World of Warcraft's Shadowlands expansion concept artwork for Bastion

[Update #2]: Blizzard has now detailed what's coming with the Shadowlands pre-patch.

[Update]: Shadowlands' animated shorts are here to introduce the four Covenants!

Even though World of Warcraft has been steadily improving its leveling experience with each expansion, things can get pretty samey once you're on your third or fourth way through the various zones. This goes doubly so for the newer expansions as they have a very linear progression through each area, which while great for experiencing the story on your first round through, only serves as a tedious wall for every subsequent playthrough.

With that in mind, I am delighted to say that World of Warcraft's Shadowlands expansion will be taking cues from Diablo 3 and implementing a sort of 'Adventure mode'. Once you've completed the story campaign on your main character, every subsequent one will be able to mostly ignore the narrative and its forced progression, thus opening up many more leveling routes.

That alone would be good enough to keep things fresh, but Blizzard has taken things further by offering secondary characters a variety of new objectives throughout the four zones. These will not only grant you a sizable amount of experience and encourage grouping up to do dungeons, but they will also help you get geared up and ready to undertake max-level content as quickly as possible. A pretty neat system!

Blizzard has also spent a considerable amount of time in this developer update discussing what needs to change with Covenants, PvP and item sockets. There is far too much for me to summarize, so if you're curious about any of those features and their impact on gameplay, you should hop on over to the official forums to learn more.

Enjoy, and don't forget that Shadowlands will be launching at 4pm PDT on October 26th, or for those of us in Europe, at 12am on October 27th.