First Look Review: World of Warcraft: Legion

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…In the 5 months since its release, Legion has been a tale of two cities. Universally viewed as having saved the franchise after the forgettable Warlords of Draenor (two raid tiers, painful rep grinding and no meaningful new content), Legion is not without its shortfalls in a few areas. I’ll get to everything by category so here we go.

Main Story – 8/10

Legion’s story picks up where Warlords of Draenor leaves off. Gul’dan is sent to Azeroth where he raises the Tomb of Sargeras and brings the Legion to Azeroth. The Alliance and the Horde suffer devastating defeat at the Broken Shore. King Varian Wrynn sacrifices himself so Alliance forces can escape and Warchief Vol’Jin dies shortly after returning to Orgrimmar, naming Sylvannas Windrunner his successor.

The fallout from the Broken Shore has the Alliance and the Horde at each other’s throats. Genn Greymane (the King of Gilneas), already has just reason to have beef with Sylvanas. For those who never made a Worgen, she killed his son Liam and devastated his homeland. Meanwhile, Sylvanas has a vested interest in the Val’kyr of the Broken Isles. As a race, the Forsaken can’t reproduce since they’re Undead. Few of the Val’kyr she recruited after the Northrend campaign remain. She travels to Stormheim in the hopes of recruiting the most powerful Val’kyr on Azeroth.

Khadgar usurps leadership of the Kirin Tor from Jaina Proudmoore, who leaves the city in disgust. With Khadgar at the helm, the Horde are allowed into the city for the first time since the Sunreavers were kicked out during the Pandaria campaign. An unexpected but powerful ally in Northrend awakens to join the fight against the Legion.

Cordana Felsong, a Warden who accompanied Khadgar during the Draenor Campaign was corrupted by Gul’dan. Now with the Burning Legion, she leads Gul’dan to the Vault of the Wardens to retrieve a certain body. Caught offguard by the Legion’s attack, Maiev decides to fight fire with fire and releases certain prisoners held captive since the fall of The Betrayer…

Broken Isles – 6/10

Almost all of the events of Legion take place on the Broken Isles, which is the land around the Broken Shore and is several miles from the Tomb of Sargeras itself. The Kirin Tor teleports Dalaran to the Broken Isles so the armies of Azeroth can take the fight directly to the Legion. Lorewise, Dalaran is above the Broken Isles (clearly visible from Azsuna, Stormheim and Suramar) but for gameplay reasons, it is also floating above Northrend. Aside from the different factions, the two Dalarans are virtually identical in layout.

Unlike Warlords of Draenor in which the questing experience was very linear, in Legion players can quest in four of the five zones in any order they want. Azsuna, Stormheim, Highmountain and Val’Sharah are the four zones for leveling. Once you start your first zone, you are locked out of the other three zones until you hit level 102 or finish the zone’s main story. The mobs level as you do. Let’s say you do Stormheim first, you’re level 103 by the time you finish the main quest chain including the dungeon at the end. You go to Azuna next, the mobs are all level 103. If you did Azsuna first, the mobs would be level 100.

When you hit level 110, Suramar is where you go. Be warned: At level 102, you will get a quest from your Order Hall that will send you to an area in Suramar but it’s a 1-way trip. Use the Dalaran Hearthstone once you’re done with the quest since all the mobs in Suramar are level 110. Each zone has their own story. The main quest chain in each zone ends with a dungeon, three of which are to retreive one of the Pillars of  Creation. You get the Tears of Elune in Val’Sharah at the end of the main quest chain but are sent into the Darkthicket to rescue Malfurion Stormrage.

 

Class Order Halls – 8/10

The battle at the Broken Shore left the Alliance and the Horde devastated. The 12 Class Orders have decided to band together, transcending faction division to fight the Legion. The player character is chosen to lead the Order Hall. Paladins of the reformed Order of the Silver Hand are based in Light’s Hope Sanctum under Light’s Hope Chapel. Hunters join The Unseen Path and gather at the Trueshot lodge hidden somewhere in Highmountain. Shaman of the Earthen Ring meet in a previously hidden cavern near the Maelstrom. Warriors become the honored guests of Odyn in Valhallas. I could go on and on for all the rest.

