After the short, rocky lifespan of previous expansion Warlords of Draenor, culminating in a subscription drop down to 5.6 million people (the lowest for the game since 2006), it’s easy to see why Blizzard might be quick to move on. Cue Gamescom 2015 and the reveal of our next adventure on Azeroth, World of Warcraft: Legion. With their presentation came tonnes of information on the new expansion, so I’m going to split this article into several subsections in order to effectively communicate the masses of info that Blizzard revealed.
First, Blizzard kicked off with an in-engine cinematic to refresh the audience of what transpired in Warlords of Draenor before showing a short, CGI teaser that reveals that, after being forced through the portal by Archimonde, Gul’dan has been skulking around, in what’s presumably either the Twisting Nether or the Tomb of Sargeras on Azeroth, and has uncovered the dormant body of infamous demon hunter Illidan Stormrage.
For a start, no more time travel or alternate universes for now, we’re going home to Azeroth for this one.
With the Tomb of Sargeras uncovered and the continent of the Broken Isles exposed, Gul’dan begins to usher in the largest Burning Legion invasion ever, something that nobody on the entire planet is prepared for. Just let that digest for a second. The War of the Ancients and the attempted summoning of the dark titan Sargeras at the Well of Eternity 10,000 years ago pales in comparison to the present Legion’s fury. Once again it’s the heroes of Azeroth’s job to meet the Legion head on and halt their invasion by reassembling a great titan artifact using the pillars of creation left behind by the shapers of Azeroth. Although it seems like he will feature heavily in the expansion’s story, seemingly being the box art model for the expansion, it is unclear what Illidan’s role will be in the story of Legion.
Also, if you missed legendary Alliance heroes Turalyon and Alleria Windrunner, they’re coming back.
New Class: Demon Hunter
It always seemed inevitable that with the return of Illidan, demon hunters as a class would be quick to follow. Of course, what better way to counter the masses of demons that comprise the Burning Legion?
With their backs against the wall, the wardens of the imprisoned demon hunters decide to release the once shamed elves in order to aid the fight against the legion. As a class, demon hunter will only be playable by Night Elves of the Alliance and Blood Elves of the Horde. They will be a leather-wearing hybrid melee class and will have two specs: Havoc for dps and Vengeance to tank. Although demon hunters will be a hero class, much like the Death Knights, it is unclear at what level they will start at. The unique starting zone has Illidan’s most skilled demon hunters, at the time of our assault on Black Temple during The Burning Crusade, embark on a secret mission to a Legion-controlled prison world.
With superior mobility and the powers of the legion, powerful glaive-wielding Demon Hunters are able to use powerful skills fueled by their hatred for the Legion, such as the ability to see enemies through obstacles, demon metamorphosis and a double jump ability.
Artifact Weapons and Class Order Halls
One huge, but niche, success from Mists of Pandaria was the challenging questline for warlocks that rewarded the cosmetic effect of green fire to their spells. Building upon this, Legion will have you build and upgrade you own spec-specific artifact weapon that can be customised both cosmetically and mechanically to your preference and play style. These weapons aren’t just any old weapons either. For example, retribution paladins will be able to wield the fated Ashbringer, whereas frost death knights will forge dual runeblades from the shattered shards of Frostmourne found at the top of the Frozen Throne.
These weapons seem to be replacing the often criticised model of the legendary item quest from the past two expansions (which felt very much like one long, required chore) instead of opting for a forgable weapon that improves with you throughout the Legion’s leveling experience. With each artifact having its own talent tree and customisable cosmetic skins (for example, the choice between the purified or the corrupted Ashbringer), it’s ensured that players will still retain a sense of individuality when wielding these great weapons. Also, fret not if you are a shapeshifting druid that usually misses out on enjoying your cool weapons and armour, because the artifact weapon for druids will alter the appearance of their shapeshifting forms according to your customisation.
Replacing garrisons in this expansions are class order halls and unique faction hubs for each class. Players justifiably felt isolated in their garrisons, but class order halls will allow you to hang out with members of your same class in a class-specific faction hub (for example, a sanctum under Light’s Hope Chapel for paladins and a hollow overlooking the Maelstrom for shamans). As you can only enter your class’ specific class order hall, much like Archerus in the death knight starting zone, I can see people leveling a lot of alts just to experience each class’ order hall. As the wielder of such a mythical weapon and a commander that lead the charge against the Iron Horde, it’s up to the player to re-establish these class orders. These hubs will be the central area to customise your artifact weapon, which feature a scaled down follower system that focuses more on the player going out into the world and doing cool things, rather than your followers having all the fun. For example, you could send a follower to scout out a Satyr-filled lair and once they return they give you a buff or extra rewards when you head into the lair yourself.
