Over the course of the first five expansion packs, Blizzard has slowly evolved World of Warcraft into something very different than the MMO that launched back in 2004. The Legion expansion feels like an entirely new game.
After 12 years of performing outrageous acts of heroism in the name of the Alliance or Horde, it’s time for World of Warcraft players to take their place in the pantheon of Azeroth’s greatest heroes. Where 2014's Warlords of Draenor elevated player characters from adventurers to military commanders, Legion makes them legends, wielding weapons of unimaginable power against the greatest threat the fantasy world has ever faced.
In a plot more traditionally video-gamey than ever before, the extra-planetary demonic hordes that plagued Azeroth hundreds of years in the past and are responsible for just about everything bad that’s ever happened not involving the Lich King or evil spirits have returned to finish destroying all life on the planet. Azeroth’s salvation lies with ancient artifacts conveniently located on the same previously-unvisited subcontinent the Legion is launching its invasion from.
In order to recover these artifacts, players must take up legendary weapons to aid them in taming the wilds of the Broken Isles.
Those fantastic weapons take center stage in Legion. They are the expansion’s core means of progression. Players still level from 100 to 110 the traditional way, but since most of the expansion pack’s content is scaled so the challenge remains the same regardless of player level, those numbers don’t mean as much.
No new skills are unlocked through leveling, and players don’t earn a new talent point at level 110. Instead they gain power by investing artifact points into their weapons, unlocking traits that follow a path not unlike a twisted version of World of Warcraft’s older character talent system.
The artifact weapons also serve as the centerpiece for class Order Halls, special areas in the expansion focused on a single character class. Druids get a forest hideaway. Warlocks get a transplanar demonic base. Warriors are given the keys to Valhalla. Hunters get a mountaintop hunting lodge. Rogues get a dirty basement.
These Order Halls serve as a home base for characters during Legion content. It’s where they apply new power to their artifact weapons. It’s where they send their NPC followers out on timed retrieval missions. Order resources can be used to recruit new troops or build improvements. Each Order Hall features a quest line specific to its character class, giving players ample reason to play through the new content on every one they play.
Most importantly, from a lore fan standpoint at least, the Order Halls are where the player joins the ranks of the most notable non-player character members of their respective classes.
In the Rogue Order Hall I share a table with Garona Halforcen, the assassin who famously took out King Llane Wrynn of Stormwind. Across the table sits Valeera Sanguinar, famous blood elf rogue who was a companion to King Varian Wrynn along with Broll Bearmantle, who serves as an NPC companion at the Druid Order Hall.
For players even vaguely familiar with World of Warcraft lore, it’s a real treat to walk the Broken Isles alongside some of the most famous characters in the game. They watch over Order Halls. They join players on quests. They are equals now. Well, some are more equal than others.
Between the order hall campaigns and the core storyline that carries players through the expansion’s four initial zones (in any order) and beyond, Legion is packed with powerful plot moments, moments that carry real weight. I even found myself tearing up once or twice, as iconic beings I’d admired for years met their end. The stakes are high, and Blizzard is not shy about proving it. This might be the first time I’ve reached the end of World of Warcraft expansion content and been eager to see what happens next.
While I am enjoying myself immensely, there are some aspects of the expansion that leave me cold. The Order Halls rely heavily on timers to keep players from reaping rewards too early. In order to complete one Druid quest I had to send my followers on eight four-hour missions, one at a time. Once I gather enough resources, my next Order Advancement project will take 12 days to complete. If you weren’t a fan of waiting for shit to happen in Warlords of Draenor, you’re going to be even less of a fan of how long shit takes to happen in Legion.
Fortunately there is plenty to do do once a player hits the new 110 cap to take their mind off of those timers. It used to be hitting the high end of an expansion is what separated the more hardcore players from the casuals, but Legion eases players into end game content. Upon reaching the cap an overwhelming wave of fresh content appears.
World quests, a daily rotation of little things to do across the Broken Isles, gently gear up players for more difficult Heroic dungeons. The Heroics lead to even harder Mythics, then progressively harder Mythic+ dungeons. The only barrier to moving on to bigger and better dungeons are players who’d rather kick fresher players from their group than give them advice on how to be a better player. Those players sure are giant asshole Warlocks. Did I say Warlocks? How oddly specific.
Aside from gearing up and getting things done, the Suramar zone quests begin at level 110, giving players a chance to help an entire race of drug addict elves regain some of their dignity. I am only slightly kidding here. Every day you have to give them some mana to get them to stop shaking long enough to give you missions. It’s kind of depressing, really.
I’ve been playing Legion regularly since its release. One might say far more regularly than would be necessary for a review. That one would be my wife, who has seen me invest far too much time in an MMO before. But this one’s different. I’m sure I’ll slow down once I have one of every character at level 110 and they stop handing out free Corgis.