World of Warcraft: Shadowlands Review

December 2, 2020

With the level squish, the scourge event and our review of the Blue Yeti Pro World of Warcraft Edition microphone all occurring in place of the World of Warcraft: Shadowlands expansion launch, we patiently cooled our heels for a few more pandemic-fueled weeks to begin our next chapter in the popular ever-expanding MMORPG. From leveling to farming dungeons to picking a covenant and gaining renown, join us as we explore everything Shadowlands has to offer while leveling to 60 again.

Starting fresh in World of Warcraft has always been daunting, but Shadowlands aims to change that with an entirely new starter zone called Exile’s Reach. This new starter zone serves as a tutorial with a storyline of its own, teaching you the basics of the game, your race and character as you level from 1-10. Exile’s Reach is mandatory for new players, while others can choose whether to begin there or in their race’s starter unless playing as a Demon Hunter or Death Knight who now start at level 8 in their respective zones. Once you complete the starter zone storyline you are then taken to Chromie, our bronze dragon disguised as a gnome who can control time. Chromie will take you to whichever expansion storyline you wish to (re)visit, where you’ll then level from 10-50. Interestingly, different expansions take a different amount of time, with Warlords of Draenor being the fastest while The Burning Crusade takes about twice as long. This is a great way for returning players to quickly experience one of the expansions that they might have had some interest in but didn’t get around to playing, or for new players to check out some of the other content that veterans have enjoyed over the years.

Shadowlands adds another continent to World of Warcraft which consists of six new zones. Players are dropped into The Maw at the beginning of the Shadowlands campaign where they quickly find out that everything they once knew about Azeroth is irrelevant because nobody leaves The Maw. This new zone has a Lord of the Rings Mordor feel to it, with The Jailer keeping a watchful eye over the activity that occurs throughout it. If you stay in The Maw for too long, your threat level with The Jailer raises, who sends out fiercer foes to hunt you down. Forging new alliances in Bastion, Maldraxxus, Ardenweald and Revendreth, each with their own unique environments and wildlife, will unite their causes in the fight against The Jailer. Leveling in Shadowlands was quite fast for experienced players, we found one level every two hours seemed to be the average, meaning it now takes around 20 hours to go from 50 to 60, but what do you do once you hit level 60? Now you can finally play the game.

World of Warcraft Shadowlands

Quality of life improvements in World of Warcraft: Shadowlands include new quest markers that are bordered exclamation marks which indicate that the quest is part of the main campaign. No longer do you have to refer to guides or hope for the best, as if you see this new quest marker you’ll almost certainly make an effort to pick it up. Another improvement is the new sharable map pin feature which allows your allies to share world bosses, rare-spawns, chests, and more. This new feature is great for letting your friends know where you want to meet them, and we found it to be super easy to use.

If you’re confused about what the covenants are then you can rest assured that by the time you reach level 60 and finish the campaign you’ll be up to speed. There are four covenants to choose from in Shadowlands, one for each zone, and you learn about each one of them while completing the Shadowlands story. In Bastion you’ll find the Kyrian, in Maldraxxus the Necrolord, the mystical Ardenweald is the home of the Night Fae, and lastly Revendreth is where you will find the Venthyr covenant. Think of them as factions with far greater implications than what you’ve seen in previous expansions. When you reach the final chapter of the Shadowlands campaign, you’ll talk to each of the covenant representatives who explain to you the different rewards you’ll get for siding with them, which is probably the most important choice you’ll make this expansion.

World of Warcraft Shadowlands

You can only choose one covenant at a time and leveling to 40 by completing their daily quests unlocks renown rewards like armour, a pet, mount, back attachment, and most importantly: Soulbinds. Unlocking these new class abilities and spells gives you a great advantage in that zone and in its zone-specific dungeons. While we’re still in the early stages of Shadowlands, Soulbinds will no doubt get tweaked to adjust for different race/class combos that the developers might not have fully considered yet, but it’s definitely something new and fun to look forward to as a part of the new end-game content. If you’re still confused about which covenant to pick, we suggest reading up on them on popular websites like Wowhead or Icy Veins.

