In the Chains of Domination update for World of Warcraft: Shadowlands, players are treated to the next page of the Shadowlands story. After the reveal of the first cinematic at BlizzConline, fans are treated to a new state of events – Anduin is seemingly evil, sporting the Armor of Domination and has struck at the Archon, covenant leader of the Kyrian of Bastion.
Meanwhile, the mysterious Lost City of Korthia has been chained to The Maw, all while the Jailer plans the next step , and the remaining Covenants are trying to rally together to stop him.
We got to talk to Ion Hazzikostas, Game Director on World of Warcraft and Ely Cannon, Art Director to talk to them about this exciting new chapter of the Shadowlands story.
A Brand New Zone That Is, Actually, Very Old
First off, what is a Korthia? Considering it’s been previously said that there’s far more to the Shadowlands than the areas we’d previously visited, it’s no surprise that we’d get a new one in this new update. According to Ely, it’s tied to some characters we’ve already met.
“Korthia is an Ancient city of the First ones. These are the same group of people who were responsible for Orobos, and we see some of the attendants from Orobos or similar creatures here in Korthia”, says Ely. “We’ll also see a expansion of the Ve’Nari story relation to Korthia and an expansion of The Maw. It’s gonna be pretty interesting when you delve into the additional motivations behind The Jailer’s actions and will expose one of the things that he’s been after this whole time in the area of Korthia”.
Of course, this change would also come with some physical changes. As a game area, The Maw had its own unique mechanics, revolving around managing The Eye of the Jailer. It’d be difficult to have all of your gameplay taking place there, but thankfully Korthia solves that problem.
” The main change of course, are these literal chains that have reached out and pulled in the mini continent of Korthia, this ancient city of secrets. It has a very different feel to it from the rest of the Maw because it wasn’t part of the Maw, it was a place that hints at the origins of the Shadowlands and has many mysteries for us to explore.”, Ion says.
“That’s where our much more traditional questing and gameplay experience will unfold. The gameplay there will not be as the Maw has been, where we’re lurking around trying to keep our Eye of the Jailer low. We have quests and standard experiences similar to Nazjatar in Battle for Azeroth or Argus in Legion. The areas of the Maw are more familiar will still be there for us, and we will continue to gain increased mastery over them, earning the ability to mount wherever we want, and to reset or escape the Eye of the Jailer as we take the fight to the Jailer more directly”.
Ion also elaborated more on the centrepiece of the Chains of Domination, the Sanctum of Domination. This location would host the epic 10-boss raid at the heart of the update, with plenty of challenges for players.
“[The Sanctum of Domination] is really the inner lair of the Jailer at the heart of the Maw. We’re gonna reach it by going through a portion of Torghast, we’re going to finally be able to defeat the Tarragrue, the giant Pet of the Jailer that chases you out of Torghast and slays you if you die too many times currently”, Ion says. “But then that will give us access to what really is the Jailers personal domain. Where we will be able to learn more of the Jailers secrets, fight some of his most powerful lieutenants as well as encounter some of the souls he’s had in his safekeeping all this time, and maybe see some familiar faces along the way”.
He teased one of the big fights players will have to brace for, as the soul of the powerful Kel’Thuzad will be waiting to challenge players in the Sanctum of Domination.
And Now, A Whole Section About Sylvanas
One more titbit of information given was the final boss of the raid. Since becoming the Warchief and burning Teldrassil, Sylvanas has been a contentious character among World of Warcraft fans. What’s worse- the recent story developments have been largely centered around the former Banshee Queen, giving fans a lot of motivation to fight her. With the Sanctum raid, the team says players will finally have that chance.
“The team has had a tremendous amount of fun making this encounter. We know that for many players, those on the Alliance or some portions of the Horde, they’ve been relishing in looking forward to fighting Sylvanas for years and years”, Ion smiles.
“So we knew that we could not disappoint and we’re really pulling out all the stops and the fight against Sylvanas will showcase all of the different sides of her identity, and how she can enter combat from the Dark Ranger that we’ve known for years, to the Banshee that we saw in Battle for Azeroth and Lordaeron, and the new powers the Jailer has given her.”, he adds.
However, he declined to comment if this means that Chains of Domination would be the end of Sylvanas’ story.
“All will be revealed in time. She is the final boss, sometimes final bosses are defeated forever, other times their stories end in different ways. We will see how Sylvanas’ story ends when we get to the end of Sanctum of Domination”, he says.
Ion also notes that it’s far from being all about the Banshee, since The Jailer has roped both her and Anduin into his service. He says while there will be answers, maybe don’t expect to get the whole low-down on these characters just yet:
“I don’t know that we’re going to get all the answers, but we’ll certainly get many of them. The story of the Jailer, Sylvanas and now Anduin is a central piece of Chains of Domination. There isn’t anything I can say in specifics without spoiling the story, but we’re excited for players to get in there and experience it themselves”, he notes.
