Review: World of Warcraft’s “Legion” expansion
A whole new Wooooorrld... of Warcraft.
Ahhh, World of Warcraft — the first, true hit MMORPG. The game everyone thinks of when the term MMO is even mentioned; the stick by which all newcomers to the genre are measured. From way back in 2004 when adventurers first plunged into Azeroth and united to fight off the fire lord Ragnaros, it’s held a special place in the hearts of many. Things haven’t been too great for the once god-like game of late, with waning subscriber numbers and a lack of player interest due to a couple of lacklustre expansions and outdated systems that just couldn’t hold up in today’s gaming landscape. Blizzard, creators of the series, decided they’d had enough — it was time to take back the crown as the MMO king.
This is where World of Warcraft’s newest expansion, “Legion” comes in. The sixth add-on to hit Azeroth, it brings back some old friends into the fold. Set in the Broken Isles, “Legion” pitches you back against the Burning Legion and features six areas for players to jump into and explore. Dalaran is your new city hub, freshly relocated from its former home in Northrend and teleported to the Broken Isles to serve as a staging point for your fight. The five other zones are the levelling areas for the expansion and feature a whole host of characters, new and old, to catch up with over the course of the story. “Legion” also brings with it a whole new class — the Demon Hunter — alongside Artifact weapons, Class orders to replace the much maligned Garrison system from “Warlords of Draenor”, a raised level cap and of course a bunch of new dungeons, raids and world boss encounters.
For most people, “Legion” begins at the site of a huge battle in the Broken Isles. The Broken Shore features the tomb of Sargeras, a particularly nasty bloke who has been causing trouble in Azeroth since the very beginning. Here you’ll come face to face with Gul’Dan, another all-round nasty guy who you’ve faced down many times before, as he tries to bring the Burning Legion back into Azeroth to bring about the end of the world. It’s fair to say things don’t go to plan though as the Horde and Alliance become split apart and are ultimately both defeated at the hands of the Burning Legion. Back home in your respective capital city – Stormwind or Ogrimmar – you’ll mourn your losses before heading to Dalaran to take the fight to the Legion itself.
It’s this opening section that really sets the tone for the expansion. Major characters bite the dust for both the Alliance and the Horde and that’s just the beginning, many more will meet their maker before stories end. It all serves to show that this isn’t some minor conflict, this is a large scale invasion and the stakes are high. There has always been rich lore in World of Warcraft but previously a large majority of the story was locked up in pages of quest text. Thankfully Legion has gone a long way towards fixing this with a lot of the story moved into cut scenes or even in to dialogue spoken by the characters, rather than just written down, and it does wonders for player immersion.
With the stage set for the expansion and Dalaran freshly teleported to its new location above the Broken Isles it’s time to dive into “Legion” proper. Almost immediately you’ll be approached by a representative of your Class Order who gives you a quest to track down your first Artifact weapon. Artifact weapons are the only weapons players will acquire across “Legion” and feature an upgrade tree for players to further pick and choose their play style from. Purchasing these upgrades requires a special resource called Artifact power, given as a reward for many quests to keep your weapons progression chugging along. Specific nodes can also be unlocked via special runes, this node stays unlocked for as long you have the matching rune equipped. Each individual specialization within a class has its own Artifact that upgrades abilities specific to that spec, so make sure whatever weapon you choose first matches what you’ll be playing for the start of “Legion”.
While having one weapon for a whole expansion may sound dull, it’s actually turns out to be a huge positive. I found myself becoming quite attached to my twinblades, and the options to upgrade their bonuses to suit you are welcome to say the least. There’s no more need to hunt the optimal weapon for your build or spec, instead you’re given it right away and tasked with earning upgrades to hone its efficiency. It’s a nice change from the loot grind found in most MMO’s these days and is big selling point for “Legion”. These weapons mean something too; they’re not just some weapon that drops from a boss mob that you’ll never think about again. Instead, there’s a story in them, in the earning of them, that adds to the lore of World of Warcraft. If you’re put off by the idea of having a weapon that looks the same for the hundreds of hours you’ll likely be playing “Legion” for then don’t worry — Blizzard has thought of that too. Each weapon has various looks to it that don’t change the actual stats or function, all of which can be customised in your class hall.