Raiding hasn’t yet begun at the time of posting this review, though we do know that the first raid is called Castle Nathria in Revendreth which will feature ten bosses and require a gear ilvl of around 175. A total of eight new dungeons can be found in Shadowlands which is really what makes the end-game content great for players of varying skill levels. Four of them can be queued for while you’re leveling from 50 to 60, while another four unlock at max level. Most boss fights seemed to have basic mechanics to follow, even on heroic, and our favourite moment from it would have to be coming across Hakkar, the main boss from the vanilla raid Zul’Gurub in the dungeon ‘De Other Side’.

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands introduces for the first time a 1-5 player procedurally-generated dungeon which scales in difficulty as you progress. Torghast, Tower of the Damned unlocks around the same time you reach level 60 depending on how far through the main campaign you are, and tests the skills of even the most experienced players. As you explore the dungeon you’ll come across Anima which enhance your skills even further, such as giving 20% increase in damage to abilities or healing you every time you attack a new target. Completing the dungeon unlocks the next ‘layer’ and currently there are only three layers to complete, with the third one being quite challenging, filled with surprise elite mobs and a tough boss fight at the end. Completing a full layer is essential to earning the most valued rewards, so players need to be aware of their own skills before choosing to go too far into the tower.

PvP is probably the only part of the game that received little to no update in this expansion. The only real ‘new’ feature is actually a returning one in PvP vendors which means players can now purchase specific items again. With World PvP a completely optional affair no matter what server you play on, we found barely any changes in the battlegrounds and arenas, except for adjusting to level 60 again and the new Covenant skills. All professions have also received a makeover with new 1-100 Shadowlands leveling and a new epic crafting system designed to keep you interested.

If you haven’t touched World of Warcraft for a few expansions then you’ll likely be surprised by how much the game has changed, so here’s some of the many quality of life changes that we thought were worth mentioning. Firstly, mounts now have an equipment slot which can add a perk such as a parachute or walking on water. Chests, rare-spawns and other important easily missed world features are now displayed on the mini-map when you are nearby. Loot from bosses is now simply given out, with a hidden roll system that gives you an item based on your class. Lastly, many of your favourite items that once filled your bags and bank slots are now heirlooms which can be added to an entirely separate menu system, freeing up some much-needed bank space. The auction house has also been incredibly simplified, making it easier than ever to buy and sell items. World of Warcraft has changed a lot in the last four or so expansions, almost entirely for the better.

Voice acting in this expansion is as great as you would expect with talented actors like Barbara Goodson (Vashj) and Chris Metzan (Thrall) retaining their rolls and playing an even more intricate part in the Shadowlands campaign. The soundtrack also beautifully intertwines with the different themes of the new Shadowlands zones, led by composer Derek Duke once again. Visually, Shadowlands now features ray tracing for people with computers powerful enough to utilise it. This mostly just affects shadows (fitting for the expansion’s name!), and for us it was really more about having the option as opposed to it being necessary in a game that hasn’t received many graphical upgrades in its sixteen year lifespan. Other than that, characters now have expanded customisation options including things like skin tone, hairstyles, jewelry and more. Blizzard has stated that the new changes will be very evident at Stormwind which was once a very white city, and will now include more diversity.

World of Warcraft Shadowlands

Shadowlands is a rebirth that World of Warcraft needed after Warlords, Legion and BfA. The level squish makes the game far less daunting for newcomers and returning players, and everyone can appreciate being level 60 again while still maintaining all the improvements the game has made since players went through the Dark Portal to the Outlands back in 2007. It’s hard to accurately say how successful this expansion will be just yet. It certainly still has that new car smell, it’s just a matter of time as to whether the smell lingers or if players find a way to escape.

Rocket Chainsaw reviewed World of Warcraft: Shadowlands with review code provided by the publisher. For more information, head to the official World of Warcraft website.


- An enthralling story that keeps you interested
- New features continue to make the game more satisfying
- Easy leveling system for new players.


- Typical lag, crashing and lengthy dungeon queueing at launch.
- Gets grindy fast.

Overall Score: