Folks, I am tired. It is a deep sort of tired, the one that seeps down to the bone. And it’s the kind of tired that has you looking at the World of Warcraft launcher and thinking about the fun that’s coming next… followed not all that long thereafter by a new wave of existing boredom.
Today is August 21st. Retail World of Warcraft’s last actual live update was on January 14th. Yes, I know, there have been hotfixes and such since then. That was still the last substantial update, seven months ago. We do not have any kind of release date for Shadowlands beyond “this year.” Really, October or November seem probable. I know, I know, it probably would have been this month if not for a global pandemic that disrupted everything. I know.
But even if it were coming out this month, I still find myself struggling to not feel tired. I’m not even excited about the expansion; I’m excited about the pre-patch and that’s it.
Even that excitement feels muted in a way. Yes, the pre-patch will be nice. New hairstyles! New customization options! Oh, so many of my characters are going to hop into the barber shop and change up their looks… and then that’s about it. Yes, that’s exciting, I’m happy for it, but that isn’t content. And then what?
Well… leveling, I guess? Streamlined leveling will be nice for several of my alts. But it doesn’t really change the central problem with the leveling wherein I have played all of this content, front to back, multiple times. It will be nice to have new options there, don’t get me wrong, but from the standpoint of praxis this means that I’m going from redoing content I’ve done dozens of times before across five continents to just one.
Oh, and there’s the pre-launch invasion event, I guess. That’s a thing to do. And it’s just the Scourge invasion again, but with a few extra wrinkles. Like, yeah, I remember really liking that event back in the day, but this is not 2008, and my standards and experiences have changed since then. The thought of doing this again is not perhaps the siren song it is meant to be.
The weird part is that the idea of the pre-patch still has me more excited than the actual expansion itself. That gives me some real pause to think because isn’t the whole point that the pre-patch is more of an appetizer before the main course? Shouldn’t I be even more excited about the main event? It feels like I should be.
Lots of things are getting in the way, though. The first and most obvious one is, well, this is yet another expansion in which The Fate Of The World Hangs In The Balance; one of the things that I was actually excited about with this particular expansion was the idea that we might have an expansion wherein that was not the case, but alas, that didn’t deliver. But this time, not only does the world hang in the balance, but it requires exploring a metaphysical realm in which your connection to most of the material world is kind of sidestepped and lost.
Adding in more content for fans – that is, people who are familiar with names like Kael’thas and Uther and Ysera – should not make me feel more tired or more exhausted. I am literally the target audience. And every time I see something datamined about these figures, I just get more tired.
Part of it is, well… when we weren’t just getting Wrath of the Lich King But Again, Please Love Us Again, I was happy to say that this wasn’t just an attempt to roll another fanservice pardon. But increasingly, it looks as if that’s actually what we’re getting. It’s all the stuff you loved from before! But again! All the characters we couldn’t have around any more because they were dead, but now they’re still dead but you can chat with them! Yay!
I keep thinking about how this is going to shake out in the future. Is this going to be a permanent thing? It feels like “you literally have a giant open door to the afterlife” is going to kind of change certain strategies if that’s the case. Or are we just going to pretend you can’t go back there even though you totally can, a la alt-Draenor? How was that whole stupid story just a footnote in Battle for Azeroth?
I realize that being tired about the future of this is a bit premature when we are still looking at this as our immediate future, but the point I’m making is that we have a bad precedent set up and there’s reason to already feel a bit tired about how things are going to shake down. I don’t want to be tired about this. I want to be pumped about it. I want to think about neat post-death vistas that feel like exploring a Yes album cover in plate armor. Instead, it’s just… sighing and boredom.
Maybe part of it is just that we know this expansion is not going to really address the overarching problems already in place On the one hand, it seems unfair to take Shadowlands to task for not including housing when it was never claiming to in the first place, to use an example. On the other hand… why was this where we went next? Why was that never on the table? When even your usual fan miners are starting to muse about how housing should already be a thing, maybe that’s a sign?
That’s the big thing that gets me. I’m tired ahead of an expansion launch for an expansion where I’m not even in the beta. I haven’t had time to get accustomed to this content and I don’t find myself wishing I hadn’t played the tests so I’d be more surprised. All I have is secondhand information, and even that doesn’t make me eager to play it in the least.
This feels very, very off to me. It feels like there’s something wrong when a thing I not only should be excited about but literally want to be excited about is hitting me cold. I want to be excited about covenants and soulbindings, and not thinking ahead to when those elements go away in a couple years, even though it’s disappointing to know ahead of time that they will go away in a couple years. I want to be looking forward to something that’s a different feel. I’d like to look forward to Torghast.
Instead… what I feel is tired. What I’m looking forward to are customization options in the pre-patch. And those are things that matter a lot to me, but it keeps striking me that everything else feels like something I regard with a shrug and a nod.
More than anything, I’m left hoping that a lot of this is more to do with timing than anything. That as soon as I am actually sitting down with the expansion, it’ll click and I’ll be enjoying it and there will be good things to say about it. Because right now, Shadowlands looks like it’s going to be a better expansion than Battle for Azeroth only because the latter was really bad.