The sixth expansion for the insanely long-running and incredibly popular World of Warcraft was released at the end of August, titled Legion, and all early indications are that it looks like a return to form for the MMO. Sales and subscriber numbers have spiked, and more importantly, reviews of the new content have been glowing. At this point, we’ve had our hands on Legion for just over a week, we’ve leveled a character to 110, run through some dungeons, and dabbled with Demon Hunters, and we’ve had a lot of fun with it. So, we decided to summarize the things we’ve experienced with the expansion thus far which make us very secure in recommending that if you’re a lapsed WoW player, or even someone just now looking to break into the game, why Legion is more than worth your time and money.
WARNING: The following list will contain plot-related spoilers for Legion content.
13. It’s Little, And Broken Isles, But Still Good
One of the early complaints going into this expansion was the map itself. Simply put, the Broken Isles are not large, and compare unfavorably when put up against other landmasses introduced in previous expansions, such as Northrend, Pandaria, or Draenor/Outland, leading some to cry out that Legion was the “smallest expansion ever”. But while the actual zones of the Isles are technically small, they don’t feel that way when you’re out there, on the ground. And when we say “on the ground”, we mean it, because flying in Broken Isles is locked behind achievements (just like in Warlords, except this time we know that from the start). And we’re okay with it, because traversing the Isles and its varied environments is enjoyable, since the smaller size means everything is easily accessible. And given that you’ll be regularly returning to each zone for World Quests on a regular basis, making it so you’re not spending the majority of your time getting to the objectives is important. Plus, what the zones lack in size, they often make up for in verticality, as you’ll find yourself travelling up and down almost as much as you go across the land.
12. Hunting Demons For Fun And Profit
Sure, the lore behind Demon Hunters existing doesn’t particularly make sense, but it’s not like that’s ever stopped Blizzard before. The important thing is that the second “hero” class in WoW is incredibly cool and fun to play, really feeling like something different from the other classes. In addition, Blizzard clearly learned from the biggest mistake they made with Death Knights, which was the fact that once you finished the introductory quest, you were forced to complete the previous expansion’s content in order to level up your character so you could finally get into the new stuff. With Demon Hunters, finishing your initial quests dumps you straight into Legion content with everyone else, which means you won’t lag behind everyone else who just stuck with their original characters. Plus, Blizzard did a smart thing by keeping Demon Hunters limited to only two specializations (Tank and DPS), rather than try to force some sort of unwieldy third one just to fit the template of the other classes (we’re looking at you for the longest time, Survival Hunters). Oh, and they’re super overpowered as tanks right now, so take advantage of that while you can.
11. The Improved Garrison
One of the biggest and most controversial features of Warlords of Draenor was the garrison system, which gave each player their own base of operations, which came fully stocked with everything you needed, including raw materials for crafting, a hub for daily quests, and a group of minions that you could send out on missions to farm gold and items for you. The problem was, the garrison was so self-sufficient that, between it and the dungeon finder, there was no reason for anyone to ever leave their own personal instance and interact with anyone else. The garrisons of Warlords have been correctly blamed for many things, including a crash in the WoW economy, dissolving guilds, and a serious decline in subscribers. And now they’re back in Legion! Don’t worry though, Blizzard paid attention to the failures of Warlords, and the new “Class Halls”, which are unique for each class and instanced for everyone on your particular server group (instead of only one person), take some of the good parts of garrisons, and tossed out the bad. There are reasons to hang out for a little while, especially it terms of plot progression (plus they all look really cool), but even at max level, you’ll still have to go out in the world to do World Quests, use your gathering professions, and acquire the resources needed to perform duties in your hall. Speaking of which…
10. Professions That Matter
Gathering professions probably suffered more than anything else in Warlords, thanks to every garrison containing an herb garden and mine that you could use to gather crafting materials even without the specialization, as well as options for buildings that could allow you to earn and process the materials for every other profession. Well, that whole system is gone in Legion, and you’re back to scouring the map for your plants and minerals (hey, remember when we mentioned how it’s a good thing the zones in Legion are smaller? This is another reason why). Fortunately, another annoying aspect of gathering professions that had cropped up in WoW over the years is also falling by the wayside, as you no longer need to farm up 10 “fractions” of a single material in order to get a single usable piece, and there are even ways to improve your skills in order to get more drops each time you use your gathering profession. Sure, the recipes have expanded to require more materials to somewhat counter-balance the change, but at least you feel like you’re accomplishing more when you pick up a whole stack of Fjarskaggl (yes, that’s what it’s really called) instead of dozens of “broken stems” that combine into a depressingly small number of actual plants. Plus, crafting professions get a boost as well, with things like the return of high-level gear having sockets for gems, and craftable items that are actually comparable to dungeon drops.
