When you arrive in Bastion, the place looks like paradise. Large golden fields surround towering structures, proud pillars with strong geometric shapes end in massive gleaming spires, which all add to the majesty. The chimes of bells carry on the wind, adding a sense of tranquillity and peacefulness. But this isn’t paradise. The anima drought has ravaged these lands, and the truth of their function in the Shadowlands might come as a shock to anyone who thought they had discovered eternal paradise among blue-skinned people with magnificent wings. Let’s take a look at this mythical realm of the Shadowlands, one of the regions in the next World of Warcraft expansion.
Johnny Cash, senior game designer and lead dev of Bastion, details how we arrive in paradise, and find it is different from what we might have expected. “Building a zone where things are very pretty and things are, at least in the beginning, fine and things are not on fire everywhere is definitely a unique challenge for the design team. That was something that drove a lot of our early decisions when putting Bastion together. When we are thinking of how to lead players through the story of sort of paradise, that is what ultimately lead us to creating the Forsworn, the primary antagonists of the zone.
“We got inspired by a lot of the WoW villains we faced in the past, looking at what we could do that is a little bit different. The Forsworn are of the same culture as the kyrian you meet initially, and we get to take players down this road of seeing civil war break out in the zone and seeing that the Forsworn are not inherently evil, but they have less than ideal approaches to try and solve problems in their way. This is what leads players into the main zone conflict. Getting that enemy culture that was rooted in the zone itself and not some outside force let us really explore that notion of trouble in paradise. It lets us get into a lot of nuance and subtleties in stories that I think players are going to really appreciate.”
Welcome to Bastion
Coming to Bastion is a reward in itself, but acceptance is earned here, not given. Familiar looking wildlife and friendly stewards help the recently departed to grieve and adjust to their new situation. Then a series of rituals begin, similar to how monks would meditate and contemplate life and its trappings in real life. These rituals help a soul shed mortal wants and desires. Things left undone in life or reflecting back on past decisions burden the soul, and these burdens need to be lifted if the grand cycle of the soul is to continue. This process can take aeons as time doesn’t matter much in the Shadowlands, but eventually, a soul will shed enough of those mortal desires, and that is when they become an azure-skinned kyrian. Now an Aspirant, the process continues, now aiming for purification and improvement.
Those that refuse to let go of their past lives – a cherished memory, a duty left unfulfilled – will end up reassigned to a different afterlife, away from others who are working hard to better their souls.
Aspirants are guided by the Paragons, who act as overseers and embody a particular virtue that is important to kyrian culture. Paragons of Purity, Courage, Humility, Loyalty and Wisdom ensure that Aspirants stay true to the path, or weed out those who cannot resolve themselves to this selflessness.
Aspirants who follow this harsh, long path will eventually become Ascended, and they are granted literal wings in a ceremony with the Archon, one who stands above even the Paragons. Ascended then work to make sure the Shadowlands’ sacred purpose is fulfilled: the preparation of mortal souls for eternity. Ascended could become Watchers, who look at the mortal realm and determine whether a soul on the brink of death is ready to cross over, or carrying souls to the Shadowlands as a Bearer, taking them to Oribos where they are judged by the Arbiter.
We have met Watchers before, but might not have given them much notice. The Spirit Healers back home when you die? Those are kyrian Watchers.
Cash explains: “We have explored little slices of this before, but ultimately the Spirit Healers are kyrian. One of the kyrian roles is called Watchers and we know them as Spirit Healers on Azeroth and their role is to eternally evaluate souls. When you die and you are called to them, they peer into your inner self and evaluate whether you are ready to be dead. If you are, they call one of the other kyrian, called Bearers, to come and get you and bring your soul to the Shadowlands. If you aren’t ready, they return you to life, exactly how you see Spirit Healers work in the game. Players have something different about them: they are never quite ready for the Shadowlands, despite ending up there and that is an interesting thing specifically about some of the races of Azeroth.”
