Reviewing a MMORPG within the first few weeks of launch is a difficult task. World of Warcraft: Legion presents players with a vast array of new features and fundamental overhauls to many core game features. With so many classes and the addition of Demon Hunters, each with unique class order campaigns, providing a comprehensive review beyond superficial leveling impressions can be daunting.
It is difficult to overstate the scale and scope of World of Warcraft. The sheer scale of the world Blizzard has created has always made me skeptical of early reviews of past expansions. While I understand the pressure to produce a definitive review score on a product shortly after release I don’t believe that those reviews hold any validity, particularly in MMORPGS where success is judged by long term sustained player interest and the quality of expansions rather than early box sales.
With the unique space occupied by MMOS a meaningful review requires more than a cursory jaunt through the leveling experience, something that can be completed in a day or so of game time. The long term success of a MMO depends almost entirely on the quality of “end game” progression content that players invest the majority of their time in. Experiencing maximum level content, by design, requires a great deal of time.
I have played through the leveling experience and reached exalted with most of the factions including the end game Suramar zone. In the process I have had time to thoroughly play through the new world quest system and character progression through the current dungeons and raid. Even so there is a great deal of content I have not completed even a month from the launch of Legion. The fact that I have not exhausted the current content bodes well for the success of Legion.
Can the latest expansion to World of Warcraft revive the fortunes of the iconic franchise? Legion is the most promising expansion in years, featuring a vast array of new features and clearly communicated plans for future development in the coming 7.1 Patch. Blizzard has made it clear that the Warcraft universe remains a central focus of their future plans, I expect announcements at Blizzcon X will further cement the decision to move in this direction with the announcement of a Warcraft IV real time strategy expansion. This expansion will provide further depth and expansion to the emerging epic Legion story arc.
Despite a strong launch and favorable reviews World of Warcraft faces challenging competition in a much more crowded MMO market. The Legion expansion has fixed many of the problems made in previous expansions in an effort to return the player base to previous heights. World of Warcraft’s success depends on long term player retention something that Warlords of Draenor struggled with. Blizzard has addressed many of the major flaws of Warlords by returning stylistically to the epic story telling and a broad spectrum of highly polished compelling content that propelled Warcraft to greatness in the past. Clear influences from the popular Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Litch King expansions are evident in the design and layout of the Broken Isles and throughout the Legion expansion.
In an effort to restore lost faith Blizzard has demonstrated a renewed determination to return World of Warcraft to the high standards that made The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Litch King expansions enormously popular. In many respects World of Warcraft Legion is a reaction to the poor performance of the previous Warlords of Draenor expansion.
The primary criticism of Warlords of Draenor centered around the general lack of content and the focus on the Garrison player housing system. The Garrison system rewarded players for managing followers and resources without ever having to leave to interact with other players out in Draenor beyond the initial leveling experience. With few incentives to interact with the world the zones of Warlords of Draenor were often sparsely populated giving a sense of desolation and decline particularly on lower population servers.
The Burning Legion has returned, Azeroth faces annihilation once again. The epicenter of the Legion invasion is the Broken Isles, site of the tomb of Sargeras and the Vault of the Wardens where the remains of Illidan Stormrage and his army of Demon Hunters are interred.
The gravity of the War against the Legion is driven home early on in the leveling experience, as several characters central to Warcraft fall in rapid succession. With both the Alliance and Horde reeling from the loss of their leaders and their armies. resistance against the Legion falls to player Heroes, now the commander of their respective class orders. Each class order must unleash their most powerful artifact weapons to stand against the Legion.
Motivation is crucial to player investment in any game, at times World of Warcraft has fallen short of providing reasons for players to log on, particularly during long content droughts of Warlords of Draenor. Blizzard has taken steps to ensure that more content is available and gradually released, the coming 7.1 patch and the reintroduction of the tower of Karazahn, previously a ten player raid in the Burning Crusade expansion gives players something concrete and tantalizing to look forward to.
Patch 7.1 Karazhan
World of Warcraft must be judged on the quality of several distinct areas of content. Legion builds upon the success of previous World of Warcraft expansions while simultaneously modernizing many core aspects of gameplay. Introducing a variety of new systems, including World Quests and Artifact Weapons.
In Legion the armies of the Alliance and the Horde have been decimated during the initial Legion invasion. With key leaders either dead or missing in action the resistance against the Legion has fallen to the class orders. Finding and empowering legendary artifact weapons is the both one of the main campaign story focuses and player progression systems in Legion.
The leveling experience in Legion has been greatly improved by the level sync system. Players are free to chose which zone of the Broken Isles they would prefer to focus on. There is no linear progression forced on players. Each zone offers a compelling story driven experience complete with in game cinematics and frequent voice overs progressing the plot provided by central characters.
Each class Order hall has been designed to have mythical significance to each class, adding much needed depth to the lore of each class and understanding of why and how each class fights. The class hall for Warriors is literally Valhalla, Viking Heaven while the Warlocks possess their own Legion dread planet, Demon Hunters have commandeered a Legion spacefaring battlecruiser.
World of Warcraft has always been a lore centered progression game, focusing on raids and dungeons. Though player versus player elements have been added over time, the overwhelming development focus has been on building the actual World of World of Warcraft and its environment encounters. Many expansions, including Legion have added no new battlegrounds The long term success of previous World of Warcraft expansions has largely hinged on the success of the core end game raid content. The quality of these encounters, if they achieve the signature Blizzard level of “epic” has been hit or miss.
An expansion development pivot towards a quick launch cycle between expansions has clearly been problematic for Blizzard. Blizzard has always succeeded in the past by having “its done when its ready” approach to development, a philosophy that has meant long development periods but has often produced iconic genre defining intellectual properties that rival anything in movies or television for social impact.
Legion Features Overview
Legion Features – What to Expect from Legion
World of Warcraft: Legion features an enormous amount of new content and has been widely received as the best Expansion since Wrath of the Litch King. Currently Legion has enjoyed strong Metacritic reviews, demonstrating that World of Warcraft remains incredibly resilient despite the disappointing reception of the previous Warlords of Draenor expansion.
In addition to the rich content currently available at launch, Blizzard already has promising new content in development for the next major content patch 7.1: Return to Karazhan.
Karazhan was originally a ten player raid from the Burning Crusade expansion. In Legion Kharazhan has been overhauled to become a challenging Mythic Dungeon, a form of mini raid that provides raid level difficulty to smaller five player groups.
Major System Updates
World of Warcraft: Legion has completely overhauled character progression. Central to these changes is the new Artifact Weapon System which allows for character to empower their Artifact Weapon, providing additional abilities and play style options for characters.
Legion Dungeon Previews:
Player versus Player
New Broken Isles Continent
A shattered continent at the center of the world of Azeroth. Epicenter of the War of the Ancients. Ground zero of the Legion Invasion!
The five new zones of the Broken Isles: Stormheim, Highmountain, Val’Sharah, Azsuna and the max level Suramar each have their own unique geography and themes coupled with an extensive story driven leveling experience. All zones of the Broken isles are scaled to the level of the player, allowing for characters to progress in any zone order they choose.
Demon Hunters are a powerful and versatile new class available in Legion. High damage and survivability paired with enormous mobility due to the Demon Hunter’s ability to double jump and glide with their wings. Demon Hunters excel as both tanks and damage dealers.
Demon Hunters have a backstory steeped in World of Warcraft Lore, linked to the anti-hero Illidan without spoilers the Demon Hunter leveling experience starts at level 98 plunges new and returning players into the war against the Legion.