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The Relentless Legion

World of Warcraft Columns - By Gareth Harmer on May 23, 2016

The Relentless Legion

The Legion is coming, and it is relentless. No matter how many times they are driven back, the Fel Armies will not cease marching until all of Azeroth is consumed. No matter the defeats they suffer, the demonic swarm continues unyielding. They will probe and pursue any weakness or treachery in single-minded pursuit of a corrupting end.

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In much the same way, World of Warcraft: Legion continues to march onward to launch on August 30. The alpha has now finished, with closed beta replacing it earlier in May, throwing open the gates with a slew of new invites. And yes, while there’s still the occasional bug, Blizzard’s also started pouring in the polish, ensuring that the expansion is firmly embedded in the ongoing saga. The most potent example of this is a new prologue which goes far further than just setting the scene.

In this first look at the Legion Beta, I’ll be aiming to keep this as spoiler-free as possible, but there will be a couple of minor reveals here and there as we journey through the new content. But for those who remember facing a malevolent force in The Burning Crusade, or who were chilled by facing an apocalyptic nemesis in Wrath of the Lich King, it feels like Legion will hit those same high notes.

A True Beginning

My previous experience in the Legion alpha left me with a nagging question: how did the brawl actually get going? What led to the flying fortress of Dalaran being parked just outside the Broken Isles, and how did the cinematic trailer fit into the sequence of events? Both of these are resolved in grand fashion with a new prologue that showcases the might of this new, improved and battle-hardened Legion.

It starts with a call to Stormwind. A Burning Legion infestation has been spotted in the Broken Isles, and King Varian Wrynn intends to wipe it out. Preparations are made, a fleet is assembled, and forces are gathered. The Alliance intends to send out an armada, and all the races (including gnomes) are present in numbers, eager to earn a swift and decisive victory. With hope at their backs the Navy departed, confident in their mission, but lacking any meaningful information on the Legion they were about to face. This would be their ultimate doom.

Those best laid plans rapidly started to disintegrate under the fellfire onslaught of a chorus of Burning Legion cannons and infernals, scattering the Alliance forces before many made landfall. But that’s not all – over the years, the Legion has studied Azerothian warfare. They now have airships of their own, can summon in their own fortifications and troops, and have new siege weaponry. The way these monoliths seemed to almost warp in and hang in the sky was chilling, and far beyond any technology the Alliance have.

And then there’s the most chilling discovery. All the demons we’d fought and defeated – Lord Jaraxxus, Balnazzar, Tichondrius, and many more – were there, summoned by Gul’dan, and stronger than ever. Their message was clear: no matter how many times they were defeated or destroyed, they would learn from it and come back. For the opening act, it almost felt like a curtain call, but it was a potent reminder of just how many demons we’d sent back to the Twisting Nether, and how strong their forces now are. And they could become stronger still – the tomb of Sargeras awaits.

A Clean Slate

Beaten and licking their wounds, both Alliance and Horde forces admit that they need a staging post from which they can launch attacks deep into the Broken Isles. This is where Dalaran comes in, as a neutral flying fortress. It’s one of the reasons why Legion invokes fond memories of both The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King, and starts on a very strong note.

It’s from here that the Class Order epic arc springs into action, introducing the Order Halls and getting your hands on a spangly new weapon that will upgrade and evolve with you on your journey. I’ve taken a look at this from the Mage point of view previously in Alpha, and the transition now feels more logical. Incidentally, the Mage Order Hall has also had a few finishing touches added, and is now looking relatively complete.

More than this (and if you’ve played the prologue, you’ll know what I’m talking about), it feels as if Warcraft’s cast of characters is getting a bit of a clean. Sure, we could do with a little less Deus Ex Jania, but I’m optimistic that, especially with Order Halls, that we’ll see more obscure characters come to the fore, alongside minor cameos from some old favourites. As our own Suzie Ford mentioned previously, Blizzard’s working hard on bringing out class fantasies, and that applies to both the mechanics and the narrative.

As an introduction to Legion, the new prologue is shaping up to be a great start, and Class Order Halls are a great segue into unique story arcs each one will have. Next time, I’ll be taking a look at the zones in Legion, and seeing how group play holds up in beta.

Playing the World of Warcraft: Legion beta yourself? Share your own experiences – good or bad – in the comments and let us know what you make of Blizzard’s work-in-progress.

Gareth Harmer / When he's not blasting or fireballing his way through a virtual world, Gareth "Gazimoff" Harmer can be found dissecting the mechanics of online games. Chua at heart, he's also our resident columnist for all things WildStar.