Warlords of Draenor has not been a successful expansion for World of Warcraft. It started out with a huge amount of hype and lots of potential, but all of that quickly faded once the honeymoon period wore off. After the fresh coat of paint on the surface rubbed away, players were left with repetitive garrison missions and a neverending grind. The story was interesting, but that only lasts for a short while.
Blizzard is still in the business of making money, though. So while we may love the idea of each game and expansion sustaining itself indefinitely for years to come, that just isn’t realistic. By creating content that is only fresh and engaging for a short amount of time, they’re able to space out releases and keep anticipation high. Only a few months before people get bored and leave the game in massive waves of millions of people? That’s not gonna cut it. Hopefully what we know about Legion so far can point towards a much brighter and more prosperous future.
5) Improved Garrisons
Garrisons were one of the standout features of Warlords of Draenor, for good and bad reasons. On the good side of things, they were a novelty that made for a great talking point. WoW has never been the type of game to offer player housing, so giving players some control over a physical area and tying that into the world itself was a nice touch. In theory, they were great.
Unfortunately, the newness of the garrisons wore off rather quickly. Over time, they became the sources of some of the worst parts about the expansion, providing little relief from the constant grind of MMO life and didn’t offer enough variety to remain interesting. Warlords laid some nice groundwork, but Legion has the opportunity to make them one of the game’s best overall assets.
4) Fewer Recycled Assets
An argument could be made that every single combat encounter in an MMO is exactly the same. You’ve got your tanks, your DPS, your healers, and your other variations on that core system doing their own thing and working together. Ultimately, every person is going to play their class the same way each time - going through the same skill rotations - regardless of what or who they’re fighting.
This means that at the end of the day, it’s up to the developers to keep things new and interesting. Once more raids started rolling out for Warlords, people began to notice how same-y everything felt. Assets looked like they were recycled and areas had lost that new luster players had come to expect. Highmaul was nice, but Blackrock Foundry and Hellfire Citadel were far from original in design. Ideally, Blizzard will step up their game in this regard for Legion.
3) Continuation of Improved Leveling
Remember how I mentioned garrisons are a nice starting point to build upon in Legion? That’s due in large part to how streamlined and modern the leveling process from 90 was. Now that Legion is expanding the cap even further, all the way to 110, that means a hefty dose of new story content to balance and zones to explore.
Now let me be clear here: continuation of improved leveling does not mean just more of the same types of things. Too much of a good thing is in fact possible, and that’s never been more true than in the case of monotonous grinding. As long as they can find a way to keep things relatively fresh throughout the process, then that’s about all we can ask for. Whether or not it’s both good and fresh is a whole other thing.
2) Horizontal Progression Systems
One of the best suggestions I can make to ensure the leveling process continues to get better, is for Blizzard to experiment with non-linear and non-vertical progression systems. If you’ve only ever played WoW, then you may not fully understand what I mean by horizontal progression, so let me use an example. If you log on to play the next raid tier, get the next set of gear, and to max out your stats so that you can be more powerful and efficient, then that’s all vertical progression. You’re working your way up this ladder on a clear path to get what’s better and complete what’s more challenging.
But recently, there have been moves towards alternative forms of progression that aren’t about linear movement upwards in a game, in other words, it’s about horizontal progression. Providing alternative ways to play, including more side activities to partake in, or just including more ways of exploring and enjoying the game that don’t necessarily conflict with or challenge other styles. This time of gameplay has found the most popularity in sandbox MMOs, but theme parks like WoW have so much potential, there’s no reason why alternative routes of progressions can’t exist there as well.
1) Balance Between Quest and Non-Quest Content
And finally, yet most importantly, is that Legion really needs to find the right balance between quest and non-quest content. Even the biggest WoW lore-fiends eventually got bored of how much question was in Warlords and were wishing for more varied and interesting raids, or better yet, just more to do than the same stuff over and over again. Sometimes when the devs get too hung up on crafting the most interesting story, which was definitely a strong point for Warlords, they lose sight of what players will actually be doing and playing for the other 80% of their time that’s spent in the expansion.
Taking alts through the same quest lines isn’t exactly the same as having truly interesting things to do with all of your characters. If they can strike the right balance between intriguing quest lines with well-written and well-paced content with fun and intense raids to keep players busy after the story is over, then Legion will be a much better expansion as a result.
There’s no hiding the fact that World of Warcraft is dwindling in popularity. Millions of people are dropping off, it’s reached its lowest subscriber count in years, and the industry’s general trend towards free-to-play and buy-to-play games is proving to be serious competition for the dated subscription model Blizzard stubbornly clings to. Whether or not Legion can revive a game that may finally be reaching the end of its run remains to be seen, but a lot of signs are pointing towards the fact that WoW’s best days may be behind it at last.