WoW Shadowlands’ Final Battle Is A Complete Mystery, Leading Fans To Wonder What Comes Next

While World of Warcraft patch 9.2, Eternity’s End, won’t be the last patch for the game’s Shadowlands expansion (that will likely be the already-announced patch 9.2.5), it will be what Blizzard has touted as the “final chapter” of the Shadowlands story. At long last, players will confront Zovaal, aka the Jailer, and seek to put an end to his eons-old plan to rewrite reality.

The catch is that what that final battle will look like is currently a complete mystery aside from the names of the bosses players will be encountering. Mystery, as it turns out, is a bit of a theme of patch 9.2, factoring not only into the grand finale of the game’s upcoming Sepulcher of the First Ones raid, but also found in the design philosophy behind the new Zereth Mortis zone. Who are the mysterious First Ones? What is the Jailer truly trying to accomplish? Where will the story go next? It all leads to an even bigger mystery among the game’s community: What’s next after Shadowlands?

When asked in a recent interview with GameSpot, WoW production director Pat Dawson wouldn’t say. Normally by the time the final content patch of an expansion rolls out, players already know what the next expansion will be thanks to an earlier announcement and accompanying cinematic at Blizzard’s annual BlizzCon event. BlizzCon, however, isn’t happening this year, likely for a variety of reasons ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic to ongoing sexual harassment and discrimination investigations. No future expansion announcements have been made. That leaves a giant question mark hanging over patch 9.2 and the end of the Shadowlands story.

For the first time in a long time, players will be going into the final raid of an expansion with no idea what’s coming next, both in regards to the actual boss encounters themselves and how the story will unfold.

“People haven’t seen the mechanics, people haven’t seen the story,” Dawson said when asked if the end of the new Sepulcher of the First Ones raid would give players a good indication of what the next expansion might be. “They don’t know what’s going to happen. It’s kind of a neat moment. For future stuff, we’re always working on things. I think right now we’re really focused on the end of this story and giving a satisfying conclusion to the Jailer.”

While a significant portion of the upcoming raid has been datamined, combed through, and playtested by the WoW community on the game’s public test realm, players will be going in completely green for the raid’s final three bosses.

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“They haven’t been on the PTR, there aren’t a bunch of mods written for it, or strategies written down yet,” Dawson said. “People aren’t sure what they’re going to be experiencing. There’s some adventure and exploration ahead for the end of this raid.”

Adding to the sense of mystery is that players will have to wait an additional week to confront the Jailer. While the raid itself will unlock on March 1 (a week after 9.2’s February 22 release), the final three bosses won’t be available until March 8. That means it will still be several weeks until players learn the end of the story and the fate of characters like the Jailer and Sylvanas, two of the primary characters in Shadowlands who have divided many in the game’s community.

It’s a story that, by and large, has not been particularly well-received by many fans. The Jailer–the expansion’s big bad–has become retroactively linked to huge swaths of existing Warcraft lore dating all the way back to Warcraft 3. His entire millennia-long plan is more than a little convoluted, leading fans to jokingly refer to him as playing a game of 4D Chess that no one else understands.

Sylvanas and her storyline are perhaps viewed even less favorably. A longtime fan-favorite character, her recent role of genocidal war criminal and the Jailer’s second-in-command has left a bad taste in many player’s mouths. The fact that Sylvanas then betrayed the Jailer at the end of patch 9.1 on what seems like a whim gave more than a few fans narrative whiplash. Why, all of a sudden, is this character who committed genocide and shown no remorse having a change of heart? It’s unclear if fans will get a clear answer to that question, but lead quest designer Maria Hamilton said that the story of Sylvanas, and the overarching storyline of Shadowlands, has long been planned out at a high-level. Smaller details, however, get more fleshed out as time goes on.

“I believe people should be satisfied,” Hamilton said in regards to Sylvanas’ story. “There will always be people who are not. It’s a fine line to walk and we do our best. We want to tell the best story we can and make sure the characters are being represented well and are well characterized.”

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Patch 9.2 will come at what feels like a turning point for Blizzard’s 18-year-old MMORPG and the company itself. Many of the long-held assumptions about what WoW is are changing, with no greater example than the upcoming ability for players on the Horde and Alliance to team up together for content like dungeons and raids for the first time. While that feature won’t come in patch 9.2 and will instead be released as part of patch 9.2.5, the positive fan response to such a major change has been validating, Dawson said.

“We were hoping that the community would see it the same way we were seeing it, that it was an effort to just get people to play together and have fun,” Dawson said. “Play WoW the way you want, engage in the high-end content with your friends, regardless of if they made the choice at the character selection screen to choose Horde or Alliance.”

Blizzard is also more engaged with the community in regards to the game’s future than ever before. In addition to seeming more responsive to player feedback in general, Blizzard recently implemented the WoW Community Council, a special invite-only forum made to represent a wide-swath of the game’s playerbase. Patch 9.2 is the first content patch since the community council’s creation, and it’s yet another way Blizzard is trying to listen to the game’s vast and diverse community.

“The community as a whole has probably had the most impact I’ve seen on the direction of the PTR cycle for this content update,” Dawson said. “It’s really cool to see the things we’ve changed and the response the community has had, their gratefulness that we’ve been able to listen, and modify, and make good decisions.”

Patch 9.2 arrives February 22, with the Sepulcher of the First Ones raid unlocking March 1. The Eternity’s End update will see the return of class tier sets, a new PvP arena, the new Zereth Mortis zone, and more. You can read the full 9.2 patch notes here.

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