9. Questing From Your Phone
A week after launch, Blizzard introduced the Legion app for your smartphone, which is a great idea considering how they’ve implemented one of the holdovers from the garrison system in Warlords. In Legion, you still have a pool of followers you can send out to get items (mostly consumables to power up your artifact weapon, which we’ll get to), but at this point, there are only a handful of them (as well as the ability to create “disposable” followers that help add to your mission success percentage, but get “used up” within two or three missions), and every mission takes multiple hours. This is especially true of the actual quests related to progressing your class hall, which can each take upwards of 12 hours to complete and require multiple missions to finish a single step of the quest line. What the phone app does is alert you when missions have been completed, and lets you send them back out again, any time you’re away from your computer. That’s incredibly convenient for those of us with day jobs who can’t be logged into WoW 20 hours a day, and it also has a couple of other cool features, like showing you a map of the Broken Isles with all the available World Quests for that day, letting you plan ahead while still pretending to work at your regular job! Not that we would ever do that sort of thing. Ahem.
8. Scaling Zones
Sure, it’s nice to go back the Northrend as a lvl 100 character and two-shot the Lich King because you can (and also because he drops a cool mount sometimes), but the fact that early content of an expansion is rendered obsolete simply because the act of gaining ten levels makes you able to kill things in that area by breathing on them has always led to a lot of early quests never getting finished, areas never being explored, and a lot of content quickly falling by the wayside. Well, Blizzard has changed things up for Legion, with a system they showed off during the pre-launch “Invasion” events that featured mobs which scaled in difficulty for each person in the zone, regardless of level. That system carries over to Legion itself, as all of the content (except for one specific end-game zone that only unlocks when you reach level 110) scales to your personal level. This means that if you’re level 104, so are the mobs, and the gear that drops will be level-appropriate as well. It even carries over into the dungeons! Therefore, you can visit the zones of the Broken Isles in any order you want, because you can’t out-level the content, and it will still be challenging when you return for the endgame.
7. Leveling Through Weaponry
One thing we’ve noticed is that leveling from 100 to 110 in this expansion doesn’t really mean much. As we just mentioned, the zones scale to your level, so you don’t really get any more powerful relative to the game itself. And gaining new skills from leveling is long gone, with your entire spellbook filled out by somewhere around level 90. Plus, unless you’re a Demon Hunter (who start at level 98 and begin with none), you don’t get any new talents, either. So how does your character progress and change compared to what they were at the end of Warlords? Well, that’s where artifact weapons come in. Every class starts their journey in Legion with a quest to acquire one of the famous class-specific weapons from Warcraft lore, from the mighty Ashbringer to the Scythe of Elune to the infamous Doombringer, and plenty more. And during your time in the Broken Isles, consumables will drop that give you “Artifact Power”, which will allow you to unlock skills and bonuses attached to the weapon itself. Just a word of warning, your artifact will level up quickly initially, but at a certain point, the amount of Artifact Power needed to reach a new level makes a huge jump, so choose your weapon carefully (don’t worry, you can get the rest of the weapons for your other specializations as well, but you’ll want to pick one early and stick with it so it gets more powerful quickly).
We felt like we needed to give special mention to Nomi, the Pandaren cooking trainer of Dalaran. Sure, he seems harmless enough when you rescue him, offering to help you learn new and upgraded cooking recipes if you’ll give him the raw materials to research. And he’s not picky, because if it can be cooked, he’ll take it, so you would think that getting new recipes would be easy. Well, it turns out, Nomi is a horrible cook, and literally 99% of the items you give him will be returned as a basically worthless item called “Badly Burned Food”. Personally, we’ve been shoving food items at him ever since launch, and we’ve yet to get anything useful back. But just like a desperate gambler, we’ll keep trying, because you never know when he might actually cook up something useful. It’s a funny and harmless concept thought up by Blizzard, and it’s pretty much the only way to get certain recipes upgraded, but for your own sanity going in, consider this your own personal public service announcement: Nomi sucks. We’re letting you know now so you’ll save yourself some rage later. Plus, in the unlikely event he actually gives you something useful, you can feel like the luckiest person in the entire game!