Order Halls make Class Lore relevant for the first time since Vanilla WoW. The Death Knights of Acherus for example reform the Four Horsemen and are backed by the new Lich King. It’s your base but you won’t be “living” there like you did with your Draenor Garrison. There are only a handful of followers you can recruit and quests take you out into the world. Order Hall Missions are prettymuch irrelevant at max level. Most take on average double the time of all the Draenor missions, which were nerfed HARD halfway though WoD.

In short, the only reason you have to visit your Order Hall on average is to modify your artifact or research Artifact Knowledge. More on that in a bit. I give Blizzard props for making classes relevant again but I share the concern of many as to if this will continue after Legion. The message being sent loud and clear is clearly “Bring the Class, not the Player” and to that I say it’s about time!

The higher end Order Hall Perks and Artifact Research take days to complete–up to a month for the last tier. More on this in a bit.

Demon Hunter Class – 9/10

Demon Hunters (DH for short) are a Hero Class–the first since Death Knights were introduced in Wrath of the Lich King. UNLIKE Death Knights (start at level 55), Demon Hunters can start questing in their theme expansion right away since they are level 100 (101 if you equip Heirlooms) when you finish the DH starting experience.

The DH story is Illidan Stormrage’s story: When the armies of Shattrath City and Azeroth led by Maiev Shadowsong attacked the Black Temple, Illidan sent the Illidari on a suicide mission to Mardun, a Legion world. The Illidari were tasked with retreiving the Sargerite Keystone, which would allow the Illidari to travel to any Legion world at will. By the time the Illidari return from Mardun, Illidan has been slain (obviously). Maiev and her Wardens imprison the Illidari along with Illidan’s body in the Vault of the Wardens forever.

…Or rather, that was the plan.

10 years pass between Illidan’s defeat at the Black Temple and the Legion’s attack on the Vault of the Wardens. Backed into a corner, Maiev decides to fight fire with fire and releases the Illidari to join the fight against the Legion. After cutting a swath of destruction through the Legion forces, the Illidari travel to Stormwind and Orgrimmar to establish diplomatic ties with the Alliance and the Horde. Only Night Elves (Alliance) and Blood Elves (Horde) can be Demon Hunters. The Demon Hunter class speaks to Illidan just like the Death Knight class speaks to the Lich King Arthas.

According to the Lore behind Illidari initiation, only 3 in 10 initiates live to become full-fledged Demon Hunters. Initiates are infused with a Demon’s soul and have three choices: Dominate and survive, go insane or die. The demon soul unleashes horrifying visions on its new host in an effort to drive them insane. Because of what they’ve seen, they gouge out their own eyes. Those who survive the initiation with their sanity intact are considered Demon Hunters. They are more demon than mortal but willingly sacrifice everything to put an end to the Legion.

 

In short, no one would willingly become a Demon Hunter under normal circumstances. As eluded in a cutscene at the end of the DH starting experience, the Illidari become Demon Hunters because they’d seen what the Legion had done to their people and didn’t want to wait around for the Legion to attack again. Lorewise, it’s not hard to believe the Illidari faction were just Night Elves until Kael’thas Sunstrider and the Sindorei joined forces with Illidan. This brought the Blood Elves into the fold during the events of The Burning Crusade.

During the Black Temple raid, most of the Illidari were on Mardun. There have been debates as to weather or not Illidan would have won if the Illidari had remained behind. Illidan’s not the type of guy to leave things to chance in my opinion. He likely sent the bulk of the Illidari away because he knew there was a very real possability he wouldn’t survive the battle. A topic I’ll get into more another time. LOL.

Before I forget, Demon Hunters only have two specs: Vengeance (DPS) and Havoc (Tank). Blizzard couldn’t think of a way to make a third spec work and decided to just keep it at two. Druids have four specs (Feral, Guardian, Restoration and Balance) so I don’t see a problem with the DH having two.

Artifact Weapons – 9/10

The third most talked-about aspect of Legion after the Legion Invasion and Demon Hunters: At the beginning of the expansion, Heroes of Azeroth will take up powerful weapons in the fight against the Burning Legion. Retribution Paladins get the iconic Ashbringer and Enhancement Shaman get the legendary Doomhammer. Frost Death Knights get the Blades of the Fallen Prince, which is forged from the shattered Frostmourne. Fire Mages get Felo’Melorn, the legendary sword last wielded by Kael’Thas Sunstrider during his battle with Arthas in Icecrown. Balance Druids get the Scythe of Elune, a relic sacred to the Worgen.

