During a recent stream with the game's developers, Blizzard finally showed us what Shadowlands' main endgame element - developing Pacts - will look like. Moments later, we were given the opportunity to test the first of them - the Venthyrs from Revendreth.
Choosing a Pact we join its ranks in order to help the inhabitants of the land with worldly problems, lack of anime, hostile invasions, and at the same time (along with other representatives of the Shadowlands) fix the "death machine" broken by the actions of Sylvana and Jailer.
New, better, Garrison 3.0!
After the brief ritual of joining the Pact, we quickly realize that we've seen it all before somewhere. The whole thing is another iteration of the "base" system known from previous supplements - Previously, we had Garrison and Class Seats, now we have the Pact Sanctuary - in the case of Venthyr in the form of a crypt under one of the abandoned castles. This is where we'll continue the story campaign, receive missions at the table and experiment with new forms of our character development.
However similar it looks, this time our involvement in the development of the base is much more embedded in the entire gameplay of the add-on than before. Our actions in the Pact Sanctuary affect the content available for us to complete, and at the same time the choice of which of the four factions to join and the benefits and rewards associated with it are much more meaningful. We can change the Pact without much trouble, but if we decide to come back, we'll have to work hard to buy again in the good graces of the abandoned faction.
Soulbinds - ties of the soul
The most important aspect of joining the Pact, after skills, is spiritual bond with its representatives. In each of the alliances we have a choice of three characters previously known to us from the storyline of the given land. Thanks to the common in the Land of Shadows binding ritual, we can share with them our memories and a fragment of our soul. This gives us access to unique passive modifier trees, which can be expanded with conduits - items similar to relics from Legion, providing even more options to improve our stats or abilities.
Our spiritual companions and the basic configuration of their trees can be freely juggled in the same way as we currently change talents. Guides, similar to relics, are overwritten when replaced.
This one has seen a significant expansion after 6 years of gameplay straight from a Facebook game. The whole thing is kept in the convention of recently popular auto-battler games - we recruit and issue units, which in turns fight the enemy, and we observe. This is not a great innovation, but this solution seems to be much more interesting than the current "set a mission, come back in 8 hours".
Performing endgame activities we collect anima needed to expand our facility and recruit workers, who will perform these renovations. This allows us to gain unique bonuses in the land of our Pact. In the case of Venthyr it's a network of mirrors to teleport across Revendreth or access to a minigame in which we throw a party for the vampire aristocracy. Additionally, we also gain reputation with our Pact, allowing us to unlock more rewards such as transmog or further tasks in the campaign.
Managing the flow of anime
With a reservoir of spiritual energy at our disposal, we can direct its flow to particular locations in our land. This unlocks additional things in the area, such as world quests or additional minibosses, by the way restoring "life" to the area. Over time, as we have more and more anime at our disposal, these effects are expected to last longer, until finally, they will remain with us permanently.
But wait... there's more!
The amount of new things to embrace once you hit max level can seem overwhelming. However, the way they interact with each other looks pretty interesting. Let's just hope that our base management will be as alt-friendly as the rest of the add-on. By the way, it should be remembered that on top of all these systems, we'll have to deal with trips to the Void, Thorgast and the creation of legendary items. Until we have access to the full loop of things to do, however, it's hard to say how long it will all take.