We knew with each announcement of Legion that Blizzard were grasping at straws pulling in their greatest hits in an attempt to get WoW back to where it used to be.
Legion appears to be doing that with the potential to rival Warcraft’s best expansion, and I don’t say that lightly. Sure, every expansion comes along and impresses you with new content, but when I’ve enjoyed almost every aspect of it (bar moments of pure incompetence), I’ve got to put my hands up and say this is by far better than the past three expansions at least. Legion gives World of Warcraft a fresh coat of paint using the games’ greatest hits.
In World of Warcraft: Legion the Legion have returned – go figure. To help combat the newest threat of total invasion, the heroes of Azeroth have moved to The Broken Isles to gather the five pillars of creation – our main hope to help defeat the Legion. Though The Broken Isles is very hilly, making travelling around without flying mounts more of a pain than it should be, it’s the best world design I’ve seen in WoW for a very long time, and it needs to be as you’re expected to come back to these zones almost on a daily basis. Bringing back the Fel aesthetic from The Burning Crusade also allows the design team to once again create visually appealing gear – just look at the upcoming tier sets.
Levelling to the new max level of 110 was the most relaxing levelling experience I’ve had in WoW since Wrath of the Lich King; it’s so much more engaging to the point where you look down surprised you’ve acquired half a level. I wasn’t necessarily trying to level quickly, but the content was making me. There was never a moment of “oh I’ve only done four bars of this level… urgh“, and trust me, that happened a lot across Cataclysm, Mists of Pandaria, and Warlords of Draenor. The pacing of the levelling is consistent throughout; in previous expansions the last two or three levels felt like they took an age, but experience required per level only goes up about 6,000 per level – about half a quest of experience. Legion’s 100-110 feels quicker than Pandaria‘s or Draenor‘s horrible levelling slog that made levelling an alternative character a gruelling experience to even think about doing.
Benefiting from the pacing is how zones now scale from 100-110; you could level in a zone for 109-110 that another player is doing for 100-101, and there’s really no disparity in the experience either of you are getting. Through a map in your class hall you choose which zone you start in, and then move onto any of the rest once you’ve completed that zone. When levelling two of my alts I chose one to start in what I felt is the worst zone to get it out of the way, and started the other in a zone that I didn’t finish on my first 110. All four of the levelling zones are enjoyable, though I personally don’t like Stormheim as much as the others – it’s extremely hilly, and although you get a grappling hook it can be a bit of a pain to figure out how to get to certain areas. It took me a very long time to get another max level for Draenor, but in Legion I already have another 110 with another character at 108, and I’m still enjoying the levelling experience even though I’m doing it again so soon.
Legion introduces class halls, which are locations across World of Warcraft where certain classes hang out. “Oh, you don’t want to go that way, that’s where the Rogues hang out”. As a Mage, my class hall is kind of shoved into the bottom corner of Dalaran somewhere, but I can teleport there from wherever I am. Others can take portals from Dalaran that take them to their class hall – the Maelstrom or The Twisting Nether for example. To keep you coming back to your class hall is your class campaign and the acquisition of plenty of Artifact Power hidden throughout The Broken Isles. Artifact weapons are a new type of equipment that is specific to every spec in the game, and Artifact Power essentially levels up your Artifact weapon. The Artifacts are all important to that class; some are again the greatest hits of WoW weapons like Ashbringer for example, others have had stories written specifically for Legion. Some Artifacts are more interesting than others; I’ve mained a Shaman for as long as I can remember with a couple of stop gaps for other characters, but the Artifacts completely turned me off Shaman so I’ve been maining a fire Mage. All three of the Shaman’s Artifacts are pretty underwhelming and each have a generic cooldown as their ability; other Artifacts have much cooler abilities – Warlocks can open portals that appear to shoot shadow bolts from another dimension, and fire Mages can launch fire phoenixes at enemies – take that Dumbledore.
There are unfortunately some Garrison mechanics that have made their way to the class hall. Missions are still a thing: you recruit people from your class to go out and do missions for you. There are work orders again, but instead of making professions null and void they allow you to get extra temporary followers that can do three missions before expiring. Again like Draenor there’s a resource which this time is Order Resources; the rate of acquisition while levelling is generous judging by how much you need to use it for various odds and ends in the class hall, however at max level unless you want to do tons of world quests the resources can start to run dry. I don’t think Legion will end up turning into logging in, sending followers on missions, and then logging off again like Draenor did – you can only have five followers, and the missions aren’t as integral to the experience as they were before.
