Shadowlands 9.1 PTR: First Gameplay & Review!

The 9.1 Public Test Realm is finally live, and we’re able to see for ourselves what we’re diving into in a few months… or, at least the skeleton of it. In this review, I’ll be going through all the cool (and not so cool!) things I’ve discovered in the PTR, and my personal take on what we can expect from it. Now, if you don’t wanna see any spoilers whatsoever, you may wanna hold on with reading, but if you’re eager for new information and content, this is the place to be.

The 9.1 Lore Introduction Campaign

The first thing that jumps you when you log into the PTR is the introduction campaign. At this point, it feels a bit flat and confusing, and as the cutscenes are not in the game yet, the look of it is a bit generic and not too thrilling. However, there’s great potential for this campaign section to really help you understand what’s going on with the covenants, why we’re suddenly in Ardenweald fighting Sylvanas, along with all the other questions you may have.

Hello From The Maw

The next big thing we’re all really excited about are the Maw changes, and the biggest one is Korthia, the new zone added in 9.1. Even though everything’s still work in progress, the zone has an enormous potential for fun content inside of it, and the very fact that it’s called the City of Secrets tells us enough. Personally, I wish it could have a lot more colors that don’t resemble mud, dirt and… well, death, as it would be a lot more pleasant to hang out there, but it’s still too early for the negative design reviews. The place itself isn’t too big and doesn’t feel obnoxious on a ground mount, while being spacious enough for all the cool stuff they’re hopefully going to put inside of it. 

Inside of the Korthian sanctuary, there’s also a new Vendor for a separate Korthian-Maw reputation, and from what I could see, Stygia as a currency is still relevant. However, it’s largely there to pay for the cosmetics, and that includes two new mounts! 

Giddy Up!

Speaking of mounts, you can now actually hop onto one in both the Maw and Korthia. I don’t expect we’ll ever get to fly around here, but it doesn’t actually matter all that much, as riding in both of these places feels really nice and makes the Maw so much better to be in. In order to start mounting, there’s a short questline to be done at the very beginning of the scenario, so it doesn’t feel dragged out, and you can comfortably hop on your mount almost straight away and enjoy getting everywhere fast.

No More Eyes!

Another big change you’ll experience in the Maw is the fact that the Eye of the Jailor is gone, or rather, will be gone after you’ve completed the questline involving all sorts of returning characters like Helya, Odyn and a cool Odin’s assistant taking you through the whole thing. The Eye will no longer serve its purpose either, as you’re not so eager to go around and farm Stygia, and frankly, you can just stay in the Maw all day long if that’s what you want.

What To Do In The “New” Maw

Now, the question is, why would you even want to be in the Maw and what is there to do?

Here’s the thing: a new activity has been introduced, and it’s called the Covenant Strike. It’s kind of like a covenant-themed assault, where one of the covenants will give you 4 quests to complete and help advance the assault in the Maw.

This actually feels pretty good, as the reward is a Cache containing some catch-up gear, Stygia, and even some rewards like mounts, which dropped for me on my first Covenant assault I completed, so I’m not sure if I just lucked out on it or there’s a reasonable chance for that to happen. The activity feels quite nice, as you finally get to kick all those Maw minions in their shins with a little help, and the covenant-themed quests are actually quite fun. You also get to pick out an assistant with an OP power, I’m not sure if this is true for all the Covenant strikes, but I imagine it should be. 

Maw Zones Unlock & Get New Purpose

Another cool thing is that some Maw areas are no longer related to the Maw reputation, and those include Beastwarrens and Perdition Hold. You can now go there freely (assuming that’s where you really want to be), and just do stuff, regardless of whether you’ve done the reputation intro quests or not.

Speaking of zones, Desmotareon in the Maw has gotten itself an important role, being the home to the new raid entrance, and housing all of the Helya’s forces. I don’t wanna spoil it too much, but this particular area has a very special feel to it and even though it’s still… well, the Maw, it feels like it actually has life brought into it, even though everything there is dead, yes. It’s beautiful, and the combat around there is actually challenging, which feels exciting in comparison to some of the Maw’s other areas.

Torghast

Another Maw-based activity we’re eager to see changed is Torghast, which is currently unreachable in PTR as it’s under construction. However, we know there will be some additional floors and achievements introduced, thanks to our fellow dataminers, and another cool thing about it is that Soul Ash will no longer be the currency for the Legendary upgrades.

There will be two additional ranks you’ll be able to upgrade your existing Legendaries with, and the currency is apparently not Soul Ash. In the datamine, it’s stated as a Mega-Soul Ash, whatever that may be, but I’m sure this is just Blizzard giving the dataminers some breadcrumbs for hype. What happens to new Legendaries crafted after 9.1 and whether we will use this new mysterious currency to craft stuff with it or not, I honestly have no idea, and I’m looking forward to learning more about it.

There’s another interesting thing about Torghast and its changes that we do know about, and that’s the whole revamp of how the system works. The death counter as we know it will no longer be a thing, and there will be a new way to score Torghast based on the speed of your run, as well as deaths. The whole experience is meant to feel more rewarding and a lot more rouge-like, where you won’t actually mind dying, as that will mean that you’re getting the rewards based on how far you’ve come in your run. Apparently, Torghast will also be added to Threads of Fate as a way to gain experience in Torghast, making it a meaningful and viable way to work on your progression while leveling your characters. Sweet!

