Since I first started playing World of Warcraft (WoW) in the winter of 2008, I've had a love-hate relationship with the game. I've been on again, off again, but I've always managed to experience a decent amount of the content in every expansion since Wrath of the Lich King. Alongside a large portion of the player base, the game has sort of staled on me. I had again thought, "Warlords of Draenor is my last expansion. I'm seriously done this time." But as content leaks started coming out for Legion, I began to regain interest. My friends began gaining interest, as well. Revamped Player vs. Player (PvP)? Artifact weapons? I don't even know what that means. Class balance changes? Okay, fine...I'll bite. Yet again I purchased Legion, and the required game time, and hopped back into Azeroth.
My shaman character wielding one of the most iconic Horde weapons, Doomhammer.
I'm not going to spend a lot of time describing the base game here. At its core, the game is broken down into two parts:
- PvP - Engaging another active player. 2v2, 3v3, and 5v5 "deathmatch" skirmishes, and a variety of objective-based team games like Capture the Flag or Point Control, are just some of the options.
- Player vs. Environment (PvE) - 5-man co-operative dungeons with a handful of bosses to kill for loot, and 10- to 30-man raids (think up-scaled dungeons) are the main focuses here.
If you're completely new to the game, check out some more info on the official World of Warcraft website. From this site, new or returning players can set up their Battle.net accounts to play the game completely free up to level 20. For this review, given that it is the 6th expansion for the World of Warcraft base game, I am going to assume you have at least an intermediary level of knowledge about the game.
Legion brings around some really welcome changes. The new class released with Legion, Demon Hunter, is a ton of fun. My main character this expansion has been a healer Shaman, but I've spent quite a bit of time on my tank Demon Hunter. Both the tank and melee damage dealing specializations (specs) of Demon Hunter dual-wield warglaives; big, righteous blades whose sole purpose of creation was to slay every demon in sight. WoW veterans might remember fighting the most famous Demon Hunter, Illidan Stormrage, back in the day during the Burning Crusade expansion. This class would be a good choice if you're just getting back into the game after an extended absence. Demon Hunters start at level 98, only 12 levels away from the current level cap of 110. The only requirement is having an existing level 70+ character on whichever server you wish to create your Demon Hunter. The tank spec, Vengeance, is currently holding its own in raid scenarios, and the burst/area-of-effect damage of the damage dealing spec, Havoc, is still very real, even after some recent nerfs.
Illidan Stormrage wielding his warglaives. Photo courtesy: Wowhead
This expansion's release also brings some welcome changes to class identity. Each class has a new "home base" - called an order hall - in this expansion that in some way ties to the class story. The Demon Hunter order hall lies on Mardum, a planet originating as a demon prison that was eventually taken over by the demon hunters under Illidan's orders. The Shaman order hall is a small enclave overlooking the Maelstrom, a huge rift smack in the middle of the sea. I'd tell you where the rogue order hall is, but then they'd have to kill me.
Each class also has a series of quests that only your class can complete. One of the first things you do for your class is to collect your artifact weapon; a powerful, story-related weapon that your class is known for. The story for every class I've played, and every spec, is engaging. It makes you want to pay attention to what's going on around you. The artifact weapons, and the quests needed to collect them, are different based on the spec you are choosing. For the Shaman melee damage spec, Enhancement, you must go under the Maelstrom to salvage Doomhammer, a great weapon of the Horde warchiefs. Destruction Warlocks wield the Scepter of Sargeras, which at one point actually destroyed a world, so that's pretty cool. On the whole, I haven't seen too many artifact weapons that don't look awesome. Each of the weapons also has 16 base appearance options, some drastically different from one another, some just off by shades, and a lot of them are incredibly hard/time consuming to get. There are also hidden appearances for each artifact.
Aesthetics have improved across the board this expansion. All five new major zones are gorgeous, but the inability to use flying mounts may be a bit of a bummer for vets. It's nothing new, as this was the case in Warlords of Draenor until later in its lifespan, but it can still get tedious being tethered to the ground. Melee animations have gotten an overhaul across every class. You can see slash trails in real time, animations when using abilities now actually look like you are, you know, using an ability. It's fresh and makes combat feel more engaging.
Dungeons and raids are as fun and challenging as ever, and if challenging is your thing, there are several difficulty options. Mythic dungeon difficulty is still available after heroic difficulty, but now you can use special items, called keystones, to up the difficulty of mythics themselves. These mythic+ dungeons are on a timer that drops higher quality loot if the timer is beat. Diablo 3 players would find this akin to greater rifts. There is currently only one raid available, Emerald Nightmare, with normal, heroic, and mythic difficulties available. Looking for Raid is back, and as of this post 3 of the raid's bosses are available via queuing up for the raid. As it has been in the past, Looking for Raid gear quality is lower.
~30 raiders engaging Cenarius, an encounter from the Emerald Nightmare raid.
PvE content feels fairly fresh and updated. I'd like to have the Looking for Dungeon feature available for mythic dungeons, as it is for normal and heroic. The current system for running mythics (which, by the way, are required for certain quests) involves hoping you chose the "right" class/spec or have an extremely high gear quality to get invited to a run.
PvP has been completely torn apart and built back up. Gone are the days of collecting Honor or Conquest points. The honor system is now completely behind the scenes and permanent. As you gain honor, you honor "level up". At certain level breakpoints, you unlock PvP-specific abilities. Each class has certain abilities that absolutely change the way they are played, or provide huge damage increases. Shaman can unlock an ability called Counterstrike Totem that reflects 100% of the damage they are taking back to any opponents in range of the totem. Rogue veterans might remember Honor Among Thieves, an ability that allows the generation of combo points based off of themselves or team members achieving critical hits, which is now one of the PvP-only abilities. My favorite PvP change is the removal of reliance on PvP gear to succeed. Your stats when entering a battleground or arena are no longer solely based off of gear, but rather static stats that are based on your overall item quality. This allows for a more balanced feel, as it levels the playing field. It took awhile, but it looks like the "skill over gear" argument the community made for years is finally coming around.
You can also "prestige" upon hitting honor rank 50, which resets all abilities. This is not for the faint of heart, as the abilities are very useful and once you have them, you're not going to want to let them go. If you can manage, however, you'll be rewarded with achievements, titles, and artifact appearances.
PvP rewards, in general, feel relatively weak this time around. In the past, you could "grind" Honor or Conquest, and there was always value in doing so if you were still in need of PvP gear. Now, repeatedly running battlegrounds results in unsatisfying rewards. Small amounts of artifact power for your weapon, gear that doesn't scale to your current gear quality, or small amounts of gold. I'd like to see completion of battlegrounds or arenas simply reward more for the time spent.
Fans of this game in the past who haven't played in years, or even brand new players, will still have to get past one of my biggest gripes of the game - expansions. I'd love to see some sort of sale on the six (!) expansions needed to play the latest content, but it rarely seems to happen. And as always, the $15/month subscription fee is still around. You can buy game time through in-game gold, but it costs a reasonable amount (36k gold on my server) and that sort of gold is likely not available to anyone who has been away from the scene for a long time.
Overall, the game just feels revitalized. I'm playing with people I haven't played with in multiple expansions. We've been having LAN parties again. There was even an unofficial report yesterday that WoW subscriber numbers have climbed back over 10 million. It appears to have been debunked, but the hype around this expansion has clearly paid off.
+ fresh, challenging PvE content
+ aesthetic improvements
+ balanced PvP stats
+ engaging story
+ class identity improvements
- no mythic Looking for Dungeon
- weak PvP rewards