Right off the bat, let us make clear that World of Warcraft is better with friends, and that participating in raids, dungeons, and PvP with a group of friends or members of a guild, is fantastic. But we had our fill of that in the past, and right now we just want to enjoy World of Warcraft at our own pace. As such, we tried to see how far we could go on WoW's new expansion, Shadowlands, while playing mostly solo, only grouping via the game's group finder tool. To our surprise, we managed to go far - very far.
From 10 to 50
We created a new character around Christmas, a 'project' we wanted to create for quite some time now - a Mag'har Orc Death Knight. The Mag'har Orcs are a Horde allied race, which means that you have to complete a series of quests and Achievements with another character to unlock them. Having fulfilled these requirements, we finally created our Mag'har Orc, Maxcavalera, which is a tribute to the former Sepultura and Soulfly vocalist (and let's face it, old Max really looks like an Orc in the best sense possible).
One of the peculiarities of the allied races is that they start at level 10, even when playing a Death Knight - you only need to go through a short story sequence in which Lich King Bolvar welcomes the allied races. As WoW now lets you decide how to level up, we choose to go with the Warlords of Draenor expansion, as this expansion has a big connection with the Mag'har Orcs storyline. In a few days we reached level 50, got our Heritage Armour that only Allied Races get, and ventured into the Shadowlands.
From 50 to 60
Once in the Shadowlands, we quickly finished the introductory sequence in The Maw, reached Oribos, and had to make a decision - repeat the full story campaign, or jump straight to the choice of Covenant. We chose to skip ahead and swore allegiance to the Necrolords of Maldraxxus, a people of undead soldiers perfect for our Death Knight, as we're also an undead soldier ourselves.
We also took the opportunity to better explore the central area, Oribos, which has a series of curiosities for those who dedicate some time to it. For example, did you know that Acquirer Ta'gosh sells a potion that turns you into a cloud, allowing you to fall long distances safely? Or that Acquirer Ta'wah has a drink called Sargeras Sangria that is described as "an atypical alcoholic drink"? Before leaving Oribos we decided to learn the Blacksmith profession, as it will help us create leveling gear and eventually craft the Runecarver's legendary items.
After that we set off on our adventure, as while we didn't had to repeat the main campaign, we still had to level from 50 to 60, completing a series of quests spread across the four main areas of the Shadowlands. It's only after you reach 60 that you really start to unlock the potential of your Covenant, gaining access to the many options in the end-game.
After reaching level 60 we decided to complete our Covenant's main campaign. It's impressive that Blizzard has distinct stories for each Covenant, allowing players to revisit characters from World of Warcraft's past, learn about the Covenant, and of course, unlock a fantastic set of items. We also did a few dungeons, but all of our current gear was obtained via the Covenant campaign and World Quests.
Right now we have an item level of 177, which includes a legendary piece and six epics. This is possible thanks to a feature that allows you to upgrade your Covenant gear in exchange for Anima. In other words, if you have enough Anima you can turn your rare gear into epic equipment, simply by completing the main story and world content.
We are also working on strengthening our Sanctum, which includes a station to build abominations (that in itself is another mini-game that allows you to create an abomination to accompany you on your adventures), a system of portals spread across Maldraxxus, a mechanism to unlock secrets on the map, and a tactical table to carry out missions with the help of our partners (it' a kind of strategic mini-game).
In addition to all this, we are also improving our relationships with the three characters with whom we can create a soul-link, unlocking new skills and perks. We also won two mounts, cosmetic items, and a lot of gold, all playing solo through the Covenant content. With that gold we visited the auction house, bought potions and food, and made our way to the most terrible place in the Shadowlands - The Maw.
The Maw, Torghast, and the Runecrafter
There are other parallel stories taking place in the Shadowlands, linked to the main characters trapped in Torghast tower, namely Cairne Bloodhoof, Jaina Proudmoore, Thrall, and Anduin. The Tower is divided into several sections (rotating every week), and each section includes eight floors, the difficulty of which rises progressively. The more advanced levels can be quite hard, but we have managed to do most ourselves, unlocking new partners and collecting ashes along the way.
These ashes are used to craft legendary gear with the Runecrafter, but you'll have to collect a series of items before hand. Fortunately, you can get them all by playing solo, even if a trip to the auction house is required. Lastly, we have The Maw, with its own side missions, and Ve'nari, a mysterious character who helps the player and has her own reputation system, but whose true intentions are still unknown.
As if all this is not enough, you can also go on in dungeons and PvP, all easily accessed through group finder, and even the the raid itself, Castle Nahtria, can be completed with a random group, albeit in a soften version is lesser rewards.
More so then in any previous expansion, we feel that we have more freedom to play World of Warcraft as we wish, whether in group or solo, in PvP or PvE. It's no accident that WoW is more popular today than at any point in the past decade, and that's due to a very accessible and fast journey from 1 to 50 and a rewarding End-Game in terms of content, loot, narrative, and variety. We can't wait to see what else Blizzard has in store for us as they continue to bolster Shadowlands, but so far, we're loving this journey.