The kids, as I understand it, call the pursuit of money above all else “chasing the bag.”
In the Shadowlands pre-patch event, the most mysteriously engaging piece of content is a specific rare that drops a 34 slot bag. Inventory space, in this economy?!
I could end the post there, because in a sort of odd way, that actually says most of what you might need to know about the Shadowlands pre-patch event. Snark aside, however, let’s dive in.
For week 1 of 2, the content is very thin on the ground. Let me be real with you all for a minute here, this is not meaty, bring your main to play content. There’s some lore and cinematics (and, you know, do it for that if nothing else), and there is a chance to relive old Wrath of the Lich King dailies scaled to today along with fighting a large number of Wrath dungeon bosses, all of whom are somehow chilling in Icecrown. You get a world quest to fight Nathanos Blightcaller (about time we shut his smarmy face) and there are a couple of quests that very loosely tie in to Shadowlands. Basically, oh no, the Helm of Domination is shattered so the Scourge are going crazy – fix that while we figure out what happened to the sky!
It is excellent for a few audiences – if you have a new main to take into Shadowlands, gearing via Nathanos (for a weapon) and the Scourge dailies in Icecrown (for non-jewelry armor) is going to bring you up and over item level 100 pretty reasonably fast. The Commendations you get for the daily quests and story quests are good for about one item a day, making a two-week event more than sufficient for grinding out those gear levels to smash through Shadowlands leveling. There are a couple of cosmetic items, like literally two on the vendor – a pet and a toy broom. You can also get the aforementioned 34-slot bag from Bronjahm, who dropped a much smaller bag in his original incarnation in the Forge of Souls dungeon, and you can get a new Accursed Keepsake from rares similar to the pre-Wrath Haunted Memento, which has an updated ghost to haunt you!
Outside of these specific rewards, rares also sometimes drop loot at item level 110, and rares that dropped mounts in their original dungeons (lookin’ at you, Skadi) can drop them in their rare mob form. Additionally, all mobs in Icecrown can drop the Battered Hilt for the Quel’Delar questline, which rewards the iconic sword appearance for transmog as well as some cool non-sword weapons for those unable to wield one.
Overall? I have a couple of quick opinions.
As modern pre-patch events go, it’s fine. War of the Thorns had more story meat to it, but the gameplay was almost more sort of…empty. This has some character I like, in that it has a sort of “remember Wrath?” vibe to it, and given the subscriber charts for the game, I think a lot of folks remember it fondly. Ultimately, though, it just doesn’t offer that much new stuff.
The story advancement, while cool (no spoilers here) is sort of unexciting, although the newest cinematic does have some interesting development that I think is going to be pretty crucial in Shadowlands. Gameplay-wise, there just isn’t much here – 3-ish daily quests, a weekly world quest, and a chance every 20 minutes to relive a Wrath dungeon boss as it gets blasted from all sides by a roaming killsquad of players. Certainly, I agree with some of my guildies assessment of the content – there’s little reason this couldn’t have been out from pre-patch drop and the story content could then have been integrated as it has been now. They are divergent quest chains, in that you pick up both the quest to go to Icecrown and the one to fight Nathanos at the same time, with no fixed order those tasks must be done in. I haven’t tried it yet, but it seems like you could do Icecrown in whole without fighting Nathanos, and I think that would have been a better way to go!
Outside of the first few moments and the cinematics, it is kind of a dull event, but I found War of the Thorns to be similar in that way. The lore setup of BfA pre-patch was pretty damn important (still is going into Shadowlands!) and so the hook there was pretty strong. At the same time, the constant teasing and blue balls over “who shot first?” in the Fourth War made the pre-patch almost destructive, as everyone (rightly) guessed Sylvanas immediately (except maybe some Sylvanas stans out there on various social media sites starting with a T) and the reveal ended up being a huge letdown because, well, it wasn’t a surprise. I think the lesson Blizzard internalized from that blowback was “don’t put important lore moments in pre-patch” because while I liked the cinematic I am dancing around carefully, it also ultimately doesn’t tell us much of anything we didn’t already know, but it also hasn’t been built up to epic proportions only to be a wet fart.
If I really put on my lore nerd hat, it actually almost hurts a little bit, because the weirdest thing is that the very start of Shadowlands creates a new threat on Azeroth (the Scourge are out of control running around!) and in two weeks, we’re just gonna shrug our shoulders at it and leave for the realms of death. We still have another week’s questing to do, and perhaps that will shed some more light or end the filler arc so that we can go to Shadowlands free of the burden of concern over the fate of our world, but I’m not so sure. Admittedly, this is just me nitpicking here – it’s a pre-patch event, they almost never really meaningfully matter in terms of the staging done to allow gameplay, but even then, last expansion Blizzard came back in 8.1 and did the whole Darkshore warfront and questing, closing the gap. Who is to say that they won’t do something similar in Shadowlands? (although, actually, maybe don’t.)
Either way, new content is new content, and I know my guild blew up yesterday with large concurrent logins and people on for hours rare-chasing and playing through the quests on multiple characters. I myself did it on two characters – my worgen Druid for gear, and my Demon Hunter for the pet. Is it going to be a well-remembered or cherished pre-patch? No, probably not. But as something to push people back towards the game, it is pretty okay at that.