New Continent: Broken Isles and Level Cap Raised To 110
With a higher level cap comes new zones and a new questing experience. The Broken Isles is made up of six zones that, as of this point time, are not specified by level: The Broken Shore, Azsuna, Suramar, Val’Sharah, Highmountain and Stormheim. All that is known about the progression through these zones is that our journey will begin by landing on The Broken Shore, with the pre-patch event occurring at the Tomb of Sargeras. Val’sharah, once the home of the first Night Elf druids, has now been corrupted by the demon Xavius and the tainted world tree Shaladrassil as the Emerald Nightmare threatens to bleed into the rest of Azeroth. Stormheim is an ancient, nordic inspired zone which will reveal the origins of both the val’kyr and vry’kul that left Northrend thousands of years ago in search of their holy land. Fans of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim are sure to feel at home in this zone. Azsuna is another zone that has its roots dug deep into ancient night elf civilisation, where the ghosts of night elves past and the naga minions of Queen Azshara dwell in search of the zones Pillar of Creation. This zone will also introduce the nightfallen, a sub race of disgraced elves that have been exiled from Suramar. Highmountain is home to a peaceful, indigenous species of tauren and the not-so-peaceful drogbar, who have destroyed the balance of peace by stealing the Highmountain tauren’s powerful artifact; the Hammer of Khaz’goroth. The rough terrain of Highmountain very much looks like a mix between Mulgore, Grizzly Hills and Howling Fjord with a splash of Mount Hyjal. Finally, Sarumar is home to the beautiful night elven palace of luxury that once overlooked the Well of Eternity, the source of incredible magical energy of Azeroth. It is in this marvelous palace that Gul’dan has made his sanctum.
In addition to the new zones in Legion, Khadgar and mages of the Kirin-Tor have moved the floating city of Dalaran to the forefront of the action, harking the return of a neutral city.
Dungeons and Raids
Many praised the dungeon and raid encounter design of Warlords of Draenor, a bright spot in what many considered to be a disappointing expansion. However, although Blizzard are happy with their schedule and composition format for raids, they want to place more emphasis and resources on creating better dungeons moving forward and giving players a reason to run them all throughout the expansion.
Stormheim will feature two dungeons that represent the two polar opposites of the vry’kul afterlife. The Halls of Valor is a dungeon high in the sky that represents the holy land for great heroes of the Vry’kul and is a realm inspired by Valhalla, where heroes will have to prove their worthiness in order to earn the Pillar of Creation. The second dungeon in Stormheim, Hellheim, features a mechanic much like the moving train in WoD dungeon Grimrail Depot as players ride a ghostship-esque vessel of souls into the very mouth of Vry’kul hell.
Other dungeons in the expansion that weren’t described in depth include the Vault of the Wardens, the demon hunter prison where you begin the hunt for Illidan, a reworked Violet Hold in Dalaran, the lair of the once Aspect of Earth Neltharion, Eye of Azshara, Darkheart Thicket and Black Rook Hold.
The first raid of the expansion will take us into the Emerald Nightmare where we will finally defeat Xavius and halt the Nightmare from spreading to the rest of Azeroth. The second raid in the base expansion will have heroes storm Sarumar Palace, attacking by route of underground catacombs much like our assault on the Black Temple, and it is ensured that final boss Gul’dan will not escape this time. The Emerald Nightmare raid will contain seven bosses, whereas Sarumar Palace will contain ten. It can be assumed that, following the same schedule as WoD, the Emerald Nightmare raid will open first, with Sarumar Palace following a few weeks later. The contents of any raids in future patches are all up for speculation right now.
Changes To PVP
Blizzard have acknowledged that PVP relying on gear so much is a bad thing, with much less emphasis being placed on player skill. They are working to further separate PVP and PVE by creating PVP-only talent trees which give you talent points as you pvp more. Talents include a six-second mass magic dispel with a 20-second cooldown, a 15% haste buff and an attack that temporarily absorbs enemy heals.
Another PVP change coming in Legion is the option to reset your honour level and start again in a prestige system, very similar to that found in Call of Duty, for cosmetic rewards and mounts. One such cosmetic reward is an exclusive customisable skin for each spec’s artifact weapon.
Despite the fact that it looks like changes are going in the right direction for WoW, the lack of any new battlegrounds, arenas or open-world PVP areas was noticeable.
Questions and Final Thoughts
Although it seems like we’re heading into another Legion-centric expansion, it is very unclear who the final boss will be. We’ve already been told that Gul’dan will not escape from the encounter in the Suramar Palace, but Blizzard have lied before about final expansion bosses (*cough* Grom Hellscream). I can’t imagine that Kil’Jaden will be making a return, as back-to-back Eredar final bosses in expansions would feel majorly uninspired. I also can’t imagine that Sargeras will be the final goal of this expansion because he is essentially the root of all evil on and off Azeroth, besides the old gods, and the leader of the Burning Legion. Killing Sargeras would leave World of Warcraft with nowhere else to go that doesn’t feel like a letdown.
One thing that I hope does not happen is Queen Azshara being relegated to merely the boss of one patch. I’m optimistic that, because her allegiances now lie with the old god N’Zoth rather than the Burning Legion (although we may be fighting her minions for a Pillar of Creation), we will not see her in the flesh until the old god’s time is nigh. The Night Elf that originally spearheaded the summoning that begun the War of the Ancients and perhaps the most powerful Naga in existence, I feel like the Queen of the Sea should only play second fiddle to her old god master in her own realm.
What sounds very exciting is the fact that every single zone seems to be seeping with rich lore and individual stories. Seeing how Blizzard’s storytelling in the leveling experience has improved across each expansion, I’m certainly confident in their ability to deliver an amazing experience from levels 100-110.
All in all I think the best way to describe my reaction to the reveal of World of Warcraft: Legion would be cautiously optimistic.