Dealing With The Covenants
One big reveal from the trailer for Chains of Domination was the fate of The Archon, leader of the Kyrian Covenant. With Anduin seemingly striking her down, the state of the Shadowlands’ four covenants is a lot tenuous, with now three of the four Covenant leaders out of play. However, both Ely and Ion have said the story in Chains of Dominion would be about the Covenants pushing back.
“So Chains of Domination is the culmination of the story up to this point. We’ve really been focused on building up the power of the individual covenants through our contributions as a hero and our alliance with them”, Ely says. “At this point they’re really coming together to take the fight to the jailer and so the primary story is the story of the covenants coming together and how they’re operating in unison against the Jailer”.
“There are covenant specific elements to the story in Chains of Domination, though there is a single central campaign, as the 4 covenants work together to take the fight to the Jailer”, Ion continues.
“So if you remember the Kyrian, the Strike against the Archon is gonna be a big part of the story you’re experiencing. Similarly, each covenant should have their moment to shine where they become more of the focus of attention as we journey to their zone and deal with their covenants issue as their story as a whole advances”, he adds.
Ion also commented on the challenges of a system where players would definitely want more focus on their side, yet still telling a proper story.
“There’s definitely a little bit of an added challenge to telling a story that encompasses these 4 distinct identities and paths, but that’s part of the excitement of the world that we’ve created and we know that players who are invested in their covenants are expecting new developments and continuation of the stories that have been developed so far”, he says.
Gameplay Changes And Sick Mounts
Aside from the story implications, Ion and Ely also talked shop, mainly talking about the gameplay experiences fans can look forward to. One of the new features would be flying and flying mounts, letting fans get their own mount based on their covenants. Unlike previous expansions, Ion says he wants getting your own flying mount to be a lot more straightforward.
“Our plan for flying this time around is simpler and more straightforward than in past expansions, and this is reflecting feedback that we’re seeing from the community over the years. There are no reputation requirements to earn the ability to fly but simply continuing through the covenant campaign and playing through the new Chains of Domination story campaign to its conclusion will give players a custom covenant mount that can fly and unlock flying across the Shadowlands”, he says.
There’s also the Renown system, new to Shadowlands. With the new update coming out, some fans were concerned it would be going away, due to its finite level cap prior to the update. Instead, Ion says they’d rather expand it.
“We’ll be adding new Renown levels, currently up to a new cap of 80, though we may change that based on feedback and testing, with new rewards to unlock along the way including cosmetics, additional tiers to your Soulbinds, new traits to earn and upgrades to the conduits and the conduit sockets that you have access to As well as chapters of stories for the new campaign”, Ion says.
Mega Dungeons R Us
One more detail they opened up on was the new “Mega-Dungeon”, Tazavesh. This Mythic-only dungeon takes place in Korthia, and is a lot more different than your average run-of-the-mill dungeon.
“The expansiveness of it is entirely different from a dungeon as well. We do put a lot of effort into making sure that these are big places to explore that they do have a rich story behind them. Like Mechagon, this is an entirely new Art Kit too that we’re exploring here, so we really get to explore an entirely new environment that wasn’t explored really anywhere else in the game at this point in time”, Ely says.
Ely and Ion also talked about the amount of feedback they’ve gotten for Shadowlands so far. Unlike many of World of Warcraft’s previous expansions, Shadowlands has done quite a lot different- from its singular story about stopping the Jailer to its unique Covenants. According to Ion, it’s thankfully been more to the positive.
“It’s been really amazing and humbling seeing the reception to Shadowlands, and seeing the way that the World of Warcraft community around the world has embraced this new chapter in our world-building. This new dimension, this new plane of existence. going beyond Azeroth and showing and revealing the nature of the afterlife in the Warcraft universe”, he says.
“It’s inspiring, but it also challenges us to meet players expectations and to continue building this world and telling the story in a way that’s not gonna disappoint the people who have loved their time in Shadowlands and gives exciting things to bring back those who’ve moved on in the meantime”.
They also took this more somber method to comment on Blizzard’s 30th anniversary, kicked off by BlizzConline. Ely in particular, shared his thoughts on having been part of such a historic company in gaming.
“It’s exciting. It’s also rare for something to last this long to be as exciting to people for as long as it has. I’ve been with the company for 15 years this year and I know Ian’s been here a long time too. Even being here as long as I have and being honored to be a part of this and be able to grow the World of Warcraft over those years. And to watch the community continue to be excited and find happiness and friends, all the things that we find in our community over the years and to do it year after year for 30 years, its amazing, honestly”, he says.
As World of Warcraft continues carving out its spot in history as one of the most prominent MMOs of its time, it’s great to see that the team continue to move forwards with Shadowlands. Good updates are key to keeping an expansion alive, and it seems like they’re really firing on all cylinders with the debut update for Shadowlands.
Our thanks to Ely and Ion for answering our questions, and Blizzard for the opportunity to interview them. Chains of Damnation will be available as a free update for World of Warcraft: Shadowlands when it drops.