World of Warcraft: Legion in the test - the best addon since Burning Crusade?
Final conclusion to WoW: Legion
In time for the start of the »Emerald Green Nightmare« raid, I looked for a raid group to put the big dungeons through their paces. I could now say that my group has plowed through the nightmare with confidence, but that would be a bold lie. In truth, we died miserably at the first trash mob because we had "picked up" a few more enemies.
After almost eight hours, spread over two evenings, five of the seven bosses are now in the dirt - and I had fun like I haven't had for a long time! The bosses are crisp and give every player responsibility without exception, which leads to a lot of laughter in voice chat when someone has messed up his job again. No question about it, these positive experiences are of course strongly related to the group that you gather around you. Nevertheless, it is the first time in years that I had fun in a raid and the reward was not the big booty, but the experience as such. I've missed that for almost a decade.
The introduction of the "Mythic +" dungeons is also new. These are becoming increasingly difficult, but also attract with increasingly better rewards. In addition to a raid visit (or if you just fancy a cute group of five) this is the perfect pastime to fill an evening with excitement.
A second and third raid are already in the starting blocks, as is the new five-man Karazhan instance. Even the toughest core gamers cannot speak of content poverty at the moment.
And what many players do not yet have on their screen: There is a lot of secret game content in Legion. Every artefact weapon has a hidden appearance variant and entire world bosses can be unlocked via puzzles. Sure, I could also ask the Internet for all the solutions to the secrets - but who wants that? So even in a few weeks I will still have pleasant »wow moments«.
Legion not only managed to meet my expectations, but also put my fears out of the way. The expansion was described in advance as being very unfriendly for secondary characters - but that's only on paper. In reality, I now have several characters at the maximum level. Thanks to artifact research and world quests, these twinks can catch up quickly and will also be able to visit raids in the next few days.
Mere hymns of praise are not really my thing, but World of Warcraft: Legion deserves them. World quests still entertain me, enticing with interesting rewards, especially for second characters. The raids have fun mechanics and new ideas. In addition, every few days a new story quest pops up that I didn't know about. Yes, for me Legion is already the best addon since The Burning Crusade. If I'm being completely honest, it even towers over my nostalgic Classic days. And to top these memories is really not easy.
Nevertheless, I notice how, a few weeks after the release, I no longer log in every day in order to complete my day's work and my guild colleagues start to pull up their second and sometimes third characters. There is just not an infinite amount of work to be done, as it initially gave the impression. And many of the mechanics that seem so cool at first turn out to be just a particularly cleverly packaged grind.
Still, WoW: Legion is a damn good occasion for me to return to the World of Warcraft. The many secrets and the story about the corrupted elven city Suramar and anti-hero Illidan, which is only slowly being revealed over the coming updates, will keep me going for a while. I just hope that these updates won't be too long in coming this time. Will Legion now save World of Warcraft? Maybe that would be a little over the top. But it gives every fan a convincingly good reason to lose themselves in it for many hours.
When leveling I would have given WoW: Legion a straight 100. A captivating story, great staged Lore cutscenes that also differ by faction. Excellent! The demon hunter gave me a special kick. Finally a class that breaks through the somewhat wooden gameplay mechanics. For a WoW veteran it is a particularly good feeling to jump off the cliff with a double jump and then glide calmly to the desired location. The exceptionally good mobility and agility of the Demon Hunter does not only benefit him in the world but above all in raids in action-heavy fights: great!
Endgame? Well: I feel that the sometimes highly praised world quests are more of a compulsion. By and large, they bore me. Ok, stomping into a horde of demons on the back of a T-Rex the first two or three times is cool, but then it's enough. The stupid thing: If I want to increase my reputation with the factions, improve my artifact weapon and get my order resources, which I need for my follower quests, I have little choice and that annoys me immensely.
The dungeons are at the usual high Blizzard level, but at least in terms of content they wear out quite quickly. The difficulty levels "normal" and "heroic" are only interesting for a short time, even "mythic" on standard quickly becomes part of everyday life and does not offer a particularly great challenge, as you can equip yourself very well with world quests. Still: an instance on a ghost ship is a damn cool idea.