5. The Dark Underbelly Of Dalaran
PvP in World of Warcraft has been an up-and-down experience for over a decade, from the ridiculousness of Hilsbrad Foothills, to marathon sessions in Alterac Valley, to Winterspring, and Tol Barad, and everything else. But Legion has introduced a new wrinkle to world PvP in the form of the Underbelly. Formerly the barely used sewer system in Dalaran (returning from Wrath of the Lich King as your main Sanctuary hub), the Underbelly contains quests, NPCs, aggressive mobs, and even a couple of actual boss-level monsters that you can fight for a variety of rewards. But there’s just one other important thing you need to know about the zone: it’s usually a relatively safe place (unless you’re on a PvP server, of course), and even has guards specifically set up to keep it that way. Except players can actually bribe the guards to take a break, at which point the Underbelly becomes a Free-For-All PvP zone, and at that point, the bodies will mount up while your framerate likely crashes into the ground. If that sounds like your sort of thing (and it can be fun, in a ridiculous, chaotic way), then take a trip down to the Dalaran sewers and partake.
Also, there’s a rat mount that you can get if you stay down there long enough. You know, in case you ever wanted to ride a giant rat.
4. The Pillars Of Creation
We’re into serious spoiler territory now, so be aware of that fact before you keep reading. The overarching story of Legion, from your character’s perspective, is searching for the mythical “Pillars of Creation”, artifacts which when combined are said to be powerful enough that they could throw the Burning Legion out of Azeroth once and for all. It probably shouldn’t shock you that the goal of each zone is to acquire one of these Pillars, while dealing with other quests along the way, many of which could change the world forever. Ultimately, each zone climaxes with a final quest that sends you into a dungeon to get that particular artifact. This makes for a nice introduction to several of the new dungeons, and reportedly Blizzard even set up the Dungeon Finder queue system so that you get priority if you have the quest to find a Pillar of Creation in your log (if you don’t, however, that’s another story). Then you get to set up and display the Pillars in your own personal instance in Dalaran, which is a nice sense of accomplishment, if nothing else.
3. Karazhan Is Coming
In our opinion, one of the greatest raids Blizzard ever created was the tower of Karazhan in Burning Crusade. The former home of Medivh was full of interesting encounters and unique battles, and a place that we enjoyed returning to again and again. And it seems like Blizzard agrees, as Karazhan will make its return in Legion with an entirely new raid based around the fact that the Burning Legion is trying to take over the tower and gain access to all of the knowledge stored within. The new raid will be part of the first big content patch for Legion, and even more importantly, shows Blizzard’s new dedication to providing new content for this expansion, after Warlords received a lot of justified criticism for not doing the same (it was, by most metrics, the expansion with the least amount of post-launch content).
2. You Are The Hero
While Warlords featured you rubbing shoulders with some of the legendary characters of Warcraft lore, in a way, after over a decade of saving the planet, shouldn’t your characters be considered the real heroes of Azeroth? Well, it seems like Blizzard agrees, and for Legion, your character basically becomes one of the most powerful leaders in the world. Along with being put in charge of your class hall, you basically become the de-facto head of whatever class you happen to be playing. For example, paladins take over the leadership of the Argent Crusade, death knights the Ebon Blade, and mages get to order around their contemporaries, including members of the Council of Six (who count among their numbers the blue dragon Kalecgos). Out in the field, you help lead the charge against the Burning Legion, with powerful allies like newly christened Warchief Sylvanas and King Anduin Wrynn (we told you there’d be spoilers) considering you essentially their right hand. The only question is, now that you’ve reached this level of prominence, what’s left for the future? Well…
1. The End, One Way Or The Other?
Heading into Legion, there were rumblings that if it performed poorly and WoW continued to see a drop in subscriber numbers, it was entirely possible that this could have been the final expansion for this version of the MMO. And all things considered, there would have been no shame in that, WoW has lasted for over ten years and is by far the most successful game of its genre, but all things have to end eventually. But fortunately, at this early point, all things seem positive for Legion, both from a critical/player perspective and a financial one, as it’s been reported that Legion sold 3.3 million units on launch day and even bounced active user numbers up what they were at the launch of Cataclysm. However, this could still be the end of WoW as we know it, with the story of Legion looking like it’s setting up to bring a final conclusion to something that has been part of Warcraft since the very first RTS game, that being the interference of the Burning Legion, which set in motion everything that has led to this point. With the potential to see them banished from Azeroth forever, where could the story go next? Could the next step for World of Warcraft actually be…World of Warcraft 2, sending players back to the beginning in a refreshed Azeroth with new heroes and a new story? We don’t know, but either way, it will be nice to be there to see the Burning Legion sent back to whatever spawned it, forever.