Yesterday I received an incredibly cool present from Blizzard: a free Shadowlands physical Collector’s Edition! Thank you very much.
Among the goodies contained within is the book The Art of World of Warcraft: Shadowlands. As with all art books, it’s full of behind the scenes glimpses at how the expansion was shaped from concept to completion. There’s also a surprising amount of previously unrevealed or only hinted lore in the book (which might be the focus of a another article).
Most exciting of all are a series of environments and character portraits done in the style of CGI cinematics like the traditional expansion opening or the ones for Saurfang’s story in Battle for Azeroth. Could this mean we’re getting more cinematics in Shadowlands? I can’t say for certain, but read on to see the evidence for yourself!
When I was given Chronicle Vol. 1 and the Illidan novel to review, I had the guideline that I could share pretty much anything short of scanning and uploading the entire book, but I’ll keep to the art pertaining to these potential cinematics just in case.
Note that the image quality may not be perfect. I took these with my phone as I wasn’t sure if actually scanning the pages would be taboo. As far as I know, only other select community members received these collector’s editions, so this would technically count as a “not yet released” book.
The first image that caught my eye was this full-page spread of the Spires of Ascension in Bastion:
Then I thought, “maybe it’s just concept art for Afterlives: Bastion.” There is some concept art for Afterlives in the book. But I double checked the short itself.
A completely different art direction. It’s flatter and more painterly than the detailed and realistically shaded concept art in the book. Later on there’s a similar panorama of Maldraxxus done in the same cinematic style.
The mountains on the top and bottom right images especially stand out. Strangely none of the other zones have pieces done in this style. Instead their environment concepts stick closer to the art direction of the game.
Characters on the other hand, have some other notable pieces.
This series of designs for the Winter Queen best illustrates my point. She’s drawn in three distinct styles. On the top, a still from Afterlives. While on the bottom left is a “cartoony” design that matches how she looks in-game.
And then on the bottom right is this much more realistically detailed, almost faux-3D version. Look at the different between an in-game model and that same character in a cinematic, like Anduin or Saurfang. The difference in style between the two Winter Queens mirrors them.
Margrave Krexus appears in the chapter on Maldraxxus in the same unique style. None of the other margraves have concept art drawn in this way. Even a comparison with the skeleton guy on the right shows how stark the difference is.
Finally there’s Sire Denathrius. Along with his sword, Remornia, they’re yet again drawn in a hyper detailed, almost 3D style. It matches WoW’s cinematics but none of the other concept art in the collection. There’s even another version of Remornia drawn in WoW’s traditional style on the same page for comparison.
To make sure this wasn’t standard practice that I’d just forgotten or missed, I double checked my copy of The Art of World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria (full disclosure: it was not a free gift from Blizzard). The only concept art done in the style of the images I’ve shared were for the MoP opening cinematic. The Shadowlands art book doesn’t have a section for the cinematic at all. The only art from the cinematic are two stills that appear with quotes from Bolvar at the beginning and end of the book.
While there aren’t any other “cinematic” type images in the art book, I’d be remiss to not mention the Jailer. Back in September the cover for the November edition of PC Gamer made rounds for its Shadowlands-themed cover.
Dominating the cover appears to be a CGI render of the Jailer. A render done in the same style (though this looks to be actual CGI as opposed to concept art mimicking it) as the images in the art book. Nothing remotely like this image appears in the art book, however. There is concept art for the Jailer; but it matches his in-game model instead.
So does this mean we’re getting additional CGI cinematics for Shadowlands? Obviously I can’t say for sure. But I don’t recall getting this type of concept art for things that weren’t in expansion cinematics in the past. It’s also possible these were concepts made for an earlier incarnation of the main Shadowlands cinematic before they settled on Sylvanas vs Bolvar. I’m sure we’ll know for certain soon ™.