There has never been a better time to be or become a World of Warcraft player.
After having a few weeks to play through a large amount of the content on live servers it is time that I sit down and formally put my thoughts down regarding the latest World of Warcraft expansion, Legion. While I have to admit that I have been playing this since the earliest days of the alpha phase of testing, I am basing my experiences entirely on what I have experienced since launch.
The core gameplay as a whole for the game is largely similar to previous versions that one would be accustomed to. We still have our characters with their specific skills and abilities and whatnot. In Legion though, many classes have been changed. Some have been fundamentally reworked to include all new mechanics and playstyles.
For example, the shadow priest class now revolves around the use of void form. Once you enter this form you have other spells which are available to you, but you also have to contend with your resource, insanity. After entering void form your insanity ticks down. To remain in void form and reap its benefits, you must continually cast spells which generate more insanity. Your ability to do high amounts of damage now hinge on your ability to sustain your insanity for as long as possible.
This is only one example of core changes to classes. Other examples are survival hunters who are now a specialization based on melee combat, and how beast mastery hunters can command two pets at once. Throw into the mix the all new demon hunter class which has only two specializations instead of the normal three. Demon hunters allow players to experience a whole new style of gameplay with extreme mobility and another new angle for exciting class fantasy.
Another core piece of gameplay for every player is the artifact system. In Legion, you will not be finding new weapons in your travels. Shortly after you arrive in the hub city of Dalaran, you will be greeted by a quest giver which will eventually lead you to the acquisition of an artifact weapon. These weapons are specific for each class specialization and offer immense power as well as a new avenue for storytelling.
Paladins will be able to wield the famous Ashbringer. Other classes may not be holding weapons that are as famous in the game, but part of the fun has been acquiring your weapon and then finding out more and more lore behind what makes it special. This has been a real treat as I have played, especially for classes who have obscure weapons.
Each weapon has a tree of purchasable talents (for a lack of a better word) which enhance your own spells and abilities. To power your artifact your complete quests and other activities in the world, and from those adventures, you gain what is called artifact power. This is new the currency you spend to power your weapon through the entire expansion. Over time, you will also unlock more of the story behind your weapon through research at your class order hall.
Speaking of order halls, each class now has a specific place where you go and gather with other members of your class. Here you power your artifact and progress on your unique class campaign. Some of these order halls are in set in places of famous lore. One thing you will find is the return of the dreaded mission table from the previous expansion.
It is much more simplified now and features a limited number of followers, who are now referred to as champions. The system has been reworked in Legion to provide you with more missions in which you send your champions out into the world to help lead you to other objectives. While this is true with some missions, there are still a great number of missions where you just send them to get you items. Also frustrating is the fact that these missions are sometimes required for your character progression. You have missions to complete which are required for your class campaign, and in the future you will have to run a great number of missions to power up your champions to be able to access other content.
For those who love dungeons and raids, there are a large number of interesting, beautiful, and fun experiences which await you. The Emerald Nightmare raid is now open as well. Challenge mode dungeons from the past are now replaced with the new Mythic+ system in this expansion. The simple way of explaining this system is that you can do progressively more difficult content for greater rewards by empowering a mythic dungeon keystone. This Diablo-esque style of gameplay lends itself to great challenges and hours of replayability.
Finally, for player versus player enthusiasts, there is now the prestige system. If you have played first person shooters such as Call of Duty, you will be familiar with how this system works. As you engage in battles, you gain honor, and the more honor you gain, you then gain honor levels, and every 50 levels you can start over and prestige again for greater and greater rewards.
To increase the challenge and prevent gear being the deciding factor, player characters now automatically have their stats scaled to a template when in PVP encounters. This places more emphasis on player skill and team coordination now. It also allows developers to more easily tune classes in PVP to make sure that it remains competitive.
This time around, there are more emotional highs and lows packed into the first few hours of gameplay than I can ever recall seeing in any previous expansion. Without spoiling the story, I will say that heroes will die, and I will leave it at that. As you quest through the world be prepared to have stories tug right at your heart, especially if you are a long time fan who is invested in the stories and characters of this universe. This emotional roller-coaster continues as you experience the stories through all of the zones.
The questing experience is the best it has ever been in the game. The developers spared no expense in including great voice performances for quests and more. The story is told to you is a much more cinematic way now not only with more in-game cutscenes, but also with more audible storytelling. No longer do you have to read pages of quest text to understand stories you are part of because now you experience dialogue and voice over opening the world to you.
You can choose your own adventure this time. With the all new level scaling that has been implemented in the game, you are no longer bound to follow a set path of character leveling. You can start anywhere and finish anywhere in the broken Isles leveling zones as all of the enemies and rewards scale with your level. This even works for groups of players of different levels to allow you to play with lower level friends and still gain the game benefit.
Sights and Sounds
Continuing in the same vein as previous expansions, the visuals of the game continue to improve despite being originally released in 2004. Blizzard’s continued upgrades to the graphic engine over the last decade has allowed the game to maintain a beautiful visual aesthetic. Legion provides amazing visuals from high mountain peaks, to fel defiled grounds, and beyond.
The latest improvements allow for those with high end machines to ramp up the visual fidelity significantly with even higher detail options such as the drastically increased draw distance available in the game. The sense of wonder in world is as strong as ever with stunning landscapes populated with wildlife in zones such as Azsuna, or the mystical sense or beauty found in Suramar, the new max level zone.
As always, Russell Brower works his magic to create an auditory masterpiece. The music in the world continues to enhance the experience of the adventurer in the game as it has done for years. It is a treat to have the background music turned up and just relax in a picturesque spot in the world. There were also updates to some of the spell and ability sounds in the game.
For the most part these are well integrated, but there are still some that stand out as needing some adjustments. One example would be the excessively loud sound of the swipe of a druid which after a while begins to just sound like someone tearing paper next to your ear repeatedly. Luckily, these outliers are few and far between now, and I anticipate these will be patched eventually as well.
Legion brings more than a breath of fresh air to the World of Warcraft. Blizzard has poured an incredible amount of effort into the game, and the end product gives us a transformed universe to experience with stunning areas to explore, emotionally powerful stories, and improved gameplay experiences. Even though I was a little disappointed to have a garrison like system in this expansion again, this can be easily overlooked given the vast enhancements in the game. Whether you are returning to the game, or thinking about picking it up for the first time, there has never been a better time to experience what World of Warcraft has to offer you.
Are you a WoW player or fan? Let us know what you think about Legion in the comments!