EDITOR’S NOTE: This is NOT our final review. That will come around the end of September or early October. This is a “Recommended / Not Recommended type article to pave the way to the final review.
This week marked another big moment for World of Warcraft fans with the launch of the Legion expansion. Legion is bringing a number of big changes to the game, things that Blizzard hopes will keep players engaged through the arrival of its next expansion.
Blizzard has been candid about its missteps in Warlords and that it hopes to improve the way that Legion plays out by releasing content incrementally (adding new artifact traits, new chapters to the order hall campaigns, etc.) that will keep players coming back for more.
Here are a few thoughts on the most significant parts of World of Warcraft: Legion after taking part for the past couple days.
Beyond the initial quests that lead to the new location in the Broken Isles, the first quest players receive is one to go get the artifact that is specific to their particular class and specialization. Artifacts are said to weapons of great power, some of great renown (Ashbringer, Felo’Melorn) and are designed to be integral to the defeat of the Burning Legion. Once attained, players will begin progressing the artifact, powering it up, in effect.
What artifacts bring to the game is an additional progression path, both horizontal and vertical at the same time. After bringing the weapon to one’s class order hall, the progression traits unlock. Each trait becomes more expensive to “purchase” as players gain power.
‘Buying’ a trait requires artifact power that are found through questing, in random boxes, by killing rare mobs etc.
Most active and passive traits feel beneficial
Additional way to level and gear up
Research artifact knowledge to speed up the process
Each class spec has its own artifact that levels separately
Grind for artifact power
After the acquisition of the Artifact, players will be given a quest to open their class order hall, the base of operation for the fight against Legion. The player becomes the head of their order -- Paladins, for instance, become Highlord of the order which is housed in Light’s Hope Chapel. Hunters become Huntmaster of the Unseen Path and are stationed in Trueshot Lodge in Highmountain.
In the hall, players can research special perks that can, for instance, provide additional travel paths in the Broken Isles or can lead the completing a World Quest via the mission table. In addition, classes have access to up to six champions, far fewer than in Warlords, to complete missions that can lead to unique portions of the class’s storyline, artifact power, experience, gold, extra quests for the player and more.
Many would claim that Order Halls are simply Warlords garrisons 2.0. They are similar, that is true, but not completely the same. For instance, order halls are not one’s own piece of the game world. All Priests or Death Knights share the same order hall and they can be a bit crowded from time to time which also leads to one of the more immersion-breaking moments in Legion: How can I be the Deathlord when every other Death Knight running around Acherus is also sporting the same title and charge from the Lich King himself? In Blizzard’s zeal to address the solitary nature of garrisons, they went a bit on the facepalm side by stuffing everyone into the same hall, each being the ‘leader’.
Order Halls have definitely progressed the idea that came to WoW with garrisons, though there are clearly things that need to be addressed -- why isn’t there a mailbox?
Questing & Zone Scaling - See You in Suramar
As with Warlords, questing, at least through the first character and all zones, is beautifully done. The leveling curve for those who want to experience the story of Legion feels very smooth, neither too slow or too fast. Players can also choose to level very quickly by running dungeons and completing the main quests. One player reached level 110 in just a few hours by doing so.
One of the nice new features in Legion is the addition of zone scaling. No matter where a player chooses to adventure, mobs and quest rewards will scale to their current level. This is even true in mixed level parties. This has been a terrific and very welcome addition.
However, zone scaling comes with its own issue as well. It can lead to losing the thread of the story altogether by jumping from one location. In Wrath of the Lich King, the presence of Arthas was felt from the first steps into Northrend throughout his defeat in Icecrown. Even the mundane quests had a connection to the overarching plot.
In Legion, each zone has its own story and all are theoretically taking place at the same time as all the others which can lead to a feeling of disconnect. Each zone, once quests are completed, feels as if it ends abruptly and there is no mention of any of those events anywhere else.
Another weird thing is that Azeroth is facing “its greatest threat ever” from the Legion and, yet, outside the Broken Shore, there is scant evidence that there is even a demonic presence on the Broken Isles. There are pockets of demonic activity, but far less than would be expected.
On the more mundane side of things, Blizzard, in addition to zone scaling, also opened up “tagging” where more than one player can attack a monster at the same time. This is not cross-faction either. What is annoying, however, is that players with strong AoE will run through and tag everything but keep running, leaving others behind to clean up the mess for an equal reward. This can be very problematic for skinners and miners if these people don’t return to loot bodies making them ineligible to be harvested for crafting materials.
Overall, zone scaling and multi-tap are good additions to the game. They are, however, in need of fine tuning.
Legion’s PvP won’t begin until the end of September, but players can already earn Honor to unlock special PvP-only talents that run alongside the already unlocked Artifact traits. This can be accomplished by running World PvP quests or by participating in random battlegrounds between now and the commencement of the season.
A quick note: while unlocked Artifact Traits are active in all PvP situations, PvE set & trinket bonuses as well as effects of Legendary equipment is disabled in all instanced PvP.
Legion has been made to the professions. Each one of them, gathering ones and general professions like First Aid, Archeology, Cooking and Fishing included, has a variety of quests to give players new recipes or ranks of certain skill. Fishing even got to have its own artifacts complete with purchasable traits that players of the max level can pursue.
It has been a refreshing change to get out into the world and communicate with NPCs scattered around the world to get the professions going over spamming the same recipe X times to get to high enough skill to grab a new one and return to spamming until you reach max crafting.
Quests are limited both by character's own level and crafting skill and can vary from speaking to NPCs to having to go to old or current instances for very specific crafting reagents. Each profession has its usual set of recipes (armor for Leatherworkers and Blacksmiths, Glyphs for Scribes, etc.) as well as special ones. For example, Leather Barding that prevents players from being dazed while mounted under the effect of the item for Leatherworkers.
New incentive to having both crafting and gathering professions at once has been added by making the crafting reagent required to craft high level gear and certain special items soulbound. Double gatherers would have quite a bit of Blood of Sargeras with no way to spend it, while double crafters would not get enough of it via dungeons or World Quests to be able to craft all they want.
So far with relatively low professions' skill it seems to be not very lucrative to be crafting gear to wear as items granted by World Quests on average are not worse than crafted and in a lot of cases even better. However, the quests for Obliterum leading to upgradeable crafted gear still await as well as recipes granted by reputations, so this situation might yet change.
The Long Game
So what’s in store for the long game? How will Legion keep its relevance for up to two years? We know the list but, since no one’s actually been there yet, it’s hard to say how effective Blizzard’s plan will be in keeping players engaged.
- Raids through mythic level
- Dungeons through mythic level
- Progressive and more difficult dungeons ala Diablo 3’s rift system
- Artifact leveling -- each class has three -- on multiple characters
- World questing that can lead to the acquisition of Legendary items
- Fully leveled and expanded crafting and general professions (such as the Fishing Artifact)
- PvP to unlock Honor Traits and levels
But We’ve Heard This Before
A lot of players have expressed skepticism that Blizzard will be able to deliver on its promise for Legion and be able to keep players engaged in the game over the long term. Words say that they have, but it is actions that will make the difference. Time will tell.
So do we recommend Legion to fans of Warcraft or players who have left but wonder whether to come back? Absolutely, YES but with a caveat: The time spent in game for the price paid is well worth the cost, even with a monthly subscription. For how long will remain to be seen.