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World of Warcraft Shadowlands: Release date, gameplay, zones, level squish and more

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands: Release date, gameplay, zones and more
(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

World of Warcraft is the most successful MMO ever made. That’s not an exaggeration and it’s no small feat. Blizzard has kept this (mostly) great game alive with nearly 16 years of additional content, whether that be in the form of expansions revolving around novel worlds or patches that add brand new dungeons and raids.

And soon, we’ll be getting our hands on Shadowlands, Blizzard’s upcoming effort to shift the state of the game with a handful of bold mechanics. Be sure to also check out our World of Warcraft: Shadowlands beta impressions.

For all you fellow WoW nerds out there, here’s everything you need to know about World of Warcraft: Shadowlands, including details on its release date, gameplay, zones, customization, and level squish.

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands release date 

At Gamescom Opening Night Live, we were given the release date for World of Warcraft: Shadowlands. It was originally announced that we can expect to play Shadowlands on October 27. However, the game was delayed indefinitely and we were unsure when we'd see it again... until now.

The official World of Warcraft Twitter recently announced that Shadowlands would be coming out on November 23. This is nearly a month after its originally expected launch date. Hopefully, it doesn't get delayed again.

Furthermore, the pre-patch event is coming November 10, so be sure to hop into the game to experience a taste of what Shadowlands has to offer.

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands gameplay 

One of the big changes coming to World of Warcraft: Shadowlands is its addition of Covenants, which let players pledge their allegiance to a specific group in order to be rewarded with unique armor sets, special abilities, cosmetics and more. The four covenants are Kyrian (angelic guardians), Necrolords (undead necromancers), Night Fae (fairies attuned with nature) and Venthyr (gothic vampires).

One of the most exciting aspects of Covenants is that it will allow players to Soulbind specific characters within them. This system gives us access to new skill trees that provide a handful of special bonuses and abilities. These bonuses can be both combat-based or practically used within the world. A skill like "Travel with Boop" allows the player to increase their movement speed for a few minutes if they remain still for a long enough period of time.

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands release date, gameplay, zones and more

(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

Additionally, Shadowlands will add something called Torghast, which will play similarly to a rogue-like, allowing the player to gain specific buffs as they climb higher and higher up the tower. For example, Death Knights can be given an ability called Toxic Accumulator, which increases the damage done from Death’s Due by 10%, and these modifiers are additive, allowing for this one, in particular, to stack up to 15 times. 

Torghast is exciting for those who want to dungeon crawl until they drop because it’s different every time a player enters. The novelty of each run is further kept intact by modifiers that will fundamentally change how mobs and bosses should be approached.

If you’re curious about what the purpose of this tower is, it apparently holds the location of the Forge of Domination, which is where the Lich King’s infamous Frostmourne and Helm of Domination were crafted. This forge will allow players to craft legendaries of their own using materials found within the tower itself.

Shadowlands is also continuing the trend of Mythic+ by adding new affixes. We’re unsure of how many will launch with Shadowlands, but we have some information on a few. “Prideful” will cause every non-boss mob a player kills to slowly contribute to a “Pride” meter, which eventually forces them to battle a Manifestation of Pride enemy. “Inspiring” randomly gives non-boss enemies a buff that strengthens their allies, “Storming” causes enemies to occasionally summon a damaging whirlwind and “Spiteful” has monsters appear from the corpses of enemies to attack other players.

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands zones 

Shadowlands will be launching with five new areas and a city hub. Bastion is a gorgeous and otherworldly floating land inhabited by angelic creatures called the Kyrian. Maldraxxus is an undead-infested nightmare similarly designed to many plague-ridden Wrath of the Lich King areas. Ardenweald is an enchanting forest occupied by the Night Fae and other beautiful wildlife. The Maw is a ruined vortex of souls, inhabited by the most awful creatures in the Shadowlands. Revendre is straight out of a vampiric fantasy, with a soul-siphoning covenant called Venthyr native to the area. Yes, there are vampires in World of Warcraft, equipped with gothic castles and copious amounts of bats. 

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands release date, gameplay, zones and more

(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

Oribos, The Eternal City, lies in the center of the Shadowlands and it will exist as a hub area bridging the rest of these worlds akin to Dalaran in Wrath of the Lich King. This list of zones isn’t including Exile’s Reach, which is a new starting area that will be released before the game’s launch in a pre-patch. 

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands level squish

Easily the biggest change in World of Warcraft: Shadowlands is a complete overhaul of the leveling system. In Battle For Azeroth, the current max level is capped at a threatening 120. When Shadowlands’ pre-patch launches in a month or so, the new cap will be changed to 50, and when Shadowlands itself releases, it’ll then go up to 60. This is Blizzard’s attempt to streamline World of Warcraft and make it more accessible to new users.

When this new level cap gets implemented, players will have the choice of beginning in a new starting zone called Exile’s Reach. This will act as a noob-friendly tutorial intended to take them from level 1 to 10, and when they’re ready to venture out, they can decide which area they want to explore to take them to the level 50 cap.

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands release date, gameplay, zones and more

(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

I’m someone who’s ridiculously nostalgic for Wrath of the Lich King, so I can make the decision to experience my leveling journey from 10-50 in Northrend. Previously, I’d have to hop around the world or queue up for dungeons to try and gain as much experience as possible to hit 120 in preparation for Shadowlands. Now I can leisurely enjoy my time in an area I love without having to worry about pushing through nearly 16 years of content.