Since there has only been one raid so far, there is relatively little that can be said about the most important things about the endgame. For my circumstances, I would have liked a more chronological increase in difficulty in the Emerald Green Nightmare. The bosses commute between "free loot" and "my face, is that even possible?" In addition, there are simply a disproportionate number of trash mobs in some sections. It's unnecessary and frustrating.
Legion starts out gigantically, entertains the player for a long time at a high level and flattens out quite a bit at the right endgame and unfortunately often forces the player into mindless grind activities. I hope that the pending dungeons and raids will add a little more pep to the matter. As it is now, it's enough for me to log in to the raid once a week.
But unlike in previous addons , our path is not linear . After a small introductory quest in Dalaran, we are free to choose which of the brand new areas we want to advance to. No matter which of the zones (Azsuna, Hochberg, Val'Sharah, Stormheim) we choose, the opponents and quest rewards adapt dynamically to our level.
There is one exception, however: Suramar is only accessible at level 110. However, the wait for this zone is worth it, because fans of exciting stories as well as friends of unique rewards will get their money's worth here.
The attentive reader will now ask: What if we play as a group? What if my character is level 102 and my friend's is level 108? That's no problem at all. Although all players are fighting the same opponents, everyone perceives the enemy as "appropriate". So it is always possible to help other players out with their tasks or to help a more relaxed teammate (and we all have one, don't we?) With his quests.
We have no clue how long Blizzard sat on the system, but it even works fine in dungeons, we've tried it many times. And although the levels in our party were between 102 and 109 , there never were any problems . Which is not to say that the dungeons are too easy - we had to accept one or the other death. But of course it was always the fault of the others who did not have the new rotations of their classes under control. For real. Um, next point.
A lively game world
On every corner of the Broken Isles you can tell that the developers cared about the details. More often than ever before, dialogues between friend and foe are actually underlaid with voices. The threat from the demons feels far more real when we are not only snarled at but also given a scornful "Die in the name of Lord Sargeras!" Elsewhere we find the corpses of some night elves whose bodies are riddled with the weapons of the Burning Legion - without it being relevant for a quest.
For the first time, Blizzard really succeeds in staging its game world not only as a static container for the game mechanics, but as a really lively setting. When, for example, on our travels we discover a cave that leads deep into the mountain, at the end of which we are attacked by two mysterious statues guarding a box with lots of loot. Or meet a silent hermit in a lonely hut who seems to play an important role later, even if she has nothing to say yet. In short: We are interested in the world and don't just run blindly from quest marker A to B.
When we are not admiring the attention to detail in the game world, we can also see star symbols on the minimap. These mark either a rare (and mostly strong) enemy or a specific event. So we have to defend a druid until he has safely awakened from the emerald dream or eliminate an oversized naga before he can devour a ship. Anyone who travels the Broken Isles beyond the quest routes will receive a successful amusement as a reward. However, thanks to the star symbols on the mini-map, there is no real urge to research. A missed opportunity.
Keeping a long story short
The bad thing about the great new areas: We leave them behind us too quickly. As soon as we feel at home in Sturmheim, we have to say goodbye again. The reason for this is simple: At Legion, Blizzard has held back with the usual straight-line quests like "Kill 20 of them and collect 30 of them". Instead, the developers have turned to an old WoW strength: telling really big stories.
In many cases we do missions for well-known characters in the game world. Malfurion, Cenarius, Tyrande, Sylvanas and Khadgar are just a handful of the quest givers we come across again and again. For example, we should help Malfurion find a cure for his old teacher Cenarius, who is plagued by the forces of nightmare. Because we are too weak on our own, we even ask the green dragon aspect Ysera for help. Everything that has rank and name in the game world also appears in the missions.
We say as it is: Better a few less generic side quests and instead missions where we really feel like a hero rather than an errand boy. Nevertheless, Blizzard is welcome to add content patches in the coming months and perhaps close some of the gaping gaps.
Because some of the more interesting side tasks are still completely in the sand. We would have loved to spend more time with the residents of Bradenbach or to find out more about the ancient temple of Elune. Some places and characters that obviously have more to tell have been left behind so far.
Although some of these storylines are taken up again at the maximum level in the form of world quests, it doesn't really feel that satisfying. Well, let's see what the not yet implemented raids “The Emerald Green Nightmare” (live in about three weeks) and “The Night Fortress” (early 2017) will bring. Also and especially with regard to the overarching main story. After all, we have to face ourselves personally in the Gul'dan Night Fortress.
