With WoW Shadowlands delayed until later in 2020, we have more time to look at the content and features of the game. Leveling is a crucial part, and new expansions always bring new zones. In Shadowlands, Blizzard has introduced four distinct experiences for players to play in, and level in. Not all zones are made equal, however, so let’s find out what the best Shadowlands zones are for you to level in.
If you want to find out the best of a list of things, inevitably you’ll need to figure out the worst of those things. Maldraxxus is certainly a zone that stands out. After coming from the beautiful Bastion, being faced with the barren landscape of Maldraxxus can be jarring. Maldraxxus isn’t a bad zone, it just struggles compared to the other three, much higher quality zones in Shadowlands.
The biggest issue I found in my time playing here in the beta was the flow. Side quests are spread out, and overall the place just feels off. I also hope when Shadowlands launches, the introduction battle sequence of the zone is changed. I won’t spoil what happens, let’s just say having a pet during this phase is incredibly annoying.
Maldraxxus is in a bit of a Marmite zone: some players will love it, others will hate it. It’s likely that people who love the zone will also have the Necrolords, the Covenant associated with the zone, as their Covenant of choice.
Who takes third and second spot on this list is a coinflip, and will largely go down to how the two zones end up looking when Shadowlands goes live in WoW. Ardenweald is the zone of the Night Fae Covenant, and it’s a dream come true for anyone who had wished for a WoW expansion set in the Emerald Dream.
This area is in stark contrast to Maldraxxus, the zone which you’d have just left when you level in Ardenweald. The zone has a real Disney fairy tale vibe, with a quest chain that has you helping out all sorts of interesting, slightly creepy wildlife as their homes are destroyed and their lands taken.
The zone itself is pretty linear and offers players a fairly rigid leveling path with side quest which, like in Bastion, take place in the same places as the main story. The zone features a number of fun quests, including a greatone drawing from memorable WoW stories from recent events in Azeroth, told by folks who don’t quite understand how you can simply stab a planet.
Overall Ardenweald is a great zone, one that some players are going to fall in love with.
In contrast to the Bastion-to-Maldraxxus switch, Ravendreth is exactly how you transition from a beautiful zone to a wasteland perfectly. While Ravendreth lacks the color palette of Ardenweald, it has a unique setting and character which players can connect with.
Like all zones in WoW Shadowlands, Ravendreth nails its theme perfectly. It’s a love letter to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The zone’s inhabitants, which are ruled over by the Venthyr Covenant, speak with a distinct British twang, leaning on their lore of being upper-class compared to those that they rule over.
This WoW Shadowlands zone will also feature the expansion’s first raid, Castle Nathria, which will see players take on some of the baddies they encounter during their time leveling in Ravendreth, and those they meet in the Venthyr Covenant campaign. This segment of the zone adds a slight twist to the standard playbook of “help the goods guys take down the bad guys.” That’s all I can say without spoilers.
It’s really important when designing a linear leveling experience, that players start off on the right foot. Bastion nails this by not only being an absolutely beautiful zone to look at, but having a great story to boot. You’ll quickly learn about the people of Bastion, and be introduced to the zone’s Covenant, the Kyrian.
Bastion is a great example of why the community likes to joke that the WoW art team carries this game. The zone’s beauty aside, it is also really well laid out and fun to play in.
As for the leveling, Bastion offers players a well-paced experience that should see most hit level 54 by the time they move on. The zone always paces main story quests with side quest nicely, often not requiring much travel distance between objectives, with most quests able to be completed in the same area. This isn’t a trend that continues into all zones, however, but at least players get it as their introductory experience to Shadowlands.
The Bastion zone story is also a standout. It gives a great peek into the Shadowlands, the conflict in Bastion, and also the wider story of the Kyrian Covenant campaign. The story also leads nicely into the expansion’s second zone, Maldraxxus.