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World of Warcraft: Shadowlands alpha starts this week

New player experience, new zones, and datamining galore

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World of Warcraft: Shadowlands Bolvar Lich King Image: Blizzard Entertainment
Ryan Gilliam (he/him) has worked at Polygon for nearly seven years. He primarily spends his time writing guides for massively popular games like Diablo 4 & Destiny 2.

At BlizzCon 2019, Blizzard announced World of Warcraft: Shadowlands, the MMO’s eighth expansion and follow up to the disappointing Battle for Azeroth. In a blog post on Monday, game director Ion Hazzikostas announced the upcoming expansion will enter its alpha phase for select players later this week.

While many players will need to wait for beta to experience Shadowlands themselves, a new alpha hitting the test environment means loads of datamining — giving players a glimpse at upcoming features and story moments. However, Hazzikostas cautioned players over taking datamines at face value, citing many things have changed, and cancelled experiments still linger in the files.

According to Hazzikostas, alpha players will get a chance to tackle the new zone of Bastion — the more heavenly side of Shadowlands afterlife-theme. Later this month, the team plans to add another zone and Torghast, the game’s new “endless dungeon experience” mentioned at BlizzCon. Once all Shadowlands content becomes available for testing in the alpha, Blizzard will wipe the servers and start the broader Shadowlands beta.

While all the content won’t be available at launch, Hazzikostas says that players will immediately notice the new Spellbook. After several expansions of taking player’s abilities away, Blizzard is working them way back into Shadowlands. All 12 classes have new — or in most cases, previously removed — spells as of this expansion.

Blizzard has also altered the quest interface, making it easier to tell where players need to go for an objective without them needing to open their map. Some PvP currency changes will also be active when the alpha launches — although the focused PvP and raid testing won’t happen immediately.

Aside from just new content, players can also dive into the new new-player experience coming in Shadowlands. The Alliance version of this new zone and tutorial will show alpha players the ropes, and showcase how players will learn World of Warcraft going forward.

For now, players will only get to see a glimpse of end-game systems like Soulbinds, Covenant Sanctums, and the new Legendary items. We’ll likely learn more about these systems in the coming months.

Players interested in eventually getting into the beta can opt-in on Blizzard’s website.

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