Regional FlagWorld of Warcraft: Deep Dive Panel RecapSource
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#1 - 2019/11/03 12:37:09 AM

In the What’s Next panel, game director Ion Hazzikostas gave an overview of Shadowlands, World of Warcraft’s eighth expansion. In the Deep Dive panel, senior game designer Paul Kubit, lead combat designer Brian Holinka, and lead designer Kevin Martens take you deeper into the various systems and changes that will come with the expansion.


The Covenants of the Shadowlands

In Shadowlands, players will be able to quest through four new zones ruled by ancient and powerful Covenants. Upon reaching the max level of 60, players will be able to join one of these Covenants as they continue to explore the World of Warcraft universe’s afterlife and the many mysteries and adventures that it holds.

  • Kyrians: The denizens of Bastion, these are angelic beings embrace humility and service to their order.
  • Necrolords: Comprised of liches, warlords, and spies, the Necrolord Covenant calls Maldraxxus home. They make up the army that defends the Shadowlands.
  • Night Fae: Guardians of nature, the Night Fae inhabit Ardenweald and shepherd beings through the cycle of life and death. It was through their aid that the demigod Cenarius was able to make his return to Azeroth during the events of the Cataclsym.
  • Venthyr: Making their home in Revendreth, the vampiric Venthyr are the punishers of the unworthy, seeking to rehabilitate the sinful souls sent to them by the Arbiter.

When making your choice of a Covenant, there are many aspects to consider, including the Covenant Sanctum where you’ll be spending a lot of your time. Your choice will determine whether you spend your time in the resplendent halls of the Sanctum in Bastion; in the shadow of a monument to an undead lord at the Sanctum in Maldraxxus; in the Night Fae Sanctum in a twilight-enshrouded glade in Ardenweald; or in the Venthyr Sanctum, a gothic castle in Revendreth.


Covenant Abilities

You’ll also want to consider the abilities the Covenant will provide you. The first of these abilities is available to all Covenant members regardless of class, race, or specialization. This ability helps you explore the world in interesting ways and solve problems without the need to engage in combat.

Here are some current examples for each of the Covenants:

Covenant

Ability Name

Cast Time/Range/ Cooldown

Tooltip

Kyrian

Unburden

1 Second Cast Time
1 Minute Cooldown

Dissolve into pure anima, increasing your movement speed to 300%, slowing your falling speed, and propelling you forward for 4 seconds.

Greatly reduces the radius at which enemies will detect you.

Night Fae

Soul Shape

Instant
1.5 Minute Cooldown

Turn into a Spirit Fox, increasing your movement speed by 30% and causing enemies to ignore you. Lasts 10 seconds, or until cancelled while in a rest area.

Necrolord

Transcend the Flesh

Instant
3 Minute Cooldown

Separate your soul from your body for 20 seconds. Your soul is invisible and untargetable, though your body remains vulnerable.

This effect will end early if you move further than 60 yards from your body. When Transcend the Flesh ends or is cancelled, your body rejoins your soul.

Venthyr

Door of Shadows

40 Yard Range

2 Second Cast
2 Minute Cooldown

Wend through the shadows, appearing at the targeted location.

The Kyrian ability helps you move significantly faster for a short time while also reducing the aggro radius around you. If used wisely, you may be able to flit across short expanses.

Soulshape, the Night Fae ability, increases your speed and causes creatures to ignore you for a 10-second period. It can also be used indefinitely in rest areas, in case relaxing in your Covenant Sanctum as a spirit fox appeals to you. As you progress through the Covenant Campaign, you’ll also have the opportunity to customize your form to something like a glimmer fly or runestag.

With the Necrolord ability, Transcend the Flesh, you’ll separate from your body, but your body will be vulnerable. If your body dies, you die. With this ability, you’ll be able to sneak past enemies and pull your body to you to avoid a confrontation.

The Venthyr ability Door of Shadows allows you to teleport to chosen destination, essentially stepping through shadow between one point and another.

The second ability you will get from your Covenant is a powerful combat ability specific to your class. This ability is meant to aid you in solving problems through might.

Here are some current examples of mage abilities:

Covenant

Ability Name

Mana Cost/ Cast Time/Range/Cooldown

Tooltip

Kyrian

Radiant Spark

2,000 Mana
1.3 Second Cast
40 Yard Range
30 Second Cooldown

Conjure a radiant spark that causes 4,854 Arcane damage instantly, and an additional 1,892 damage over 8 seconds.
 

Your next 4 direct damage abilities that hit targets affected by Radiant Spark deal 25% increased damage, up to 100% damage.

