Fooled by Shadowlands
Although it would be fair to say, I was almost certainly a willing participant in the deception. I’ve been here for WoW expansions before. Every single one of them, in fact. So I know how the concepts show up in reality. I know the scope to expect from a new expansion. I should have known the ideas I had built up for what Shadowlands would be were unreasonable.
I started reflecting on this after reading Kaylriene’s post on The Maw’s Design, and the differences in expectation, design intent and the reality of the execution. It made me think on where my expectations for the expansion lay based on what I’d read, before getting my hands on it.
My interested in Shadowlands came fairly late in the piece. Even as late as November — despite having already purchased the expansion and agreed to rejoin our guild’s raid team — I was having doubts about rejoining the WoW fold. So I hadn’t joined the beta. I hadn’t watched the streams or YouTube videos of anyone else who had, either. All I was running on was the trailer and the odd design / news article I’d read.
What I believed Shadowlands would be…
With all the gaps I had in my knowledge of Shadowlands, my brain started filling in gaps. For instance: How could we die in Shadowlands? We will have already made the journey to the great beyond so surely the whole mechanic of death would have to be rethought while we were there. Right? I mean… Breaking the barriers between the realm of life and death sounds like something that should change the world forever. Or at least until we fix it.
Not since we journey there physically, as our corporeal selves. No big deal. Everyone as you were.
OK, fine. But the Shadowlands is purported to be the realm of death for all peoples and planets of the universe. There sure is going to be a lot of these then. I still retained enough sanity to realise we wouldn’t be getting fully fleshed zones for an infinite number of areas, but hoo boy! So much we might hear about, so many places we might one day go!
Combined with the thought of how death might change, the concept of an untold number of realms of death, and a broken barrier between them and Azeroth my mind ran wild with the possibilities into the future, both in terms of patch content and additional expansions exploring this space.
True- there is still scope for perhaps some of this to happen and perhaps I’ll yet be surprised but suffice to say, the reality of what we received at launch and the treatment of it all has disabused me of the notion that anything I once thought is a likely outcome.
The space I thought I saw for Blizzard to innovate with Shadowlands ended up running instead down the well trodden path of everything we’re used to. So I fully expect everything in Shadowlands to be thrown out the window with whatever the next expansion ultimately ends up being.
As for the Maw and Torghast…
These are probably my greatest disappointments as they carried the greatest gulf between what I thought we were getting and what we did get.
I thought with the Maw we would be getting challenge mode content in the form of an entire zone. Content that would get more difficult the longer we spent there in a single visit; presumably with increasing rewards the longer you managed to stay there. A sort of Dark Soulsian risk / reward view of how it might operate.
I thought at the earliest levels it would be challenging but solo content, scaling ultimately into groups possibly culminating in that thing games do where what was once a boss becomes considered as a normal mob in some insane scaling. Full on world raid group stuff if you managed to stay there long enough!
That was cool and all, but Torghast was gonna be where it was at!
I happen to quite like rogue-lites. Like, a lot!
And from what I’d been reading it seemed like Blizzard understood the appeal of the genre. And from the plentitude of good examples that had been recently released, they had plenty of good templates to follow.
It’s easy: Make a system where completion isn’t expected on the first attempts but you are rewarded with ‘things’ that unlock ‘other things’ that help with subsequent runs. Add a dash of randomisation with the runs themselves, and walah!
If you’ve played yourself, you know this isn’t remotely close to the mark on what was delivered. If you haven’t- well; if you’ve read this far, you know it too.
In place of challenge in The Maw we received annoyance.
In place of a fun rogue-lite with progressive rewards we received… well; also annoyance. And a mandatory grind.
Not to say I haven’t had fun…
Because I did! For a time, I was the most into WoW that I’ve been in a long, long time.
But… I think once and for all, my hope in any true innovation ever coming to WoW is dead. I’m not even sure why I put any belief in Shadowlands being any different. Like I said earlier- I know what the previous expansions have entailed. I know that any system added for an expansion that sounds good on paper is ruined in execution and blown away for the expansion following anyway.
From this side of things I can see how illogical it was.
Still… When expectation meets reality in this way, it’s not exactly a pleasant experience.
I think I’m close to done with WoW again for a while. Let’s hope I can keep expectations in check for next time around. ;)