Ascending and selfless life
While Bastion looks beautiful and could be seen as a paradise, those that live here play an important, difficult role. It reminds me a lot of the asceticism of monks, who give up personal belongings and live a life of comtemplation to purification. Kyrians strive to reach their souls’ greater purpose, to help others move on to their paradise, while never reaching one themselves, as amazing as Bastion is.
Cash discusses the difficult part they play. “The role that kyrian play is a very challenging one. Determining if souls are ready to go to the afterlife and bringing them there is both dangerous and a very difficult thing to do. In this very specific challenge that they have to overcome, the kyrian have learnt that they have to be very focused on this goal to do their job fairly. Kyrian willingly give up who they were in life and their past and their burdens and their successes so that they can fulfil their soul’s greater purpose of serving others. So when we see people like Uther, who you will meet in Bastion, that we do go through some of these processes. That is going to be an interesting thing to unravel: how this went down for him, how the timeline was involved, how it affected him and where his character is going. Without going into spoilers, our characters are definitely going to go through the thing that all kyrian do, but it might affect Uther a little bit differently.”
For whom the bells toll
The Shadowlands are in peril when we arrive despite looking calm, and as you venture deeper into the zone, you will hear how the calming chimes and peals of bells become discordant, the sounds of harmony and meditation replaced with vaguely hostile, ominous tones. A lot of thought went into the bells of the zone, from their shape and sound, attachments and how they interact with the music.
Michael Hill, senior sound designer for the zone says that the ambience of the zone was built differently from other zones. Where most places are built to be realistic and believable, Bastion was crafted with a purpose: training new Ascended. As such the team didn’t need to worry about the initial layer of sound that is normally used to make a zone sound realistic and believable. “When Bastion is functioning as intended, it sounds calming and peaceful, providing a soothing environment for meditation and reflection. The sounds of wind through grass, bells from distant rituals, and peaceful wildlife punctuate the zone.
“However, as players discover that all is not right in Bastion, the soothing, meditative environment becomes increasingly strange; less comforting; vaguely hostile. The natural sounds of wind and animals are replaced with ominous tones signaling corruption and hostility seeping into the land. The Bastion soundscape will subtly change between these states as players help the Kyrian Covenant fend off threats and rebuild.”
The music of Bastion details the process of what happens here, and the many rituals of shedding one’s life and memories and working to become Ascended. Glenn Stafford, principal composer uses a choir singing in near-ethereal tones, with bells acting as a grounding element. The sound starts off pristine like how Bastion used to be. Then you can hear when the anima drought brings darker notes, and the sound of the bells falls away, strings and bells giving way to brass and bow.
“Bells are a critical aesthetic of their world. Woven into the music are bell-like undertones and accents meant to remind the listener this is a sacred and powerful place. The choir is also key to the sound; they are human voices, pure and clear, but also distant and ethereal. The human voices tie into the idea of the vital force of the anima that flows through this land. And when that flow of anima is cut off, doubt creeps in, and the music explores a darker and mysterious direction.”
Bells were picked early on in the design process of the kyrians, thanks to the zeal they have for duty and service comparing to a religious order. But what do bells look like for kyrians, whose architecture has Roman and Middle Eastern influences? Ashleigh Warner, a prop artist for the zone, explains the process of designing a bell for an otherwordly people. “
“Once we knew we wanted bells around the zone, it was my job to figure out what they looked like. I started with a curved bell shape where it flares out at the bottom, but we decided that didn’t fit the shape language of Kyrian architecture, which has a lot of straight lines and tall vertical shapes. The next style I tried is what you see in these concepts: tall, geometric cylinders with horizontal bands. I also added cloth that hangs from the bottom, because cloth is another important part of the Kyrian look, and I knew that having animated cloth blowing in the breeze would add a lot to the zone.”
“They look like bells, but different than what you’ve seen before. We tried with Shadowlands to make sure nothing looked too conventional, so everything feels like another world. It’s a challenging balance to create props that feel familiar enough that you know what they are, yet different enough that you know you’re in the afterlife. They were so fun to figure out and are definitely one of my favorite props I made for Shadowlands.”