Shortly after earning your new uber weapon you’ll be beckoned to a new location, your Class Hall. I’ve mentioned this a few times in passing so far, but it’s one of the places you’ll spend the most time in “Legion”. Each Class has its own special hang out where you’ll do everything from upgrade your Artifact weapons to launch missions against the gathering Legion. The Class Hall is essentially a better implemented version of the Garrison from “Warlords of Draenor”. No longer are you alone in your own private instance; instead you’ll see other players coming and going to and from missions. It’s here that you’ll find your Champions — NPCs that you send out into the world to complete their own missions and give you the rewards. You’ll find everything from gold to Artifact power on offer in the mission select screen with new missions popping up every few hours. Most take between 2 and 6 hours to complete, but there are some even longer ones which offer special rewards only available from completing that mission. These NPC follower missions are a welcome change up from regular questing and, with the addition of the World of Warcraft Companion app, are far easier to grind than the Garrison quests.
So you’re set, you’ve got a kick ass new weapon and a whole bunch of people you just met that are willing to call you their leader. What next? Well it’s time to stop the Legion, but to do that you’ll need to unite the Broken Isles and use the combined might of the Pillars of Creation to stop the flood of the Burning Legion. It’s time for some housekeeping. To begin with you’re offered a choice of the four levelling zones in the Isles; Azsuna, Val’sharah, Highmountain or Stormheim. Each features its own story and cast of characters to get to know in your search for the Pillars of Creation. I started my journey in Stormheim, a Norse themed land that’s home to the Vrykul, because, well, it sounded cool. Unfortunately, it really wasn’t.
Perhaps it’s because I’m not 100% up to speed on Warcraft lore, or maybe it’s because as a Demon Hunter I missed the opening section other classes have in “Legion”, but Stormheim was a nonsensical cluster for me. I spent most of my time confused as to what I was doing and why, but I soldiered on none the less. My journey took me across the land as I proved myself worthy to the gods and actively sabotaged the Hordes campaign in the area. As it turns out, the pinnacle of the campaign in Stormheim is actually incredibly important to both the Alliance and Horde stories, something I never would have understood unless I went back and started levelling my Priest with another friend. The final step in Stormheim, as in all of the zones, is a dungeon to collect the Pillar of Creation from that area. After all of the confusion I’d experienced in Stormheim I decided it was best to hold off on that until I had a better grasp on what was going on.
After my first somewhat failed foray into “Legion” I was somewhat disheartened, but determined not to give up. There’s a reason so many people pay their hard earned cash to play this game every month, and I was going to find out why. I returned to my class hall on the Fel Hammer and chose my next destination: Azsuna. Azsuna is a land destroyed before the Sundering even happened thanks to the wrath of one Queen Azshara. She fell to the demonic temptations of Sargeras and, when Prince Farondis attempted to rebel, doomed him and his people to undeath for eternity. 10,000 years later, we arrive to a land wracked by dark energy and full of the ghosts of the Nightborn.
Man, Aszuna is a blast. The story in Azsuna is one of the best told in the whole of “Legion” (which is saying quite a lot, actually) and there are multiple quests that are legitimately fun. From saving Senegos and his Blue Dragon Flight to redeeming Farondis in the eyes of his people, Blizzard has weaved a tale full of interesting quests and characters. One in particular goes by the name of Runas the Shamed, a Nightfallen mana addict who decides to help you in the fight to save Senegos. His story is equal parts comedy and tragedy, and is one I won’t soon forget. There’s even an entire area that’s essentially Hogwarts. Revitalised, I quested through to the Eye of Azshara and decided it was time to dive into the dungeons of “Legion”.
