By now, we’re going on two months in Shadowlands, and I like to think that I have a good feel for the place. I more or less know what activities I should be doing, I have options to pursue on my own, and I’ve poked around in all of the expansion’s five main zones.
As I was traveling from one to another last night, I came to the conclusion that despite fairly positive first impressions, Shadowlands’ zones are kind of… not that good. They’re not horrible, mind you — they feature a lot of eye candy and some nice highlights. But I get the feeling that Blizzard took a step back in its zone design with this expansion.
For starters, none of this feels as wondrous or weird as a journey into the afterlife should be. I mean, I can imagine any of these zones easily fitting into Azeroth. They just happen to be floating out in a void somewhere instead. Blizz had a great opportunity to really push into bizarre territory, but looking back, I think Argus was more afterlife-looking than these places.
The zones being disconnected from each other is a drawback in more ways than one. In Legion and Battle for Azeroth and Draenor (looking back over the past three expansions), the leveling areas were connected and had a flow between them. Here, they’re just five jigsaw pieces scattered to the edge of a table and left there. I honestly miss BFA’s islands where you could take boats between them and enjoy a shared theme.
And the travel time is really nuts. It continues to be ridiculous that flight master whistles don’t work, and when you couple that with the fact that getting from one zone to another means a lengthy travel to and from a hub, getting anywhere is far more painful than it should be. Even when we do get flight restored to our characters, we’re still going to be dependent on that slow flight master to get us from one region to another.
Again, none of this is horrible. It’s not a deal breaker that’s sent me into a spiral of hatred. It’s just not… good. None of the zones really shout “LOVE ME!” the way I’ve experienced in previous expansions, and some of them are kind of annoying to traverse without flight.
I’ve been giving some thought to what Blizzard might be bringing in the first post-expansion patch, and I hope that if the studio ever does give us another zone, it will be a leap of the imagination instead of a “safe bet.” Also, we need instant teleporters or another hearthstone or something.