The most exciting part about this change is that every character I roll can experience a different questline and area. I can jump through an entire expansion with one character to hit max level rather than having to go through all six.

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands customization 

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands is making some incredible updates to character customization, including the ability for currently existing toons to change their gender for free. Outside of that, every standard race will be given new options, including additional skin tones, faces, hairdos, eye colors and more.

Most importantly, humans can now be given facial features and hairstyles of Asian and African descent. Previously, World of Warcraft only allowed players to make human characters with Caucasian facial features and just a different skin tone. This has always been problematic, and although it took Blizzard far too long to implement these changes to humans, it’s still a welcome update.

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands release date, gameplay, zones, level squish and more

(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

Apart from these changes, Night Elfs can add leaves to their hair, Draenei have the ability to change the size of their tail and tendrils, Dwarves can have tattoos, Blood Elves can be made with darker skin colors, Trolls can have body paint, Minotaurs can have flowers in their hair, Orcs can have war paint, and Undead can be given fully-formed bodies. 

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands special editions

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands comes with three editions and no pre-order bonuses for any of them. Blizzard is currently offering a Base Edition, Heroic Edition and Epic Edition. These can grant access to new mounts, questlines and pets. You can pre-order the game here.

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands special editions

(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

As the name suggests, World of Warcraft: Shadowlands Base Edition comes with no additional content and will cost you $39.99. Heroic Edition costs $59.99 and provides an Ensorcelled Everwyrm flying mount, Vestments of the Eternal Traveler transmogrification set quest and one 120 Character Boost which can currently be used before the pre-patch (using it after the pre-patch will likely boost players up to level 50). 

However, keep in mind that the Vestments of the Eternal Traveler questline can still be started if a player who owns the Base Edition groups up with those who purchased the more expensive options. The Epic Edition comes with everything previous mentioned including an Anima Wyrmling pet, Wraithchill cosmetic weapon effect, Eternal Traveler's Hearthstone and 30 days of game time. This will cost you $79.99.

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands Afterlives Gamescom

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands will be receiving a handful of mini-episodes going over the lore of many of the series' iconic characters. This will be in the same vein as what we saw for Legion and Battle for Azeroth. The full reveal of this content will premiere on August 27 at Gamescom, which is happening at 11 am PT / 2 pm ET.

It's also possible that Blizzard will announce the release date of Shadowlands at this conference, considering it's quite late in the announcement cycle and we typically would get news of this way earlier. Battle for Azeroth received its drop date announcement four months prior to its actual release. Shadowlands has been confirmed to be hitting a Q4 release date, which means Blizzard is already quite behind on this announcement.

At the show, we got a complete first look at the Bastion animated short. This showed fans what happened to Uther the Lightbringer after he was impaled by Frostmourne. 

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands ray tracing  

Within the latest Nvidia GeForce driver update, the World of Warcraft: Shadowlands beta was dropped at the bottom of the optimization list. “Blizzard’s readying a test of their newest World of Warcraft expansion. Opt-in here, and if you’re accepted be sure to download and install our latest Game Ready Driver to experience the introduction of ray-traced visual effects to the world’s most successful MMORPG.” 

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World of Warcraft: Shadowlands ray tracing

Ray tracing on (Image credit: Weeeboss on Reddit)
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World of Warcraft: Shadowlands Ray Tracing

Ray tracing off (Image credit: Weeeboss on Reddit)

Essentially, Blizzard is working on launching ray tracing compatibility with Shadowlands. This is great news, and because it was recently featured on the latest Nvidia GeForce update, it’s currently testable for those who have access to the World of Warcraft: Shadowlands beta. Reddit user Weeeboss shared the screenshots above, showcasing what ray tracing will look like at its highest setting. Nearly everything projects a shadow, allowing for a much more immersive lighting system. 

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands PS5 and controller support 

Blizzard has recently revealed that World of Warcraft: Shadowlands will be getting controller support which should allow for an expansive selection of gamepads. This could also mean that the game will eventually be coming to consoles. However, this is unconfirmed.

John Hight, Executive Producer of World of Warcraft, has confirmed to Eurogamer that they’re going to be “enabling a lot of the things required for our add-on community to build add-ons for controller support. And it isn't just controllers: we're looking at a number of different devices. But our focus was not to try and make WoW feel like a console game but rather for players with disabilities to have more accessible input devices.”

Hight seemingly made it clear that the company is not currently working on a console version for World of Warcraft, but the idea is not out of the window. Within the same interview, he says “if we were ever to do something like that [with WoW], I'd want to see a good, solid prototype that showed me we could all play our characters and feel we had good command over them, and could experience the world smoothly and things could be visually as enticing as they are on PC."

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands PC requirements

The minimum requirements to run World of Warcraft: Shadowlands include Windows 7, Intel Core i5-3450 or AMD FX 8300 CPU, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 760 AMD  or Radeon RX 560 or Intel UHD 630 GPU, 4GB of RAM (8GB if you're using an integrated graphics card) and 100GB of SSD/HDD storage space. Blizzard warns that HDD could negatively impact the experience, though.

The recommended requirements to run World of Warcraft: Shadowlands include Windows 10, Intel Core i7-6700K or AMD Ryzen 7 2700X CPU, NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1080 or AMD Radeon RX Vega 64 GPU, 8GB of RAM and 100GB of SSD storage space.