shadowlands - All Armor Rune Vessels (And How to Get Them)". December 2, 2020.
  15. ^ "How to Unlock Legendary Crafting in WoW: Shadowlands". December 5, 2020.
  16. ^ "World of Warcraft: Shadowlands Review". December 16, 2020.
  17. ^ "10 Unresolved Mysteries and Plot Holes Left Hanging In World of Warcraft: Shadowlands". November 11, 2020.
  18. ^ "World of Warcraft: Shadowlands". Metacritic.
  19. ^ "World of Warcraft: Shadowlands Review, You're dead, kid. (10 Dec 2020)". IGN.
  20. ^ "World of Warcraft: Shadowlands breaks record for biggest PC game launch". December 8, 2020.
  21. ^ Messner, Steven (January 14, 2021). "The state of World of Warcraft in 2021". PC Gamer. Retrieved August 3, 2021.
  22. ^ "The perfect storm striking World of Warcraft". BBC News. July 31, 2021. Retrieved August 3, 2021.
  23. ^ "Why World of Warcraft players are leaving for FFXIV". Windows Central. July 20, 2021. Retrieved August 3, 2021.
  24. ^ Messner, Steven (February 23, 2021). "It sucks that World of Warcraft's next big update feels so far off". PC Gamer. Retrieved August 3, 2021.

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