Chains of Domination will be Shadowlands first big content update, and while we still don't know when it's coming, we at least know what's coming. There's a new Maw area called Korthia, a new mega-dungeon for Mythic only, and a raid culminating in the long awaited confrontation with Sylvanas. Plus new Thorghast levels, enemies and rewards, a continuation for each Covenant campaign, unlocking of flying mounts, cosmetic armours, and season 2 for dungeons and PvP.
Lots of new stuff, as we discussed with Lead Narrative Designer Steve Danuser and Lead Game Designer Morgan Day. But what truly got players talking was the cinematic shown during BlizzConline, a cinematic where Anduin looked like a new version of the Lich King, even if there's important differences between the current Alliance leader and the original Lich King Arthas.
"As it's clear by the cinematic, Anduin was ultimately dominated by Sylvanas, and that makes all the difference", according to Steve Danuser. "There's a moment in the cinematic, when the power lessens, that you can see Anduin's reaction in horror to what he's being forced to do, but the domination quickly reasserts itself, as the color in his eyes light up and his expression fades. Anduin is clearly still in there and that's a big difference to Arthas, as Arthas did some big choices and walked down that path deliberately, while Anduin did not."
"When Anduin comes back and delivers the key to the Jailer, you can see in Sylvanas eyes that she's still conflicted, and this will be a big part of our story as Chains of Domination unfolds. This is the first time we're showing what Sylvanas true motivations are, and players will have a better understanding of why she did what she did, but that doesn't excuse her. She still burned Teldrassil, she's still guilty of many deaths, and she still has a lot to answer for. We're not forgetting that and we won't be giving Sylvanas a pass. When someone does what she did, it can't be as simple as 'oh, she did this one thing and now she's redeemed'. That's not the story we're telling, but it is something that we will address throughout Chains of Domination and also in the future".
Players will finally be able to confront Sylvanas in Sanctum of Domination, a new 10 boss raid that includes the Eye of the Jailer, Tarragrue, Kel'Thuzad, and of course, the Banshee Queen herself. It will be an encounter to remember, as Morgan Day puts it: "We know there's been a ton of build up for this moment, to confront Sylvanas, and even from a design perspective, there's been so much awesome stuff to pull from, and we're really excited for players to confront her. We know there's a lot of players that really want her to face justice, while others just want their queen back, but there's a lot of twists and turns yet to come."
There were also be a big new challenge for the most dedicated players, the new mega-dungeon, Tazavesh, The Veiled Market. This is a Mythic only instance set in a bazaar of the mysterious brokers, where players will face dastardly assassins, four-armed broker guards, and even an infinite pirate dragon. If players pull it off, they will be rewarded with "a dazzling assortment of weaponry, otherworldly pets, and a mount".
As we've spent enough time letting the Jailer plan as he sees fit, the Covenant are finally ready to fight back, even in the Maw itself, as revealed by Steve Danuser: "The first act of the Shadowlands was all about recovering what was lost, like our friends in Torghast, but it was also about getting to know and join the Covenants, and help them get stronger by recovering Anima for them. And there's also characters like Bolvar, Jaina, and Thrall, that don't like to sit in the sidelines for too long. And so, the story in Chains of Domination will be about turning the tables and taking the fight to the Jailer, and we will see those characters in action in lots of different places."
One of those places is Korthia, City of Secrets, a new area within the Maw itself. Korthia was unlocked by the Jailer with the key recovered by Anduin, and within it lies the secrets and mysteries of the First Ones, an enigmatic group that is crucial for the villain's plans. He still needs three keys to achieve his ultimate goal, whatever it is - the Arbiter key in Oribos, the Winter Queen key in Ardenweald, and presumably the key from Maldraxxus Prime, although he is missing.
We also talked about our own approach to the game, of a "lone wolf" of sorts, and how we even published an article about it. And while World of Warcraft is mostly a social game, Blizzard still think's it's a priority to allow players to be able to tackle content on their own.
"Allowing the player to play the game by themselves if they want to is something we talk about all the time", as Morgan Day told us. "Not only do we try to make sure you can get the full picture of the story, it also influences how we design content, like Thorghast, that you can play by yourself, or with a party of five people. It's a big feature in the Shadowlands, and if you want to experience it by yourself, you should be able to do it."
Torghast will in fact be getting a new wing for players to challenge, with new enemies, traps, and powers. Blizzard even teased players will be able to reencounter some familiar faces, while not revealing who. Arthas, or Garrosh perhaps? We don't know, but we're excited to find out.
While the immediate future seems exciting, and players are definitely behind it, considering WoW has seen his best numbers in the last decade, Blizzard is already thinking down the line. Way down the line, in fact, as Steve Danuser told us: "We plan our storylines and expansions well in advance, so, we're not only well into talking about what comes after the Shadowlands, but even after that. We have a long term plan, and we're not stopping any time soon. Just like Shadowlands was a new experience and a new place to explore, we still have many of those to come."
We also tried to get a release date for Chains of Domination, but as you might guess, we got nowhere. It will be released when it's ready, in good Blizzard fashion, and we're okay with waiting, considering everything being added in a single update.