World of Warcraft: Shadowlands

When I ranked the currently available zones in World of Warcraft: Shadowlands, I poked fun at The Maw’s premise:

The Maw is a dark and dangerous place where no one can ever escape. Unless, of course, you’re a player character. Then you can escape. But that’s only what, a couple million people? And if everyone has an average of 2.7634 alts, then that means that, carry the three… about 7 million people are going to be able to escape the Maw. No one else, though.

So I was performing Maw quests with some friends after the weekly reset. There was plenty to do: daily quests, story quests, killing rares, pushing back against the Wrath of the Jailer, running for my life as I’m trying to pick up runeblades…

…wait, what?

Whenever a game touts an area that’s “designed to be completely dangerous,” it’s only natural we scoff. Think of all the times we’ve had a 5-Star Wanted level in Grand Theft Auto and how little it mattered. That’s not the case within the Maw, especially since you get a debuff that will eventually kill you, no questions asked.

World of Warcraft: Shadowlands

Imagine my surprise, then, when it turns out the Maw delivers on its premise. This place is ten kinds of messed up, filled with lost souls traversing a river of despair. The more I work on my daily quests and reputation grinds, the more deadly stuff there is to encounter here: assassins hunting me, enemies literally picking me up and throwing me to the ground, and the aforementioned debuff that results in my ultimate demise. It’s all so much fun.

My time within the Maw is limited, so I have to be careful with it. Do I risk veering off the main path and killing various rare enemies? Or is it better to stick with the task at hand and simply “get in, get out,” knowing that I risk missing out on some valuable upgrades as I’m preparing to tackle raids and Mythic+ dungeons? This balancing act gives me, the player, a choice to make with each encounter. I can’t begin to explain how refreshing it is to have that type of choice in an MMO, especially when I’m so used to my only real agency being whether to grind X, Y, or Z.

Of course, I could end up eating my own words later on if the Maw gets revamped and toned down. For now, though, I’m buying what Blizzard is selling here.

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