Day 2 of Shadowlands beta was less overall eventful, but I decided to spend the day playing on my level 60 premade. I had a list of objectives to test and report back on:
-The Covenant Selection Experience
-World Quests 2.0
-The Maw at 60
I’m going to start with the easiest one to discuss, which is, surprisingly, the Maw. My rant yesterday, while cathartic and a bit fun to write, was based largely on a single major grievance – the lack of mounting and the lack of communication or clarity around that to the player who hasn’t read/watched every interview and design idea publicly available. With a night’s sleep, some more play, and a bit of goofing around in the zone at level 60 down, I can say this: I’m still not a fan of the Maw overall, but the zone provides gameplay fixes to many of the problems I have. Let’s start with the obnoxious stuff first, though.
The Eye of the Jailer is, as I feared, intuitive enough but also vague. There is a UI element for it, and it looks like…
So, there are 5 threat levels, and there are 5 runes on that graphic, so you might think that in this screenshot, I’m at rank 2, right? Wrong, you’re so wrong, it is actually a percentage indicator towards your next rank, with me at rank 0 but 40% of the way towards it! Isn’t it so easily viewable? No? This is the core frustration I have past the mounting issue – this mechanic is too opaque for the sake of having a cool UI element, and you can mouseover it to see more details, which is fine enough – but I would love this mechanic to show more detail at a glance. Maybe the eye in the middle could fill and the runes could each represent a threat level?
Getting to the Maw took around 3 quests after logging in on a fresh level 60, so it is fast to get into, and the early quests are actually pretty quick, by focusing on the area around Ven’ari’s cave and only gradually reaching out, which is great.
Speaking of Ven’ari, he offers a few cyphers, which enhance your experience in the Maw. The first quest he gives you grants a teleport cypher, which brings you back to him easily. This cypher seems cheap (25 Stygia) but without knowing how Stygia acquisition works (the quest gives you what you need for the first one), it is hard to say how much this fixes things. It has 5 charges, so eventually, you will need a new one. It is also unique, so once you burn the last charge, make sure you have the Stygia to replace it. There are other cyphers, including one that sounds like you can mount once you have it, but I cannot find it on Wowhead to save my life and the beta is down as I write this.
There are items sprinkled over the landscape that offer powers that help in the Maw. I found one, a hammer that gave me the appearance of a Mawsworn for around 30 seconds, making all enemies in the zone friendly. It was a cool little thing!
So with that, there is one more thing to discuss – tuning. The Maw still feels overtuned, made so that a fresh level 60 feels somewhat unwelcome. For the average mob, it isn’t awful, but for quest bosses, it absolutely sucks. I had a pre-Torghast quest that took 4 tries to finally get the boss down. The template of a level 60 character is definitely undergeared, coming in at item level 138 when a Mythic raider from BfA would come in at item level 120 at 50. Dungeons at level 60 normal difficulty drop item level 157 gear, so there is quite a delta between the power the game seems to expect for the Maw relative to what the template has. Given that, the ordering of quests seems a bit weird – it would be nice to have some gearing placed in front of the Maw questing.
Onto Covenants. I decided to take on the Kyrian, because I haven’t done leveling from the other zones yet and Bastion is absolutely gorgeous! Quest-wise, it was really pretty simple. In Oribos, you have reps for each Covenant camped there waiting, you talk to them and then tell the questgiver NPC which one you want, which sets you on the path to the Sanctum for that covenant to do some quests. The early quests are pretty quick and painless – I did the Kyrian intro quests in around 35 minutes – and they set you up pretty well with a Soulbind, give you the quick rundown of the mission table for Shadowlands (too quick – I have no idea how it fully works!), and push you towards the Maw. It seems you can do the Maw quests earlier, should you want – the story quests I talked about as the intro run parallel to the Maw, so if you are a raider who wants to race off to do stuff for Legendaries, you have that choice.
The Kyrian story is pretty cool so far (no spoilers here), and the covenant story helps the point I discussed yesterday about how the story feels incomplete. My worry, then, is that each zone is going to have something hiding behind the covenant story, and given the thing the Kyrian have there, I really hope that isn’t the case. Elysian Hold (the Sanctum) is really beautiful.
Lastly for covenants, the Sanctum systems. Questing in the Maw rewards Souls, which you can use in your Sanctum to recruit 3 types of builders. Builders are resources (more of a currency than anything else really), which are consumed for upgrades to your Sanctum powers.
