After a month and a half of conquering quests, leveling alt characters, and exploring every inch of World of Warcraft’s afterlife, my whirlwind romance with the Shadowlands expansion is starting to fizzle out. Now that my main dwarf Stu has completed his covenant story campaign I’m not finding much motivation to keep playing.
To understand why I feel I’ve reached a stopping point in my Shadowlands adventure, you have to know what sort of World of Warcraft player I am. I am no raider, having little patience or desire to go through the online game equivalent of military training in order to attain the best gear and/or bragging rights. The heroic and mythic system, in which players progress through increasingly difficult versions of dungeons, does nothing for me. Having played World of Warcraft since launch, I’ve seen expansions come along and render my old equipment obsolete too many times to worry about gear levels. I do enjoy dabbling in player-versus-player content now and then, but more for a change of pace than any serious aspirations toward being a competitive player.
I play World of Warcraft for the story. I am eager to see what the characters I’ve been following since 1994’s Warcraft: Orcs & Humans are up to. I enjoy the game’s ever-expanding narrative, and I truly love having my characters be part of its history. I’m here for that sweet, sweet lore. Shadowlands has plenty of engaging tales for me to participate in. In its current form, it also has a pretty definitive stopping point.
Once a player character reaches level 60 and completes the initial questing tour through Shadowlands’ four afterlife zones, they throw in with one of the expansion’s four covenants—the angelic Kyrians, the gross and squishy Necrolords, the pixie-hugging Night Fae, or the so-goth-they’re-dead Venthyr. Each covenant has its own multi-act story campaign, which is slowly unlocked as the player gains renown with their chosen cabal.
Stu chose the Kyrian covenant at level 60. By completing daily and weekly quests he gained renown levels with the big blue angels. Every couple of renown levels a new campaign quest unlocks. Completing these story quests earns covenant-themed equipment, which is why poor Stu looks like an avant garde statue now.
Gaining renown is a slow process. Aside from a pair of tasks that can only be completed once a week, quests that reward renown upgrades are few and far between. That’s why Stu, who pledged his sword to the Kyrian in mid-December, didn’t reach the end of his covenant storyline until last week.
The final chapter of a covenant’s storyline unlocks at renown level 22. In Stu’s case, the quest involved a final showdown between the white-winged Kyrian and the black-winged Forsworn, a sect of corrupted angels aiming to take over Bastion. Stu played a pivotal role in the Kyrians’ triumph, cementing his place among his heavenly hosts.
Now the story is over. I’ve earned the “Covenant Campaign” achievement. The remaining 18 renown levels (there are 40 in total) reward things like purchasable mounts and pets, new armor cosmetics, more powerful world quest rewards, and new companions for the expansion’s adventure feature, in which players send NPCs off to complete timed missions for various rewards. Not feeling any need to collect those things, I think I’ve reached a good stopping point.
Technically, there is more to do once the covenant storyline is over. Players so inclined can raid or conquer dungeons. If I didn’t find the atmosphere so oppressive I might continue to explore The Maw, the sinister hub of afterlife evil, with its Grand Theft Auto-esque notoriety system sending increasingly powerful deterrents to impede my progress. There’s also Torghast, the expansion’s randomly-generated dungeon, which grants player characters unique temporary powers and abilities as they explore its depths.
But no, I think Stu’s good here, at least until new content is added in future game updates. I might log into him now and then to do the odd world quest—he’s a lot of fun to play—but otherwise he’s going to hang out in Bastion, enjoying those endless skies.
That’s not to say I am finished playing World of Warcraft completely for the time being. I’m still juggling a couple of alt characters, guiding them through the remaining three covenant storylines. I’m probably a good week away from finishing off the Night Fae, Venthyr, and Necrolord campaigns. After that, though, I might hang up my MMO mouse for a month or two.