“Tremble mortals and despair! Doom has come to this world!” These were the iconic words uttered by Archimonde when he and the Burning Legion stepped foot on Azeroth during Warcraft 3 to begin their invasion. As fate would have it, the Legion has returned in full force to the World of Warcraft after all these years and once again it’s up to the mortal races to put their differences aside and work together in order to save their planet. It’s not the most original storyline out there, but strangely enough, it seems to have actually worked in-game as the Horde and Alliance don’t seem too interested in fighting each other that much these days and are now focused on bigger things.
Aside from the new storyline, landmass, dungeons, and all the other type of content players have come to expect from any new World of Warcraft expansion, Legion introduces a number of features and changes that make the overall experience so much better than its predecessors did. For starters, questing in Legion is light years ahead of any previous expansion thanks to the high amount of beautiful cutscenes and great voice acting found during the main storyline, which add an extra level of immersion and help emphasize the importance of the situation. While the minor quests are still of the fetch and grab variety for the most part, the grind is not nearly as bad in Legion as the expansion spices things up with class and profession quests, which give players a lot more flexibility than in the past.
Speaking of flexibility, the new continent of The Broken Isles offers a dynamic progression system that allows players to quest in any of the available zones without having to worry about any sort of level requirements. Mobs, quests, item drops and even the dungeons of Legion all scale to match the level of every individual player. Not only does this new feature provide a great deal of freedom when playing a new character, but it also gives the new expansion a lot more replay value thanks to the fact that players can now choose to tackle the questing regions in a different order every time they create a new alt. The downside is that Legion only offers four questing zones, which is really a shame because this is one of those things that players tend to start complaining about sooner or later. A fifth leveling zone was reportedly in the works at one point but Blizzard decided to axe it during the development process, though it’s hard to figure out why. In addition to the four leveling zones, The Broken Isles also include and endgame zone called Suramar along with a smaller area known as The Broken Shore, which is mostly meant to introduce players to the storyline of Legion, but also serves as the Demon Hunter starting zone.
Likely one of the most highly anticipated new classes in the history of World of Warcraft, Demon Hunters are only available to players who already own at least one character over level 70 and they are also limited to only two races, namely Blood Elf and Night Elf. Despite these limitations, however, Demon Hunters are quickly becoming one of the most popular classes in the game and arguably the most original one from a gameplay perspective. Playing as one of the Illidari is extremely satisfying as you brutally slice and dice your way through enemy ranks, then spread your wings and gracefully soar through the air before backflipping and transforming into a giant rage demon that can shoot lasers out of his eyes. In addition to their battlefield prowess, Demon Hunters have more customization options than other classes and also come equipped with a few quality of life passive skills that make leveling up so much more interesting, such as the ability to double jump, see enemies through solid objects, and drop down from any altitude thanks to a gliding mechanic that works very much like a Mage’s Slowfall spell. Having said that, there is a bit of a discrepancy between the DPS and tanking specs, as the later doesn’t feel nearly as enjoyable as the former right now.
Before you start thinking that Havoc Demon Hunter is the best spec in Legion, however, it’s worth noting that all classes and specs have been revamped for this expansion, with some of them now being far superior that what they were in the past. On one hand, this is thanks to the new animations and graphical enhancements, as well as the addition of new abilities or modified versions of older abilities that look cooler and feel so much better this time around. Blizzard essentially got rid of useless abilities and streamlined the rest in order to make most of the skills and spells for each spec feel useful and important. That was just the beginning, though, because the developers also added another layer of depth to each spec with the artifact weapons, which provide a legendary item, extra skill trees, and new abilities, all wrapped in a nice looking package, in most cases. Unfortunately, some artifact weapons definitely look much better than others, and some classes (like the Warrior for example) kinda got the short end of the stick on this one by receiving poorly designed weapons that look anything but legendary. Gameplay-wise, this doesn’t affect things too much because each artifact weapon still offers many helpful traits to choose from, however, I can’t help but feel that Blizzard dropped the ball a bit when they designed some of these weapons.
I suppose it’s for the best then that World of Warcraft also received a new transmog system with the release of Legion and that players can choose to make even their artifact weapons look like something else entirely. The new system remembers every item players picked up along the way and stores their appearance in a new tab that makes it much easier to browse through potentially hundreds of available items and constantly change their appearance without actually having to store anything in the bank. The caveat here is that the system only remembers soulbound items that the player can actually equip on their current character, which means that Priests can still only equip cloth items even if they do have a lot of plate gear on a different character. While it would have been awesome to roleplay as a Battlemage clad in heavy armor from head to toe, at the end of the day the new transmog system makes the most sense as it is right now and it’s definitely an improvement over the previous version.