From these humble beginnings as a prop, the importance of bells ended up in the core of kyrian culture and rituals. Cash explains the role of bells both for lore and gameplay. “The bells of the kyrian originated as an art piece. That was one of the features of the key art that we based the zone on. As we worked through their culture to put it together, we decided that the kyrians would use them to focus and amplify their thoughts and powers that were already there. You see that play out positively in many cases early on, where the kryians meditate to help cleanse themselves of some of the burdens of life or to help focus themselves for powerful rituals. But you will also see that with the Forsworn. They will use bells to bring out the bad parts of the kyrian, to convert them to their side and force out negative manifestations of energy that the player will have to fight. You will see that play out in a whole bunch of different ways, but the bells having this notion of amplifying power gives us a lot of really cool story hooks.”
How does one go about designing a place that evokes a sense of majesty, glory, paradise and introspection? It takes a fair amount of work, from the smallest details, like the sound of a bell to the appearance of the writing of a new culture, to the grand vistas and massive halls that we will explore later this year. So let’s start with a big shot and work our way downwards, finding small details and how they were shaped and possibly what they mean.
At the heart of Bastion, where the Paragons and mighty Archon hold court, there is a massive statue in a courtyard. The courtyard is surrounded by clouds and mist from the nearby waterfalls, which was done to “exaggerate feeling of grandness and isolation.” Strong geometric shapes (as was mentioned about the bells earlier) and bold lines show elegance and strength, probably adhering to the ideals of discipline the people of Bastion hold so dear. Brian Youn, an associate dungeon artist, points out a detail that might go unnoticed at first, but once you see it, it all makes sense. “Gradual elevation of the columns is meant to signify ascension within the Kyrian hierarchy, with the main statue meant to inspire aspirants. The lighting in the area was composed in a way meant to evoke the idea of upcoming trials and future accomplishments.”
In the middle of the scene is a statue. This statue represents not only how the kyrians look, but how they hold themselves and present themselves to the world. Statuary can tell us a lot about what a culture holds important. This statue shows a kyrian Ascended looking stoic, possibly guarding Bastion. Or is the book full of tenets and wisdom to help Aspirants, with the spear serving as a guiding beacon, easily seen? Jay Hwang, the lead prop artist explains that the statue captures how proud and majestic the kyrians are, with their wings looking like feathers, but also like a regal cape. This shows us the mindset of the kyrians, who put value in weapons as well as words, both requiring discipline to master.
The statue shows us a lot more though. On the book’s covers as well as trimmings on the robes you can see letters of the alphabet of the kyrian people. Art director Ely Cannon created the first kyrian runes, before prop artist Ashleigh Warner went further with the idea. Warner created longer strings of runes, that would look like the text you expect to read on a banner or a scroll. Not all of the runes are letters though. “I created these blue runes as symbols for the different temples in the zone. Those are more like icons than text, so they’re shapes that represent different ideas, like wisdom or service.
“Making up fictional written languages is one of my favorite parts of my job. I was almost a graphic designer instead of a game artist, so I get excited when I get tasks that blend those worlds. Players may not be able to read this text, but it’s fun to try to make it appear believable.”
Bastion wants the Aspirants and Ascended to work on themselves as much as possible, which means other creatures or creations were required for doing some of the work that would take up too much time for any kyrian, possibly delaying their already long journey. The kyrians turned to the Stewards: short, whimsical beings with a natural talent for crafting and scholarly pursuits. Kelvin Tan, character art supervisor talks about using creatures to populate areas of Bastion. “I’ve always been a fan of translating the animals we know in the real world into a fantasy environment. Their stout proportions and whimsical nature made them a joy to concept. Material wise, the Kyrian gold is a staple and we knew we wanted it incorporated into the design. This brought up an interesting combination between the feathering and gold as they weave through one another.”