Necrolord

Contagion Bolt

40 Yard Range
2 Second Cast
1.5 Minute Cooldown

Deal 5,000 Shadow damage to the target enemy. For the next 8 seconds, your single target spells cast on the affected enemy cause the disease to splash to nearby enemies dealing 3,000 Shadow damage.

Night Fae

Shifting Power
 

15 Yard Range
Channeled
45 Second Cooldown

Draw from the ground beneath you for 3 seconds, dealing 5,500Nature damage to nearby enemies over the duration. Every second spent channeling increases your Haste by 5% for 15 seconds.

Venthyr

Mirrors of Torment

40 Yard Range
2 Second Cast
2 Minute Cooldown

Conjure 3 mirrors that rotate around the targeted enemy for 6 seconds. Whenever they cast an ability or spell they take 7,000 Shadow damage and are rooted for 1.5 seconds.

The Kyrian ability, Radiant Spark, does damage over time and increases the damage of your next four spells, helping you set you up powerful combinations to take down your enemies.

The Necrolord ability Contagion Bolt does instant damage, and for a short time empowers your single-target spells to splash Shadow damage on enemies around your target.

The Night Fae ability deals damage to your enemies and grants you a haste buff of increasing power the longer you channel it.

The Venthyr ability Mirrors of Torment debuffs an enemy, rooting and damaging them whenever they cast spells or use an ability for a short time.


What are Soulbinds?

In the Shadowlands, two souls can take part in a ritual to bind themselves together. This is often done between romantic partners, friends, or allies-in-arms to make them stronger. When you reach max level and join a Covenant, you’ll be able to bind your soul one of several such powerful beings. These Soulbinds make it possible to learn new abilities from your ally, some of which may not normally be available to your class.

Here is just an example of a couple of Venthyr Soulbinds:

Theotar, the Mad Duke
Arrogance—You have 5% increased critical strike chance against targets whose current health percentage is lower than yours.

Nadjia, The Mistblade
Deflecting Flourish—Your Parry is increased by 6%. If you are normally unable, Nadjia will teach you how to parry.

As you progress with your new Soulbind, you’ll learn more about their story and unlock new tiers of power. You’ll also be able to customize your Soulbind ability tree with Conduits gained during your adventures through the Shadowlands. Similar to changing talents, you’ll be able to switch between Soulbinds, allowing you to select the ones that would most benefit you at any time during your adventures.

The Benefits of Membership

As a member of a specific Covenant, you’ll get access to themed armor and weapons, backpack-style items to wear in place of your regular cloak, and an upgradeable mount. You’ll also gain other benefits specific to each Covenant that will help you on your adventures, such as being the ability to construct your own customized abomination as a member of the Necrolords.

At max level, you’ll also be able to embark on a unique campaign for the Covenant you’ve chosen to align with.

After considering all of the benefits of each Covenant, you’ll want to choose carefully. While you can change yours if you decide it’s not the right fit, doing so will take some work.


Covenant Armor Sets


Covenant Back Attachments


The Future of Leveling

After 15 years, World of Warcraft players have thousands of hours of story to potentially experience— and with so many possibilities and options to explore as you level up a character, the narrative thread between expansions can be hard to follow, potentially leading to jarring discontinuities, like seeing different warchiefs when they visit Orgrimmar depending on what expansion story they’re playing.

It also takes a long time to level, which hinders new players who want to join up with their friends in the latest content. Level banding helped with this, but we have our sights set on a larger overhaul of the leveling system. Our goals are to make our expansion stories feel better to play through,  while also increasing the speed at which players can start experiencing the latest content with their friends. We want to make every level you gain feel meaningful and rewarding, whether that means gaining a new spell or ability, getting a new rank of one you already have, earning a new mount, or getting access to some other benefit.


Leveling Updates

To create a more streamlined leveling experience in Shadowlands, players will level from 1–60, with 60 being the new cap. By adjusting the leveling experience to this new range, we can create a better pace of leveling and help ensure that each level feels truly meaningful. You’ll unlock something new for your character each time you fill your experience bar. This will also make the leveling experience significantly faster.

Players will also be able to choose the experience they want for levels 10–50 by leveling through the expansion of their choice.

When these changes go into effect, existing characters will have their levels adjusted—but not their power. This means a level 120 character will be adjusted to level 50, but will still be just as powerful as they are now. They’ll remain able to use the same equipment and items, and they’ll be able to take part in all the same content they’ve been doing. Other characters not at max level will adjust to the new equivalent levels. Once Shadowlands goes live, players will be able to level from 50–60 in Shadowlands.


