World of Warcraft – Shadowlands 9.1 Interview Roundups and the Q&A

While Blizzcon normally hosts a series of panels, followed by a ton of interviews with press outlets, I kind of didn’t expect there to be a series of interviews as there might have been at the in-person event. Instead, we actually got a lot of additional details from these interviews, which happened as they would at a standard Blizzcon and were full of the systems details I wanted in the panels yesterday!

I’m reading from the summaries posted by Wowhead, so check them out and their posts include links to the full interviews!

Rather than breaking this down by interview source, I’m going to break it down by points of content/lore instead.

Shadowlands Pathfinder

This has been contentious for many because in the past, it has been a long, annoying grind, with the version in Battle for Azeroth being particularly annoying due to the reputation and questing requirements, despite being something you could complete faster than the Legion version (at least if you started both at patch launch). We’ve been told that Shadowlands Pathfinder would be Renown-based and relatively simple, but there was an element of disbelief on that, including from myself.

The interviews and Q&A have confirmed that the only requirement planned is completion of the 9.1 Covenant campaign story. This involves some amount of Renown gathering, if it follows the trend from launch, but we don’t know if that is the case yet. Either way, this is a tentatively-promising development as it should be either less time-involved, less activity-involved, or both!

Also, sort of related, there are plans for 40 more Renown ranks, probably why the team is saying sharply that the Covenant campaign is the requirement now. If all 40 new Renown ranks are required, that is a substantial grind of up to 20 weeks, or nearly half a year!

Korthia and the Maw

The intent is that while Korthia is a fully new landmass, it will be a part of the Maw as a zone, so Korthia will not, technically, be a new zone. The focus of the team is on using the updates to make the Maw more accessible and hospitable to players, and the encroachment of the Covenants on the Jailer’s home turf is the main vector by which this will happen. The expectation, as stated, is that players will complete an early chapter of the new campaign, which will bring Korthia into the Maw and that is the hinge on which unlocking regular mounting in the Maw will rest.

The other major component of making the Maw easier to deal with is relaxing the Eye of the Jailer. This will persist as a mechanic, but players will have ways to mitigate it more effectively, which they’ll learn via a questline.

Because Korthia is a quest-given addition to the Maw rather than a fully new zone, there will be a pre-9.1 quest version of the Maw that will persist for players working through the endgame, and once they reach the point of unlocking Korthia, they’ll then join the full, 9.1-version of the zone.

Ve’nari will be involved in some way, but the new rewards of 9.1 will not use Stygia, so the intention is that there is a clear break between past Maw and 9.1 Maw.

Torghast

Not much has actually been stated, but a new tileset is a part of the hype for the new patch alongside new floors, enemies, traps, and anima powers. In interviews, however, the game team has confirmed that their design intent for Torghast in 9.1 includes some much-welcomed changes to the gameplay of the zone. Biggest among these is the potential removal of the death count, as with the Tarragrue being defeated by players in the Sanctum of Domination raid, him chasing you doesn’t make in-universe sense. The second thing the team discussed in interviews is that there is talk of finding a way to make a failed run far less punishing, like a scoring system that would make a failed completion still give Soul Ash and allow players another run to make up the gap, or other ideas that could come out of design. It is very much seeming like these discussions are early days and not final, but they are promising changes that I think would ease so much of the frustration of players with Torghast.

Loot and Raid Loot Specifically

Tier sets have been discussed as returning in Shadowlands, but we don’t have a timeframe as of yet, which continues past this weekend. All we have at present is this – not in 9.1 either. Instead, 9.1 will use the already-datamined Legendary armor appearances, allowing players to collect the full sets, and the Maw-inspired weapons that were also datamined during the beta testing phase of the expansion.

But that’s not why you came to this header. No, the hot-button throughout the expansion thus far has been drop rates and the quantity of loot coming to players, and while 9.0.5 has some fixes for Mythic Plus dungeons, raids have been largely left alone, save for the last reset’s slight increase upward. There are hints that there will be a new reward system for raiders, but it remains unclear as to how that will work. The team identified that PvP gearing is already working (which is true) and that Mythic Plus felt the most dire (which I feel is…eh…less correct) which is why things are shuffling out the way they are. A lot of the future of loot rides on how things go for Valor in 9.0.5 and then for raiding based on how the 9.1 changes, not yet named, work out.

Tazavesh

Tazavesh’s wings are sort of uneven, in that the Broker city is set to include 5 bosses, with the last 3 being spread all over Azeroth. The pirate-dragon is confirmed as being in Boralus! There is also confirmed to be a hard mode coming, although the form that will take is TBD. They’ve identified, as I did yesterday, that the concept of them has been a big part of the success of the full-length megadungeons, and intend to keep it going. Lastly, the story of the patch is supposed to be dark and heavy, and Tazavesh is intended to be a palate cleanser, lighter and friendlier in themes, which reminds me of the way that Mechagon was a bit lighter than the heaviness of Nazjatar.

Story Hooks

Thrall (remember him?) may end up on a trajectory to meet his mother, who is commanding the forces of Maldraxxus. This won’t be the first time he’s met a Draka, but it will be the first time he has met his actual mother (cursed alternate universes!). The panel about Thrall’s evolution also hinted at a possible Thrall and Garrosh reunion, hitting on themes about how Thrall likely feels some guilt over the way Garrosh ultimately went.

There was also a lot of buildup for how epic the fight with Sylvanas will be, and that it will be one of the most epic fights ever in WoW. What that actually means, who knows, but given that the press kit text implies that Sylvanas has some control over Anduin instead of just the Jailer, and knowing that Nathanos is likely to return to her side creates a situation where her fight can have a lot of layers of mechanics and interventions from lore characters.

Pepes

There will be covenant pepes!

Conduits

One interview discussed an “Empowered Conduit” system, where you could empower an individual conduit slot to offer more power or abilities, but it was clear that this is very much early in talks and nothing has actually been pushed to a point where the team was willing to share. With no new soulbinds, it seems like the promise of additional rows, additional conduit ranks, and this system will combine to form the foundation of our further player power progression in the patch.

And with that, we’ve wrapped on the really big points from the interviews and Q&A session.

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