Today, Blizzard Entertainment has launched the eighth expansion of their beloved MMORPG, World of Warcraft. World of Warcraft: Shadowlands takes the game into an all-new realm by sending the heroes of Azeroth into the afterlife. Taking place immediately after the events of the previous expansion, Battle for Azeroth, players will adventure to the land of the dead in pursuit of ending Sylvanas’ reign of terror once and for all. Along the way, players will meet her villainous partner in crime, the Jailer, as well as the leaders and members of each of the ancient and powerful Covenants that govern the four new realms of the Shadowlands.
This may seem a little overwhelming at first if you, like many of us, aren’t well versed in the lore of World of Warcraft and the events that have transpired in Azeroth over the last sixteen years. If any of the words above seem foreign or even daunting, rest assured you are not alone and best of all, Blizzard have thought miles ahead before the official launch of the new expansion, making sure there is room for new players and returning players alike to settle into the vast World of Warcraft and enjoy the Shadowlands.
THE NEW PLAYER EXPERIENCE
In a recent pre-patch update, World of Warcraft has completely overhauled the new player experience, called Exile’s Reach. Exile’s Reach offers a streamlined, fun and efficient tutorial that teaches you the basic mechanics of the game, introduces the process of developing your class and even launches you into your first dungeon upon completion of the experience.
If you are brand new to the game you will automatically be sent to Exile’s Reach after you create your first character. If you a returning player with more than one character on your account, you will have the option to choose between Exile’s Reach or the original starting zone specific to your chosen race. Death Knights have their own unique starting zone and Allied Races, starting at level 10, will skip the 1-10 levelling zones completely.
WHAT WE LOVE ABOUT IT
As a seasoned World of Warcraft player, I don’t typically get excited about starting zones or anything about the 1-10 levelling process for that matter. I had a complete change of heart, however, after we had the opportunity to preview Exile’s Reach with the team at Blizzard ANZ earlier this month.
For the preview, we were grouped into teams of four or five and allowed to pick a class of our choice, once we negotiated which faction to side with; a surprisingly difficult task when you get a bunch of WoW nerds f with various loyalties to team up together. As a Paladin main, I decided to roll a Pally and imagine what it would be like if this was my first ever introduction to the game at large. I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly I was launched into the narrative of Exile’s Reach. Despite my reputation as a serial cut-scene skipper, I felt genuinely compelled to listen in to what the NPCs had to say for themselves and understand what exactly was going on where my character had just spawned. The sequence felt admittedly unlike a World of Warcraft starting experience, with cinematics filling in the lore-heavy gaps to replace walls of text from interactive NPCs. It was a nice change of pace and made the whole thing feel more fluid and exciting, leaning into the action aspects of WoW gameplay while previous starting zones remain repetitive and grindy.
Party sync, while not unique to Exile’s Reach, is another feature that really enhanced the experience. When players activate Party Sync, everyone in the party becomes aligned to the same quest state and phase. This meant that even though we were in different classes and hence occasionally separated to complete different quests, our main goals remained the same and it kept members of our party from out-levelling anybody else, no matter how many boars they slaughtered in between quests.
It sounds simple because it is but for new and returning players with friends in World of Warcraft, this is a huge addition. I have managed to pester most of my gaming friends to trial World of Warcraft at least once and one of the most difficult protests I face is ‘but it’ll take me forever to catch up to you!’. Now, with party sync, new players don’t have to catch up to their veteran pals and seasoned players don’t have to make new toons to play with their newbie friends. Players can simply enable party sync, syncing all party members to the lowest player level in the group and additionally scaling their stats to that level.
Truly, with the addition of the delightful new player experience in Exile’s Reach and party sync options, there is no reason for PC players and RPG lovers to hold out on World of Warcraft for any longer. It’s free to play Exile’s Reach and to level multiple classes and races up to level 20, all you have to do is head over to the official World of Warcraft site right here and download the base game, no subscription required.