Illidan. Not a kiff oke. Likes green.

Illidan. Not a kiff oke. Likes green.

The best way to start this review is as follows: I am an awful World of Warcraft player.

I’ve never paid much attention to skill rotations on IcyVeins or similar websites, and I’ve never spent hours upon hours grinding raids and dungeons trying to get my gear score up a few points so I can attempt Mythic-level raids or challenge mode dungeons. Plus, my main is a dirty, stand-in-the-fire hunter. To me, World of Warcraft is just an escape – it’s a relaxing, beautiful world full of rich, interesting lore in which I can immerse myself for a few hours. I love grinding reputation, completing quests, running old content for mounts and transmogrification gear, and just experiencing the world at large.

All of that said, every time a new World of Warcraft expansion comes out, I try to resist the urge to buy and play it, but I always fail. Each time an expansion rolls into town, I inevitably jump on it. This is because WoW, for all the criticism it gets and the endless grinding it inspires, is actually remarkably fun.

Game info

I could write a torrent of words about the base WoW experience, but that’s been done before, so instead I’ll cast my attention to the new things in the Legion expansion. It’s widely agreed that the base game, despite its problems, is the gold standard for MMORPGs. If you’re looking for a review of WoW itself, this is not the review for you. If you want to know more about Legion, read on.

The best place to start, then, is at the very beginning.

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Long queues – a sight I was glad to not see this time around.

Set after the events of Warlords of Draenor and back in the prime universe, the story we follow in Legion is cookie-cutter in its formula, but spun out incredibly well. The Burning Legion has returned to Azeroth with the intention of summoning their leader: the dark titan Sargeras, Ravager of Worlds. Our heroes find themselves on the Broken Isles, the doomed centre of an ancient night elf civilisation. We’re here to learn and master everything we can about artifacts – legendary weapons that hold the power to destroy the corrupted armies of the Legion, and to summon the aid of the Demon Hunters of the Illidari, the followers of Illidan the Betrayer.

Phew.

To make way for everything we’ll need to do, the level cap has been increased to 110 and you’ll get an additional character slot. With the expansion, you’ll also get an instant level 100 character, so in case this is your first journey into Azeroth, or you want to play a different class (classes play a big part in Legion), you won’t need to start from scratch. You can also use the instant-100 on the new Demon Hunter class introduced in Legion.

There are new world bosses, loads of new dungeons, three new raids (due to become available in the coming weeks) and some pretty significant changes to character classes and PvP (in the form of the Honour System – which includes PvP-specific powers, ranks and bonuses).

It all sounds pretty great on paper (or screen, I doubt you printed this review to read it), but I can already hear you saying, “You’ve written 500 words and you haven’t even gotten to what we’re here for… what’s the expansion actually like Richard?”

Well, let me tell you.

After the expectedly jaw-dropping cinematic intro and a surprisingly smooth login, you’re ready to go. Thankfully, the usual post-expansion-launch queue was absent on my realm (Ragnaros EU), which was a pleasant surprise – though I have seen a few people complaining about login queues. Overall though, the launch looks a lot smoother in terms of Blizzard’s capacity to cater for the influx of new and returning players.

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Azeroth’s version of the catwalks of Milan.

Upon login you’ll find all of your specialisations have been reset, so you’ll need to redo those, which is fine I suppose – it doesn’t take too long and gives a chance to read through any changes to your class and build.

You’ll also have to spend time vendoring all the gear you’re hoarding for transmog because you won’t need them anymore. The transmogrification system has been overhauled and owning an item once adds it to your transmog collection, so you can apply it at any time without needing the original item – a welcome change for us fashion-conscious inhabitants of Azeroth, and one I find particularly well thought out and designed. The interface is slick and easy to use, and is a huge step up from the old system.

The introductory quest is quick and painless – a small instanced scenario for 10 players that sets up Legion’s story and transitions into the first class-specific mission. It differs depending on your class and specialization, and gets you on your way to your Class Hall. I played through two of these missions with my level 100s (marksman hunter and feral druid) and both were really good, though the druid mission was more dynamic. Legion actually has a great, quick entry to the action, which is different to the rolling start we’ve come to expect from WoW expansions like Mists of Pandaria.

It’s during the class quest that you’re given your first artifact weapon, and unlocks one of several new tasks you’ll need to undertake in Legion. Weapon drops are entirely negated by this artifact weapon, which is specific to the class specialization you choose. You can’t get another until you reach level 102, so make the choice of which mission to undertake wisely. Once you level a couple of times you’ll get the quests that’ll reward you with the other weapons for your class.

