I expressed some concern about the launch of the Shadowlands expansion in my post on Sunday, wondering if the server problems I had been seeing might impact the new experience.
But when it came down to it, at least on the Eldre’Thalas server, things seemed to go pretty smoothly. (Though there were problems elsewhere I hear.)
I had read that the starting hook for the expansion hook would be out in front of the fountain before Stormwind Keep, so set myself up there early in the day.
A little before 3pm local time, the hour of the launch for me, I logged in to gather with the other early birds to get right into things. Ula had some free time as well, so we grouped up and waited around the fountain, which by that point was quite crowded.
Moments after 3pm hit there was an announcement in the area by Highlord Darion Mograine.
And then a death gate opened up before the fountain and people started piling in.
It was through there to Icecrown and Bolvar Fordragon who had a few feats of strength for people to go through before he sent them off into the Maw to go find the people scooped up by Sylvanas in the pre-invasion.
And then it was into the Maw, the so-called crucible of the damned.
And it was a grim, dark hellscape with some of the tormented to fight and some of the regulars to find. You end up with Jaina Proudmoore and Thrall to start with and end up on an exciting run through the place. You find Anduin Wrynn and have to work to free him, and then Warchief Baine Bloodhoof. The place is a torment and everybody wants to get out, and has been struggling to do so since they were taken.
Together you work your way to what my be a way out of the place, a portal that seems to respond only to your presence. So they cover you while you escape.
And then, hey presto, you’re teleported to Orbios and your first achievement.
There you meet the locals, talk about what is going on, get a tour of the place, and generally take your time, heedless of the fact that your recent pals are still being tormented. But they have a way of doing things. There is apparently enormous red tape in the after life.
From there you get sent off to Bastion to ingratiate yourself with the locals and run through their bright and shiny lands, the polar opposite of the Maw when it comes to style, and help them deal with their personal issues.
Seriously, Jaina, Thrall, Baine, and Anduin got themselves recaptured covering your escape, and were clearly unhappy about it.
And now you’re farting around with really some of the most annoyingly chirpy mobs in the game who all sound like they’re in a cult if you start paying close attention to what they’re saying. It is like being in the 70s.
Still, when in Rome… so you go along with the initiation, fight your personal demons manifested, relive past events in brief, and haul around their anima, the precious resource that drives things around there.
You get some armor, spar with some initiates, dust, tidy up, and attend some more lectures on the whole thing.
Doing all the fetch and carry and introspection gets you a level pretty quickly. I was level 52 before the evening was out, and well on my way to 53. The first person made it to 60, the new level cap, in just three hours.
But I gather that the level grind is not the big deal in Shadowlands. Once you get to the level cap you have to pick a covenant and start earning your way into that as an alternate advancement method. Something beyond just a rep grind so far as I have seen, though I haven’t looked too closely yet.
You get some new gear naturally, though I was surprised that it took a while for the first pieces to show up. They were not in a hurry to replace everything you had in the first half dozen quests. And some of it wasn’t good enough to replace what I had. While I didn’t work very hard on the Heart of Azeroth in Battle for Azeroth, the first neck slot quest reward wasn’t cutting it as a replacement.
Likewise, the big sword I got from Nathanos Blightcaller was better than the first weapons that came my way as drops or rewards.
And while the server seemed solid and I did not see any queues later in the evening when I logged back in, things were still a bit off. I tried to group up with Ula again later on and we got stuck in different phases even though we were on the same quest. We tried the dreaded “party sync” option, and while it did indeed get us onto the same quest again, we remained in different phases.
And perhaps some of the quests are meant to be solo, but it would be nice to have some indication of that. Later, when we tried to add Skronk to the group, we had similar issues. He couldn’t join the group at first, then he was in a different phase, and even after the part sync put us onto his quests, we still couldn’t all get into the same phase and visible to each other.
And that was on top of the usual factional annoyances. This is one of the expansions where the Alliance and the Horde have identical experiences, so we’re all out there mixed together in Bastion. But if a fellow Alliance member tags a mob, I can still join in and get credit, but if somebody from the Horde tags it, it is now gray to me and gets me no credit. If we’re essentially fighting on the same side this round, maybe adjust that? I don’t know.
But the advancement is going quickly enough that hopefully Bastion will be in the rear view mirror before too long. It the sort of environment that brings up thoughts like, “I’m not saying Sylvanas is right, but looking at this place, I am not saying she is completely wrong either.” Hell, one event involves a bunch of the locals sick of the routine and rising up against the status quo. I had to go help put that down despite my sympathies.
But it is just a zone, and some zones you like and others you don’t, though the narrative in it feels like an extended intro that I kind of want to wrap up but never quite gets there. Will I want to go through this with alts?
I will admit that the place looks pretty good. A lot of work went into things. I just have to get through Bastion and get back to rescuing people from the Maw, right?
Other first night posts: