Before I start, can I just say that an expansion announcement just isn’t the same without Metzen? Metzen could get me pumped about a bowl of oatmeal.
So, anyway, Legion.
It looks… okay-ish, I guess? I don’t feel the profound disappointment I did after the announcement of Warlords of Draenor, but at the same time, I can’t say I’m thrilled.
The plot, unsurprisingly, starts with Gul’dan. After his escape at the end of WoD, he reaches main universe Azeroth, and succeeds where his other self failed by reaching the Tomb of Sargeras. This launches a new Burning Legion invasion of Azeroth, and we as heroes must travel to the Broken Isles to stop it.
The devs described this as “the largest Legion invasion in Azeroth’s history,” which made me absolutely cringe. The War of the Ancients consumed the entire world and destroyed an enormous section of Azeroth’s landmass. There is absolutely no possible way WoW could depict a conflict anywhere near that scale, let alone bigger.
So that sort of started things off on the wrong foot.
New systems are artifact weapons that you upgrade throughout the expansion, and class halls, which is a feature I’m struggling to wrap my head around. There’s also a new PvP progression system which replaces gear with PvP-only talents and abilities.
We’ll also be leveling up to 110, which is disappointing but unsurprising. Was hoping for something like Paragon levels or alternate advancement instead, but Blizzard’s far too obsessed with vertical progression for that.
The Burning Shadow comes to consume us all:
The Burning Legion is something I have very mixed feelings on at this point. I loved them back in the Warcraft III days, and in theory they’re still the ultimate Warcraft villains, but every time they’ve shown up in WoW, it’s meant a trainwreck of an expansion, and WoW has managed to thoroughly rob them of all intimidation factor.
Ultimately I think the Legion is just not a good threat for an MMO. They’re too big, too epic, too world-changing. They’re perfect for an RTS, but an MMO just can’t handle that level of scale and do it justice. WoW is better at more subtle enemies, like the Old Gods.
I’m also very worried because they kept dropping hints that a whole bunch of major lore figures are going to die. The fact that the Doomhammer and the Ashbringer can be acquired by players strongly hints that Thrall and Tirion, at least, are going to be killed off, and Anduin’s lore blurb on the expansion site could be interpreted as a hint toward Varian dying.
Please, no. One of WoW’s biggest storytelling sins to date has been killing off it best characters far too carelessly. I’m not sure how much more they can do before I just lose all my emotional investment in the story altogether. Varian is pretty much the best character they have right now, and Warcraft without Thrall… is not really Warcraft.
On the plus side, Illidan is coming back. I am cautiously optimistic about this. We knew it was coming sooner or later, and I can only hope they at last do justice to his character, rather than making him a one-dimensional caricature as he was in Burning Crusade.
We’ll also finally be seeing Alleria and Turalyon, though no details on that yet. I never really bought into the hype over them, so I have no strong feelings one way or the other, but watch a lot of people be profoundly disappointed by this. Those two have been built up to such mythic status by the fans that disappointment is the only possible outcome.
Ironically, the non-Legion parts of Legion are intriguing. The Broken Isles is a place I’ve wanted to visit for a very long time… though I’m disappointed we’re not doing so as part of an Azshara expansion, and this makes me wonder if we’ll ever see the Azshara expansion I long for.
The really sad thing is there is going to be some Naga/Azshara presence in the expansion. There’s even a dungeon called the Eye of Azshara. Why do you torment me so, Blizz?
There’s also a zone full of a splinter cell of Vrykul, and we’ll get to delve into their history and culture, which is awesome. There’s even a dungeon that takes place aboard the Warcraft version of the ship of fingernails.
*Homer Simpson drool.*
Though it does feel like a wasted opportunity to offer Vrykul as a playable race. Which sort of seems to be the theme for Legion so far: Cool ideas that could have been way better with a bit more effort put into them.
As it turns out, you are in fact prepared:
Yes, the time has finally come. Demon hunters are the new hero class.
I’m not sure how I feel about this.
I mean, I love demon hunters. Everyone does. They’re awesome. I dressed up as one for Halloween when I was a kid. My father made me these really awesome warglaives out of cardboard and coat hangers.
They’re another pure melee class. Every single class added to the game post launch has been melee. Would it have killed them to add a bow spec?
