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World of Warcraft: Shadowlands reminds me why I love the franchise so much

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands
(Image credit: Activision Blizzard)

I have to admit that I wasn't really paying attention to Blizzcon 2019. I was on vacation, it was the day after Halloween, and I had come down with a cold – all good reasons not to keep an eye on the latest happenings. However, the trailer for World of Warcraft: Shadowlands showed up on my Twitter feed, and I just had to watch it – and I don't regret anything.

Seeing Sylvanas walk up to Icecrown and show Bolvar what was what was incredible enough. But, there was a moment after she pulled the helmet from his head that I could have sworn she was going to put it on and become the Lich Queen everyone (ok maybe not everyone) knew she would. But, instead she just rips the helmet in half? She can do that?!

It's no secret that there's a bit of animosity going on in the WoW community ever since Battle For Azeroth launched back in August 2018: the story took a decidedly unpopular turn, and there were a ton of gameplay mechanics that weren't exactly beloved – Azerite, anyone? This trailer, however, is reminiscent of some of the best expansions the game has seen.

Sylvanas really is taking an even more villainous turn in Shadowlands

Sylvanas really is taking an even more villainous turn in Shadowlands

(Image credit: Blizzard)

So many features

Blizzard hasn't been too specific when it comes to the specifics, but it has painted a pretty clear picture of some of the big features coming to the game in a blog post. And, while I desperately want it to change the global cooldown (GCD) back to where it was before Battle for Azeroth, some of these features sound amazing. 

First off, there's Torghast, the Tower of the Damned, which might be the coolest-sounding feature I've ever seen worked into the game. Basically, it's this multi-leveled tower that you'll be able to fight through. Each level will be randomly generated, a là Diablo III, and will get progressively more difficult the further you get. And, of course, because this is World of Warcraft, you'll get rewarded with loot that will get better the further you get. 

The best part? I'll be able to do this by myself, or with a couple of friends, rather than having to carve time out of my busy schedule for raiding.  

In order to get to this tower, players will have to make their way through a zone called "The Maw", which may end up being the most difficult-to-survive zone ever implemented in the game. Word on the street is that there will be no innkeepers, with little to no NPCs, and the more you interact with this zone, the more monsters you kill, the harder it will be to survive. Could this be the Dark Souls of World of Warcraft?

Now, the next expansion is pretty far out, so it's obviously a little too early to say whether or not Shadowlands is going to be the return to form that I'm desperately craving. But, still, I essentially grew up alongside World of Warcraft, so I have a little bit of skin in the game – I really want it to be good. 

Minecraft

If this is what Minecraft looks like with ray tracing, imagine how World of Warcraft Shadowlands could look

(Image credit: Microsoft; Nvidia)

All about that technology

Now, I've heard that ray tracing may be coming to World of Warcraft with Shadowlands, and I don't even know how to feel about it. I love pushing my PC hardware to its limits – which may be why TechRadar has me playing with PC hardware all day – but World of Warcraft isn't really about having the prettiest graphics. It's a game for the people, so making the game more inaccessible to folks that don't have the cash to shell out for an RTX 2060 Super kind of rubs me the wrong way. 

Blizzard obviously says that it intends to keep World of Warcraft accessible for folks on lower-end hardware, but implementing new technology seems to raise the barrier of entry at least a little bit. I guess we'll have to see on that front, though. 

Either way, World of Warcraft is turning 15 this year, and it doesn't look as old as it really is. That's due in large part to the amazing work the team has done in keeping the game updated over the years, and the recent launch of WoW classic really helped to show how far the game has come (or fallen, depending on who you ask). 

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands has the potential to be the most exciting PC game release of 2020, at least for me. There will be bigger blockbuster titles, obviously, but I'll never not get excited for a potential return to form for this venerated MMO, no matter how many times it lets me down.