Shadowlands Systems in a Nutshell

This isn't apropos of anything in specific, just something I first thought of after completing the Shadowlands levelling process, and for some reason it came back to me the other day.


Throughout the main Shadowlands story you learn that there are all these different afterlives for different people, depending on whether in life they were virtuous, naughty or something else, and each one has its own faction attached to it. You are introduced to all of them in an organic way, and at the end of your introductory tour, when a big threat to all is revealed, it's suggested that you should join one of the covenants to be able to benefit from their powers in the battles to come.

This process is super-streamlined, because when the time comes to make your choice, there's a representative from each covenant nearby to show and tell you about anything and everything that might even be remotely relevant to your choice: what sorts of mounts they ride, what kind of armour you'll earn there, you can even take the covenant abilities for another spin if you're unsure how you felt about those the first time around. Five star design, would choose a covenant again.


Throughout your questing you also learn that anima is the sort of universal fuel powering everything in the Shadowlands and that there's been a shortage of it for a while. Some of the exact mechanics of how this works are a bit fuzzy, because sometimes it sounds like everything's made of anima, while other times you need to seek out some pretty specific sources of it... but the gist of it is clear enough. Your covenant tasks you with helping them collect anima to restore their particular slice of the afterlife to its former glory after the drought.

And I've been okay with that! The scale of it can be a bit annoying sometimes (e.g. one world quest awarding you 35 anima when you need 5000 for your next covenant upgrade) but I suppose that's what you get when a resource is supposed to be scarce. Good system, makes sense.


One of the early Kyrian side quests has you deliver a flower from one Kyrian to another and the recipient's like "ooh, this means so-and-so wants to become my soulbind" and it honestly feels a bit like a marriage proposal or something. Then you get to the bit after choosing your covenant where they introduce you to the soulbind system and...

Basically, someone just flat out tells me that I'm going to soulbind with this guy whom I helped in one of the earliest Kyrian quests and not even all the Kyrians in the room agree whether he's the best choice, but all I can think of is that earlier side quest with the marriage vibes and I'm wondering with some distress why nobody's asking my opinion. Later two other people also become my soulbinds so maybe the marriage comparison was off from the beginning, but I can never quite shake the feeling that it's all wrong somehow...


After you get your first soulbind, there's this brief comment about how you'll become more powerful as your connection with your soulbind deepens, and then they show you some talent tree-like thing with empty spaces where you can slot items called conduits which drop out in the world and randomly enhance some of your spells and... what does any of this have to do with anything? No, thanks.

Let's just say I don't think it's a coincidence that I'm digging my covenant and am happy to gather anima but have never quite warmed up to the soulbind system and its conduits...


  1. I agree, the covenant learning process was really nice. Even though I already knew which one I wanted, it felt like you really understood them by the time you hit 60. Even nicer, you could skip all of that on alts and just make your pick when you hit Oribos. Kudos for Blizzard for giving us some leveling flexibility.

    It became a joke in my guild to say "There's a drought, don't you know?" when it came to anima. All of us were long capped on the lost souls needed to upgrade covenant features, but struggled to reach the 5,000 or 10,000 anima needed for the higher unlocks. Those two resources never felt properly in sync. Oh, while 35 anima is the minimum for a world quest token, I don't remember just getting one at a time. There were from 2 to 4 tokens with each world quest which wasn't quite so painful. (I do wish they had just stated the total, instead. It was too easy to miss the number of tokens because of the tiny type they use.)

    Yeah, conduits. Another variation on the talent tree system. At least once you had the conduit you had 90% of the power and getting the higher ilevel ones were just a modest upgrade.

    Finally, soulbinds. Yep, I do not like that terminology as it feels very creepy. It's also worse in the sense that a soulbind sounds like it should be forever, but we all know that next expansion it will be as forgotten as an unwanted ex. ^_^

    1. I'm glad it's not just us ultra casuals who are capped on souls while lacking the anima for the next upgrades. :P

      Maybe I'd like conduits more if I actually got more useful ones. I think two thirds to three quarters of the conduits I've got are for specs I don't play...

    2. Oh, I'm a filthy casual now. I even have the t-shirt. :) Raiding and Mythic+ have moved in directions I just don't enjoy, so I think I will just be a tourist, in-game, while chatting with the folks I like to talk to on Discord.

      The problem for me with conduits is that Blizzard wants "Meaningful Choices" and makes it harder to swap things in and out. Thus, inertia causes me (and I suspect the majority of the player base) to just pick one conduit and never change it. Which makes conduits a major system that I setup at the beginning of the expansion and completely ignore from then on out. :sigh: