In the next few days, we will be updating our Public Test Realm with a first look at Patch 9.1.5. Alongside feature updates like new Timewalking experiences (this time we’re revisiting Legion, with a couple of twists…), these “.5” patches, falling in between full content tiers, present an opportunity to focus on balance and revision of core systems based on feedback and data from the season so far. Patch 9.1.5 will include several significant changes to the Shadowlands Covenant systems in particular:
- Once you’ve reached a high Renown threshold, you will thereafter be able to freely switch among any of the four Covenants without cooldown or restriction, as well as use cosmetic rewards that you have earned from one covenant even if you are currently a member of a different one. Both the Covenant switching and the use of cosmetic rewards will also apply to alts once the Renown threshold is reached on one character.
- Conduit Energy is being removed - Conduits will be freely swappable without restriction.
- When playing alternate characters, if you have already completed a given Covenant’s campaign on a different character, you will be able to immediately earn the Renown and third soulbind unlock without needing to replay the full narrative arc.
While we hope many players will be pleased at the increased accessibility and freedom for experimentation these changes will permit, we know that you might be wondering why we didn’t make adjustments like these sooner. After all, a large portion of the community has been vocal about wanting to see changes along these lines since mid-2020, when Shadowlands was still in Beta.
When it comes to the limitations on Covenant-switching, millions of players experienced Shadowlands for the first time through the lens of their Covenant of choice, and that would have not been possible had the choice carried less weight from the outset. Nevertheless, after the conclusion of the Chains of Domination campaign, the Covenants are united against the Jailer, and revisiting player feedback in that context has led us to re-evaluate our approach. In terms of the day-to-day player experience, the advantages of a rigid division between Covenants have diminished since Shadowlands launched, while the downsides (feeling disadvantaged in certain types of content, or having to choose between mechanical advantages and aesthetics) have only grown. That balance of factors no longer justifies the original limitations on Covenant-switching, so in 9.1.5 we’re looking to provide a way to circumvent them.
Conduit Energy, however, is a different story. The system simply has not played out the way we hoped it would. We should have heeded community feedback and taken a different direction a year ago. A majority of players largely ignore the system and are unaffected by it, while the minority who want to engage in multiple content types competitively feel constrained by it. Overall, that adds up to a negative experience. Conduit Energy isn’t really making the game better in any appreciable way, so we’re removing the system entirely.
As for the Covenant campaign skip for alts and the ability to freely swap Covenants on alts, that change is one outgrowth of many ongoing discussions within the development team, focused on feedback that at times players feel that the WoW content they most enjoy is locked behind experiences that aren’t nearly as appealing to them. Some of that feedback revolves around different playstyles and content types, but a consistent theme is that experiences that were fun the first time through start to lose their luster on repeat playthroughs on alts, especially when required for power progression. So just as the Threads of Fate system exists to allow players to skip the level-up zone narrative on subsequent playthroughs, we want to give max-level players a similar option to avoid having to replay a Covenant campaign they’ve already done.
As the 9.1.5 PTR progresses, we hope to roll out several other changes aimed at giving you more flexibility in choosing how you prefer to adventure in Azeroth. We’ll have more details to follow as we finalize our plans. Stay tuned for full PTR notes in the near future, and we look forward to discussion and feedback to guide us in our ongoing improvements to World of Warcraft.
–The World of Warcraft Team