This review is coming out quite late, arguably beyond the point where it will provide any meaningful purchasing advice. The chances are if you were thinking of getting World of Warcraft: Legion, you’ve already made up your mind. The reason why this has taken so long — aside from my own obvious addiction — is that reviewing a game which undergoes so many frequent changes, and means so many different things to so many different people, instils a significant amount of fear within me. My recent experience in World of Warcraft is in the extreme, hardcore minority, which places a significant filter over my perception of Legion. I honestly don’t know whether or not I will be playing Legion in the coming months, but I do know that the new design to questing, dungeons and story, despite all their flaws, has already given me some of my most enjoyable experiences in World of Warcraft to date.
I finished the last expansion, Warlord’s of Draenor, in a bit of a different position than most. It was the first time I had been truly satisfied with everything I had accomplished through my time with the game; I had become a hardcore raider, and my guild, which I had helped lead and grow, had progressed and cleared all Mythic raiding content before Christmas last year. But the previous expansion had a serious crutch: if you weren’t a raider, you ran out of interesting content months — if not weeks — into the expansion’s release. Players were trapped within their garrisons, and there was little to do after dungeons had become trivialised by newer gear. In the lead up to Legion, Blizzard had promised not to let this happen again.
For starters, the expansion’s launch was flawless. Despite playing on the second most populated Oceanic server, there were no queue times, no lag or disconnecting, or any game-breaking bugs. This information is hardly relevant to whether you should play the game now, but I think it’s a pretty strong feat. However, onto content. Like any MMO, you must first quest to max level in order to unlock the end-game activities. This time around, the levelling experience has been vastly improved. Players can choose to tackle the questing zones in any order they choose, and friends can now quest together no matter how much of a gap there is between their own individual levels. The dynamic change in NPC level means that the health and damage of the enemies scale for both players individually. Just group up, start a zone, and go.
I’ve never been too fond of World of Warcraft lore. It’s interesting, kind of, but I feel it has been spiraling out of control since the conclusion of Arthas’ storyline. Regardless, the way the story is handled in Legion is better than ever before. Every main plot consists of a considerate amount of voice-acting, while terrifically designed set-piece cutscenes close out zones and the leveling experience. Character dialogue and more lore-heavy story details are all tied together with Blizzard’s new desire for ‘class fantasy’, an attempt to reignite player’s connection to their individual characters.
At the core of this fantasy, is that every class gets their own campaign and class order hall from which to commune with other players, manage follower missions for certain rewards, and upgrade their Artifact weapon. What’s an Artifact weapon you say? Well, every specialisation in every class undergoes a relatively brief unique questline to attain their own individual ‘lore-heavy’ weapon. Players will use this weapon throughout the entire expansion for that specific specialisation, upgrading and empowering it to improve their abilities and strength. While the Artifacts are — for the most part — a very welcome and fresh addition to an otherwise stagnating game, it presents some encumbrance for the content later down the line, but I’ll get to that in good time.
I suppose I can’t really talk about the levelling experience, or the additions to class fantasy without actually acknowledging the new class altogether, the Demon Hunter. The new ‘hero class’ begins at level 98, and features a unique starting zone (much like Death Knights from Wrath of the Lich King). While levelling you’ll have the option to choose between two specialisations: Havoc, the damage dealer, or Vengeance, the tank. Overall, the class is impeccably stylish; it’s unlike any other, and the individual specialisations feel different and are equally viable for hardcore and casual players. Oh, and didn’t you hear? They can double jump! If you’d like some more details you can check out my Demon Hunter Preview article.
“Every main plot consists of a considerate amount of voice-acting, while terrifically designed set-piece cutscenes close out zones and the leveling experience.”
But you’ve heard it all before, the real game doesn’t start until you’ve reached max level. That’s not to take away from the tremendous levelling experience, but you’re never truly happy until the shiny purple loot drops, and that’s only possible at level 110. The first set of content players are likely to engage in at max level is Suramar; a level 110 zone which offers a series of quests, as you engage in a revolution against the Legion puppet government. However, my issue isn’t with the content itself, but rather its mandatory nature. The problem is that the zone is essential to acquire a considerable amount of Artifact power; that number you’re consistently trying to make bigger and bigger to empower your specialisation’s weapon. It’s a lengthy grind, and the mere fact that you NEED to do it if you want any hope of keeping your weapon up to scratch, is enough to knock the wind out of my sails. One final complaint about Suramar is the damn illusion system. Because you’re a rebel, 80% of the city is hostile towards you, so you flaunt a disguise. But of course, there are certain NPC’s which can break you out of it if caught in their gaze for too long. The issue is that the hitbox for being discovered is so glitchy, you can be entirely out of the circle, but still be tagged, and suffer 10-50 mobs latching onto and chasing you. With no way of losing them because it means running into even more enemies, you either just let them kill you, or try to win. It is infuriating.