With each small circle, you have multiple ranks of upgrades, all which add things to your sanctum. Some are straightforward – a teleportation nexus gives you teleports around the zone, with each rank having more teleports. Some are less so, like the Path of Ascension, which is a minigame for the Kyrian. Resevoir Anima comes from select world quests, as far as I can tell, and while the rate of acquisition on beta is fairly anemic, since it just functions for sanctum upgrades and Soulbind resets, it isn’t too bad. Once the costs are tuned, I might have some concerns!
Soulbinds I can’t really test well, since the DH conduits don’t appear to be on the vendor in the sanctum, but I did take my first Soulbind and fill out the path, which offers some small passive buffs to stats. Nothing crazy on damage or power increases, but it feels kind of nice, and given that many of these increases are percentage based, as you gear up, these should scale up as well. The basic outline is that you progress from top to bottom in the tree, picking a path to take and following it. The path forks out, forcing you to follow a set path for a little while, before eventually reconnecting to a bottleneck where everyone will have to take the same choice. For Pelagos shown in the screenshot below, he has a fixed trait as his first choice which allows you to use the healing Phials you get from the signature Kyrian ability more, with a choice following that to pick a Throughput or Finesse conduit slot, with throughput being about maximizing damage/healing output, and finesse being sort of odd effects that don’t neatly fit as offensive or defensive. Afterwards, both traits funnel to a fixed trait per path, before converging on a Defensive conduit slot.
The system seems pretty inoffensive so far. Until I can test conduits on my class and spec, I can’t really say much more, but it seems okay. The fixed traits aren’t bad and have a good mix, and the pathing through each Soulbind grid offers a path that mixes the traits. In my case, since you can unlock everything right away on beta, I went for the path that offers double Throughput conduits, which gave me a good mix of passives that gave me some increased survivability and damage output. You get pretty quick access to multiple soulbinds, allowing you to pick the best options for each spec and perhaps even multiples per spec (Mythic Plus vs. Raiding, for example). I have a few concerns (if Kyrian players only get 3, than what does a druid with 4 specs do?) but I’m putting those in my back pocket to see as beta progresses.
With that all said, that leaves me with Torghast as the remaining feature I got some decent hands-on time with. Torghast is, bar none, my single most anticipated part of the expansion, and it did not disappoint me.
Torghast has a multitude of wings (9, by my glance at the foyer map), and as you run through the wing you’ve chosen, you do expected stuff – kill enemies, loot them, and progress through as things grow more and more difficult. However, the twists are in what Torghast does differently – firstly, it is randomly laid out. Each floor is different each time, giving you a new experience. Secondly, the zone offers Anima Powers, which you loot in the zone and can also buy from Broker NPCs that appear every few floors, which also allow you to repair. It also offers a lot of differences to standard WoW gameplay. For one, you can break pots! 10/10, best expansion of all time. Additionally, the environment is a danger. At one point, I walked through a bottleneck hallway, heard a click, kept going, and had a giant swinging ceiling axe take 50% of my health.
So the flow of the zone is like this – you zone in, kill some basic mobs, loot Phantasma from them (it’s a currency you can use for Anima Powers with the Broker NPCs, along with some other helpful items), and then kill an elite that guards the door to the next floor to unlock it, and move on. As you kill enemies, some of them will leave behind a little black cloud, which offers a choice of Anima powers when clicked. The powers have rarities and offer a mix of generic effects (bonus percentage of stats, more health, etc) and scale up to some amazing things (as a Havoc DH, a rare trait I found in my run made it so that when I cast Eye Beams, a second Vengeance DH showed up and cast Fel Devastation at the same time, causing an exponential increase in damage for an already-bursty cooldown. Most of the Anima Powers I encountered can stack, which allows your power to grow and grow. Common powers that start off unexciting and small can grow to a larger power base.
As you go up the floors, enemies scale up slowly, but each anima power offers you a large increase in power. This makes it fun, as the challenge of later floors becomes less about just mob scaling and more about environmental challenges. There are the aforementioned axe traps, floor spikes, pillars that spray death magic that stuns you if you don’t dodge it, and mobs that run away to aggro other monsters. Eventually, you reach a floor with a boss, and that is where the servers shut down, leaving me to wonder what comes next.
What I do know is this – Torghast is what I absolutely wanted out of Horrific Visions and then some. It has in-run power creep, dynamic scaling per floor, and a variety of different challenges with optional events (I had to help a Fae find her flute!) and a mix of scaling mobs and traps to keep things interesting. Anima powers lead to really cool moments with fun effects, like the aforementioned second DH one – I cannot get over how much more fun it was to use the already-fun Eye Beams knowing it would summon a Demon Hunter tag team on my foes!
With that, that is the content I played enough to have a strong opinion of for day 2 of Shadowlands beta!