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The Legion Pre-Patch and My Return to Azeroth

William Murphy Posted:
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I didn’t expect to find myself back in World of Warcraft, but on a whim I decided to re-subscribe and see what the upcoming pre-expansion patch is all about. In the week leading into the Pre-Patch (which launches today after maintenance), I find myself reveling in old haunts, the victim of both nostalgia and hype for a major new update.

I’ve been an Orc hunter for some time; though way back when I started live in Azeroth during the beta as a Dwarf. In an effort to revisit a lot of areas I hadn’t seen in years, I decided to roll a new Human Hunter, with the goal being to raise him to 110 over the course of the next few weeks and the expansion.  Thing is, I completely forgot about Cataclysm, one of three expansions I bought but never really played during their launch windows. Oh, I owned Cata, Lich King, and Pandaria all on day one… but I never actually played through the content of them until Draenor lured me back for a decent amount of time with its launch and Orc homeland theme.

Yesterday, most of what Draenor wrought was rendered useless. The full reckoning doesn’t come until 8/30, but as of this patch people will be turning a blind eye to their Garrisons, the Legendary Ring quest will stop being offered, and so on and so forth. Me? I’m finally experiencing the Cataclysm content I missed years ago and the whole beginning of the game seems familiar but new at once.  I even bought a WoW token and sold it for the gold needed to deck myself out in Heirlooms and get the dang Chauffeured Mount, because who doesn’t want 60% speed boosts at level 1?

I’ll admit it, even knowing only the surface stuff I learned back at BlizzCon, I’m finding myself suddenly excited at the prospect of what Legion will bring. People I trust, such as our own Gareth Harmer, find this to be Blizzard’s best expansion since Lich King and that’s no small praise coming from him.  What is it about Legion that has fans of WoW’s glory days so excited? Well, aside from it being yet another WoW expansion hype circus, I asked our own Suzie Ford why this expansion seems different from previous releases.

Suzie pointed to the many re-workings of core systems:

“The thing about the Legion expansion is that a lot of the things that are best about it are those that are only tangentially related to it: Transmog, zone scaling (which will hopefully apply to all Azeroth in time), world quests, skill-based and gear-normalized PvP, skill and talent overhauls and more. At the same time, there is no question that Legion is going to eclipse Warlords of Draenor as a better expansion. For lore lovers, Legion promises to wrap up a number of stories and the status quo of NPC leadership is going to be shaken to its core adding a new level of interest in story over game mechanics. The world quest system breaks the notion that things have to be completed on a daily basis since three at a time can be stored. And there's no "have to" about finishing quests every day as there was in, for instance, Mists of Pandaria. And then, of course, there are Demon Hunters.”

The level scaling in Legion’s upcoming zones is a feature I wish Blizzard would have aped from other games earlier. Heck, even ESO is adopting a level-agnostic setup so that players can choose where and how to level. In the pre-level 80 experience of Guild Wars 2, that sort of level scaling is precisely why people loved the open world of Tyria so much.

When I asked Gareth Harmer about his Legion thoughts (an admitted WoW fan at Mana Obscura), he had this to say:

"While I'm definitely interested in quality-of-life improvements like transmogrification and multi-tap targets, it's the triple-layered story that has me most excited about Legion. Not only do we get a new continent to explore and experience, but each Class Order has a unique campaign that enriches that leveling experience. Add to that the story and adventure that comes with Professions in Legion, and there's a huge amount of content for a lorehound like me to chew through.

The narrative split also makes Legion, in my opinion, more alt-friendly than ever before. Each of my characters will have a different Order adventure, and each of them will experience different trials and tribulations as they master their professions. And, because I can choose the route each takes through the Broken Isles, I'll be able to stave off zone and continent fatigue that much longer. Getting my little army to level cap should be significantly more enjoyable this time around."

Survival Hunter? Heck yes.

And so, as I logged into the launch of the Pre-Legion patch early this afternoon, the thing that really strikes me is how fresh the game feels with the new class specs. Yes, the ill-advised but often defended talent rework is still there. But the talents in each specialization feel more meaningful now than ever. Melee-focused hunters are a thing, so is the pet-less sniping hunter, and the true god of animals hunter.  Each one feels unique and necessary. Rogues now have a ninja, a pirate, and an assassin as their specs, and each one feels like something out of a movie.

I don’t know how long this swell of nostalgia-fueled enjoyment will last, but I do know I’m not going to worry about it just yet. So many of you preach about enjoying the journey, not the destination, and I’m inclined to agree. Maybe this expansion will rock from level 100 to 110, and then maybe it’ll fizzle as Draenor did. But if I get a solid few months' enjoyment out of loving my Pirate (Outlaw) Rogue and my Spear-sticking Hunter, I’ll be okay with my purchase.


William Murphy

Bill is the former Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.