The weapon makes the hero
One of the biggest features of the expansion is the artifact weapons. Each specialization is given a special weapon at the beginning, which will accompany us through the whole legion. Retribution paladins grab the legendary Ashbringer, balance druids do their magic with the scythe of Elune. As shadow priests we get "Xal'atath, blade of the black empire" - no one has heard of the black empire, but in the course of the introductory quest we already learn to love the weapon. By the way, Xal'atath is quite a diva, she talks to us and comments on places and situations. This is sometimes quite scary, the blade seems to know more than we do, and everything we do is apparently only to increase its power.
Such small acoustic or optical effects exist with all artifact weapons. While that doesn't have a big impact on the story or how we play, it does make the world feel a tick livelier and the weapon feel more powerful.
In summary, the weapons are exactly what we were promised: powerful artifacts with strong stories and long-term motivation. Because the artifact weapon has to be fed with artifact power over and over again, which we get hold of everywhere in the game world. They are obtained from treasures, quests and visits to dungeons. In doing so, we unlock many new talents for our weapon.
While most traits are reminiscent of a classic talent tree, there are also a handful of really strong bonuses for each. As shadow priests, for example, we get powerful tentacles to our side or we can even heal ourselves by a large amount through dispersion, a spell that actually only minimizes the damage suffered. If you want to fully upgrade your weapon, you will probably have to gamble for weeks or months, because the costs are rising rapidly.
Exactly this artifact power is the new carrot that WoW keeps holding in front of our noses. "Do a dungeon, there are 75 artifact power!" Sure, I'll register directly as a healer. "Here, this world quest gives you 100 artefact power, go with you!" I ride, I hurry! "Come into PvP, winners get 150 artifact power!" Jesus Christ, yes, I'll do it! Even if it sounds like an overload, the end result is nice: No matter what we do in the game world, everything grants us progress and ensures that our beautiful weapon is constantly getting better.
The return of the class quests
While we sneak through the individual areas, perform magic and beatings, we always have to go back to our new order hall . Not only do all players of the same class meet here, it's the only place where we can upgrade our artifact weapon. The campaign belonging to the respective class begins in the class halls.
You read that correctly: Legion is finally giving the death knights, paladins, priests and everyone else their own extensive quest series, which starts at level 100 and accompanies us through to the end game. At least with our priestess, the quest was exciting and revealed a lot about the fate of some characters. Without our campaign, we would never have found out what happened to Arthas' sister - she is hanging around our religious hall.
There is also a bit of well-dosed Draenor in Legion: In the class hall there is also a mission table waiting for us, which should remind players of the garrison. Here we send our loyal followers out into the wide world to bring us additional artifact power and other resources. Due to the greatly reduced number of missions, you spend a maximum of five minutes a day on it. A main occupation like in Warlords of Draenor can no longer be talked about here.
The class campaigns do have a downside: If you want to experience the full story of Legion, you have to play all available classes for better or worse. What is annoying twink work for some is a high incentive and massive replay value for others.
Hunt demons with the demon hunter
Since Warcraft 3, many fans have been waiting for the introduction of the demon hunter - this wish is finally granted. The new hero class starts at level 98 and can seamlessly embark on the adventures on the Broken Isles after the starting area without having to fight through "old content" first. In order to create a demon hunter, there must be at least one character at level 70 on the server.
The demon hunter only comes with two specializations, so you have to choose between damage (devastation) and tank (vengeance). The horned elves are very mobile, as they can hop through the game world with double jump and gliding flight. Those who like more action-heavy fights will have a lot of fun with the demon hunter - if you just want to try a new class, you will too. Thanks to relatively few skills, the new class is also ideal for newbies or returnees who don't feel like sorting spells for hours. In addition, the demonic elves with "ghost sight" can see enemies through walls and obstacles, even if these are protected in stealth or invisibility.
Coincidence and moments of happiness
For more than a decade, the best rewards in World of Warcraft have been obtained from just one source: raids. If you wanted to play at the top, you had to look for up to 39 other players and plan several evenings a week for them. With only a small percentage of players attending raids in the most difficult mode ever, many gamers have always been limited in their character development.
