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Legion - The Best Azeroth Has Been in Years

Suzie Ford Posted:
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On reaching 110, players gain access to the World Quest system that allows them to venture throughout the Broken Isles to take part in limited time quests for Order Hall resources, Artifact Power, gold, gear, PvP honor and more. In addition, other quest types offer gains for pet battles, professions and secondary professions including first aid, archaeology, fishing and cooking (Curse you, Nomi!). Blizzard has indicated that they have thousands of quests available for deployment at any given time but the reality is that in nearly a month of participation in World Quests, most of the tasks have repeated themselves over and over with few new “never-yet-seen” quests presenting themselves and many were quests run during general leveling with repeated content, different reward.

It’s all in the name of reward, right? And it’s true. World Quests are quite lucrative in the acquisition of many things, not the least of which is gear. Most players coming into Legion were sporting about iLevel 700 gear. Legion quickly provides items that surpass those levels in very quick order. Dungeons at Mythic+ can reward gear up to 880 and World Quests can reward items up to Mythic raiding levels, something that has been a bit of a sticky wicket with the raiding community. The chance of that happening is, however, quite small but it is not out of the realm of possibility to be pushing “Normal” raiding iLevels (850 or so) within mere weeks. Now that the first Normal raid is open with its Mythic counterpart to be released later today (September 27th), gear is ramping up at an alarming rate with Mythic raiding gear scaling to 880 and, later, with the next raid tier, to 905.

This leads me to one of my biggest issues with Legion overall: The gear rewards are too high too fast. It is as if Blizzard understands that many players will remain with the game for 4-9 months and want them to feel they’ve accomplished something amazing along the way. That’s not a horrible thing but it certainly hurts professions and, in a way, those who are in the game for the long haul.

My blacksmith with her profession ability at the maximum 800 stopped being able to make viable gear for anyone within days of Legion’s release. Her best items are far inferior to those rewarded by normal questing, dungeons or through World Quests. The cost to make the “best” Tier 3 recipe gear that she can is also quite high in terms of materials so the effort versus reward is simply gone less than a full month post-release. This is illustrative of the overall problem with some professions. While several will be viable throughout Legion (Jewelcrafting, Alchemy, Cooking, Inscription to a degree and most gathering professions), those with the ability to create armor are already out of work for the most part.

It’s all in the name of fun though, right? Legion provides a lot of fun for many, many players. The addition of quality content in 5-player dungeons is a promise made - promise kept. The dungeons in Legion are amazingly crafted with interesting story elements and formidable bosses with complex mechanics even on “Normal”. Dungeons scale up to Mythic+ that offers challenging game play for those who like adventuring in small groups over raiding. Gear drops are also very good, up to iLevel 880 in Mythic+9. The only real issue with dungeons is that some are locked behind artificially created gates that can include reputation with one faction or another or that require a specific quest chain to be opened via the Order Hall prior to being able to access it. It’s a small issue overall, but one that is noticeable the longer one lives in Legion.

Dungeons also provide opportunities for players to move profession abilities further along and even the main story line with quests that send them off to various dungeons on a variety of difficulties. Premade guild groups, for instance, can queue and enter a dungeon together from anywhere in the game world. Others can use Dungeon Finder to access a group to complete dungeons. Loot drops are personal so there is no squabbling over gear.

Legion also provides the opportunity for players to PvEvP or PvPvE, depending on your viewpoint. There are various locations throughout the Broken Isles where open world PvP can take place, though rarely do unless in the Bareback Brawl or the other free-for-all arenas sprinkled throughout. Players can earn Honor, up to 150 per Warden Tower, that allows progression on the specially created PvP Honor Talent system. Each Honor level unlocks special PvP-only abilities, both passive and active, up to level 50. Once there, players can opt to “Prestige” or reset their PvP talents to level 1. Prestige levels can reward battle pets, mounts and other rewards. Honor can also be earned in arena play, random or rated battlegrounds as well. As with Artifact Power, Honor gains can be very grindy in the higher levels.

