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WoW Shadowlands was briefly the fastest-selling PC game

It would have been easy for World of Warcraft: Shadowlands to buckle under the weight of the content it's tackling. From top to bottom - whether it be an ambitious story direction that involves many iconic characters or the gritty mechanical reboot of the game's leveling system - Shadowlands is about one thing: change. Blizzard's MMORPG has been running for 16 years and counting, and over time it has evolved through different iterations of both the gameplay experience and the world it inhabits. Change necessitated, at least for some, the existence of World of Warcraft: Classic, and the alterations Shadowlands makes to the DNA of one of the most important online experiences ever created are big enough in scope they mark a similar departure from expectation.

The release of a new WoW expansion comes with a level of anticipation, dread, and curiosity that we don’t typically see in expansions to other live service games. Chalk that up to both the extensive nature of WoW‘s content offerings and the fact that every expansion writes the opening pages to a new chapter in a legendary MMO that has revolutionized the genre (and gaming) for over 16 years.

Shadowlands, WOW's eighth expansion - or perhaps we should more properly call it the ninth edition of the game - was briefly the fastest-selling PC game of all time this month, before Cyberpunk 2077 came out. Activision Blizzard CEO Bobby Kotick has been talking up this venerable franchise too, boasting of record player engagement before the expansion released and noting that it brings in over a billion dollars a year, making it the financial equal of stablemate Call of Duty.

If you haven’t been playing Shadowlands, that’s good news as there’s absolutely loads of content to burn through.But anyway playing Shadowlands since day one will now be finding themselves with less to do each week.

PvP still offers some fun, but hasn’t changed significantly for Shadowlands. A new Arena added with the expansion is decent enough, but the Rated Battleground scene has hardly changed.

Class design also feels like something that has reached a great balancing point in Shadowlands, though that will obviously be tested as players hit end-game and begin grinding through whatever awaits them in the future. In all of the dungeons run along the way to the culmination of the main Shadowlands launch narrative, no class felt dramatically over- or under-powered, resulting in a pleasant experience. It's likely that won't hold, as dedicated players are excellent at pushing on the edges of design until something breaks, but at the very least each class has a steady base regardless of where it slots into a certain meta point for competitive content.

The entire Shadowlands concept seems to have brought out the best of the game’s talented artists and designers. Each zone in Shadowlands essentially serves as a different version of the afterlife. This idea is beautifully demonstrated by Shadowlands’ starting zone, Bastion, which is a kind of an Elysian Fields version of the afterlife where angelic figures roam fields of wheat. It stands in stark contrast to the next zone, Maldraxxus, where necromancers train the souls of the damned as well as warriors who refused to stop fighting even in death.

So we’re just at the beginning of Shadowlands, and there’s plenty more fun to come.The Sun says: A game this big can never be truly “perfect”, but you get exceptional value for the money you’ll spend on Shadowlands – a brilliant expansion that proves WoW has life left in it yet.

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