Thanks to Legion, it is now possible to get good equipment from all game content. This includes dungeons of all levels of difficulty, PvP battles or even the world quests, in which we revisit familiar locations or complete small mini-games. From the classic "Bombard 200 Enemies" to "Lead your own Murloc Army into battle" missions, everything is included. Unfortunately, "Kill 20 Harpies" and "Free Eight Prisoners" are also waiting - the latter manage to be captured every day.
World quests are especially good when we are not in the mood for an organized party community, because many can be tackled alone. And best of all, they come with rewards that can keep up with difficult dungeons and raids. This is made possible by a new upgrade system. When each reward is received, the game internally "rolls" whether there is an upgrade. If this upgrade succeeds, the dice are rolled again - until the whole thing fails.
This allows a quest that actually grants pants with item level 800 to throw off a significantly better reward: 810, 820 or even higher. However, we have to curb the enthusiasm a bit: The world quests replace the less popular, because badly repetitive, dailies. Unfortunately, the replacement in terms of variety is also not the last word, but at least we always have something to do and the chance of a really good team.
In general, however, the most reliable sources of powerful equipment are mythical raids. If you just don't feel like doing it, with a little luck and enough perseverance you can also get powerful clothing in all other areas. Casual and high time: Thanks to a universal wardrobe that spans all accounts, we can now cook every piece of clothing of a certain type the look of another of the same type - if found. If you are dissatisfied with your artifact weapon, you can even repaint it. Of course, this does not change the values of the initial equipment.
Basically, Azeroth (or at least the Broken Isles) is more random than ever before. This starts with the aforementioned random upgrading of items to a higher item level and continues through the talent and item design.
Many artifact weapon bonuses only have a percentage chance of being triggered under certain conditions. The same applies to the legendary items - they are available for every class as "random drops" - which often only trigger their effect under special conditions. Amazingly, this never feels annoying in the course of the game, but always positive. The chance factor ensures that we always get surprises, even if you visit a dungeon for the tenth time.
General overhaul of the PvP
A few words should also be said about the PvP system. That has been fundamentally revised. Conquest points have been abolished and honor is no longer a resource for buying equipment, but a new type of experience point. At the maximum level, PvP skirmishes bring us honor points, which are required to reach a new honor level. As the honor level rises, new talents await, but these only have an effect in PvP.
If leveling up in PvP is not enough for you, you can decide to move up to a »Prestige Rank« at PvP level 50. This resets the honor level (and loses the honorary talents again), but receives cosmetic rewards such as titles, mounts or a flag of your own faction that you carry into battle. If you don't feel like doing it, just keep the PvP level and enjoy the sometimes very powerful talents.
A second, important factor is the different templates that are now available for each class. In PvP zones (battlefields and arenas) all characters now have preset values that can only be modified minimally by equipment. For the first time in many years, success in PvP depends to a large extent on the actual performance of the players and not on how many months you have already put into getting the PvP clothing.
Professions that deserve their name
The last item on our long list of notable innovations is professions. They have their own quest series that actually give them the feeling that something has to be actively produced! As tailors, we first collect certain needles and threads and have to find a knowledgeable teacher who can tell us exactly how the strange fabrics of the Broken Isles are processed together.
Blacksmiths seek out a Tauren ancestor who passes on the ancient art of blacksmithing. But because the tauren doesn't trust strangers very much, some favors have to be made first. The yield from the professions is also impressive. Every craft can produce a stylish entry-level armor for level 110, which can be upgraded even further. You are well prepared for your first forays into the raids just because you have the right job.
Only archeology is a painful thorn in the side. There are no rare rewards for digging, instead there is a new quest every two weeks in which we have to do one thing above all: farm, farm and farm again. Up to 200 excavations are necessary for some quests, which are then (luckily) rewarded with exclusive mounts or special toys. But that didn't really feel that satisfying.
In summary, the time in the Legion beta was great fun and we look forward to repeating it on the live servers soon. With the latest expansion, World of Warcraft feels rounder, more well thought-out, fairer and, above all, more motivating again. Anyone who has turned their back on Azeroth for a long time shouldn't hesitate and take another look - a lot is new and most is better.