The latest World of Warcraft expansion, originally due to be released on October 27, has been delayed until “later this year”. The reasons given in the announcement is that due to beta feedback the development team need more time to polish and balance the endgame. Blizzard stated that they believe the zones, the campaign, the level-up questing experience and story are all ready to share but opinions of many players in the beta forums seem to differ.

In terms of 50 – 60 levelling, a post from the development team finally recognised the issue of a lack of experience points being awarded in the shadowlands main campaign, leading to players running out of quests, even side quests, before hitting level 60. After nearly two months with it being near impossible to hit level 60 through questing alone, a temporary fix was put in place last week granting an extra 40% experience points from quests when players hit level 55. Responses to this fix have been mixed with some claiming that it doesn’t go far enough and still leaves players short and needing to grind side quests to hit level 60 and continue the campaign.

Other issues raised include the limited number and variety of quests, which some players have said feel more akin to those available in Classic than the modern retail version.  The lack of scaling, which introduced some major quality of life improvements in the last two expansions, but has now been dropped to return to a linear questing line, through the four available zones, where the next zone only unlocks upon the completion of the current one.

The Covenants, which are meant to be a core feature of the expansion, is also still breeding contention. Many players complain that the lore and aesthetic choice is being drowned out by a need to choose a Covenant based on which abilities best fit each class/ specs and will facilitate maximum performance in raids and Mythic+s. Choosing a covenant is presented, lore wise, as a deep and meaningful choice but many are complaining that it will be determined for them not by lore but based on spreadsheets, as players search online for the best build for their character.

As someone who has been playing the beta for a couple of months now, I can confirm that many improvements have been made. I’m experiencing far less bugs, the 50 – 60 levelling does feel smoother with the extra 40% boost. However, I, personally, am not sold on the direction of the end game. The soulbind and conduits system seems uninspiring and needlessly complex, to me.

There is only two ways to level characters from 50-60 which is either via the main campaign or via the Threads of Fate option which opens up the four levelling zones and allows the player to level via completing the side quests and world quests instead of the campaign. However, with the amount of XP currently required to hit 60, it takes all the side quests in those four zones to hit max level. This will make it a very dull and repetitive grind to level any more than two characters through this new expansion. The storyline still feels, to me, lacklustre, although some zones certainly fair better than others. I found the story in Bastion and Ardenweald particularly disappointing while I almost enjoyed the storyline in Revendreth but ultimately the lack of XP locked me from finishing its story quests.

Do I think the delay was necessary? I certainly do. Do I think that Blizzard will truly make the most of this delay, embrace player feedback and produce the expansion players need after the nightmare of BfA? No, I don’t. Compared to previous expansions, this one seems to lack content in exchange for complex endgame systems, which many players don’t even like and yet Blizzard seem very attached to. Many players agree that what ruined BfA was its dependency on its artefacts, essences and corruption systems. Those systems have not been removed in Shadowlands just reinvented to work in a very similar, arguably even more intrusive way. This is leading many beta players to refer to Shadowlands as BfA 2.0 which I, personally, agree with.

If you enjoyed BfA then you will probably enjoy Shadowlands. If, however, you didn’t then unless Blizzard pulls something very surprising out of their hat, Shadowlands seems also set to disappoint.