I’ve been putting in quite a bit of time with the beta lately, trying to get a handle on what Shadowlands is going to be like. The beta is still closer to an alpha, though - very unfinished - so I’m reserving a lot of judgement for now.
So far, I’m surprised at how little they are changing the classes and specs. There are only a couple of cases where we will see significant changes in how a class plays. Elemental, Enhancement, Subtlety, Protection Paladin, Holy Paladin - those come to mind as specs actually getting big changes. There are tweaks to most specs - I like that Affliction is getting rid of the quirky Unstable Affliction stacking and getting a new soul shard spender that works similar to how malefic grasp used to be.
Covenants are kind of all over the place as far as interest and power goes. Ultimately I think choice of covenant should be driven more by the story. We’ll see if the game goes live with any clear outliers… but I’m not sure that one ability is compelling enough to be the decider for which covenant I would choose.
I can’t tell yet if the legendary effects on beta are all going to make it to live, or if some are placeholders. Most of the legendary effects are not “new” - they are mostly variations (or in some cases exact copies) of Legion legendary powers, artifact weapon traits, and BfA azerite traits. In some cases that is good… I liked many of the effects they are bringing back. In some cases I feel a little short-changed… like bringing back emperor’s capacitor for windwalker - I don’t think many people liked that in the first place.
At first I was worried the soulbind system was going to follow the same design as the netherlight crucible, azerite, and corruption - mainly this ability to stack multiple copies of a conduit/trait for increased effect. I think that is one of the main flaws of those systems that stifles design and adds unnecessary complexity. I was happy to find that conduits are unique when socketed into your soulbind.
I really wish they would have done more work on talents for a lot of specs… there are so many “dead” talents in this game, but that doesn’t ultimately affect the optimizer very much - that’s just a gripe from a gamer who wants his favorite game to be more interesting.
I still need to dig into anima powers in thorghast and see if that is something people will want the optimizer to help them with. I don’t know the mechanics behind how you get those and if they are a choice or just random.
I am trying to set aside enough time to do some write-ups on our blog as we implement specs in the simulator and optimizer. Hopefully I can help give people as much info as possible leading up to the expansion to pick the spec that will appeal to them the most. I know that “chasing the meta” is a thing in WoW… but it is not a game that really lends itself to swapping characters unless you have a ton of time to play. Especially in Shadowlands… I think most players will find it more rewarding to stick with a character for the most part.
From a gear optimization perspective - our hope is that we can come up with a sort of simulation data/mathematical formula hybrid for shadowlands. This would allow us to create gearing strategies faster. Our goal with that would be to potentially create gearing strategies for more types of fights. We’ve always wanted to go that route, but BfA ended up being too complex a gearing system to make that happen.
We’re also going to be making changes to healers because DPS has become such a part of the expectation for healers in mythic+ especially. All indications are that blizzard is keeping that direction in the game for shadowlands.
We are still deciding how soulbinds will fit into the overall interface - we’re not sure how large the barriers are to changing your choices of conduits (since blizzard hasn’t decided yet) - so I don’t know if that is something that needs to be a part of every optimization or a separate choice players make, potentially with a separate soulbind optimizer that doesn’t necessarily make it totally specific to one set of gear you have on.