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World of Warcraft: Shadowlands release date, map and new class

Here's the thing: the last expansion of World of Warcraft, Battle for Azeroth, hasn't exactly been a fan favorite. There were issues with gameplay and controversial plot points that longtime fans took exception to. Is Blizzard really making Sylvanas, and by extension the whole of the Horde, evil? Not quite. We finally got to see what's next for our Banshee Queen and all of Azeroth thanks to some recent announcements.

At BlizzCon 2019, we got the news we've all been waiting for: there is indeed a new expansion coming to World of Warcraft, and soon. Called Shadowlands, this new expansion goes where no other has gone before. Rather than adding in new, undiscovered lands, this expansion unlocks an entire realm: the Shadowlands. The barrier between the world of the living and the land of the dead has been broken, giving players access to new zones and new features thanks to Blizzard (and Sylvanas).

The release date for World of Warcraft: Shadowlands

Now that we have all this exciting information from BlizzCon to get hyped about: when will Shadowlands release? Unfortunately, we don't have a straight answer to that question. Yet. According to Blizzard, the expansion will be coming some time in 2020. It's already available for pre-order, and players have their choice of Base, Heroic, or Epic editions. Heroic throws in instant access to a Level 120 Character Boost and the Ensorcelled Everwyrm flying mount, which looks kind of like a flying machine out of that Disney Atlantis movie. The Epic edition does all that "plus 30 days of game time, the Anima Wyrmling pet, an otherworldly Eternal Traveler's effect for your Hearthstone, and Illusion: Wraithchill, a cosmetic effect for your weapon."

In the past, most World of Warcraft expansions have been released in the fall, with Legion and Battle for Azeroth coming a might bit earlier in August. Our bet is that we'll be seeing the Shadowlands sooner rather than later, so let's hope that we can venture into the realm of the dead before fall of 2020.

The trailer for Shadowlands

Throughout Battle for Azeroth, we watched as Sylvanas lost all semblance of hope: the Horde's Warchief no longer saw any redemption for the world and, scarred by her own death and rebirth at the hands of the Lich King, any need for scruples. War crimes are cool now, apparently. After fighting, and killing, Saurfang by fighting dirty, she spirits herself away from Orgrimmar. Her destination? Icecrown. 

Once there, she fights Bolvar Fordragon, who currently wears the crown of the Lich King. He previously sacrificed himself in order to render the undead harmless and sealed himself on the Frozen Throne, so he's not exactly evil. Sylvanas has been giving off hardcore evil vibes lately, and Bolvar warns her of the burden of the Helm of Domination, which gives the wearer control over the undead. Surprising us all, Sylvanus chooses to break the helm in half. This rips open the veil between the land of the living and the Shadowlands, where the dead dwell. According to her, this is her way of setting "us all free" of this prison of a world.

Yeah, okay. Whatever you say.

What is in the Shadowlands?

If you've ever died while playing World of Warcraft — we're willing to bet you have — then you have already crossed into the Shadowlands. Rather than a quick visit in this misty place as you run back to your mortal body, the Shadowlands features five new extensive and diverse areas that players will explore in this expansion.

The Shadowlands can be both beautiful and horrifying. The more beautiful, dreamy areas include Ardenweald, a beautiful forest glowing with bioluminescence, and the sunny wheat fields and shining towers of Bastion. Revendreth is the epitome of gothic aesthetic, populated by vampire-like creatures. Then there is Maldraxxus, which looks like an afterlife dreamed up by Tim Burton, all spiders and skeletons. Finally, there's the Maw: a place where only the worst of souls linger. Here, players — if they dare — can ascend Torghast, the Tower of the Damned, a roguelike dungeon where the sadistic Jailer tortures the most wicked of spirits. The halls there are ever-changing and contain some legendary loot that adventurers may not be able to pass up.

Is there a new class for Shadowlands?

Technically, there is not a new class in the Shadowlands expansion. Before you get too bummed out, listen to this: everyone can be a Death Knight now. Previously, only a choice few races could be Death Knights. This is because Death Knights served the former Lich King, and the new guy Bolvar didn't make any after ascending the Frozen Throne. Thanks to Sylvanas tearing the world a new one, Bolvar has apparently deemed it necessary for there to be new Death Knights. 

According to senior game designer Paul Kubit, there just weren't any new classes that really jumped out at developers when crafting Shadowlands. To make up for this, the team decided to focus in on character customization. Playing as a plain old human? Expect there to be a wide range of new options when Shadowlands is released. The same can be said for trolls and dwarves too, so get hype for a diverse new range of possibilities when designing your short but scary Death Knight Dwarf.

What are Covenants?

Okay, so there are no new classes in the Shadowlands expansion, but there is an exciting new feature: Covenants. Think of them as super-exclusive clubs within the Shadowlands. At Level 60, players will be able to decide which of the four Covenants call to them: the guardians of nature known as the Night Fae from Ardenweald, the angelic Kyrians of Bastion, the undead and untrustworthy Necrolords of Maldraxxus, or the vampiric punishers known as the Venthyr from Revendreth. 

No matter which one tickles your fancy, joining a Covenant comes with some serious perks. Thanks to your new club, you'll gain class-specific abilities, and there is some pretty sweet swag in it for you like armor sets and upgradable mounts. Depending on your choice in Covenant, you'll perform missions and help out their cause. The Kyrian, for example, are a heavenly host focused on guiding the dead. Harming the dead is the MO of the Venthyr, who torture unworthy spirits, while the Necrolords use the dead as an army for the protection of the Shadowlands. The Night Fae are ardent protectors of nature.