World of Warcraft: Shadowlands starts out impressive, possessing gorgeous art direction with novel ideas, a compelling main questline, and a side of the Warcraft universe we’ve never witnessed. It felt especially invigorating after the Battle for Azeroth expansion, which was rather uninspired.
However, after getting to max level, finishing the main quests, and going through my Covenant campaign, I’ve had trouble sticking with Shadowlands. Its endgame encourages an egregious amount of grinding, the World Quest system is frustrating, and many of the rewards required to progress are expensive. Shadowlands’ endgame feels like Blizzard is deliberately turning what should be a fun game into a tedious chore.
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Covenant Campaign grind
As soon as the player finishes the main Shadowlands questline, they’re expected to pick between four Covenants: Kyrian, Necrolord, Night Fae and Venthyr. Once you pick a Covenant, you’re put on their campaign, which consists of eight questlines. To continue onto the next quest when you finish one, you’ll need a certain amount of Renown. Renown is mostly earned through your Covenant’s weekly and daily quests, which means you’re often time-locked before you can continue your campaign. You can also earn Renown randomly just by playing the game, but there’s no agreement in the community about the consistency of this system.
These Weekly and Daily quests are often grindy themselves, requesting that players do a number of World Quests or collect 1,000 Anima to complete them. World Quests are naturally occurring events around the world that request the player complete certain objectives for a reward. And Anima can be one of those rewards, providing anywhere from 35 to 250. Anima is used to purchase high-quality Covenant equipment, send soldiers on missions to gain more rewards, and upgrade your Covenant area for minor to major bonuses.
After I had finished a Covenant Campaign quest, I’d sometimes have to wait a few days before the next one. It’s even more frustrating because not every daily quest gives the player Renown, meaning I was often unsure when I’d be able to move on. Whenever I’d log onto World of Warcraft for the day, I was essentially taking a gamble to see if the daily quest was going to give me enough Renown to continue playing the game.
And to make matters worse, the Covenant Campaign isn’t fun. It often encourages players to revisit spots of the world they’ve already been to, and not in ways that show you new sides of old areas. The Night Fae campaign even takes you back to a Battle for Azeroth (the previous expansion) zone. This felt like a total waste of time, especially when considering how much grinding and waiting around players have to do for mediocre questlines.
World Quests need reworking
World of Warcraft’s World Quest system is not something I’ve enjoyed previously, but with Shadowlands, it feels especially grindy due to its reliance on the Anima currency. If you’re looking to do anything throughout Shadowlands, you’re going to need Anima, and that is mostly earned through World Quests. A standard world quest can give you anywhere from 35 to 140 Anima after completion, while an Epic quest gives 250 Anima (these only respawn once a week). Additionally, only five to six standard World Quests will be available in a zone at a time, with some taking around a day to refresh.
And even then, not every World Quest gives Anima. Sometimes you’ll get a piece of armor, gold, a crafting material, or some other miscellaneous item. For example, out of the 34 World Quests active throughout Shadowlands as I’m writing this, only nine give Anima. This means only about one-fourth of these World Quests provide the reward most players care about.
A new World Quest seems to appear in each zone every five hours, but there are some that respawn on a longer rotation, whether that be a few days or once per week. After a full 24 hours, most of the World Quests that provide Anima will have returned. Including the one weekly quest that gives you 250 Anima, you’ll have the chance to do around eight World Quests that provide this currency every day. If you do all these quests, you’re probably getting anywhere between 700 and 1000 Anima a day. World Quests rarely feel fresh, either. I quickly gave up trying to grind Anima, and even then, I experienced many of the same World Quests up to two to three times. It doesn’t help that certain objectives are unnecessarily long, which is then worsened when tons of other players are trying to do the same thing and interfere with your progress.
You can also receive Anima by sending troops on missions, but this costs 10 to 15 Anima and often provides only 30 in return if you're successful, which is low considering these missions can take anywhere from four to twelve hours to complete. You can also receive Anima by opening chests, doing dungeons, and killing rare monsters throughout the world, but these aren’t reliable enough sources to make the grind worth it.
With Anima, you can upgrade your Covenant’s Sanctum, which provides all sorts of important bonuses. I joined the Night Fae covenant, and in order to fully upgrade my Sanctum, I need 93,500 Anima. Even if I was dedicated enough to log on every day and do each World Quest, this could take up to 100 days of grinding. This equation even ignores purchasing other rewards with Anima, like new equipment, cosmetic items, and other fun stuff from the Renown vendors.
You also need Redeemed Souls to purchase Sanctum upgrades. You can obtain Souls pretty quickly, but you can only do it once per week. You also need a lot to successfully upgrade later tiers. For example, the final tier of The Queen’s Conservatory costs 70 Redeemed souls. The base weekly quest for receiving Redeemed Souls only provides five, but it can be upgraded to receive up to 20. Putting in all the work to get these currencies would require an extreme amount of dedication and grinding.
Torghast is unsatisfying
Torghast, which is a massive part of Shadowlands’ endgame, is disappointing. It takes the player through a number of randomly generated floors, with each wing boasting its own unique themes. Some can be located in foggy prison courtyards where players will carefully step between giant chains and grapple onto ledges, while others lie in a fiery castle with pools of deadly lava scattered about.
Torghast sounds cool, but it quickly became a vapid experience due to a lack of satisfying rewards. Players earn Soul Ash by doing Torghast, and with it, they can craft a Legendary piece of armor. However, you can only receive a set amount of Soul Ash from each wing per day.
I’ve done about ten or so Torghast runs now, and I have absolutely nothing tangible to show for it. I possess a tiny bit of Soul Ash, but unless I grind a ridiculous amount with my Leatherworking profession (or cough up 80,000 gold), I won’t be able to do anything with it. I’d also need to do far more Torghast to even get close to the amount I need for a single piece of the armor.
Blizzard turned what should have been an entertaining bit of endgame content into another daily grind. It doesn’t help that the content present within Torghast itself isn’t particularly exciting. If you do a wing once, you’ve pretty much seen everything it has to offer, as the aesthetic of chains, soulless jailers, and prison halls never changes. Certain elements, like the presence of lava or the grappling mechanic, vary every now and then but not significantly enough to be as different and engaging as queuing for a Dungeon. There also aren’t that many unique bosses or enemy types, as each standard Torghast run only nets you one actual boss, and after ten runs, I’ve started to see repeats.
This design is soul-sucking
During the week where I was still spending my time with Shadowlands’ endgame, logging into World of Warcraft felt akin to cleaning the dishes. It was merely a duty I had to commit to for the sake of “making progress.” Doing recycled World Quests, queuing Dungeons I had already completed, and farming leather in the same spot I had been for weeks made me feel empty. There was not a moment during this time when I witnessed something new or exciting.
These elements add up to an experience that feels more like a daily chore than what it should be: a mentally stimulating experience, one which involves the player wholeheartedly engaging with a work of art. I thoroughly enjoyed what Shadowlands had to offer prior to the endgame, but at this point, I’m just hoping patch 9.1 has enough new content to bring me back in meaningful ways. I don’t want to waste my time doing dozens of reused World Quests or grinding for Anima.