Exile’s Reach

After character creation, brand-new players will get to play through a starting experience on a newly discovered uncharted island called Exile’s Reach, where a failed expedition has prompted your faction leaders to send out some new recruits to the island to find out what happened.

In Exile’s Reach, players will encounter some of Azeroth’s most well-known enemies in an adventure that introduces them to the world with a unique storyline. An ogre necromancer is working to resurrect a dragon and has captured the previous expedition, intending to use them as a sacrifice. In true WoW fashion, players will end their adventure with an epic two boss mini-dungeon designed to. This dungeon can be played through with any class and does not require a full party.

It’s important to note that every brand-new (to WoW) character will begin here no matter what class, race, or faction they belong to.


Getting With The New Flow

Players completely new to World of Warcraft will create a character, play through Exile’s Reach, go to their faction capital city, then progress through the latest expansion—in this case, Battle for Azeroth. This allows new players to catch up to the story the majority of players have just experienced before joining them in the Shadowlands, giving them a better foundation and an access to a shared experience with the game.

For existing players and those playing alts, the flow is a bit different. They’ll start their journey to level 10 in their race’s existing starting zone, or can choose to go to Exile's Reach, and progress to their faction’s capital cities. Here, Chromie recognizes that you’ve been here before and will give the choice of which expansion you want to play through from level 10–50. From level 50, players will progress into the Shadowlands up to level 60.


Bringing Back Class

Classes have seen a lot of change during WoW’s 15 years of development, and so have our philosophies on class design. As the game has grown, so too has the number of spells, abilities, and talents, at points becoming a bit unwieldy. To address this in the past, we made changes to talents with Mists of Pandaria, and even removed some buttons in Warlords of Draenor. With the introduction of Artifact weapons in Legion, we devised a system in which every specialization had its own unique story arc and weapon, in essence creating what felt more like 36 distinct classes. While this was a cool moment in the Legion’s story, it also resulted in class identity giving way to a focus on specializations.

In Shadowlands, we want to put the focus back more on what classes are all about. While specializations are still a part of these classes, we want to put class first. With the change in leveling, we see an opportunity to reevaluate the abilities players gain as they level and when. We can also look at all of the rewards they can gain at each level and truly make each level feel meaningful and more powerful.

This change in our approach is also reflected in what Covenants have to offer. As we discussed earlier, when you join a Covenant, you gain a class power that’s usable across all specializations—making it more about what they have to offer the priest player or the shaman player versus the Shadow priest or Elemental shaman.

We also want to make sure we’re making changes that aren’t disruptive to players who have found their comfort level with their class, and want to make sure that we’re focusing on the opportunities for big wins for classes.

Defining Class

When looking at the changes we want to make to classes, we thought about what we considered to be class-defining mechanics—things like auras for paladins, totems for shaman, poisons for rogues, or curses for warlocks. These mechanics belong to the class as a whole, but specializations can be even better at specific parts of them, such as a rogue who specializes in Assassination excelling at poison use.

We also plan to bring many abilities that have been locked away in specializations back to their core classes, including iconic baseline abilities like Hunter’s Mark and Demonic Circle. When you start at level one with a class, instead of starting in a specific specialization or role, you’ll start with a range of class abilities, which will help you make an informed decision when the time comes to choose a specialization. By doing this, we’ll open up new spots in the talent tree that we’ll need to provide new options.

We also want to make sure classes feel like they have abilities that align with their weapon choices, such as a warrior becoming an Arms warrior and becoming more proficient in a two-handed weapon, or a shaman becoming an Enhancement shaman and being able to dual-wield. This would open up the opportunity for these characters to have abilities like Shield Block or Primal Strike as a part of their identity.

Bringing Back Class Abilities

Over the years we’ve pruned back abilities for one reason or another, sometimes as a way to reduce the sheer number of abilities players had. For many players, taking these away also changed the feel of the class in a way they didn’t enjoy. We want to bring many of these abilities back and still find ways to make them useful or cool to have where we can, such as with Eyes of the Beast, Kill Shot, Ritual of Doom, and more.

In the end, we want to make sure we’re providing players with the tools to take on new and interesting content like what we have ahead in Shadowlands.


The Maw and Torghast, Tower of the Damned

The Maw is as a dangerous endgame outdoor zone—a place ruled by torment and terror. Home to the mysterious Jailer, the Maw serves as a prison to the most vile and irredeemable souls in the World of Warcraft universe. With the machine of death broken, every soul has been feeding into the Maw instead.