Artifact weapons: not your average bit of stick.

Artifact weapons: not your average bit of stick.

This weapon will be with you throughout the Legion experience and you’ll upgrade it as you go using gems and artifact power rewarded by quests, dungeons, raids and treasure chests scattered around the Broken Isles. Artifact power is used to give your weapon talents via its own talent tree, unique to each artifact weapon.

And so, artifact weapon in hand, newly transmog’d outfit, respec’d skills… time to do some questin’!

The biggest city on the Broken Isles is Dalaran, which (almost inexplicably) teleports there during the opening parts of the game, so it’s familiar and quick to get around. You’re also given a Dalaran-specific hearthstone to make returning there painless.

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Ready to roll out. Or walk out. Or fancy spinning jump out.

Before you’re let loose in the questing zones of the Broken Isles, you’ll visit your Class Hall. The Class Hall is Legion‘s version of the garrison – except it’s not a personal place filled with crushing loneliness. It’s a public, class-specific area, which does a nice job of reflecting your class and making you feel important. It’s a big part of Legion, which as a whole tends to focus more on your class than your faction. It also makes you feel part of something – a band of brethren of your class, all fighting for the greater good, assembling at the Class Hall to perform tasks like visiting the forge to upgrade artifact weapons, or using the Order Hall to send champions on missions. The experience is infinitely more social and satisfying than the garrison, and lends well to role-playing.

The Order Hall presents a familiar follower mission interface, though it feels easier and less complex than the garrison missions. Followers are gone, replaced by champions. You can have a maximum of eight champions, though only five can be active at once. The system of countering various threats is easier too, and if you manage to get your chance of success on a mission above 100%, you get a chance of bonus loot. You’ll need to level your champions too, and equip them with better gear. Overall, it feels like this iteration of the missions mini-game is a vast improvement over the garrison’s follower missions, which is really a testament to how much better the Class Hall is in general.

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Trueshot Lodge, the hunter class Order Hall

Venturing out into the Broken Isles – from the camps of the rainy coasts of Stormheim inhabited by the immense vrykul, to the stunning purple crystalline areas in Aszuna – they’re breathtakingly beautiful and heavy on the inimitable charm with which Blizzard peppers its landscapes. While your jaw is dropped enjoying the scenery, the Broken Isles brings with it two of the most significant changes in the expansion.

The first is the appearance of scaled questing zones. The zones of the Broken Isles aren’t split into level-recommended areas, but rather the mobs and challenges in each scale to your level, and the levels of those around you. This means there’s no need to frantically try to keep up with your group’s level, because you can quest together even if you’re at a much lower level. Legion uses health percentages to calculate damage relative to the levels of those in your group. On top of this, the course you take through the Broken Isles is your choice – you’re presented with the option of which of the four zones to visit first.

The second change is the two zones not designed for questing: Broken Shore and Suramar. You start the expansion in the Broken Shore, but when you reach level 110, Suramar will open to you and you’ll find yourself in a zone-wide quest with a unique story of its own.

There’s no flying yet, of course, but you do get a whistle once you hit level 110 that acts like a hearthstone, only it teleports you to the nearest flight master, on a five-minute cooldown. It’s a temporary reprieve which I (as a non-purist who fully supports flying in WoW) really liked. It saves you from having to trudge back to the flight masters should you want to move to a new area. There’s also now a button to request a stop at the next flight master while on a flight.

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Aszuna. Features a lot of mana-based stories. Also, incredibly good looking.

It’s hard to fault Legion, even if you desperately search for something to not like about it. I would say that, at around the R600 mark, it’s quite expensive for an expansion that still requires a monthly subscription. There are a couple of visual and scripting bugs I encountered too, but these will undoubtedly be patched soon.

It’s ultimately unsurprising that it’s good – after all, it is Blizzard’s sixth expansion, so they’re not new to this. It is, however, legions better (hur hur) than Warlords of Draenor ever felt. The lure to persist with grinding through the content is stronger than in WoD. The addition of scaled questing zones means you’ll spend more time with your friends or guild instead of begrudgingly joining dungeon queues or solo-ing the content.

If you’re thinking about finally jumping into WoW, or if you’re unsure you should return to it after Warlords of Draenor, fear not – there’s no need to awkwardly tread into your local game store, anxious about your Legion purchase. Instead, stride in confidently, grab it with both hands, walk up to the cashier and drop it confidently down. It’s worth parting with your money for.

85A near-perfect expansion that promises big things. It’s already filled with content that feels more interesting and enjoyable than Warlords of Draenor, bundled with many positive changes and clever design decisions.