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World of Warcraft: Shadowlands: Release date, Covenants, pre-patch, and everything we know

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands
(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands is an upcoming expansion to WoW that is taking players somewhere they've never been before: the afterlife. Announced at BlizzCon 2019, Shadowlands will deliver some major shakeups to Azeroth. For one, character levels are being squished down so the new max level is 60 along with some big changes to how and where you level. There's also a ton of new progression systems to play with, like Covenants that grant you powerful new abilities, and a roguelike dungeon that changes each time you enter it.

There's a lot to cover and details are still emerging as we approach World of Warcraft: Shadowlands' release, but consider this your one-stop source for all the news about World of Warcraft: Shadowlands.

What is World of Warcraft: Shadowlands' release date?

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands launches on November 23 at 3pm PST / November 24 at 12am CET.

It was going to release on October 26, but Blizzard announced on October 1 that it couldn't make that release date, as it needed more time to tweak the endgame and add "additional polish."

When is World of Warcraft: Shadowlands' pre-patch going live?

The WoW: Shadowlands pre-patch is out right now! Blizzard released the patch on October 13.

If you don't know what a pre-patch is, in WoW, expansions launches are usually preceded by a patch that paves the way for all the big systemic changes. The Shadowlands pre-patch, for example, includes big changes to how leveling works and a special event that rewards powerful gear to help lapsed players prepare for their adventure into the Shadowlands.

Here's the Shadowlands release date trailer

During Gamescom Opening Night Live, Blizzard originally showed off a trailer to announce the release date for Shadowlands. Now that the expansion has been delayed to sometime in late 2020, that video has been taken down.

They also debuted the first episode of the animated shorts series Afterlives with the title Bastion. These animated shorts introduce some of the characters you'll meet on your adventure, and Blizzard has since released one for each new zone. You can watch them all below:

What's the latest news about WoW: Shadowlands?

With the Shadowlands open beta test in full swing and constantly being updated with new features, there's a lot of stuff to get excited about. Here's some of the highlights:

  • During the Shadowlands beta, players have been in a heated debate over a contentious new feature called Covenants. You can find more on them below, but Blizzard recently confirmed Covenants wouldn't be undergoing any major reworks ahead of the expansion's release.
  • One of Shadowlands' biggest new features is a roguelike dungeon called Torghast, Tower of the Damned. It changes each time you enter it, and as you explore its different levels you earn wild new powers that are a lot of fun. I played a significant chunk of Torghast on the Shadowlands alpha server, and it's easily the coolest thing Blizzard has added to World of Warcraft in years.
  • World of Warcraft's leveling experience currently kinda stinks. It's convoluted, takes a really long time to reach the latest expansion content, and tours you through old zones that aren't nearly as fun to explore as newer ones. Fortunately, that's all getting fixed. As we explain below, Shadowlands is squishing the level cap down to 60 and revamping where characters level up. Best of all, there's an entirely new starting zone that's actually super fun and acts as a great intro to new players.
  • Dataminers have been digging through the files on the Shadowlands alpha servers and are digging up all kinds of interesting bits of info. We've rounded up all the coolest findings so far, including controller support for Xbox Adaptive Controllers, and some rad new armor sets.

What are the WoW: Shadowlands preorder bonuses?

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands is available for preorder now and, like all previous expansions, there are a few different editions to choose from that each come with some special goodies. Here's what they are:

  • The Base Edition is $40 and it includes a pre-order of World of Warcraft: Shadowlands along with immediate access to Death Knights for Allied Races and Pandaren.
  • The Heroic Edition is $60 and includes everything in the base edition along with a level 120 character boost, the Ensorcelled Everwyrm flying mount, and a quest to get a new transmog set.
  • The Epic Edition is $80 and it includes everything above along with 30 days of game time, the Anima Wyrmling pet, a special effect for your Hearthstone, and a special illusion effect for your weapon.

What's the premise for WoW: Shadowlands?

Taking place immediately after the events of Battle for Azeroth, World of Warcraft: Shadowlands sees players adventure to the land of the dead after Sylvanas destroys the Helm of Domination and sunders the barrier between Azeroth and The Shadowlands, WoW's version of an afterlife.

To stop Sylvanas, players have to venture into The Shadowlands and help restore order to the various factions that live there. As game director Ion Hazzikostas says, The Shadowlands is supposed to be a well-oiled machine where dead souls are judged by their deeds and sent to different realms. But Sylvanas and her mysterious partner, The Jailer, have broken that cycle and are now funneling all perished souls into The Maw, a terrible, inescapable realm reserved for only the most horrific and evil of monsters.