As a champion of Azeroth, you have a unique power that allows you to escape this place. To the denizens of the Shadowlands, you are knowns the Maw Walker, and your unique ability to come and go from the Maw makes you highly valuable to your Covenant. You’re able to undertake missions to free others who have been captured in the Maw and eventually take the fight to the Jailer.

As you adventure through the Maw, you’ll sometimes draw the Eye of the Jailer to you. Your actions within the Maw can gain his attention and change the nature of your experience within the zone. The Jailer will send new punishments your way such as shade hounds who will begin to notice you from farther away and the aggro range for them will be increased. Later on, he may send specific kill squads after you. The key to surviving the Maw is to choose your battles carefully and be wary of the time you spend within the Maw.

The Tower

Within the Maw looms an immense structure known as the Tower of the Damned. Inside, players will discover a new kind of experience to take on and explore.

Torghast, Tower of the Damned is an instanced dungeon scalable from 1 to 5 players, with difficulty that adjusts to the size of your party. As you ascend the tower, both you and your enemies will grow in power. You’ll also encounter new challenges with increasing complexity to overcome.

The tower will change each time you enter it, providing variability in your experiences and encouraging you to explore. Where you may have turned right during one foray into the tower, you may find you that you can only go left the next time. Not only do the floorplans change within the tower, but so too do the monsters you face, the traps, the bonuses, and the rewards for overcoming each new challenge.

As you climb, you’ll need to be wary of the fast rate at which your enemies become more difficult on each new floor. The Jailer will send more and more deadly creatures to thwart you and your party. Each floor will also become more complex. To overcome these challenges, you’ll need to search out and collect Anima.

The tower is not a timed experience, so exploration of each level could make the difference between success or failure, as that’s how you’ll discover the powers that can help you as you ascend. Anima in the Maw presents itself as a form of potential energy that you’ll come across, which offers you a choice of how you want it to benefit you. As an example, you might be given the choice between something like Obleron Endurance, which increases your maximum health by 10%, or Obleron Talisman which increases your mastery by 5%. You could stack lots of damage this way, but you may find that you’re still dying to the challenges of the tower if you don’t also choose to bolster your survivability too.

As another example, you could find an ability like Corruption Antenna, which gives your attacks a chance to curse your target, dealing 35,440 Shadow damage to your target over 8 seconds. Later, you might find Shadowed Iris, which makes it so when you deal Shadow damage, it has a chance to blind the target, reducing their chance to hit by 75% for 12 seconds. These abilities could work well together, creating a synergy that makes your attacks more effective.

Within the tower you’ll also find epic powers to use, such as the Golden Idol, which grants the ability to see which enemies are carrying Anima. This provides you and your party with the ability to determine which enemies will be most beneficial to kill, helping you determine if your party should take them on or leave them be and move on.

The abilities your party acquires through Anima can lead to a wide variety of interesting experiences as you play through the tower. You’ll want to try to coordinate between your allies to maximize your effectiveness as a party—but beware becoming overconfident. Powers that may work well on one floor may not benefit you on another. As an example, you could take Bloating Fodder, which will cause Mawrats within the tower to explode on death, dealing 10,631 Plague damage to all other nearby enemies. With enough stacks of this ability on these annoying creatures, you could do a massive amount of damage to anything nearby. This is useful when you’re on a floor with plenty of Mawrats to put to your use, but not as useful if you progress to a floor without any crawling around.

The tower is always changing from run to run—but it is also changing over time. As you press further into the Maw, the Jailer may change his tactics against you.

Within the first couple of weeks of the Shadowlands expansion, the Jailer will unleash a horde of monstrosities into the Maw and the tower itself in an event called The Beasts of Prodigum, changing the experience. During this event you may gain some new powers that can help you counter these beasts, such as the Chain of Command, which calls forth Horgul, a powerful Shade Hound that can stun individual enemies and draw their attention. You might also come across a Shade Essence-Lure that calls forth Valloc, a powerful Soul Eater that can inflict area damage and silence enemies.

Runes and Legendaries

Great rewards await those you push themselves to their limits to climb the tower. As you progress through Torghast, you’ll gather runes along the way that you can take to a runeforge, where the Runesage will help you forge legendary items. You’ll also be able to learn a bit more about origins of iconic legendary items such Frostmourne or the Helm of Domination. You’ll also have more control over how you craft your legendaries, meaning you’ll be able to determine what slot they go in, what benefits they give you, and maybe even what secondary stats they have.


Shadowlands is filled with new features, and we’ve only touched on many of them. We look forward to sharing more with you as development continues on this new expansion.