Which brings me to another issue: Demon hunters only have two specs: Melee DPS and tanks. That just seems really underwhelming. Again, the order of the day seems to be taking cool ideas and then half-assing them.
As a warlock player, demon hunters also scare me a lot. They use demonic fury as a resource and have metamorphasis as an ability. These are the core mechanics and iconic abilities of demonology warlocks. That means we’re either going to see some really weird redundancy, or demonology locks are going to be completely gutted and turned into something unrecognizable.
I really would have rather they added demon hunters as a new spec for warlocks, or a modification of demonology.
Furthermore, demon hunters will almost certainly wear leather armour, making for a terrible amount of loot competition, and as another melee class with extremely high mobility, they fill pretty much the same niche monks did.
Mind you, I’ll still probably play one.
There are some things I like about how demon hunters are shaping up. They’ll have unique customization features similar to the death knight skins, but even more advanced. Choose your own horns, tattoos, and blindfolds. As a whole, the class looks incredibly cool.
The starting experience for demon hunters also sounds pretty amazing. Starting ten years ago as the Black Temple falls, demon hunter players will be sent on a mission from Illidan to the shattered prison world where Sargeras once housed the demons who would become the Burning Legion and embark on an epic journey from there.
That alone may be enough to sell me on this expansion.
Oh, and demon hunters are only available to Night Elves and Blood Elves.
I am bathing in the tears of Elf-haters now, and it feels wonderful.
Artifacts, class halls, and more:
Say goodbye to praying for a weapon drop in Legion. This time, players will be taking up one of thirty-six artifact weapons — one for every specialization — acquired through epic, lore-rich quest chains and upgraded across the course of the expansion.
Retribution paladins take up the Ashbringer. Fire mages travel to Northrend to recover Felo’melorn, Kael’thas’s blade lost fighting the Lich King. Frost death knights also return to the roof of the world, where they will gather the shards of Frostmourne itself and reforge them into new weapons of terrible power.
Now here’s an idea I like. If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you know this is exactly how I’ve always wanted items in RPGs to work. Gear shouldn’t be a treadmill; it should be an integral part of your character’s story and identity.
A little concerned that the passives and perks of each weapon are just a repeat of the old talent trees and all the problems inherent therein, and it will be very disappointing if this feature doesn’t continue into next expansion. Who wants to vendor the bloody Ashbringer?
Also, they made it sound as though you can upgrade your artifact through pretty much any form of content. Hopefully this signals something of a return to Wrath of the Lich King’s flexible endgame.
The other new feature is class halls. Think Acherus or the Peak of Serenity, but for everyone. I’m not entirely clear on what the point of these are, to be honest.
The only gameplay they’ve mentioned related to class halls are champions, which are sort of like followers. This does, unfortunately, confirm that our Draenor followers will have no relevance going forward, which royally sucks.
Champions are supposed to be fewer in number and more interactive than followers, and they may be major lore figures. Lady Liadrin was mentioned as a potential paladin champion. That sounds cool, but if it’s another one and done thing like garrisons, I don’t think I care.
The official site also makes mention of the long-awaited conversion to a Diablo III inspired transmogrification system, which is quite welcome. There’s also the new PvP system, but I don’t PvP, so I don’t have much to say about it.
There was mention of making dungeons more relevant again, which in theory is very good news, but there were no details, and the said the same thing before WoD, and dungeons became more of an afterthought than ever, so I’m not holding my breath.
* * *
So I’m a bit on the fence about Legion right now. It’s not the obvious disappointment Warlords of Draenor was, and it has some intriguing aspects, but I see a lot of potential pitfalls, and after WoD, my faith in Blizzard is at an all time low.
I’m still waiting for some ambition, for some really big ideas like we saw in Cataclysm or Mists of Pandaria. Where are fourth specs? Real player housing? A business model change? Class-swapping? Horizontal progression? Sub-races? These feels like a huge missed opportunity to do away with the utterly unnecessary Horde/Alliance conflict. Anything big and daring.
Hell, I’m still waiting for scenarios to come back. The game has still contracted from what it was in Pandaria.
It could be good, but I’m keeping my expectations very managed.
And yes, I was wrong about free to play with 7.0, but frankly even I’m not surprised I didn’t have that right.