By Drew Lovell. This is LOAD FILE, where we’ve quit playing ‘WoW’ for the 7th time today… naw, really, we mean it this time. This week, Drew reviews ‘World of Warcraft: Legion’ from Blizzard Entertainment for the PC.
World of Warcraft has been in our public consciousness for nearly 16 years. When you consider other franchise games and how short-lived many of them turn out to be, it really lets that sentiment sink in. 16 years of running from point A to point B because some pixelated Elf told you so, 16 years of killing a bear only to find it doesn’t have any eyeballs for you to loot (somehow), 16 years of shield-blocking-sword-swinging-fireball-casting glory. After Diablo 3, which I consider to be one of the most poorly delivered and over-hyped gaming launches of my own gaming history, I had decided to call it quits with Blizzard for awhile. However, in the last month or so, Blizzard’s inexorable marketing juggernaut clicked back into full gear and I found myself reactivating my WoW account in anticipation of Legion.
HOW CAN WE DANCE WHILE AZEROTH IS TURNING
Demonic hordes have invaded the world of Azeroth, the black sheep of the Night Elves, Illidan, has been set free, and it is up to you rally the troops and set things right. Got all that? Because right out of the gate Legion does away with WoW‘s patented introductory quest, that drawn-out exercise that leaves you anxiously running errands for some schmuck while the whole world continues to burn around you. Instead, the expansion starts off with a quick journey to acquire an iconic artifact weapon which you will continue to wield for the rest of the expansion. From there you head to the magical floating wizard fortress of Dalaran, which acts as the game’s main hub. Notable characters from WoW’s history continue to call on you for unique class quests that have you venturing to locations new and old. The developers spent considerable time retooling the entire class system, and when everything comes together Legion feels extremely cohesive.
HOW CAN WE SLEEP WHILE OUR BEDS ARE BURNING
Gone are the days of linear questing which railroaded players from one zone to the next. Legion has adopted a much more open-ended and narrative-focused system that scales to your character’s power so that you can choose your own path. What really stands out though is how interwoven the various plotlines are with one another, and how the story continues to develop once you reach max level. (In past iterations players often came to an abrupt halt in both storyline and character progression once the leveling experience was over.) The “soloing content” experience of Legion culminates in unlocking world quests (which vaguely resemble the on-demand system of Skyrim), as well as unlocking Suramar, an endgame-oriented zone which progresses as you play. I’m still unlocking many of the secrets of Suramar, but it feels like it has near endless depth. I’m pleasantly surprised that Blizzard included something like this at the launch rather than delaying it for a future content patch.
The progression and character class systems go hand in hand. Nearly everything players do in the game gives them the opportunity to level up their artifact weapon, and much like the questing system this extends beyond the level cap. Having tangible alternate progression systems has always been something I felt past versions of the game were sorely lacking. Additionally, class halls are trophy room-style areas which can be built up and advanced and all have their own individual lore and flavor that ties in with your class. As cool and rewarding as these features are, they do feel like they are lacking in genuine player choice. They certainly give players a carrot on a stick, but any forks along the way feel like illusions, rather than opportunities to make an impactful decision.
My favorite aspect amongst all this gloriousness has been the dungeons. There are ten currently available (two of which are gated) and recently Blizzard announced Kharazan’s return as an extended-length dungeon in a future patch. The dungeons have genuine character and whether that’s due to the bosses or the settings they each have something different to offer.
Among them, Maw of Souls takes first prize. If you’re feeling bold, assemble a party of your besties and set forth on the river Styx-ish seafaring expedition, which largely takes place on a ship of bone and wood. Ghost pirates abound but the final boss Helya, an ancient Poseidon-like sea-goddess, has other plans for you. Her encounter is incredible and everything going on from start to finish in the dungeon embodies what this game ought to be.
Finally, the dungeons come in three difficulties — the hardest of which is “Mythic” — offering just enough challenge to keep the boss fights engaging. Soon comes a fourth difficulty mode, “Mythic+,” which will offer a toggle-able scaling difficulty so that you can continue to push the envelope of small group content.
THE TIME HAS COME, A FACT’S A FACT
Can World of Warcraft still feel fresh 16 years later? In short, yes!
This feels less like an expansion and more like WoW 2.0. So much so that it’s a shame Legion is even linked to the original game; surely it would be better off as a fresh standalone, laying a foundation for something new. The necessity to trudge through stale content just to enjoy new content hinders the game — but only slightly. Players did not respond well to the most recent previous expansion (the odious Warlords of Draenor), and it had become apparent that Blizzard had become complacent with their success. The developers recognized this, and with Legion they’ve gone back to the drawing board by revitalizing many features that might’ve been taken for granted in the past. Legion was not what I had expected. It’s a fresh, deep, polished game, but most importantly, it is epic in the truest sense of the word.
Developed by Blizzard Entertainment.
Published by Blizzard Entertainment.
Directed by Tom Chilton and Alex Afrasiabi.
Designed by Cory Stockton, Ion Hazzikostas, Brian Holinka, and Chadd Nervig.
Platform(s): Microsoft Windows, OS X
9.5 out of 10