What We Hope Dragonflight Learns from Shadowlands

In less than a week we will say farewell to Shadowlands and move on to the next World of Warcraft expansion: Dragonflight. In anticipation, the two of us reflect on what we hope the new expansion learns from the successes and missteps of the old.

Erik: The biggest thing I hope Dragonlifght builds on from Shadowlands is Torghast, specifically the great flexibility the Torghast dungeons had in how many characters they were for and how difficult they were. Torghast was great for us to play together just the two of us or to do solo when we felt like it. The biggest weakness of Torghast was that it had no rewards beyond materials for legendary crafting. My dream is an expansion where every dungeon adjusts to any size group, from one to five (or even more) and scales its difficulty appropriately. What about you?

Eppu: Agreed! (This is literally the first thing I wrote down, too, when drafting my thoughts for this post.) While it’s fantastic to play through a dungeon that’s adapted to your gear level, getting no proper loot sucks.

The other big thing I hope for is convenient and comfortable flight. You had a few more thoughts about that, didn’t you?

Erik: Yeah, I’m excited that we get flying early in Dragonflight. While I haven’t minded the way Blizzard has handled flying in the past few expansions—starting out on the ground and earning flight by playing through the game on one character—I like the idea of flight being unlocked right out of the gate.

At the same time, I’m a little worried that we’re going to see a classic Blizzard overcorrection and they’re going to turn flight from a convenient method of getting around into some overdesigned, unfun “gameplay” like what happened to mission tables in Shadowlands. Are there any features from Shadowlands you’re hoping won’t make a return next expansion?

Eppu: One, and they already took care of that in the new crafting interfaces. I seriously hated the info box for the marks that you can add onto other crafted items. It was so fecking clunky; I’m really glad it’s gone!

I’d also love to see professions improved. These days whenever you have the mats to make something, your character has already leveled past it. You could always craft items for auctioning, of course, but I find additional management like that annoying. It’s not what I come to WoW for. The crafting orders sound like those who want to dink around with auctioning now will have that opportunity. It will remain to be seen whether the rest of us will have anything useful to craft. How about you?

Erik: I’m interested to see what’s going to happen with crafting, too. I’m right with you on that infernal info box on the crafting interface!

As for things I hope don’t come back, the scarcity of anima was a theme in the lore of Shadowlands, but it also affected the gameplay of the expansion too much. I never explored even half of what the covenant sanctums had to offer just because I never had enough anima to do anything. World quests felt unrewarding for the level of time and effort they required. I hope we don’t have the same scarcity-based design in the next expansion.

But enough about the negative. What are you looking forward to the most in Dragonflight? Blizzard keeps blowing me away with the art design of their zones, and Shadowlands was the best yet. I can’t wait to see the art and design in an expansion focused on dragons and elemental powers.

Eppu: You’re right, the anima scarcity wasn’t satisfying at all—haven’t we done the grind for, what, 18 years now? It’s also true that the art has improved a lot since Draenor (if not Pandaria). But I’m not quite sure what you mean by best art design yet. Would you elaborate?

Erik: I think what I’m trying to get at is this: Each of the main zones of Shadowlands has a clear aesthetic that looks pretty simple at first: Bastion is peaceful fields and clear skies, Maldraxxus is carnage and gore; Ardenweald is a dreamy fairy forest; and Revendreth is crumbling gothic ruins. But the longer you spend in each zone, the more you discover. Bastion is less peaceful than it appears, but the dangers are hidden from sight like the forgotten memories of the Kyrian. The very land in Maldraxxus is made of skin and bone and hair, like the corpse of some gigantic creature. Ardenweald is full of swirls and circles, hinting at the cycle of death and rebirth that it serves. In Revendreth different stories about a corrupt elite and the gnawing discontent from below play out at the higher and lower levels of the of the zone. There is a tighter connection between story and design in Shadowlands than we have seen in most previous expansions. (I’d cite Drustvar from Battle for Azeroth as another excellent example.) I hope we see more of that in Dragonflight, zones that are not only beautiful to play through but where the art and the story inform one another so deeply.

Eppu: Yes! It would be great if the story and art supported each other. So far it’s impossible to say, but I’m cautiously optimistic. The expansions certainly have gotten better and better over the years. Incidentally, my all-time favorite is Battle for Azeroth. Do you have a favorite expansion?

Erik: Hard to say, but I think Legion. I enjoyed the class storylines, and we got a whole new kind of Tauren to play! But there are things I’ve loved in every expansion, and I look forward to finding out what those will be in Dragonflight.

Image: Screenshot from World of Warcraft

Of Dice and Dragons talks about games and gaming.

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