The more I think about Bastion, the more I’m glad I put the golden fields and star-dotted skies of that deceptively beautiful hell behind me for the pus-green, boil-covered and fleshy pastures of Maldraxxus.
Even though I knew I’d be trading one of the most beautiful zones ever designed in 12 years of World of Warcraft expansions for my least-favourite zone aesthetic — World of Fleshcraft — my warlock and I were glad to quit that place. Even if you put aside the fact that the zone is Get Out cranked up to to 11, Bastion also has the weakest initial story. The zone’s more interesting antagonists, the Forsworn, show up late in the campaign with Uther Friggin’ Lightbringer front and centre before they completely disappear — swapped out in favour of invading Maldraxxi. You’re then summarily kicked out of the zone, tasked with investigating why Bastion’s bff Maldraxxus is attacking in the first place. Setting up Uther and the Forsworn is no doubt a tease for the Kyrian Covenant questline later, but I’d at least like the chance to /wave at one of the most important figures in WoW lore before you punt me into the next zone.
Thankfully, Maldraxxus is a zone that knows players want a big steaming pile of lore shoved in their faces from the moment they arrive. Palling around with Draka for the majority of the Maldraxxi story campaign was the most fun I’d had in Shadowlands. Though I’m of the Alliance faction, I knew who the orc warrior was, and even if I didn’t, Maldraxxus does a really good job of telling her story in life and after death.
Questing and levelling in Maldraxxus was tolerable. I liked collecting the different runes from the different Maldraxxi houses and I really appreciated the ability to turn all those runes in at once instead of being forced to turn in a rune in order to unlock the quests to earn the rest. I think their zone-specific abilities are the next weakest after Bastion’s (An owl servant? Really?) and was deeply annoyed that one of the quests I had for the Plaguefall dungeon needed more than one run to complete. Unless it’s for some max-level super dongle, a dungeon quest should be completable in one run. Periodt.
But more than questing or dungeoning, Maldraxxus provided a nice bit of story to munch on that didn’t completely horrify the hell outta me like Bastion did. The Shadowlands, being the realm of death, offers all kinds of unique opportunities for players to reunite with long-dead characters, both significant and inconsequential. On the inconsequential side, I did not expect to run into Lady Vashj — a raid boss from way back in Burning Crusade — and was delighted to pair up with her for a little bit o’ murdering. Meeting her was like running into a toxic ex, you remember the bad times — all the raid wipes, and lost loot rolls — but are genuinely glad to see that they’re dead but doing well for themselves.
Get it sis, Illidan was bad for you anyway.
I remember sending “Holy Shit!” texts to my two WoW friends after meeting the Ashbringer Alexandros Mograine, and sending yet another “Holy SHIT!” text when you reunite him with his son — Darion. I’m a complete sucker for dead parents reuniting with their not-quite-dead but also not-quite-alive grown children. It was a really touching moment, especially considering how they both died, provided you could forget that, for the moment, they are trapped in turbo hell. I’m anxiously hoping that Shadowlands will allow me to witness a similar moment between Draka and her lawful-stupid son Thrall so she can knock some sorely needed sense into him. Though she died before having the chance to raise him, I imagine she would not have raised an orc dumb enough to throw away a perfectly good axe.