There is an Artifact for each class and spec. After you get your first artifact, you will be locked of getting the remaining artifact(s) for your class until level 102. There is an advantage to getting all the artifacts for your class. You enjoy a nice boost in power for one and second, The questlines are pretty cool anyways. Once you retrieve an artifact, it is locked into that spec. If you change specs, you will automatically unequip your artifact. If you have two or more artifacts, it will change to match your active spec.

Blizzard has said players will not have the artifacts after Legion. Speculation is rampant as to how exactly players will “lose” their artifacts.

 

Artifact Power and Artifact Knowledge – 3/10

I feel like with this–as does many others–Blizzard really dropped the ball. Artifacts are upgraded with Artifact Power (AP for short). The problem–weather you focus on just one Artifact, want to work on your offspecs or want to develop your alts–is AP comes at a slow trickle. It makes sense for about half the leveling experience. At level cap, it shouldn’t take a few days to get your next artifact trait.

Artifact Knowledge is a catchup mechanic for alts. Blizzard has promised things in this regard will improve “soon” but it’s clear Blizzard underestimated how many more folks would create a boosted character or boosted an existing character to 100. More on this revamped Boost to 100 in a bit.

Dungeons and Raids 7/10

I have only done the dungeons relevant to zone storylines during the level experience so far. As of right now, I have no plans on doing any progessive raiding in Legion, mostly because I’m currently unemployed and have no guaranteed means of playing longterm.  That aside, due to how divisive the topic of Progessive Raiding has been in WoW since the beginning I’ve decided to just wash my hands of it off the bat. I haven’t done any progressive raiding since Cataclysm. That was also the last time I did all raid tiers when they were current as well.

Gearing up by doing Mythic+ dungeons is a new standard for getting gear outside Raiding. Since many guilds are selling carries (players pay ALOT of Gold to have a group run them through Mythic+ Dungeons), many causal players have started to experience Mythic+ content. Speaking of, the new Karazhan Dungeon that went live last Fall requires players to go into several dungeons at Mythic+ difficulty to unlock it. Similar attunement should be expected for the previously announced Tomb of Sargeras Raid.

 

Mythic+ Keystones – 4/10

The four points are for the idea and intent behind Mythic+ Keystones. That’s it. The intent behind it was to add a level of challenge to repeat Mythic+ runs: For each successive Mythic+ run, everyone in the party will get a Keystone. The Keystone, when used at the start of their next Mythic+ run will put a handicap on the group. In addition, they stack when doing successive Keystone runs.

The way it was executed…I’ll put it this way: Those who Beta tested it said it needed a bit more work. Blizzard said the intent was to make each handicap feel inconvenient and frustrating the more consecutive runs you do. Mission accomplished to say the least. Of course, for a difficulty that can escalate quickly between runs there are rewards to match: There are Artifact Appearances that can only be unlocked by clearing level 10+ Mythic Keystone runs.

In addition, Mythic+ is now the new second alternative to Raiding: You get Raid quality gear from Mythic+ and Keystone runs. So, for those of you who either don’t have enough players in your guild to do 10 and 20-man raiding, you can just do Keystone runs instead to get geared. I forgot to say this before but Keystones are consumed when used. It’s a matter of deciding when to use a Keystone in short. In addition, what type of Keystone you get is decided bv how you did during your run. Wipes reduce the quality as is taking too long to finish.

 

Broken Isles Pathfinder – 3/10

…We all knew this was coming after how the Devs flip-flopped in regards to Draenor Flying. Difference is things were put in place from the beginning in terms of unlocking Flying on the Broken Isles. Like Draenor Flying, you are expected to 80% of the content to unlock Flying on the Broken Isles. In addition, it’s accountwide so one character can do it and it’s permanently unlocked. Blizzard has decided it will be the new standard for unlocking Flying from now on: On the one hand, you’re not just handed Flying and other the other hand, all who unlock it will have experienced most of what the expansion had to offer. That’s Blizzard’s reasoning behind it: “You WILL get the achievement if you want to Fly”.