World quests become unlocked very shortly after starting the Suramar storyline, and whilst they seem like a fresh and interesting concept at first, not long after your initial honeymoon period, they become a never-ending chore. These quests appear all over the Broken Isles quest zones, and range from killing elite enemies, to quick gather quests, and small puzzle solving. On one hand, they foster that original MMO feel, whereby groups of players organically form and see each other in the world doing these activities, making it feel so much more alive. Unfortunately, there are so many world quests that repeat what you did while levelling, and too many of them give useful items and Artifact Power. You’re constantly checking the new world quests, which prevents you from doing something else — Like Suramar, professions or dungeons — as soon as you log in; the realisation that it’s more important to get the world quests out of the way is a sinking feeling. It is entrapping and a severe hurdle in the way of the other, more interesting and enjoyable content in the game. If you’re honestly not fussed with missing a lot of world quests, this will probably not effect you, but I believe that fewer quests on a longer timeframe with greater rewards, would have been a better implementation of this system.
The gearing process post-levelling is pretty standard, although they’ve made some changes to the tier of dungeons and loot distribution. In ascending difficulty, there are normal, heroic and mythic difficulties. All are attemptable at any gear item level provided you enter with a group, whereas if players are joining as part of the in-game random ‘dungeon finder’, they will need to hit a set item level threshold. The difficulty romp is fairly standard, and more advanced groups can skip normal difficulty altogether, opting to hop into mythic or heroic at an un-recommended level of gear. Of the 10 total dungeons on release, each has their own beautiful and unique artistic style, from the corrupted forest of Darkheart Thicket, to the dazzlingly lit and empowering Halls of Valor. Similarly, despite some bosses appearing with mechanics that tread a well worn path, there are still fresh interactions to provide a new experience. In particular, the second boss from Neltharion’s Lair is my favourite. The hulking rock-man who turns into a boulder after a certain amount of time, and is switched around with 4 other boulders like the cup shuffle trick. Meanwhile, the roof is collapsing down on your heads so you need to find the rock he is hiding in and destroy it quickly.
Additionally, along with the release of the first raid, The Emerald Nightmare, enters a new neverending dungeon difficulty, Mythic Plus. I’ll try to explain this as succinctly as possible: Basically, when you complete a mythic dungeon, you get a key which activates another random mythic dungeon at a higher difficulty. Everyone in your party gets a separate key, and these keep upgrading until you fail to beat the dungeon in a certain time. Every increase in difficulty strengthens the enemy’s health and damage, and at certain tiers there are modifiers which make the dungeons even harsher. From my fairly brief experience with this mode (up to +7), I can already tell that dungeons are going to be a lot more relevant than ever before. It’s perfect for groups of friends who can hop in and work on increasing their dungeon skill, try to beat previous times, and still be rewarded with raid level gear to progress their characters. Similarly, If raiding is your thing, The Emerald Nightmare has 7 unique bosses which are a blast to defeat, and the two more raids for this first tier are set to release through November to around January/February next year.
“Of the 10 total dungeons on release, each has their own beautiful and unique artistic style, from the corrupted forest of Darkheart Thicket, to the dazzlingly lit and empowering Halls of Valor.”
The problem with MMO’s is that it’s impossible to get everything right. Whether it be due to developer ignorance, or incorrect feedback, systems that once seemed like a no-brainer in pre-release, soon become stale and repetitive given enough time. Legion has already contributed to some of my most memorable experiences in World of Warcraft. Between the levelling experience with my mate, the unique class activities, and the new take on group content, the expansion is full of hours of challenge and enjoyment. Unfortunately, while the Artifact is a great addition, the grind which persists through the world quests and the compulsory Suramar zone, becomes fatiguing as you struggle to keep up with everything there is to be done. But this is World of Warcraft, and its ability to cater to what so many different types of players want, is the reason it has succeeded for as long as it has.