I’ve never been simultaneously excited and irritated by a leak of WoW news before.
I spent around 3 hours last night writing my part 3 predictions post, getting everything to where I felt confident in my story predictions and was sure I made my points in a cogent and interesting way. I posted at 2:30 AM local time and went to bed thinking, “yeah, my read on the game’s story is pretty sound and should be fun for others too.”
I woke up and a guildie had posted “that wowhead leak tho” with someone reacting with an eyes emoji, followed by some spoiler text.
I looked at Wowhead to see what the deal was and…I was wrong. I got some core ideas sort of right, but my fundamental thoughts on patch 9.1 were pretty far afield of what they’re actually doing, the high-level overview of which we now know.
Titled “Chains of Domination,” Shadowlands patch 9.1 is full of a pretty good range of content and seems to be built to expedite the story of the expansion, as we move right past the opening stories to a full-fledged assault on the Jailer’s domain (although curiously, no mention of the Jailer himself…). Some things logically make sense, some things we already knew are confirmed, and the rest is still waiting for more detailed panels tomorrow and Saturday through the online streaming event.
I won’t summarize each element of the press kit – here’s the Wowhead link for you to peek at. What I will do here is explore the elements that catch my eye and what I’m going to be hoping for expansion on during the panels over the following two days.
New Zone – Korthia, City of Secrets
Cool name, interesting concept – press kit screenshot of the zone shows mounts (ground only, it would seem, so get your Argus arguments out of the closet…), but yet the zone has a sort of more natural-looking Maw aesthetic – crumbling landmasses, chains and ominous skies. A new zone with new world content and likely new story quests is cool, and the implication that the Jailer is here looking for the “key” to his plan is interesting. Wonder what we’ll find as we explore?
They’re already merging, it would appear! While the separate, sequestered nature of the covenant stories in 9.0 served each individual covenant relatively well, it also was something of a disservice to more casual players who might only have a single character in one covenant and not know about all the lore characters frolicking around. Tyrande’s plight, Uther’s advancement, the fact that Kel’Thuzad is even around at all – all of that is hidden away in individual covenant stories with no crossover. It makes sense for the story they seem to be telling in 9.1 that the covenants will bond together and go forth into the Maw, but that also leaves the impetus for doing so delightfully vague. Obviously, there is a big reason in that Denathrius sent all that anima away to the Maw, so it will be a big threat until that is resolved – but there could be more to it, and I am eagerly awaiting that info.
Definitely got this one wrong, but after BfA waited until 8.2 to drop Operation: Mechagon, I was fairly sure that we weren’t gonna see a new dungeon in 9.1. Instead, not only do we have a new dungeon, but a mega-dungeon at that. 8 bosses, Mythic only, and all themed around the Brokers. Named Tazavesh, the Veiled Market – the dungeon has an interesting hook – the end of the dungeon is a heist of powerful artifacts from Azeroth. Artificer Xy’mox, is that you I hear?
The Patch Miscellany
We get season 2 of content, more item levels and a new Mythic Plus affix themed around the Jailer. There will be a slight expansion of Covenant systems with more Soulbind and Conduit power, although the nature of that expansion is unclear, and new cosmetic Covenant armor that any class can wear. There will be new mounts and pets (well duh) and flying will open in the four domains of the Covenants – which means no Oribos, no Maw, and no Korthia – or at least makes it easy to assume as such based on the wording of the press kit.
But you might notice I left something out…
New Raid: Sanctum of Domination
We get to run Torghast in a raid! Okay, it isn’t, like, Torghast for Soul Ash (at least, I think…) but instead a raid staged inside of Torghast. 10 new bosses to fight, but this is where the story for the expansion gets really fascinating to me.
One of my predictions that went up that I was pretty confident in was that we’d be challenging Sylvanas after the Jailer – that she would betray him or have her own machinations that would line up to put the Jailer in front of us before her. Instead, Blizzard appears to have the opposite order, which is interesting character development for Sylvanas, at least! The new raid lists 3 bosses so far, with what we can assume is a fourth boss we’ll talk A LOT about in a moment. The 3 bosses in the blurb on the raid are the Eye of the Jailer (does this mean we can freeroam the Maw soon?), the Tarragrue, and Sylvanas.