Like Draenor Pathfinder, my biggest beef with The Pathfinder Method is there is no Option 2. That’s basically it if you wanna fly in the next expansion moving forward. They also satisfiy the Internet Trolls at the same time. As someone who gets the Explorer and Loremaster Achievements every expansion, I obviously have no issue with doing the actual content. Unlike Progressive Raiders I prefer taking things nice and slow.

What I DO take issue with are the reputation requirements being Revered as well as the World Quest count being 50. I have yet to get Draenor Flying for these two reasons: Rep grinding is painful and slow. When Blizzard decides to take the pain out of Rep Grinding, then my opinion will change in regards to the Rep Requirement being so high. The World Quests grant rep upon completing tasks which are themselves grindfests. It was meant to repleace the Master Treasure Hunter Meta-Achievement from Draenor (Find 100 Treasure Locations on Draenor) so you’d essentially kill two birds with one stone.

I will concede Rep Grinding is not as painful as past expansions if you do ALL of the story content first but only if you’re playing a Melee Class with some decient to good ranged options–Paladins, Death Knights or Demon Hunters–or as a Hunter or Warlock. If you main any other class, just do yourself a favor and level one of these to 110 just to unlock the achievement.

PvP – 8/10

After years of neglect, PvP got some much needed love and I don’t just mean Battlegrounds and Arenas. You can now level straight to 110 just from doing Battlegrounds now. PvP Talents are unlocked at level 110. You can then work towards unlocking some additional talents that can only be used in PvP. Well done on Blizzard’s part. My only complaint is you have to be at max level to use the PvP Talents. If you could work toward unlocking them at level 10, that would be awesome.

 

Music – 9/10

Always underappreciated in WoW is the music. My only real complaint is Blizzard doesn’t release the soundtrack on iTunes. If you want a copy, you’ll have to get it off Amazon or buy the Special Edition package. Legion’s music is beautiful and sets the tone for each zone. It makes you feel totally immersed in the Broken Isles.

 

Social Aspects – 1/10

This should come as a surprise to no one.

As much as I hate to say it, Guilds are a dated mechanic and hasn’t been relevant since Cataclysm. I know most are quick to point to Dungeon Finder (introduced halfway through Wrath of the Lich King) and Raid Finder (introduced at the end of Cataclysm) as what killed server community but I disagree with that.  I’ve played WoW since mid-Burning Crusade. LFD and LFR had an impact, yes but they weren’t the main factors. It would be more fair to say Paid Guild Transfers (introduced in Cataclysm) and Paid Faction Change (introduced in Wrath of the Lich King) killed server identity and Faction loyalty.

Most players don’t feel any sort of attachment to their faction or server and haven’t since then. This includes those who started playing WoW after that time period. If someone is toxic on their server or faction, they can simply pay $25 or $30 and move on. It never ceases to amaze me how many of the same players who knock Faction Change, LFD and LFR simply for existing are usually the same reasons said features were introduced. That and more ironically, it doesn’t directly or indirectly effect them but they feel it shouldn’t exist because others benefit from it.

The WoW Community’s grown worse since Wrath of the Lich King. Blizzard has acknowledged this. The problem is as long as the WoW Community continues to normalize Toxic Behaviors and Attitudes, the problems will only get worse. It truly is sad and pathetic there are people who have nothing better to do with their time but to make the playing experience of others as miserable as possible. This is one area Blizzard can’t micromanage for a variety of reasons. For one, WoW is an MMO. It’s played by players all over the world. There are cultural differences all over the United States to boot as well.

I’ll close this section with this: This rating will improve when the WoW Community ITSELF improves. I don’t see that happening anytime soon of course so…yeah.

Fun Factor – 5/10

…One complaint I heard alot during the two months between Legion’s release and when I finally bought it was how quickly some players were burning out. It wasn’t from running out of things to do but the exact opposite: Folks were actually complaining that there was too much to do. For reasons a rational person will probably never understand, many peoeple tried to do everything possible in a single day.

