World of Warcraft: Shadowlands has brought several new zones to the ever-expanding world of Azeroth. With large open-world areas taking center stage in the game’s latest expansion, Blizzard has put an emphasis on exploration and immersion in the game’s newest landscapes.
From the massive barren wastes of Maldraxxus to the breathtaking forests of Ardenweald, each zone is unique in its own right. But when it comes to quality, some simply stand out more than others.
Here are the five open world zones of WoW: Shadowlands ranked from worst to best.
5) The Maw
There’s a lot wrong with the Maw in its current state, making it easily fall to the bottom of this list. The introductory questline that players experience here is nice enough to serve as an appetizer for the Shadowlands campaign. But once you return here at max level, the time spent feels like a chore more than anything else.
In other zones, the urge to min-max is definitely present. When it comes to places like Revendreth and Ardenweald, it’s hard to argue against spending more time in those particular zones to farm reputation or finish up more World Quests. But in the Maw, maxing out your daily Eye of the Jailer mechanic while completing all of the available quests that Ve’nari has to offer just feels like a second job within the game. Scouring the zones for rare enemies is bad enough and the minimal rewards of reputation and Stygia don’t entice players to want to stick around in the zone.
Plus, it’s not like you can stick around in the zone, anyway. Once you kill enough enemies and gain enough reputation in the Maw throughout the course of one day, mobs will begin tracking you down while the zone passively depletes your health one second at a time. There’s better ways to gate content than situations when the game is actively throwing you out of a certain area after you’ve spent too much time there. Regardless, players wanting to leave a place early when they know they’re going to eventually get kicked out isn’t a good look for the Maw.
The players’ first introduction to Maldraxxus is incredibly memorable. The experience of being thrown headfirst into an arena with several hundred combatants is sure to be a wild time. And from there, the campaign only grows stronger. Throughout the course of the Maldraxxus leveling storyline, players are reintroduced to several main characters, such as Draka, Alexandros Mograine, and Lady Vashj, tying up several loose ends from past expansions.
But although the leveling experience in Maldraxxus is particularly strong, the zone falls off heavily once players reach Shadowlands’ endgame. The zone’s incredibly large size, which was definitely a welcome sight during the leveling process, plays a negative role at max level—especially when players are trying to navigate the zone in a timely manner.
Additionally, the zone falls extremely flat in the landscape department. The art direction of Maldraxxus feels entirely too uniform, making the zone ultimately unappealing to go back to and spend time in. For a zone as massive as Maldraxxus—the indisputably biggest zone in the expansion—one would expect at least a few varying directions in terms of art. But for the most part, the zone relies on dark grays and slimy greens throughout its entirety. While jumping from World Quest to World Quest at max level, it’s hard for the experience not to feel repetitive and similar, despite sometimes being halfway across the zone doing an entirely different activity.
Bastion is easily the prettiest zone in the Shadowlands with its shining gold and effervescent light blue color scheme continuously keeping things bright. In stark contrast to the other four zones that the expansion has to offer, Bastion is the only area found in the Shadowlands where it feels like it’s consistently bright, definitely boosting the zone’s natural appeal.
But in a similar fashion to Maldraxxus, Bastion’s size plays a factor in bringing it down a notch. Although Bastion is definitely one of the bigger zones in the game, it feels like there’s a ton of empty space where not a whole lot is going on. Specifically, the areas up near the entrance of the Spires of Ascension dungeon are bleak and without a natural flight point on the map nearby, getting to them in the first place—just in case a rogue World Quest happens to spawn there—is a bit of a time-sink.
Oftentimes, if there’s something to do in a far off corner of Bastion that’s not easily accessible from Hero’s Rest, the central hub of the map, there’s a good chance that many players just won’t take the time to get to the target location by foot.
Speaking of Hero’s Rest, the elevated Kyrian settlement in the middle of the zone is one of the most relaxing, comforting hubs in all of Shadowlands. The decor and ambience of the area are welcoming and homely, while the teleporter pads located at the four corners of Hero’s Rest are convenient for getting to nearby areas in Bastion. The area is definitely a highlight of the zone and the friendly stewards that bounce around the locale are a nice added bonus.
Ardenweald’s leveling campaign is one of the strongest moments throughout the entire journey to level 60. While some of the characters in the zone—namely the Faeries in service to the Winter Queen—can certainly come off as grating to some players, the storyline that’s presented through them is one of the best in the expansion. Leveling here is an absolute breeze that should take no more than a few hours. Still, once you reach the end of the rope, Ardenweald will make you want to return.
And once you reach max level, spending some extra time in Ardenweald never feels like a chore. While other zones in the game, such as the Maw and Maldraxxus, could easily bore you into leaving for another destination, Ardenweald makes an attempt to reel you in with its soothing atmosphere and relatively straightforward experience.
The zone’s varied landscapes also add a boost to its ambience since many of the different subzones of Ardenweald feel different in comparison to each other. When traveling from the northeast portion of the map all the way to the southwest, players are bound to see at least two or three incredibly varied portions of the zone. From the deep royal blues of areas like Hibernal Hollow and the Heart of the Forest to the murky ambers and violets of Tirna Scithe and Darkreach, Ardenweald beautifully blends together its color palette throughout the entire zone.
From a narrative standpoint—both during the leveling process and at the endgame—Revendreth is easily the strongest zone released with this expansion. NPCs like General Draven and Sire Denathrius play a major role in the foundational story of Shadowlands since characters found within Revendreth help pave the way for the expansion as a whole.
Additionally, the idea of spending a lot of time here isn’t all that frightening. Revendreth’s max-level content is incredibly enjoyable as well. Whether you’re disguising yourself as a servant at a noble’s party or delivering missives for the local revolution, Revendreth has tons of unique and original content to offer.
Plus, the ambience of the zone is definitely one of the strongest in all of Shadowlands. The deep reds and grays provide a classic vampiric undertone that thematically excels. Taking strong influence from worlds like Bloodborne’s Yharnam and Dungeons and Dragons’ Ravenloft, Revendreth perfectly captures the atmosphere of a Victorian-era inspired revolution story filled to the brim with vampires and gargoyles.
If there’s one thing to gripe about when it comes to Revendreth, it’s the verticality of the zone. Much of your time spent traveling from one point to the next will be done so by way of the zone’s countless elevators, making things feel slightly out of touch with each other as you move from quest to quest. But still, the travel time doesn’t take away from the zone’s overall theme and experience. Unlike zones such as Maldraxxus and Bastion, everyone is quite literally on top of each other in Revendreth. Even by accident, players are bound to run into World Quests, rare mobs, and instances of world PvP at max level. It’s genuinely hard to avoid the action in this zone since every locale, quest hub, and small nook in between is bound to be loaded with something for players to do.