Fighting Sylvanas this early in the expansion felt to me like a waste, but at the same time, I can see where this might come from. In my posts this week, my assumption has been that we’d follow a BfA model where the first two tiers of raiding are kind of insignificant to the overall story being told, but instead a set of events that help stage bigger and more substantial fights against major lore figures. That’s why I felt pretty strongly that the House of the Chosen story mapped in as our Battle of Dazar’alor of Shadowlands, with the Jailer being a pretty big threat with little development and Sylvanas being this multi-expansion arc that would close out the story of Shadowlands, not unlike N’Zoth was for BfA.
But I was being somewhat uncharitable to Dazar’alor in that comparison. BoD as a raid was actually, in many ways, sort of the story conclusion to the launch story of BfA. We had dealt with the local island threats and met with the opposing faction head-to-head. We brought the Zandalari and Kul Tirans into the fold, each faction got to strike at their opposed leader (well, sort of – Rastakhan wasn’t a great proxy for Sylvanas or other Horde leaders, but the game has more raid fights with Horde leaders than with Alliance ones, so…) and the conclusion of that story led into the tentative peace that came with Sylvanas’ departure in 8.2.5. While there were core BfA threads still in the story of Nazjatar, it arguably was just as much a new plot built on the foundation of BfA. This was even further exemplified with N’Zoth, as while the Old God theme had been sort of present throughout, it really did feel very much like a separate theme and plot altogether (exempting Azerite and the literal interpretation of “Battle for Azeroth”).
That realization is what sparked this – the exciting thing about this setup, Sylvanas as a raid boss and all, is that the Sanctum of Domination will bring about a sort of end to the core Shadowlands story, with whatever comes after feeling newer, fresher, and different by comparison. Sure, we’re ultimately still likely to be after the Jailer, but the stakes for that are likely to be much higher after the events we’re sure to see in SoD (not a great raid acronym!).
That leads to a bit of concept art that was in the press kit too – corrupted Anduin. I’m of two minds on this one – firstly, I don’t like it because I feel like Anduin as a character had a very good role to serve in the Alliance and in the overall narrative of the game, and my fear is that him going all Arthas on us is going to be a net negative for the Warcraft setting as a whole. However, I think there is hope in that too – the context currently available to us (the last cinematic of the 9.0 experience with Anduin and Sylvanas, the press kit text “the Banished One has a terrible new champion in his service – a cruel instrument of despair conscripted by Sylvanas Windrunner”) indicates that Sylvanas has completed her Arthas journey, and at this point will likely be beyond a classic Warcraft redemption story. Her status as the seeming endboss of the forthcoming raid tier compounds this – she seems increasingly unlikely to make it out of 9.1 alive, and I think that is good news for the lore coherency of the game.
Now, back to Anduin though, I have some concerns about the story direction from here. Firstly, it seems like Anduin is still a crucial part of the Jailer’s plan, and if the Jailer indeed lives on past the patch (which seems likely based on the clues available to us at present), Anduin may very well also survive. In fact, the Jailer is very utilitarian in his servants (dismissing Denathrius as having served his purpose) and I would not be surprised to discover that Sylvanas fighting us and dying her last death at our hands is a similarly purpose-driven fate from the Jailer, as Sylvanas bringing Anduin to the side of death seems to be her purpose. The lore comics leading up to Legion a few years ago also had Anduin surviving on to old age, and while a retcon to an out-of-game bit of promotional material wouldn’t be unprecedented, I do think that we’re going to find a way to liberate Anduin. At what cost that will come, I don’t know, but it seems likely that our quest in Korthia might also intertwine with this goal. My question for now, rather than endlessly speculating, is this – what role does Anduin serve in the patch? Is he a raid boss, a portion or phase of a larger fight, or a plot device that will be dangling over our heads until later?
Either way, we should have more actual, meat and potatoes details tomorrow, and for that, I am excited.
Oh, also, there’s Burning Crusade Classic, but that will be its own post.