World of Warcraft’s detractors will tell you that the quality of its expansions have seen their ups-and-downs. While it’s true that some individual elements weren’t quite as well received, the level of quality in each new batch of content has been impressive, and a feat that most other developers could only ever hope of attaining. The latest expansion Legion is one of the best new additions to the game, boasting elements that extend the upgrade process beyond that of random loot tables. A recognisable cast of long-time characters also give weight to your adventures, providing the standard questing experience with some much-needed momentum.
In typical fantasy fashion, World of Warcraft: Legion deals with heroes of good banding together to fight off the impending apocalypse. Orc warlock Gul’dan has brought an army of demons to Azeroth, and is attempting to resurrect Illidan Stormrage – a good-guy turned bad-guy, maybe turned good-guy again? Longstanding rivals the Horde and Alliance put their differences (mostly) aside to deal with the new demon invasion.
Legion sees the biggest shakeup to the series’ power structure. Old friends die, while others rise through the ranks to lead their people. It’s fresh, and makes the world feel a little more active than what it’s been in previous content; important NPCs aren’t just relegated to quest-givers with their feet firmly planted in the same spot for years. You’ll be storming beaches, delving into dungeons, and progressing through the main storyline alongside them. Warcraft has a wealth of colourful characters, and seeing Blizzard weave them into the standard levelling experience is great.
The expansion takes place on a new land mass – The Broken Isles. As is par for the course, the islands are split up into multiple different zones, each with their own visual language helping to give them character. That variance also extends beyond the cosmetic, as each zone has its own mechanical twists. For example, Stormheim features a grappling hook, allowing rapid traversal of its craggy terrain. Suramar is a land suffused with magic, periodically giving your character weird buffs. These tweaks help the questing experience from feeling too samey, with each zone acting as a palate cleanser.
One major change from previous expansions – and indeed, the base game – is the introduction of Artefact weapons. Each class gets three of these weapons (one for each talent specialisation), and they are the only ones you’ll get in your time with Legion. At first I felt a little disappointed by this announcement – one of my favourite parts of any MMO is discovering new gear – but Blizzard avert the problem by supporting the design choice with smart systems.
Each Artefact can be levelled up on your journey, which gives you points to distribute on its own skill tree. Most of these upgrades are more akin to talents from the original game, giving you passive statistical benefits to your abilities – like increasing their damage, or range. As you quest or delve into dungeons, you’ll unlock relics that you can slot into your Artefact. These freely give points to some traits, meaning you can assign others elsewhere on the tree. The system was a little confusing at first, as the game doesn’t provide a detailed walkthrough, but spending enough time with it alleviates that. It’s a smart addition, and provides progression beyond relying on simple loot tables.
But if you’re like me, and derive a lot more pleasure out of finding cool looking gear, then Artefacts also have you covered. By moving through the story and hitting milestones in your journey you’ll unlock different colour palettes for your weapon, and completely different models too. There’s always a new cosmetic upgrade on the horizon, providing nice incentives for striking out exploring content you normally wouldn’t.
Garrisons have seen an overhaul too. Now in the form of Order Halls, these upgradable zones are particular to your class, but they also act as social spaces too – meaning you can see other likeminded wizards, warriors, or hunters going about their business. This remedies one of the main problems I had with Garrisons, in that they just felt lonely.
Completing specific quests for your Hall also unlocks Champions – named heroes that you can send out on missions. You can also assign one to be your travelling companion in the Broken Isles, but their presence is relegated to jumping in to fights and unleashing a special move, before disappearing from sight.
One of the biggest additions is a new class – the Demon Hunter. Similar to Wrath of the Lich King’s Death Knight, Demon Hunters start at a higher level. Their intro quest tells the story of why they went missing during the events of 2007’s Burning Crusade expansion, with the string of missions being highly scripted affairs, with a lot of voiced dialogue. The quests introduce you to the class basics, giving you ample opportunity to experiment. The Demon Hunter is highly mobile and fun to control, featuring a built-in double jump and glide mechanic to their traversal.
There’s always something to do in Legion. While previous World of Warcraft expansions often made it feel like busywork, Blizzard have transformed it into meaningful progression. Be it exploring the new land mass with a cast of familiar characters, or upgrading your Artefact weapon to suit your playstyle, Legion introduces a wealth of stimulating content, making it one of the best new additions to the MMO juggernaut.