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Everything we know about World of Warcraft: Shadowlands

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands was announced at BlizzCon 2019, and, as predicted, will take players to an alternate dimension of death and decay as they try to stop Sylvanas from wielding the powers of death to destroy Azeroth. Don't you just hate it when that happens?

A new expansion means sweeping changes to World of Warcraft—and Shadowlands promises to be one of the most transformative expansions in years. There's a lot to cover and details are still emerging, but consider this your one-stop source for all the news about World of Warcraft: Shadowlands.

Here's what we know so far.

What is World of Warcraft: Shadowlands' release date?

We don't have a specific date but game director Ion Hazzikostas confirmed it would release in 2020. Given that most expansions tend to launch around July and August, I think it's a safe bet that Shadowlands will follow suit and arrive sometime in the summer of 2020. It is available for preorder now.

What's the premise for World of Warcraft: Shadowlands?

Taking place immediately after the events of Battle for Azeroth (which still has one major update to go), 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.

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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)

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.

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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.

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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.

We don't yet know much about the player hub of Oribos or the endgame zone of The Maw (besides what we talk about below with regards to endgame).

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)

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.

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.

(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.

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.