PvP is, however, not in a very good spot at this time in Legion. Granted, it is early in the expansion’s life and Blizzard will continue to tweak the ‘templates’ that are assigned to each player class and spec. It is not, however, a stretch to say that the PvP community is not happy about having to grind PvE content to improve their Artifacts, etc. Additionally, and typically, many classes are insanely powerful while others have truly lost their “class fantasy” and are ineffectual in any way at the moment. Will Blizzard make improvements? Of course. Will PvP approach something close to balance between, for instance, melee and casters (it’s a blender fest in PvP these days with casters being made into soup)? Of course it will. But at this time, PvP is not in a good place. Ostensibly balancing templates should be a fairly streamlined process so let’s hope the first pass comes soon.

At the end of the day, there is no question that World of Warcraft: Legion is something special. New features and improved features are definitely worth the cash layout for the expansion and a subscription. It is an expansion that is trying to touch on all things of importance to players. How well that plays out over time as the expansion ages will remain to be seen. As it stands, Legion is a casual player’s dream with nearly more to do than can be accomplished in just a few months. Whether or not players will have the stamina to survive the vast amounts of grind that presents itself after level 110 is also an unknown. Blizzard is off to a good start on delivering its promises of more frequent and meaningful content updates. The first major patch, v7.1, is already on the public test realm and should be deployed by year’s end or early in 2017. In the meantime, the team needs to be hard at work addressing some of the larger issues that have been presented by players including PvP balance, Artifact Power gains and others.

Legion shows that Blizzard is working to improve delivery and systems to provide players with an expansion that will keep them engaged in the World of Warcraft story throughout. Hopefully, they will do just that over time.

We’ll be revisiting Legion in about six months. In the meantime, let us know what you think of the expansion in the comments!


VISUALS & SOUND 10 | As with Warlords and Mists, Legion shines in this area in particular. The visuals are stunning for a game that uses an upgraded, yet still decade plus, old engine. Suramar is in a class all by itself with gorgeous architecture and ambient lighting as well as in environment details including water, flowers, trees, and even NPC clothing and armor. Music is, again as usual, suits the mood of locations and fits the ‘action’ during encounters. Player characters have lots of new sound files as well, here being the caveat that the weapon sounds and yells / grunts / screams of the player in battle can be overwhelming, particularly in large groups.

GAMEPLAY 8 | The leveling curve is stellar and the open zones make adventuring with friends a positive experience given scaling. Combat is much more visceral than before thanks to new melee animations (and forthcoming caster animations) and with new sounds, it feels as if a player is in battle. However, despite months in alpha and beta testing and with mountains of constructive feedback provided by the testing community, Blizzard is only now beginning to make changes to classes, many of which have felt underpowered or poorly balanced against others. Many of the changes that are most distressing to players will not see any changes implemented until the arrival of v7.1 at some point in the near(ish) future.

POLISH 9 | Legion’s launch was categorically the best ever. There were few, if any, issues faced by players, no login queues of more than a minute or two. While there have been brief times with lag, overall, the experience in Legion has been just about flawless. There are some bugs in game, of course, though many fewer than in recent expansions. The tech team is actively involved in getting bugs address quickly and efficiently.

LONGEVITY 7 | There is a lot to do in Legion, of this there is no question. Between class order hall campaigns, the acquisition of artifact power, dungeons, raids, questing, professions and PvP, no one can legitimately say that there is “nothing to do”. All of this activity, however, comes with a large amount of grind attached. All of these systems are intertwined in Legion with content to, for instance, progress a profession, gated behind a dungeon or a raid or embedded in world quests. With this in mind, it will remain to be seen how many players have the patience and the stamina to endure the vast amount of grind that each represents and is repeated over and over when alts are considered.

VALUE: 9 | Legion’s price point for the standard edition is currently $50, with the Digital Deluxe coming in at $69.99. Even with the additional $15 per month for a subscription, players of all types will have a great return on dollars spent. Time in game is well worth the cost.

8.6Great
Pros
  • Amazingly crafted dungeons
  • Demon Hunters
  • First update already on PTR, more on the way
  • Gorgeous level design, sound & music
  • Separation of PvE & PvP talents
  • Some genuinely moving story lines
Cons
  • Gear rewards are too high, too fast
  • Lack of urgency in the main story line
  • Large amounts of gated content
  • PvP is a mess right now
  • Some classes / specs are in a far worse place than before
  • Some professions have no purpose

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SBFord

Suzie Ford

Suzie is the former Associate Editor and News Manager at MMORPG.com. Follow her on Twitter @MMORPGMom