If you’re not familiar with World of Warcraft, dungeons are five player instances that pit players against enemies far tougher than they could hope to beat alone. With a tank, a healer and 3 damage dealers, players smash their way through boss encounters using team work and brain smarts. As a Havoc Demon Hunter, I chose DPS, selected the two dungeons I needed to complete and dived in. My first stop was the Halls of Valor, a dungeon themed around the Norse mythology of Stormheim. In what is essentially a battle through Valhalla, you’ll eventually take on Odyn to claim the Aegis of Agrammar, the Pillar of Creation for the zone. This dungeon is a blast, with several cool boss mechanics and some really well designed areas. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about the Eye of Azshara. Maybe it was just the group I had, but the area was nowhere near as fun to fight through and the final boss was a bit of a push over.
Despite that, I had a lot of fun with the dungeons in “Legion”. They’re generally pretty interesting and are a welcome break from regular questing. I have few friends that actually play World of Warcraft, so I was forced into the Dungeon Finder to track down player groups. Across all the dungeons so far I’ve only had one bad group and for the most part other players have been totally cool with how much I suck at dodging area of effect attacks.
The final two levelling zones are Highmountain and Val’sharah, and they’re both a lot of fun as well. Highmountain follows the elevation of a new High Chieftain to the local Tauren tribe and her efforts to reunite her split people. There are some interesting twists and turns in the story here and I thoroughly enjoyed playing as the gloriously overpowered Huln Highmountain for a mission set in the past. Val’sharah sees the return of Malfurion Stormrage, brother of Illidan, and Tyrande Whisperwind as they attempt to quell a fell invasion into their lands. I was thoroughly unprepared for one of the big twists in the campaign here, one that I won’t spoil, but holy damn. Val’sharah undoubtedly has the best standalone story of the four zones. Once you hit 110 you’re given access to the final zone of the Broken Isles, Suramar. Outside of your class hall, this is undoubtedly where you’ll be pouring most of your time into “Legion”. There are a bunch of long chapters to be found here, so many in fact that I haven’t even finished the area yet in my 30 hours of play.
It took me about 22 of those hours to get my Demon Hunter from 98 to 110, and that’s largely ignoring side-quests. That’s a decent amount of content by anyone’s standards, but I’m not even close to seeing or doing all there is in the Broken Isles. Once you’ve achieved friendly status with all 5 factions in the Isles you’re given access to world quests, special quests that give you high level gear, order resources and Artifact power, that adds who knows how many more hours of gameplay on top of the main campaigns. There’s your class campaign too, that has you chasing your other class Artifact’s and attempting to bring glory to your class.
There’s additional dungeons, plus the raids which require a high item level to enter; so much so, I haven’t even been able to touch them yet. There is so much to do in “Legion” it’s crazy, especially as someone who’s MMO experience isn’t much wider than Destiny. I’ve tried others and always found them wanting. The end game may be fun, but getting to end game content in most games is so dull that I inevitably give up. It’s been that way for WoW in the past, too. I’ve played both Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich king and I never managed to fully level a character before now. Maybe it’s the reworked systems, maybe it’s the cool Artifact’s or maybe, just maybe, it’s because I realised somewhere back around Azsuna that I was actually having fun.
A lot of that probably stems from the fact that “Legion” has one of the best stories in the series to date. Blizzard has always done story well but has often struggled to tell it in game, in “Legion” though they seem to have finally nailed down a system that works. With the exception of Stormheim, I’ve enjoyed nearly every hour I’ve spent questing through the Broken Isles. World of Warcraft: Legion goes a long way towards fixing the issues plaguing the series. While it doesn’t quite squash them all, it’s leaps and bounds ahead of the last two expansion packs in terms of content and all round fun. Even now I can’t wait until I can next dive back in to Azeroth and continue my journey through the Broken Isles.
World of Warcraft: Legion was reviewed using a promotional code on PC as provided by the publisher.
Review: World of Warcraft: Legion