But Stewards aren’t big enough for the heavy lifting required to build the mighty structures of Bastion. For that work, and to defend the realm, the mighty automatons were built. Ranging from animal-shaped and sized designs up to towering colossi, these anima-fuelled creations formed the backbone of kyrian industry. Tom Yip, senior character artist, talks about how the golems had to fit into the world, and reflect the culture that built them. “Bastion is a beautiful realm filled with magnificent architecture, ethereal creatures, and polished elegance. It was challenging to concept and build a large-scale construct that would blend into this utopian landscape. The overall design here evolved along the way. I included elements from the Kyrian Covenant plate armor set and referenced all the surrounding environment art for inspiration and direction.”
And what exactly are automatons? Like many other places in WoW, it is a blend of magic and technology. Cash discusses their creation: “In the Shadowlands, magic is technology. The centurions of Basion are made of a metal-like substance, so there is a mechanical crafting element, which shows a technological element. When characters meet Niko, the head crafter of Bastion, he will give us some insight into how that works. Like we see with a lot of things in Warcraft, magic also plays a part. While a Steward might craft the shell that holds a centurion, or might help put a temple together, ultimately it is this magical lifeblood that makes it do things. That really lends credence to why the drought is so important. The centurions were used to train aspirants and protect Bastion and now there is a threat that they couldn’t see coming and players are going to have to help solve. Joining their covenant at max level will allow you to see a deeper picture of this stuff came to be, how they use it.”
Colours and materials
In many of the above entries, you might have noticed many mentions of colour. The bold blues and golds of the kyrians, their armour and gilded wall art, through to the plants of Bastion and its azure sky are done with a purpose, and colour theory could make up an entire post by itself, exploring the various meanings behind certain colours and their effect on the human psyche. But once colours are picked, the work of making things look like they belong together starts, from the gorgeous flowers to the finest art on the walls, environment artists need to marry the various creatures and props to the world.
Two plants of Bastion showcase this really well. The herb of the zone, called Rising Glory was designed to look special, as environment artist Kelli Hoover explains: “Bastion is all about opalescent colors and flowing, angelic aesthetics, so I kept those things in mind while sketching my ideas. Since I thought it’d be primarily in the fields, I wanted to make sure the plant would draw the eye by standing tall above the grass and suggesting magical effects.”
The second plant, the Bellflower, was created to show the normalcy of flight in a heavenly realm. Gabriel Gonzalez, environment artist explains the process of taking an existing flower and making it magical. “. I began to imagine what a field of windchime-like flowers would look like as they traveled through the zone making music. I began with loose sketches, inspired by a bellflower, and slowly began to refine the idea. I revised the design a few times to adjust the shape language to better match some of the themes in the rest of the kit, which was inspired largely by feather shapes. As I began to build the asset, it was really important to be that these plants could help cover large areas of the canyon walls, so I created clusters and animated them in a way that when put together, would give the player that feel of the airiness of the zone. By itself, a plant can be beautifully done; but when those individual elements can synergize together to create a feeling, that is when you can really appreciate the magic of environment art.”
When it comes to buildings in the zone, similar processes are used, looking at colour, shapes, and materials that are used by the people. One interesting thing that you might not notice as you travel around the zone is how the materials of the various buildings also denote the journey from Aspirant to Ascended and onwards. Lianna Tai, dungeon artist, explains how markings on the walls, inlaid imagery, the shape of buildings and even the stairs all work together to convey this. “For Bastion, we drew a great deal of inspiration from one of the realm’s residents that we are already familiar with from Azeroth—the spirit healer. We started by borrowing her color palette, and her wings inspired our motifs, while her billowing vestments informed Bastion’s proud banners. We designed textures to reflect the Aspirants transcendental journey. Much of our motif in this kit is vertical, drawing the eye up towards the sky. From the beginning of their journey, the Aspirants’ textures consist of more grounded elements, such as wood and duller stones. As they ascend up the Kyrian hierarchy, the materials become purer and more polished, with white marble and light gold trims, inset with geometric stained glass, saturated blues, and rich jewel tones. The scripture and motif designs flow with elegance and ease.”