Covenant Goodies

When it comes to the new Legendaries, there are also some datamined hints of covenant-specific ones for most classes, and I’m assuming all of them will get it over time. I’m just hoping these will not be some sort of meme recipes that are only there as a new thing, but without any real uses in Raiding, Mythic+ and other content. This does mean that your covenant choice will be super impactful, if you haven’t felt this way before, assuming those recipes are actually good for something.

The covenant legendaries aren’t the only covenant novity waiting for us in the 9.1, as we’ll be getting some new Renown rewards as well. I went through the Night Fae rewards and so far, they seem pretty generic, like continuing the campaign, a mount here and there, some stamina buffs, titles and ability to upgrade gear, but I’m hoping these will get upgraded over time and we’ll get more meaningful rewards for putting up with our covenant’s demands.

What we truly care about as a Renown reward is flying. According to the newest update, you’ll be able to earn flying right after setting up your hub in Korthia, and although this is not yet live on the PTR, it should be there in the next PTR patch. This is a huge improvement from the previous suggestion, that flying will be available upon completing the covenant campaign, which could happen like two months into the 9.1 and that’s just way too long to wait!

As your Renown progresses, you’ll also be unlocking more of your Soulbind slots, along with places for additional conduits. A lot of stuff here is getting a revamp so I won’t go too deeply into it, but the essence is that your character should feel more powerful and hopefully more customizable.

Class & Spec Updates

When it comes to your classes and specs though, that’s another thing that’s going to be tossed and turned. Some of the changes have already been announced and landed into the PTR, and there’s going to be a lot of testing happening to determine what’s going to get pushed into Live. If you care about this kind of thing, you can get yourself into the PTR and give your character a spin to see how it feels and what the changes are and how they’re impacting you, but if not, you can just wait until it’s all on the Live servers so you don’t have to worry about constant changes and the revert of changes, for that matter.

More Anima!

Throughout this whole PTR experience, and that also involves questing in Korthia, I’ve discovered that Anima rewards have gotten some big, big buffs and if really feels like you can invest into everything you want with your Anima over time. So if you’ve been feeling hopeless about it, you can stop worrying about it, as the Anima situation is getting a whole lot better in the 9.1. This doesn’t just involve random Anima sources, as there are a bunch of Korthian and other dailies that award a few of those blue anima pieces, and that feels pretty good.

Dungeoning

When it comes to the dungeon experience, one of the biggest news is Blizzard’s decision to incorporate a Raider.io-like system into the game, and from what we know, there will be an in-game score to help you find your groups. I’m not sure how this will affect the whole RIO addon thing, but this is quite good for the new players who don’t know anything about it, or don’t want to use in-game addons, to actually be in the loop and understand the dungeon scoring system. I just hope it turns out to be good, balanced, and overall fair for everyone, as that’s what we really want out of this kind of system. There’s also a new seasonal affix coming into Mythic+ called Domination, and we still don’t know much about it, but hopefully it feels as fun as Prideful did.

Raiding

When it comes to raiding in the Sanctum of Domination, we now know that the new raid will also follow the trend of the last two bosses offering higher item levels than the previous ones, and this time, we’re also getting some more mounts that go along with Raid achievements and drops. What’s interesting about Sylvanas’ loot, as she’s the final boss of this raid, is that she drops her bow that changes a Hunter’s ability when equipped, replacing Kill Shot with Wailing Arrow, and there’s also a Cloak that’s actually a Quiver, with both Crit and Haste, triggering Withering Fire every 5 shots. Nice work, Blizzard, and hopefully, hunters will be seeing more quiver transmogs, not that you’ve dipped your toes into this area of business!

Bonus Rolls

Another cool thing coming back with the 9.1 is the return of Bonus Rolls. We don’t know much about it yet, whether they’re just for Raiding, or Mythic+, or even World Bosses, and we don’t yet know the currency, but I welcome this change. It’s fun and it gives you the opportunity to gear faster, and that’s fair enough.

Tazavesh: The Veiled Market Megadungeon

When it comes to the 9.1 Tazavesh megadungeon, we now know what the encounters are, and which items you can get from it. This dungeon will not be available for a Mythic+, but there’s a Hard Mode you can ambitiously enjoy, similarly to the Mechagon dungeon in the previous expansion, but here’s to hoping that this is a great experience for smaller groups of friends wanting greater rewards.

PvP

The PvP changes are not that plentiful, but we know that your PvP gear will now matter quite a lot, as your pieces of gear will behave like they’re 13 item levels higher whenever you enter a player versus player combat. This is kind of a good thing, as it further separates the PvP and PvE people, making us feel less like we have to do both in order to have meaningful progression in-game.

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Other 9.1 Changes

Now, some of the smaller changes, some datamined, some live on the PTR, include but are not limited to: new Dreadlord models that hint the 9.1 lore quite meaningfully, new battle pets from the Maw (that look like tiny, little Maw men and I know I have to have them), a 10 000 Polished Pet Charm pet that I’m not so sure I’ll be getting but there it is, battle pet hard cap removed, meaning you can have a whole lot more of them now, new models of glasses for all the Harry Potter roleplayers, the ability to have individual shoulder pieces as your transmogs, new sets to get from all over the place, new mounts to collect, 9.1 gems providing unique effects for your gear, and also a creepy, cool-looking, Oribos skybox that is now dark with some funny little things going on that we don’t yet know much about.

And that’s pretty much it when it comes to the most important changes, for now. If you have some further additions or questions, leave them in the comments, and if you’re more of a visual type, and you don’t mind getting easy wins in WoW, you can check out all of this in my video – and subscribe for more awesome WoW stuff!

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