With the Shadowlands expansion, the World of Warcraft team hopes to make the legendary MMO more accessible than it’s ever been before. While I think they’ve done a pretty good job of breaking down some of the game’s more intimidating barriers, that doesn’t mean that Shadowlands offers the perfect new player experience.
In fact, it’s entirely possible to leave Shadowlands‘ new player starting area (an island called Exile’s Reach) without understanding or even knowing about some of the game’s core mechanics. It would have been impossible for Exile’s Reach to teach you absolutely everything you needed to know about the modern WoW experience, but it would have been nice if the new (mostly) universal starting area offered a better taste of the full game.
With that in mind, there are 10 of the most important things you won’t learn about in Shadowland‘s new tutorial area.
What All of Your Stats Mean
While you can explore your character screen for a basic understanding of what WoW’s primary stats mean, Exile’s Reach does a pretty poor job of actually explaining why they’re relevant and how they will impact you.
It won’t be long before you’re wondering how impactful certain stats really are and what stats you’ll want to focus on for your chosen class/specialization. While I wouldn’t want Exile’s Reach to tell you how to build the perfect character, it would be nice if you at least left the region with a better understanding of the mechanical relationship between your class/specialization and the game’s primary stats.
If nothing else, it would be nice if the area offered a clear explanation of what the difference between versatility and mastery is.
Not All of Your Skills Are “Useful”
Granted, I don’t expect the WoW team to use the game’s tutorial island as a chance to say “Some of these character skills we designed really suck,” but there has to be a better way to teach players about skill management.
WoW Shadowlands’ level squish means that you’ll learn new skills faster than ever. That’s nice for those who hate the grind, but it won’t be long before you’ve got a toolbar full of skills that you’re struggling to manage.
The fact of the matter is that there are some class skills you’ll almost never use and some skills you’ll certainly never use unless you’re playing a certain specialization. Don’t feel like you’ve got to find a way to bind every new skill you learn or that it needs to immediately be incorporated into your rotation.
Pretty Much Everything About Professions
I’m not sure how Exile’s Reach would even deal with a topic as complex as professions, but it would be nice if the opening island at least touched upon this subject.
World of Warcraft lets you learn two primary professions as well as a few secondary professions. While it’s certainly possible to reach the game’s level cap without even bothering with professions, knowing how to gather resources or craft equipment can make the leveling experience much easier/more enjoyable.
At the very least, you’ll want to learn fishing and cooking just in case you ever need them. It’s also not a bad idea to learn at least one gathering profession early on (such as mining or herbalism) as it’s easier to level those as you progress.
How Dungeon Loot Works
While I feel like the dungeon at the end of Exile’s Reach does a pretty good job of teaching you most of the basics, it falls woefully short when it comes to explaining dungeon loot.
WoW’s basic dungeon loot system (known as “Personal Loot”) is a controversial mechanic that essentially hands you an item at random after you’ve beaten a dungeon boss. The “problem” is that everyone has an equal chance of receiving an item. That means that it’s theoretically just as possible to receive multiple items from a dungeon run as it is to receive no items at all.
The first time you run through one of WoW’s dungeons and receive nothing more than gold, you’re going to have questions. It’d be nice if Exile’s Reach answered some of them.
Managing Your Talents
Talents are the backbone of character building and leveling in World of Warcraft. That’s why it’s a little odd that Exile’s Reach ends right before you unlock your first talent point.
In Shadowlands, you’ll unlock talent points starting at level 15. You’ll spend these points to unlock one of three new talents that are offered to you every five levels. The talents you’re offered will vary based on your class/specialization, and you’ll only be able to choose one talent from a given tier at any time. There are also special PvP talents to choose from which only apply in PvP matches.
While modern WoW lets you easily change and manage your talents in any area where your character is rested, it would have been nice if Exile’s Reach let you experiment with that first talent tier a little more to gain a better understanding of this vital mechanic.
Learning New Mount Levels
Exile’s Reach will walk you through unlocking and using your first mount, but you’ll likely leave the starting area with more than a few unanswered questions about how mount progression works in WoW.
As you level up in WoW, you’ll also gain the ability to unlock new mount mastery levels. Up to a point, these levels just allow you to ride your ground mount faster, but you’ll eventually be able to unlock flying mounts. Even then, though, every zone has its own flight skill, which means that learning how to use a flying mount in one zone doesn’t mean you’ll be able to fly in another.
This is all pretty basic information for WoW veterans, but anyone who is just starting out will likely not understand you’ll need to upgrade your riding ability multiple times and that certain restrictions apply to certain zones.
Considering that Exile’s Reach is focused on teaching the absolute basics of WoW, I’m not sure why the game’s tutorial island doesn’t teach you a little more about flight paths.
Flight paths in WoW allow you to quickly move between important points in zones and across the world. Before you can fly to a certain point, though, you’ll need to unlock it by talking to that area’s flight master. Flight masters are typically located near zone hubs and are easily identifiable thanks to the green exclamation point floating above their heads.
This is another one of those elements that the game does expand upon after you leave Exile’s Reach, but it feels like this mechanic should have been better incorporated in the starting area.
How to Really Play Your Class Specialization
WoW does offer basic instructions for choosing a class specialization, but if you’re truly new to the game, you’re going to be thrown into the world drastically uninformed about how specs actually work.
While some class specializations (such as Mages) really aren’t that complicated in terms of how they differ from one another, other classes (such Druids or Shamans) offer completely different play styles based on your chosen specialization. Because of that, Exile’s Reach doesn’t really offer an equal learning experience for all classes, despite its efforts to change the quests slightly based on your class selection.
Players shouldn’t be told everything about specializations at Exile’s Reach, but even giving players a little area designed to teach the basics of each spec would be a drastic improvement.
Banks are a cornerstone of the WoW experience, but they’re not referenced at all in the Exile’s Reach portion of the game.
Banks are admittedly pretty simple (you just use them to store your excess items), but considering that Exile’s Reach is designed to teach you concepts as simple as accepting a quest, it would have been nice if the universal starting area referenced them in some way.
Long story short, don’t start deleting or selling all of your items just to make room in your bags and learn to love hoarding things in banks if you suspect they may be useful to you down the line.
The Auction House
While you probably won’t (or maybe even shouldn’t) be using auction houses until later in your WoW adventure, it would have been nice if Exile’s Reach offered a simplified version of the auction house concept to at least teach you about the things they can do for you.
Because Exile’s Reach doesn’t cover this topic, it’s a good idea to head straight to the auction house in a major city and at least explore what current market prices look like. I don’t generally recommend buying gear off the auction house until later in the game, but gaining a better understanding of what the real value of an item on the open market is versus what you can get for selling it to a vendor will help you better manage your inventory and funds.