As players level through World of Warcraft: Shadowlands, they will get to know each of the four Covenants who rule over the realm of the dead. Each Covenant is associated with its own zone: the angelic Kyrians from Bastion, the Necrolords from Maldraxxus, the Night Fae from Ardenweald, and the vampiric Venthyr from Revendreth. Players will eventually select a Covenant to align with, and they will be rewarded with special Covenant abilities.
Each Covenant will have its own unique cosmetic rewards too, but Covenants are about more than just aesthetics. Each one grants two abilities — a signature ability that anyone who joins the Covenant will get, and a class-specific ability that will be unique to your class. Blizzard has posted about these abilities.
Powerful and fun
The abilities are understandably still a work in progress. Most of the Night Fae abilities, as well as some for the Venthyr and Necrolords, haven’t even been decided on yet. The abilities that have been shared with us already are… interesting, to say the least. For example, the Demon Hunter Night Fae ability, The Hunt, allows Demon Hunters to charge an enemy, inflicting nature damage and rooting them, but also marking them. You may reactivate The Hunt every 30 seconds to teleport behind the marked target and ignore line of sight. Imagine that in PvP.
Frankly, most Covenant abilities just sound like loads of fun. A lot of them also sound extremely powerful. And therein lies a potential problem.
Will Shadowlands Covenant abilities inhibit player choice?
A key part of Blizzard’s philosophy for World of Warcraft: Shadowlands has been player choice, but will players really be able to choose the Covenant they want to be able to join, or will they feel like the choice has been made for them based on that Covenant’s abilities? For example, if you love the look of the Venthyr, but you’re a Paladin tank who likes raiding and Bastion specifically turns out to offer the best abilities for that combination, how can you choose anything but Bastion?
Here’s another example: Say you’ve chosen the Covenant that grants you the best abilities for PvP, but you also like Mythic+ and your Covenant’s abilities are all but useless in dungeons. Will you be all but locked out of some content that you usually enjoy but can’t get into because of the burden that not having the right Covenant abilities has become?
We can assume that Blizzard doesn’t want to feel pressured into its decisions, or resentful of its decisions, but it also doesn’t want us to feel like our choices are meaningless either. This is very likely to be a hard balance to achieve in World of Warcraft: Shadowlands, especially as many abilities look really exciting but also risk being overpowered. Toning down the power could tone down the fun, but balancing powerful abilities is always a headache of note.