I read the first “I’m burnt out” thread on MMO-Champion a week after the expansion went live. This is the new norm Blizzard started designing expansions around about halfway through Mists of Pandaria: Players sub for new content, consume said content and then unsub, then repeat the process. No longer do you have regular players inbetween content patches. In fact, that’s now considered “dated” by the vocal minority of the WoW Community. A bit of it has to do with the Paid Boost (introduced in Warlords of Draenor) being normalized to the point players buy a paid boost to bypass the 1-100 leveling experience entirely, allowing them to jump into the current expansion’s content off the bat.

The interesting thing worth remembering is new players as well as vets and returning players can and do use the Paid Boost to 100. The problem of new and returning players boosting and not knowing their class is still there of course. It’s a problem when these players que into a dungeon and have no idea what they’re doing. Even worse is knowing they’re likely to get booted from the group simply for doing an instance for the very first time. This has been a problem since LFD was introduced back in Wrath of the Lich King.

That aside, most players did feel Legion brought alot of fun they felt was missing from Warlords of Draenor. The problem as they saw is since there’s so much to do, it was easy for them to become overwhelmed and burn out. In my case, I’m an altoholic. I play as long as I’m able ^_^

 

Replay Value – 4/10

…Which brings me to this.

The one thing I do have to agree with critics on is how unfriendly to Alts Legion is. I’m referring to Artifact Knowledge mostly. As I mentioned before, Blizzard plans to make Artifact Knowledge progress accountwide. This will make Artifact Progression for Alts a bit less painful but the problem is no timetable has been given. The longer Blizzard waits to make Artifact Knowledge accountwide, the far less likely folks will want to bother playing Legion content as more than one class. It IS alot to ask of players who play multiple classes.

That aside, there is still the problem of the dated 60-90 leveling experience. The Paid Boost allows you to skip it, this is true. At the same time, players can use Heirlooms and passive EXP boosting items along the way to quicken the leveling experience. That still doesn’t address the overarching problem with the aging 60-90 leveling experience. Many of the mechanics introduced in the last few expansions would help address the problem. The problem is after how Cataclysm’s 1-60 revamp was received, there is little to no hope of a revamp of old content. It also didn’t help Blizzard blamed spending so much time on the 1-60 revamp as the reason for the disjointed level 85 content at the time.

I feel a rant coming on so I’ll just stop there. LOL.

 

Overall – 5/10

I’ll end with this: Those who talk about WoW on the Official Forums, MMO-Champion and other websites represent a small minority of the actual WoW Playerbase. They feel since they want to be seen and heard, the silent majority’s opinion doesn’t matter. Makes no sense, I know. In regards to Legion, you really have to try it and not go off what other people say. Most have mixed opinions. Legion deserves to be tried before you draw any conclusions though.

I have about a week left of my prepaid time. I bought 90 days’ prepaid time along with Legion. I used a bit less than half of that time. I leveled one character to 110 and then lost alot of my motivation when I started working on my other level 100 chars. It was easy to see how so many players burned out in the first few weeks of the expansion.

For the second expansion in a row, I do agree with much of the criticism Legion has received from others. Not the overblown bashfests but the coherently expressed negative critique, most of which I touched on above. Legion did its job of moving WoW in a good direction. There is still much that needs to be done, however

One last thing before I forget: One of the single biggest complaints from the vocal minority has been the lack of communication from the Dev Team since Legion launched. Contray to the fan theory “The Devs don’t wanna say anything” and “The Devs think everything’s fine”, the fact is there has been alot of turnover at Blizzard over the last two and a half years. Many longtime Devs have left the team to work on one of the other Blizzard IPs (Most notably David Kosak now working on Overwatch) or another company entirely (Most famously Greg “Ghostcrawler” Street is now with Riot’s League of Legends).

The one that tops them all is Chris Metzen (also voiced Varian and Thrall) retiring shortly after Legion launched. He dropped a huge hint in that regard with the Enhancement Shaman Artifact Quest Chain: Thrall decides to fade into the sunset so he can spend time with his family after helping the player Enhancement Shaman recover Doomhammer.

With most of the original Dev Team now gone, it’s actualy become easier to predict the direction of WoW. For starters, we now know the next major patch will at least in part take place on Argus…

 

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This entry was posted in Blizzard Entertainment, Blog, Brendan Aurabolt, MMO, MMORPG, Review, Serene Adventure, Video Games, World of Warcraft and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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