While World Of Warcraft: Shadowlands is delayed, the pre-expansion patch introducing many of its big changes has arrived. Here's one to start: WoW's level cap is now 50. It's come all the way the down from 120 as Blizzard rescale everything. The new starter zone is in too, easing newbies in on a new island. Plus each class gets access to some of the thematically-defining skills usually confined to subclasses, such as a few poisons for Rogues. And new cosmetic character options are in. Who even wants to go to the afterlife when you can play dress-up?
Shadowlands was due to launch on the 27th of October, until the recent delay pushed it back to an unknown point "later this year". The pre-launch patch still went ahead as planned, bringing most of the big changes, just none of the new end-game content.
So! The new starter zone makes newbies into shiny new adventurers sent to investigate a missing expedition on the island of Exile's Reach. Tutorial missions will run through the basics as you grow towards level 10, and the whole thing ends in a "mini-dungeon" with two bosses, meant for 1-5 players. Veteran players can skip this, if they want, to be spat out at level 1 in their old racial starting areas.
On the character customisation front, all races get new skin tones, hairstyles, and eye colours, and some have their own extra bits like tattoos, jewellery, scars, flowers in their hair, and bones poking or not poking out their flesh. Existing characters can change their genders at a barbershop too, which previously cost real money. Look, I won't lie: I haven't played WoW in years but I am almost tempted to sign back up for a play. While the new options doesn't look deeply deep (it's no Black Desert Online) it seems a lot better than WoW's had.
In terms of violence, some abilities that were once specific to one subclass have been opened up to all subclasses. So all Rogues can get three types of poison as well as Kidney Shot and Shiv. All Mages get Frostbolt, Arcane Explosion, and Fireblast. All Priests get Shadow Word: Pain and Shadow Word: Death. And so on. That's nice, that. Just a handful of abilities like these can make minute-to-minute violence so much more pleasant while making the class seem more like itself.
As for levels, yeah, Blizzard are squishing everything back down. All characters, enemies, gear, stats, damage, and everything is scaled to fit. If you were at 120, you're now at 50. Numbers are smaller now, y'know?
When it arrives, Shadowlands will let players into the afterlife, which is far from a fluffy land of harps and clouds. Along with new zones, it'll raise the level cap to the dizzying new/old height of 60. Christos Reid played a bit and called it "a beautifully dark and lore-heavy expansion", and said the streamlined story might make it less of a mess for new players and pals to join in.