Following Wednesday’s livestream developer event for World of Warcraft: Shadowlands, Blizzard gave many content creators around the globe special limited access to its alpha build. Creators are able try out various end-game content, which leads us to our first look at the end-game zone the Maw.
Warning, obviously major Shadowlands spoilers are ahead.
To get into the Maw, you have to visit Bastion, the central hub and major city of Shadowlands. This city has an attractive well of light in the center of it, and jumping in will take you straight to your destination.
At least, that’s the idea. The first few times I tried it the instance failed, and all that happened was I died. Still, I finally got in, and collected the souls that my Covenant of Revendreth had sent me for — collecting souls is going to be a big thing in Shadowlands. When I got back, one of the souls I had rescued told me about meeting an energy familiar to mine. Naturally, I had to go straight back in. This is when I met the Broker Ve’nari, who will become very important to us in the Maw, as for the most part she will be the one and only friendly face we’ll get to see.
Sure enough, the Broker has a soul that should be recognizable straight away — Baine Bloodhoof. Once we complete a few chores for Ve’nari, she allows us to rescue our friend and we take him to Bastion. In essence, that’s the Maw storyline. Many of our more important allies, including Thrall, Jaina, and Anduin, will become trapped in the Maw as part of the Shadowlands starting experience, and it’ll be our job to rescue them.
Everything will try to kill you
The first thing you should know about the Maw is it is the closest thing World of Warcraft has to hell. When Sylvanas threw herself off Icecrown Citadel back in Wrath of the Lich King, died, and had a vision of the horrific afterlife so torturous she was scared straight back to undeath and has been avoiding dying again ever since, this was the place she saw. It is not meant to be a fun place. You’re not meant to bounce around enjoying your time here; it’s meant to be a challenge, and it’s designed that way.
And yet, this doesn’t mean it’s not fun. The Maw’s design has been described as similar to that of zones like Mechagon or the Timeless Isle — mystery zones filled with treasures and secrets. These zones are usually brought into an expansion in later patches, so it’s interesting to see the Maw introduced right at the start.
For example, mounting isn’t possible in the Maw, and that’s by design. The Maw isn’t an easy place to get around. However, it’s quickly apparent that Ve’nari really will be our very best friend, as she appears to sell items that will make travel in the Maw “more convenient.”
I also picked up a fun little item that temporarily transformed me into a golem skeletal wolf-like creature, granting a boost to my speed. Items and secrets are scattered all around the zone, ranging from the simple like this, to complicated puzzles that no one on the event realm were able to figure out.
I think the Maw might end up being one of those zones players love to complain about. For it to really be fun you have to explore, learn the secrets, figure out the tricks around the limitations that have been set down for you. And a lot of players are likely to simply not bother. However, time in the Maw will be limited. A quest for Ve’nari results in the worst quest reward in WoW history: The Eye of the Jailer, a buff that makes the Maw increasingly difficult to the point of being impossible to carry on the longer you stay there.
In an interview with Sloot, quest designer Paul Kubit said that we would likely only spend up to 30 minutes in the Maw a day. Your time goes up to 40 if you’re being careful. But Kubit said we won’t visit it every day of the week. So even if you hate the zone, you’ll never feel forced to spend too much time in it.
An aspect most important of the Maw, however, is without a doubt Torghast. The Maw itself is a punishing, difficult experience packed to the brim with challenging enemies just waiting to wipe the floor with you. Torghast, however, is already famous for how powerful you can end up feeling in there — and how much fun that is. Throughout the tower, you pick up buffs in the form of Anima Powers. These powers range from the boring to the fantastic. And they stack, which means the more time you spend in Torghast, the more absolutely absurd things can get.
It’s not a Covenant zone, but it’s not meant to be
Ultimately, I enjoyed my time in the Maw, and I always love Torghast. People aren’t exaggerating, and the fact that we’re getting unlimited entries is huge news. The Maw is one of two zones and storylines I got to test out this week. I definitely preferred the other one, Revendreth, but that’s not too surprising. The Maw is an end-game zone in which you are expected to spend a limited time.
It’s meant to be a challenge, rather than a sanctuary. In contrast, the four zones that are tied to Covenants — Bastion, Maldraxxus, Ardenweald, and Revendreth — have been specifically designed to feel like a new home. When you choose a Covenant, you’ll be acquiring more than a couple of abilities and cosmetics. Each Covenant and zone starts out in a pretty poor condition, but over time you get to build them up, empower and improve them.
As with the very first quest into the Maw, when you venture in, it’s to rescue souls and discover resources that you will take home and use to help your people, your family, your home. I felt pretty attached to Revendreth after barely a day’s time playing around with the Venthyr Covenant, and that’s not even the Covenant I’m planning on choosing.
By the time Shadowlands ends, it’s going to be interesting to see just how much of an emotional bond players have formed with some of the NPCs and places. In his interview with Tonton, Ion Hazzikostas made it clear that these Covenants will not replace the Alliance and Horde factions, but I think it’s possible they might become nearly as important.
I mean, there’s just no way I’m not picking Ardenweald myself. Is what I’m saying.