World of Warcraft: Legion (PC) Review
Title: World of Warcraft: Legion
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Players: 1-Thousands (MMO), Online Multiplayer Only
Rating: T for Teen
I’ve been playing World of Warcraft off and on sie the game came out 12 years ago. When you think about it, that’s really a long time. I’ve gone through Burning Crusade, Lich King, and the rest of the expansions with varying levels of interest, which I’ll get into a bit below. Legion doesn’t reinvent the WoW formula, it’s much too entrenched for that to really occur, but it does have some nice new additions to it. However, there is one thing I noticed that can spoil some of the enjoyment of the game as well.
Author’s Note: I’m writing this review with a bit of a gap in my WoW history. I didn’t play Warlords of Draenor much at all. Blizzard didn’t send a copy for me to review when it came out, but I did get it about 2 months ago but only played for 7 days. I got my character from level 90 to 95 at that time, but when I got this game, I got him from 95 to 100 (Draenor’s cap) to 110 (Legion’s cap). Certain things changed from Pandaria to Draenor that I just am not privy to, in a micro sense. So, if I mis-attribute a change I noticed from Draenor to Legion where it actually happened from Pandaria to Draenor, don’t get all freaked out.
World of Warcraft: Legion starts you off on the brink of a massive demonic invasion. The Burning Legion are back, and both the Alliance and Horde have joined together for an assault to stop them. But a quick double-cross from the Horde (I’m an Alliance player, so I imagine this might play out differently if you’re Horde) shatters the front and you’re sent back home licking your wounds. Luckily, Dalaran has stepped up to the plate, also Demon Hunters have come onboard to fight as well.
The way the actual game starts you out is one of the more interesting things about it. In prior expansions you’re told to go to the new starting zone, and level up via a fairly linear path up until the last zone is unlocked and you are max level and can start doing the high end content. A few games might have had small deviations in the path, but they all followed the same general idea of “either of these two zones is appropriate for your level, so go questing there until the new zones open up.”
Legion’s approach is different. From your class hall, you are told to pick one of the four new zones. You are then teleported there and can begin a series of quest lines to progress. Each zone has its own little mini-campaign that culminates in you partaking of a quest to go into a dungeon and kill a boss inside of it. You can choose to go in a straight line during this zone quest, or simply abandon it and go back to the Dalaran to pick up a new story strand for another zone. Except for the last zone, which is locked at level 110, the starting zones have adapted difficulty, meaning the difficulty is in line with your player level. If you visit a zone at level 101, the enemies will be 101, but if you visit it at 109, the enemies will then be 109. It’s a pretty solid hook because it does let you quest and explore at your own pace, but on the flip side, it can be annoying when you’re running through these zones and having monsters attack you because they are the same level as you, even if you already “completed” the zone.
Two big additions to the game are class halls and artifact weapons and they are linked to a degree. Each class has its own hall where you can partake of quests, research artifact history and send followers out on missions. Basically, they are glorified garrison halls from Draenor, only now they are full of other people (of your class), but that is about it. It would have been really cool if they had allowed for cross-faction talk while in a class hall, but that is just my opinion. The hall is also where you power up your artifact weapon and can change its appearance. You can also upgrade class halls to a degree with resources, but it takes time and a lot of the resources to fully complete them.
The artifact weapons are a new addition to the game, but can take some of the fun out of it. One of the first quests you do is get you first artifact weapon, and you pick which one you want. For me, I’m an arcane mage, so I picked the arcane weapon. You then get a bit of power to imbue the weapon and unlock an ability in its skill tree, and are then told to keep at it. Within a few short levels you gain the other two artifact weapons as well, in case you want to change your specification and want to begin anew.
The weapons have skill trees and rune slots for you to power them up. You use artifact power, which you gain by completing quests, finding in treasure chests, doing follower missions, or just killing elite enemies, to unlock more of the skill tree. The skill tree is a series of nodes which you have to form a path to activate a node. At first, the power requirement is really small, but with each node you unlock, or power up, that cost goes up more and more. At first it’s like “you need 300 power to unlock the node”, but that will spiral into “you need 8,000 power to unlock the node.” Also, power/skill trees aren’t weapon transferable, so if you want to level up all three artifact weapons, you’ll be harvesting power for quite a long time. You can also customize the look and color of your weapon, to a certain degree, but you need to fulfill certain requirements before you can do it.
Besides all this high level content, the big addition here is the new player class of Demon Hunter. The hunter is a melee class but with very high damage output, able to transform for a short period, can double jump and glide, and has some fun destructive eye-beams to lay waste to foes. Unlike with other classes, there are only two specs for the hunter, Havoc (damage) and Vengeance (tank). You start off a Demon Hunter at level 98 and go through a very short (about 2 hours, if that) starting zone before you either get dropped to Stormwind or Orgimmar to get to the new landmass. The introduction works pretty well, better than the earlier Monks or Death Knights. The problem with the Monk class was that it started you at level 1, and you had to get to level 10 just to get to your faction city. Then you still had 80+ more levels to grind out before you could do content. The Death Knight issue is that it threw a lot of your abilities at you, from the very start, without actually explaining what they are or what the purpose is. The Demon Hunter has this problem to a small degree, but they do make it a lot easier to understand the class at the beginning.
The last thing I’ll talk about is some of the problems I had with the game, one technical and one philosophical. I’ll get to the technical one now:
Frankly, the more I ran the game, the worse it actually seemed to get. When I first reinstalled the game I ran into no issues at all. But once I hit the new content, the game started to occasionally lockup from the very second I got into the server, there was some server instability and lag, and whenever I teleported to Dalaran or my class hall, there was about a minute long load time to actually get into it, if not more. None of it was particularly game breaking, but it was something I noticed. The flip side though is that the servers are likely getting hounded by returning players so I assume this problem will fade over time.
The philosophical issue is a tad more generalized. I realize that Blizzard is incentivized to keep people playing but some of the timers in the game border on the absurd. It takes a day for you to upgrade your hall on the first level, the second level is 3 days, the third level is 7 days, the fourth level is 10 days, the fifth level is 12 days and the last level is 14 days. So, if you want to research all the upgrades, it takes 47 real world days to accomplish. You also need massive amounts of order resources, which amount increases the further you unlock, to do the upgrades. You can do various world quests and other activities to get resources, but when an upgrade takes 12,500, it will be a while. The entire affair feels like a time sink when you’re just waiting for timers to count down.
One last thing I’ll mention, which isn’t an issue but strictly an observation, is that they really simplified the game down in certain areas. Basically, there aren’t any buff spells for players, for example. I looked for 5 minutes trying to find Arcane Intellect on my hotbar, only to eventually read it was gone. Same goes for most of the other classes, like Druids with Mark of the Wild, or Paladins with Blessing of Kings. It’s just odd to me. Also, Inscription, as a way to modify your spells, and Jewelcrafting to add in gems into armor, is basically gone. It might be there in spirit, but there is little actual practical application to either profession anymore.