Establishing a colour palette allows for meaning and themes to be conveyed quickly when disaster strikes. When a surprise Maldraxxus assault hits Bastion, a clash between colours, shapes and doctrines occurs. Tai explains how the mood is set for the Necrotic Wake dungeon. “I wanted to create the sense of mania and chaotic energy that a Maldraxxus army would bring. Their raw aggression, use of experimental materials and necrotic magic, and masses of abominations contrasts with Bastion’s orderliness and graceful structures. Thick, billowing clouds of smoke and dust seep through every crack of Bastion’s open structures, creating further blindness, confusion, and anxiety. Maldraxxus’ saturated greens invade Bastion’s blues. A Bastion warrior statue lays beheaded. A thin brightness on the horizon presages the break of dawn, as Bastion regains a foothold and attempts to fight back.”
Here is the same location in game, from a slightly different angle, showing how the colours worked.
Parallels with home
We already know that Spirit Healers are kyrian, but there are other parallels. The Shadowlands uses anima, a cosmic force to power their structures, automatons and way of living. In some realms it is a currency. But we had anima back home, but it is a shadow by comparison to the anima here in the Shadowlands, Cash explains. “There are a lot of interesting things with how the people of Azeroth have interpreted things that are more cosmic in nature. There are definitely ties between the anima of the Shadowlands and the anima of Pandaria. They are used in similar ways and without going into too much detail there, it is very similar to what we see with the kyrian. We have seen the Valarjar of Stormheim before and the Val’kyr of Northrend but we haven’t seen ultimately where these were drawn from – the core origins of them.
“The Shadowlands are a really unique opportunity in a lot of ways for the team to explore a lot of these really cool lore elements. Where different things came from. How different afterlife beliefs in Azeroth actually work. Where certain characters ended up, in some cases. When we are in a different realm of existence, which we haven’t really done before, we are looking for every opportunity to explore that space. This we can only do in the Shadowlands and it is really cool. Exploring the nature of anima is something we continue to learn more about throughout the expansion. We are going to learn other interesting sections to it along the way. At the end of the day you going to do dungeons and raids and everything you expect from a proper WoW expansion, but you are also going to have these other things you haven’t done before. Especially for both our seasoned veteran players and players that are newer to the game, that is going to be an interesting element that makes Shadowlands stand out and feel unique.”
On top of that, we have seen angelic figures that sheperd the dead on before, both the Val’kyr and Odyn’s Valarjar. How did that come to be? Cash details the connection: “Odyn made a pact some time ago. He traded his eye for a view into the Shadowlands, but he only got a peek. So he saw into the Shadowlands, he has never visited them himself. The things he saw were primarily the kyrian, so he based his Valarjar off that vision of what he saw as he glimpsed across the veil. That is what formed a lot of the inspiration when we were working on Bastion: we know how the Valarjar came to be. What are these incredible angelic beings that Odyn saw, and what are they about? What are their motivations, what role did they serve in this engine of death? This was the first inspiration for us when putting this zone together and things just started to take shape from there.”
A terrible drought
So why is an anima drought so terrible? Perhaps it is because drought doesn’t truly convey the total swing we are seeing when we enter the Shadowlands. Before, anima was as abundant as say air, and now there is almost none. Imagine losing air, something we take for granted? Cash details the affect is has on the people here. “Until very recently, anima was incredibly abundant. It wasn’t wasteful because it was so readily accessible and available that it wasn’t even given a second thought. Given the normal circumstances, there would have never been a drought. This drought has been brought on by very specific events and the Jailer and some of his cohorts. We are going to learn how that came to be and also what we had to do to resolve that. From a kyrian perspective and for all of the zones in the Shadowlands, anima was just in the air, it was absolutely everywhere. That is why you saw it infused into so much of their society. It would be as if we used air to power things in the real world. Nobody could see the horrible events that transpired coming, which makes the anima drought so much worse, because they were relying on it for good reason. That is going to be interesting to see play out: how the zones adapt to that drought and the scarcity of anima and how players will resolve that crisis.”