It's not clear what Sylvanas aims to do, but it can't be good, so players have to ally with different Covenants found in The Shadowlands and restore balance.

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands new zones

WoW: Shadowlands introduces several new zones. Four of them will be leveling zones that players will journey through in a set order. There is also a new central player hub, called Oribos, and a max-level endgame zone called The Maw. Here's a quick overview of each leveling zone.

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(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

Bastion

Bastion is the first zone players will venture to. It's the homeland of the Kyrian, the angelic progenitors of the Valkyr. This is kind of like The Shadowlands version of Heaven, where noble souls come to meditate and unburden themselves from the turmoil of their past life. Renown paladin Uther, The Lightbringer, lives here.

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(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

Bastion

Bastion is the first zone players will venture to. It's the homeland of the Kyrian, the angelic progenitors of the Valkyr. This is kind of like The Shadowlands version of Heaven, where noble souls come to meditate and unburden themselves from the turmoil of their past life. Renown paladin Uther, The Lightbringer, lives here.

Image 3 of 10

(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

Maldraxxus

Maldraxxus is home to the Necrolords. Though they're a grim and demonic looking species, they aren't inherently evil. Maldraxxus is the seat of The Shadowlands' military might, and their society is framed around honor and strength. It resembles undead zones like The Western Plaguelands.

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(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

Maldraxxus

Maldraxxus is home to the Necrolords. Though they're a grim and demonic looking species, they aren't inherently evil. Maldraxxus is the seat of The Shadowlands' military might, and their society is framed around honor and strength. It resembles undead zones like The Western Plaguelands.

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(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

Maldraxxus

Maldraxxus is home to the Necrolords. Though they're a grim and demonic looking species, they aren't inherently evil. Maldraxxus is the seat of The Shadowlands' military might, and their society is framed around honor and strength. It resembles undead zones like The Western Plaguelands.

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(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

Ardenweald

Ardenweald is home to the Night Fae, nature spirits who defend any who would deprive the souls here from completing their rebirth and re-entering the life cycle. Ardenweald is kind of like the Shadowlands' equivalent of The Emerald Dream. Cenarius' spirit lives here. 

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(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

Ardenweald

Ardenweald is home to the Night Fae, nature spirits who defend any who would deprive the souls here from completing their rebirth and re-entering the life cycle. Ardenweald is kind of like the Shadowlands' equivalent of The Emerald Dream. Cenarius' spirit lives here. It also resembles Drustvar from Kul Tiras.

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(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

Ardenweald

Ardenweald is home to the Night Fae, nature spirits who defend any who would deprive the souls here from completing their rebirth and re-entering the life cycle. Ardenweald is kind of like the Shadowlands' equivalent of The Emerald Dream. Cenarius' spirit lives here. It also resembles Drustvar from Kul Tiras.

Image 9 of 10

(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

Revendreth

Revendreth is basically a whole zone styled after Count Dracula—Ion Hazzikostas said so himself. It's where prideful, flawed souls (like Kael'Thas Sunstrider) reside, and it's a land full of gothic architecture and darkness. It's also home to Shadowlands' first raid.

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(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

Revendreth

Revendreth is basically a whole zone styled after Count Dracula—Ion Hazzikostas said so himself. It's where prideful, flawed souls (like Kael'Thas Sunstrider) reside, and it's a land full of gothic architecture and darkness. It's also home to Shadowlands' first raid.

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands Covenants

One of the biggest new features in Shadowlands in Covenants. Each zone you adventure to is ruled by a faction (like the Kyrian or Night Fae) who each have a specific purpose in the afterlife. As you assist each faction, they'll reward you with faction-specific gear and two special abilities: One that's specific to your class and one universal ability.

Once you complete the main campaign and reach the new level cap, you'll choose one Covenant to align with. This unlocks those faction-specific abilities permanently, along with a specific armor set. Choosing a Covenant will unlock a long quest that will comprise much of Shadowlands' endgame. You can think of Covenants kind of like Legion's Order Halls. Covenants also unlock an endgame progression system called Soulbinding that we don't have much info on currently. Here's an example of some Covenant-specific rewards:

(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

Shadowlands system requirements

The system spec requirements for WoW's next expansion are no joke. Blizzard really want you to be running an SSD, going to far as to include it in the minimum requirements. We suspect that Shadowlands will run on a hard drive, but you may face longer loading times. Maybe check out the best SSD deals if you're looking to upgrade for quick and cheap.