The start of end game is really daunting as you seem to be bombarded with quests. The main aspect that appears are world quests – a fresh coat on and sneaky way of saying dailies. The entire map of The Broken Isle becomes covered in timed quests that can give you gear, resources, Artifact Power, money, and crafting resources. They all have timers meaning that at certain intervals in the day some will be refreshed and appear elsewhere with different rewards. The rewards seem to scale with your item level as well; I started off getting item level 805+ pieces of gear from world quests, and now I get 835+ item level pieces, making world quests with gear as rewards always worth doing. There are daily emissary quests which give you three days to do four world quests for one faction that will give a cache on completion. This is one of the ways you can get a legendary item – it’s also the main way of getting rep for this expansion, but it doesn’t feel too forced or dull considering you basically choose which of the world quests you want to do for completion. As I said before, you no longer log in to do missions for your class hall and log out every once in awhile – especially now with the companion app. Instead it’s logging in to check which world quests are up, and if you’re like me, you’re probably only doing the ones that reward gear.
There’s a zone in The Broken Isle that only unlocks at 110 much like Timeless Isle, but here it’s a story-driven zone and not really a zone filled with free gear. There’s a lack of incentive to get through all these quests in this zone considering you’re no longer doing it for experience, but this zone is the main reputation you need – for starters you need to be friendly with the faction in this zone to even do the world quests. After that, there are pieces of useful gear for the faction in Suramar – getting honored gets you access to class order gloves which you can upgrade to item level 840. It’s one of the most beautiful zones Blizzard have ever designed, especially Suramar City, but too often it feels like an extreme grind for little reward. The problem with Suramar is that what’s daunting about levelling to 110 is knowing you have to do Suramar again to farm that rep, and yes you’ve done the same quests leading to 110 but Suramar misses levelling as its main incentive. It’s beautiful but the quests can be extremely dull.
The dungeons in Legion are some of the best since Lich King. You genuinely have to look out for various attacks now as each boss can have some pretty damaging attacks harking back to how Cataclysm started. The dungeons all have a distinct style and some even have some funny perks – one essentially being a theme park with water slides, snail racing, and barrel surfing a la Desolation of Smaug. As ever there’s always that one dungeon that you’d really like to avoid when searching for random heroics and this time it’s Eye of Azshara, and not because of boring fights but it’s that one that seems to take forever with a myriad of potential unwanted pulls. A lot of fights in Legion dungeons are like the greatest hits of WoW dungeons and raids, reusing tactics from older expansions – one boss is essentially a stripped back Magmar from Blackwing Descent; another is the same fight as Blood-Queen Lana’thel from Icecrown, and this is just two of many examples. The latter comes from the recycle of Violet Hold which much like a lot of Legion is part of World of Warcraft‘s greatest hits and ideas – though a lot of players hated Violet Hold, I love it. Given that the main city is once again Dalaran you can almost excuse the comeback of Violet Hold.
I’m not a PvP player and never have been, but in Legion Blizzard introduced honour talents. As you PvP you level up in honour which slowly unlocks a talent system much like levelling up a character. The main benefit to a honour talent system is to allow PvP and PvE to be balanced separately from one another – whenever Blizzard need to nerf a character for PvP it can be done through these talents to avoid an unneeded or unwanted nerf to PvE. That’s the main addition for PvP really; there’s a new arena, but no new battlegrounds or Tol Barad like zones this expansion.
There’s a lot of problems with previous expansions that in Legion were given a fresh coat of paint. The emissary quests are the replacement for dailies, but they themselves are dailies. The world quests and the randomness in which emissary quest you get keeps it fresh for a while, but that new paint starts to dry very quickly. Legion has enough positive changes to its entire experience that the first few weeks make it appear to be the best expansion since Lich King. The issue is I feel like a broken record – I’ve said that for the first few weeks of every expansion. When the almost inevitable content drought hits as it has with almost every expansion, players start to notice the cracks appearing in the paintwork. Right now Legion‘s new coat of paint is still new enough that it’s extremely enjoyable; raiding is still to come, and trust me I’ll have a piece written about that once I’ve done some. Then I’ll see you in two years during the period everyone is writing about how Legion let them down after a promising start.
I’ve had genuine MMO-like moments in Legion though – me and a Warrior from another server helping each other get to a boss mob for a world quest only to monumentally fail; similarly me and someone from the other faction used emotes to communicate to get to another boss mob only to again monumentally fail. There are plenty of moments in Legion that make you smile, and playing with friends has been the engaging social experience that WoW has missed for a long time for me. Yet, I’m worried this new coat of paint will eventually run dry. Then again Blizzard have grabbed me in many aspects of Legion that they’ve failed to since Lich King and to me, that’s the last great expansion. I hope they can keep it up.
World of Warcraft: Legion is available on PC.