As a result, the kyrians are overwhelmed, and now a civil war is brewing, something that is unheard of in this land of greater purpose. “The kyrians and the whole of the Shadowlands are overwhelmed by this drought and thanks to actions by certain members of the Warcraft lore, that is how players end up here. Players are called to places because there are problems that need solving. The kyrians are overwhelmed, just like everyone else. Ultimately they are going to ask you to potentially join their covenant because they need your help. When thinking about the kyrian, they have a civil war on their hands, they don’t have enough anima to make more ascended. They are spread very thin and you will see different versions of those narratives play out.”
And the design of Anima? Sarah Carmody – FX Art Supervisor details creating the cosmic stuff that we will come to be very familiar with during our adventures in the Shadowlands. “I painted this concept of what would later be called Anima very early in the development of Shadowlands, when Bastion was still just a postcard concept. We needed a brand-new kind of magic to tie together the whole expansion, which featured four new zones with very disparate themes. This was to be the constant reminder that you are not on Azeroth anymore and a visual unifier for everything in the Shadowlands. Aiming to capture the feeling of familiar ideas like the River Styx and the threads of life, I painted many iterations before eventually landing at this final concept. We wanted Anima to manifest differently in each zone, reflecting visually the zone’s way of life, but still clearly made of the same base element. In Bastion, Anima is free-floating, loose but controlled—it has almost a meditative quality to it. This concept was a huge jumping off point for not only Bastion, but for the entire expansion’s FX direction.”
The ultimate form
The highest ranks of kyrian have beautiful wings and appear angelic in nature. Dealing with the afterlife has allowed the team to draw on inspiration from many cultures and religions to create the various Azeroth afterlives. Cash discusses the angelic appearance, and how the various covenants work: “We take influence from all over. There is an entire tapestry of human experience that we all draw from as designers when we are putting a culture together. Bastion is no different in that regard. There are definitely angelic elements in play, there are ancient Greco-Roman influences in play and a lot of world experience and stories that our developers had across their lives. We bring all of that to the table and you can see a lot of that when you play these quests. There are a lot of characters rooted in very real human experiences. It makes the kyrians have a lot of depth and makes the zone as a whole have very believable antagonists with realistic goals. There is a little push and pull on the heartstrings when you are dealing with these threats and I think that makes it special at the end of the day. Personally, I’ve been very happy with how things have played out, so I’m very happy to get feedback on that and see how players liked the kyrian.
“We are going to these certain regions of the Shadowlands because they serve a specific purpose in the Shadowlands. In the case of the kyrian, they are the ones that bring the souls across the veil into the Shadowlands so that they can go to their perfect afterlife and their anima can enter the greater atmosphere in the Shadowlands. Them having that specific purpose, that thing they do is rooted in these ancient decisions, this grand purpose or covenant to help fulfil specific purposes. We are going there because there are problems that need solving and these zones have the individuals that can help us solve them. That is what led to a lot of inspiration for the covenant system in the game was ‘hey, these cultures we built are really cool, this is something we have never seen before. We have never had this much attached to these groups before in WoW. It would be really cool if I could join them and become a part of their team specifically and get a unique take on the expansion in that way.’ You can see how that blew out from there, with all the different quests and rewards and activities you can do depending on which covenant you join. We thought that was a really cool way to reflect the role in the Shadowlands. By joining the kyrian, who are very focussed on this notion of service of something greater than themselves, if your character is the sort who wants to help fix things in that sort of way, you might be drawn to them, or like their aesthetic, or like the rewards they offer. We think there is a lot there that can draw players in to each of these different cultures.”
And why are the covenants so interested in us, the player? Our immortal soul, going to dungeons and dying but coming back again and again until we win, is noticed, especially when we arrive in the Shadowlands in a way that breaks the norm. “Right away in Bastion you get some reactions because you are different. For many millennia there has been a very set process for how these things work. Someone dies, they get evaluated as to whether they are ready to be dead, and if they are they are sent to the Shadowlands and sorted into their appropriate ever after. Then you are not that. You got here by very specific means that you will see play out at the beginning of the expansion and denizens of the Shadowlands both recognise that right away and also, some of your unique identity as a player will play into these key specific things that you can do that involve The Maw. Ultimately, when you inevitably escape from The Maw, which is the inescapable eternal prison of torment, that is also really significant. That special power that you have is part of why these covenants want you to join them so much, because you can do something nobody else can do. While we do still want to capture that adventuring vibe, that I think is really core and cool in Warcraft, it is also cool that there is this special thing about you. In a realm where people have been here for millennia and have their own crazy powers, you bring your own thing to the table. That back and forth plays out in systems like soul-binds. It is going to be really cool to let the player feel unique but also still feel like an adventurer.”