Here are the Shadowlands system spec requirements:

Minimum

  • OS: Windows 7 64-bit
  • CPU: Intel Core i5-3450 or AMD FX 8300
  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 760, AMD Radeon RX 560, or Intel UHD 630 (45W) (DirectX 11 compatible GPU with 2GB VRAM)
  • RAM: 4GB (8GB if using integrated graphics)
  • Storage: SSD, 100GB available space
  • Input: Keyboard and mouse required, other input devices are not supported

Recommended

  • OS: Windows 10 64-bit
  • CPU: Intel Core i7-6700K or AMD Ryzen 7 2700X
  • GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 or AMD Radeon RX Vega 65 (DirectX 12 compatible GPU with 8GB VRAM)
  • RAM: 8GB
  • Storage: SSD, 100GB available space
  • Input: Multi-button mouse with scroll wheel

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands endgame and dungeons

Like every expansion, Shadowlands will add eight new dungeons at launch, with a new raid to unlock soon after. Four of those dungeons will be unlocked while leveling and an additional four will be unlocked after reaching the level cap.

Shadowlands' second biggest feature is Torghast, Tower of the Damned. As we already reported, Torghast is an "endless dungeon" that you can explore either alone or with a party of four other players. Hazzikostas said Torghast is directly inspired by the roguelike genre, meaning it's highly randomized and changes each time you enter it. Like any good roguelike, you'll also gain wild new abilities that change each time you enter Torghast, and the dungeon should provide a mighty difficult challenge for all players.

Torghast was made available on the Shadowlands alpha server in April, and I've played it a bunch. It's easily the coolest thing added to World of Warcraft in years and has me very excited about Shadowlands' endgame.

The halls of Torghast. (Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

In addition to Torghast, players will also explore The Maw, a max-level zone Hazzikostas said was inspired by how challenging WoW Classic is. Endgame players can expect monsters and quests that put up a stiff challenge and likely require grouping with strangers in order to survive.

The level cap is being squished to 60

Instead of leveling to 130, Blizzard is condensing World of Warcraft's character levels so that current level 120 characters will be level 50 and the new level cap will be 60 when Shadowlands launches next year. That's actually good news because WoW's leveling experience was painfully long and too spread out. With this new leveling squish, each level you gain will guarantee new skills and abilities.

What's more, new characters will start at level one in a brand new starter zone designed to better showcase WoW's combat and questing. Once you reach level 10, you can then choose any expansion to jump into, which will take you all the way to level 50 where you can begin Shadowlands. That's right, you can now experience the entirety of Mists of Pandaria's story instead of quickly outleveling it and having to move on.

The other great thing about the new leveling experience is a new starter zone called Exile's Reach. This replaces the old level 1 zones with a whole new island full of fun quests and much more intuitive and comprehensive tutorials. Exile's Reach doesn't take forever to get through and is a lot of fun—a much better introduction to WoW than its outdated starter zones.

(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

Improved character customization and Death Knights available to all races

Shadowlands will also introduce a variety of new character customization options including human faces that better represent ethnic minorities instead of just different skin tones. Each race will have extra options like tattoos and hair styles to further differentiate how you look from other players.

(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

As a special surprise, Hazzikostas also revealed that every race can now play the Death Knight class. Originally, this was locked to races that were available when Wrath of the Lich King first launched. But now all Allied Races and Pandarians can play as Death Knights.

(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

And those are just some of the biggest features coming in World of Warcraft: Shadowlands. We'll update this post with more information as it becomes available.

Enjoy some lo-fi beats to raid/quest to

World of Warcraft

(Image credit: Blizzard Entertainment)

In anticipation of the big Shadowlands release, Blizzard has released a few delightful lo-fi remixes of songs from the expansion's soundtrack. The tracks (and the art that accompanies them) are a spot-on reference to the popular lofi hip hop radio - beats to relax/study stream that folks both relax and study to. The songs themselves are really good, but unfortunately, there's no 24-hour stream to accompany them. The remixes were done by well-known lo-fi artists, so maybe they'll make it onto the official stream someday.

Steven enjoys nothing more than a long grind, which is precisely why his specialty is on investigative feature reporting on China's PC games scene, weird stories that upset his parents, and MMOs. He's Canadian but can't ice skate. Embarrassing.