Speaking of improvements, the Garrison system from Warlords of Draenor has been replaced by Class Halls, which serve a similar function but are certainly way more interesting. Just as their name suggests, Class Halls are places that are exclusive for members of a specific class and serve as the player’s main headquarters in Legion. Unlike Garrisons, Class Halls can accommodate members of both factions and each of them will be unique depending on what character you are playing. For example, Mages have made their home in the Hall of the Guardian in Dalaran while Paladins have set up shop in the Sanctum of Light beneath Light’s Hope Chapel. Then, the are classes who picked locations that are a bit more exotic to serve as their base of operations, such as the Heart of Azeroth overlooking the Malestrom for Shamans or the Dreadscar Rift located on a Legion portal world for Warlocks. Again, just like the artifact weapons, some Class Halls are definitely more interesting than others, which may or may not detract some players from rolling a specific class simply because they might not like the Rogues’ sewer base beneath Dalaran for example.
Class Halls are much more than just cool new locations, however, as they are also the only place where players can upgrade their artifact weapons or start the quests that lead to acquiring new ones. Class Halls also contain mission tables similar to those found in the Garrisons- complete with a nearly identical interface for some reason – though completing these missions is more of a side activity that can often be neglected. Aside from the odd class quest that’s sort of important but ultimately not mandatory, completing tasks at the mission table can grant players some useful rewards like artifact power, XP, or even a bit of gold on occasion. In keeping with the overall theme, all the champions you can send on these missions are also members of the same class as the player and a lot of the time they are important lore characters.
The name of the game here is class identity, which is something I never thought I’d see again in World of Warcraft to be honest. Leveling as a Frost Mage finally felt rewarding again after many years and suitably difficult given that the spec is traditionally associated with PvP and not leveling. By using the wide array of tools in my arsenal, however, I found that in Legion I could be just as efficient as a Fire Mage while leveling and sometimes even more so provided I picked the right talents and artifact traits for the task at hand. World of Warcraft is still a game about crunching numbers and figuring out the best builds, but thanks to some of the new systems added in Legion, there are now multiple ways to play the same spec and be proficient at it. Don’t like having a Water Elemental companion cramping your style? No problem, just pick another talent that removes that ability and replaces it with extra damage for your primary spells. Not a fan of standing around all the time while other party members parkour around the boss? Just focus on talents and traits that allow you to cast more spells while on the move and you’re good to go. It doesn’t work in every case, but a lot of time the game does give you more options to play you class exactly how you want to in Legion. Needless to say, that’s a very important feature in an MMORPG.
Another important thing to mention is that Blizzard finally remembered that World of Warcraft is, in fact, a role-playing game and the developers have made a number of changes to reflect that. Everything from the Class Halls to the artifact weapons and the class campaign constantly remind you that you’re not just some random player but one of the most powerful representatives of your class and faction, at least lore-wise. This aspect also extends to professions, which now have their own quest lines and require quite a bit more work to max out as materials are often hard to come by and most patterns require a lot of them. Regardless of which professions you wish to pursue, you are almost always treated like a novice at first and need to seek out other important NPC crafters so that you can learn from them and eventually become a master of your craft. Naturally, this means that players are no longer able to produce items en masse to be sold on the auction house, however, it does transform the whole experience into something memorable and adds even more variety while leveling as some of the profession quests grant some interesting rewards and are sometimes worth pursuing just for the extra experience alone.
As far as video game premises go, one might say that Blizzard took the easy road with Legion by bringing back an old enemy along with a cast of familiar characters instead of coming up with something new. And yet, in many ways Legion feels very different than anything we’ve seen before. By combining just the right amount of familiarity and novelty, Blizzard finally succeeded in creating the perfect mix of content that can provide a sense of wonder and excitement for new players and veterans alike. In other words, Legion is exactly what Warlords of Draenor was supposed to be only this time around the company actually got it right, at least so far.
If the folks over at Blizzard manage to make good on their promise and deliver new quality content patches more often than in the past, I think Legion has a good shot at kickstarting a renaissance of sorts for World of Warcraft, though I am cautiously optimistic when saying that. It’s not hard for Blizzard to bring millions of people back into the fold, the real task will be to keep them playing. In the words of Garrosh Hellscream, “times change”, and gamers now expect even more from an MMO than what WoW offered ten years ago. Thus far, Legion is exactly what many players were hoping to see in a new World of Warcraft expansion, but now it’s up to the developers to continue the good work and keep the ball rolling for many months to come.
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World of Warcraft: Legion
- Massive improvements in terms of questing and storytelling.
- Great dynamic progression system counters the low amount of available questing zones.
- Demon Hunters immediately stand out from the crowd as one of the most unique classes in the game.
- Class identity has returned in a big way.
- Grinding has been greatly reduced.
- Certain players may end up being disappointed by their artifact weapons and/or Class Halls.
- Draw distance has been improved but it's still nowhere near enough for a game launched in 2016.
- Some visual glitches and random performance drops, though nothing game-breaking.