A change to weave a bigger story
In the last few expansions, we have been able to choose the zone we want to level in, with the stories generally being very zone specific and one or two quest arcs connecting what happened in each place. For Shadowlands, things will be different, at least for your first levelling experience. The reason for this? To tell a story that flows across multiple zones, an epic with chapters.
“We are using new storytelling techniques across Shadowlands, and Bastion will be some players’ first exposure to it. We really wanted to tell an interconnected, linear narrative, especially during the level up. So on your first character you get exactly that: each of the zones in a set order, the story naturally connects and progresses from one zone into the other and reaches this really epic conclusion towards the end of Revendreth. That involves a lot of techniques that we haven’t used in recent expansions of having certain themes and stories carry over from one zone to the next, having that passing of the torch moment. In Bastion, without spoiling too much, near the end of the level-up experience, something happens, and that something that happens leads us very directly to our next zone, which is Maldraxxus.
“As you are flowing across the levels, it really feels like one epic story that has these different chapters. You will see that continued at max level. When you choose which covenant to join, we are both allowing you to pick which part of the story you liked most, which part do you want to know more about? And also, following up on that and saying hey, we are going to do an entire unique max level story just based around the kyrian, or just based around the necrolords. Whichever one really calls to you, you can really dive in and learn more about them and really get to know what makes them tick. That is a really cool opportunity for players to be able to see a little bit of everything, but also dive in really deeply on a given character into what really excites them. We hope that offers a lot of flexibility for players, where they both get this custom-crafted epic storyline both across their gaming experience, but they also get some choices along the way that lets them take the story in a way that really interests them the most. It will be really cool to let people choose their own adventure a little bit.”
As a result of this, going to Bastion early on means that the story could follow a new style: We arrive and things seem rather peaceful, despite the big issues affecting the entire Shadowlands. But things slowly unravel as we see the seeds of dissent and doubt. Instead of arriving just as the explosions start, we get to see things play out.
“It is a good adventure story, to arrive to the call of danger, a call to action. That is how a lot of stories really pick up. When you first arrive in Bastion, there is this overall thing that is plaguing the Shadowlands, but things outside of that in Bastion are fairly normal. Things start out on a fairly positive foot and it isn’t until some time into the experience that you see things ramp up and the tension increase. In other zones you might show up in the middle of an active battle, or somewhere inbetween. There are many different ways to tell these stories and get the player involved in the action, but at the end of the day we want you to be in there, fighting new foes, using your cool new abilities. That is the core of what makes WoW really fun. But we also wanted to take you on other journeys to get there. Bastion is a little different from what we have seen before and I think players will appreciate that.”
It also allows the story team to spend more time developing characters, both villains and heroes. “One of the things that I think really makes a zone come to life are its characters. One of the things we do as designers is create heroes and villains. When I say characters I mean both heroes and villains. You will see that in Bastion early on as allies, Kleia and Pelagos come to mind, as well as some of the enemies you will be facing along the way and I won’t spoil exactly who those enemies are. As you learn and enjoy those characters, they give you context for what the story means and how it is affecting the people, what the stakes are and also some smaller, more personal moments about how they feel about things and I think that helps the player understand the complexity of the story involved here. As you meet all these characters there are these opportunities to learn more about them at max level over the course of the covenant campaigns, but for some specific characters that you meet, you will be able to enter a soul-bind with them and really dive deeper and also gain some power in the process. That offers both a lot of story depth and also a lot of power customisation and complexity. I think that is a really cool element for our characters to jump out and not just be a part of the story, but also become a part of your gameplay loop. That is going to be something that we haven’t really done before and something that makes Shadowlands really stand out.”