World of Warcraft

The current state of Shadowlands’ Covenants is very worrying

wow5 - The current state of Shadowlands' Covenants is very worrying
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I would like to give some attention on a subject that I believe can either make or break Shadowlands' experience for most players. Covenants have been a very hot topic ever since its reveal in Blizzcon 2019, and the recent alpha builds have gave us a lot more information on the system as a whole.

The recent episode of the Allcraft Podcast had a very interesting and insightful segment on Covenants that summarizes the situation very well:

Here is a timeline below to indicates what was talked about and the interesting parts:

  • 58:55 – Beginning of the Covenant discussion
  • 59:05 – Waiting to criticize Covenants?
  • 1:00:30 – Why Covenants are a mess (analogy between Covenants & BFA systems)
  • 1:02:10 – The drastic differences between Covenants
  • 1:03:12 – Blizzard being too ambitious, looking back at the game's similar failed systems
  • 1:05:15 – 1:06:40 – Looking at the borrowed powers individually and how they feed onto themselves (Spells, Soulbinds, Conduits, Legendaries)
  • 1:06:40 – Why is this about everyone and not only the "try hards" and "raiders"
  • 1:07:50 – Are Soulbinds and Conduits going to be mitigating the balance issues between Covenants?
  • 1:09:40 – How do we acquire Conduits?
  • 1:10:55 – Example of why Covenants can't be balanced
  • 1:11:50 – Blizzard's goal and the problems with it
  • 1:14:15 Off-topic – Beginning of lag segment
  • 1:17:08 Off-topic – End of lag segment
  • 1:17:40 – How should Covenants be changed?
  • 1:19:40 – The Butterfly effect when balancing Covenants
  • 1:20:30 – Why is the player punished for enjoying his class?
  • 1:21:15 – Why did Blizzard invent the "meaningful choice" idea when it has never existed before?
  • 1:24:23 – The pain point of not being able to experience all the Covenant abilities
  • 1:25:10 – Why isn't Blizzard encouraging swapping Covenants? (Lots of potential for content)
  • 1:26:20 – Blizzard wanting to die on a hill they built
  • 1:27:50 – Snapshot of the current state of Shadowlands
  • 1:30:00 – End of the Covenant discussion (by rambling on other subjects)

I think right now is a really good time to bring this issue up, with the stream this next Wednesday coming up.

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The Covenant system as a whole is a lot more clear than before, with all the abilities being in alpha, all the soulbinds being datamined, with Conduits and Legendaries starting to be datamined these last 2-3 weeks to give an idea of what their contribution will be. The consequences of making the wrong choice can be massive. And should Blizzard balance them post-release, the built-in drawbacks for swapping back and forth between Covenants will make the experience very frustrating.

With the information we have, I think it is now crystal clear that Blizzard faces an impossible situation, with no elegant solutions without fundamentally changing the core of the system, which is likely impossible to accomplish in such a short time window, with the expansion coming out in Q4 2020 (I would assume toward the end around november-december).

I genuinely believe Shadowlands is looking to be an awesome expansion. It just has this single big pain point that can either make or break the expansion as a whole.

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