The pre-patch for the next World of Warcraft expansion, Shadowlands, went live yesterday afternoon. Faces and hairstyles changed. Level 120 characters became level 50 characters. There’s a new starting experience that leads directly from level 10 to 2018's Battle for Azeroth expansion. I barely recognize the game anymore. As someone who’s played since 2014, that’s a nice feeling.
Shadowlands is World of Warcraft’s most transformative expansion since Cataclysm tore Azeroth several new ones back in 2010. Along with introducing high-level characters to the bustling world of the afterlife, the expansion squashes stats and levels across the board. After years of steadily raising the level cap from 60 to 120, max level is now 50, with an additional 10 to earn once the expansion is released.
I must admit a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach as I logged in to post-pre-patch World of Warcraft and saw that my precious max level characters had gone from triple to double digits. The level smush brought with it reworked skills and abilities for all character classes, meaning I have to consult the patch notes to make sure Murlock there is warlocking correctly.
The improved character creator Ashley Parrish raved about a few months back, gives most of the game’s races new and improved looks. Existing characters can visit barbershops in major cities to go from old:
To stone cold hottie:
Completely new characters look drastically different. The new faces allow for improved facial animation, so you get a lot more scowls while in battle, that sort of thing. My new human hunter, Epi (no idea how I got a three-letter name), is so different looking from any character I’ve made before.
Not only is she Miss Sassy Pants, she’s also in the most recent expansion’s content already at level 11. She’s skipped everything between. No Burning Crusade. No Mists of Pandaria. Players who’ve already got a max level character on their account and have played through the Battle for Azeroth content can access older expansion content via new Timewalking campaigns, which are level-scaled for optimum adventuring.
It’s nice to see the game move on and put those previous world-shattering events firmly in the past. This is a brave new Azeroth, with fresh faces eager to see what adventure awaits around the next corner.