World of Warcraft may not be the behemoth MMO it was at its peak, but that hasn't stopped Blizzard from putting out expansions that continually raise the bar for both the game and the MMO genre in general.
And before you say it, yes, the overall reception to an expansion can change depending on how that expansion's long-game ends up — cough Warlords of Draenor cough — but WoW expansions have always released to positive reception.
Having played enough to hit the new level cap — though, not as fast as some players — I can say Legion is no exception to this. There are so many great things about the new expansion! I'm sure I'll miss some, but if you need a reason to check back in on your old addiction, here are some of the best things about Legion I've found so far.
1. Zone Scaling Means Even Footing for All
Blizzard has added new tech to the game to make all of the new leveling zones scale based on your player level. This changes the way players level for a number of reasons and, honestly, should be added to the rest of the game if possible.
What's so great about it? Let's see...
- You never out-level a zone. Enter and exit whenever you want since you can complete leveling zones in any order you please!
- It doesn't matter what level your friends are if you want to group together for questing.
- Quest rewards will always feel, well, rewarding since they scale as well.
It's a simple, yet effective change to how zones work and it actually could change the entire leveling game if applied to other zones as well.
2. Artifacts All Have Their Own Story That Rewards You With a Class Hall
I've touched on this once before, but it really can't be understated how awesome it is that each and every spec — all 36 of them — has its own unique quest line and corresponding Artifact weapon.
And while each is relatively short (somewhere between 30 and 60 minutes), they all add substantial lore to the game. In almost every Artifact's case, you'll be taken to an old zone that now reflects what's happened since the last time you were there.
For example, Fire Mages are taken to Icecrown Citadel and spoken to by the new Bolvar-ified Lich King, Discipline Priests are taken to the Nexus to see what the Blue Dragonflight has been up to, and Balance Druids are taken to Karazhan to see what's happened since Burning Crusade.
Oh, and to top it all off, your Artifact quest chain ends with you being taken to your Class Hall — a specific and unique location for members of your class and your class only.
3. The Zones Are Beautiful and Full of Story
This time around, there are only four zones for players to level in. That means each zone needs to carry players through an average of 2.5 levels. And instead of going the route of giving players more XP per quests, Blizzard has designed the 100-110 leveling process to take just as long, if not longer, than previous expansions' leveling experiences.
As a result, each zone is packed full of quests, all worth doing. That might sound daunting, but it's actually done in a way that makes each section of the zone flow very nicely. The zone's primary storyline is far from the only storyline offered. You can finish the main story and still have several optional quest hubs left for you, and each of them tells a story worth hearing.
If anyone played through Vashj'ir in Cataclysm, the zone dragged on forever. It was one of the best in terms of storyline, but it also ended up being a zone you never wanted to do twice. The Legion zones are long and full of story like Vashj'ir, but the quest flow keeps them from ever feeling like things are dragging with no end in sight — and it's amazing!
All of that is nothing to say on the aesthetics of the zones, either. I continually find myself amazed with how the artists at Blizzard can manage to make the zones they do with WoW's graphics engine, and Legion hasn't changed that. Each zone looks different, but each is also beautiful.
4. There Is an Entire Zone Dedicated to Level 110
If you read that last section and thought I'd forgotten about a zone, you'd only be half-right. See, there are actually 5 zones on the Broken Isles but one of them doesn't scale — because it's a full zone for max-level characters.
I'm not talking about a Tanaan Jungle kind of zone, either. Suramar feels like it could have just as easily been included in the leveling experience. It has several different story threads, a new faction you're dedicated to helping, unique models, and ohmygod the most gorgeous city ever.
Not only does the zone itself impress, but having it as a 110-specific zone means that hitting level cap doesn't feel the same as it used to. Gone are the days of looking to run group content immediately. Now you have a zone that's calling your name.
But you know what? That's not the only thing that makes 110 different from previous level caps.
5. World Quests. Oh My God, World Quests
When you hit 110, your first goal is to reach Friendly reputation with all of the main factions. If you've spent any time questing, this means you'll only have to work through part of Suramar's storyline to finish off the single remaining reputation.
When that happens, you unlock world quests — Blizzard's answer to max-level boredom.
World quests, as their name implies, are quests that appear throughout the world. But what makes them different from previous expansions' daily quests or reputation grinds is that they appear randomly, last for random intervals, and have all variety of rewards. They are essentially the bounty system from Diablo 3.
World quests work incredibly well at always giving you something to do without ever making you feel like you have to do something right this second. For instance, some of the reputation-based rewards or tougher challenges that have the best rewards will often have several days on them before they expire.
They avoid the burnout that dailies caused in Mists while also avoiding the feeling of needing to log in every 30 minutes that garrison missions caused in Warlords. Admittedly, time will tell how long world quests can keep players interested. But for now, they are absolutely the best repeatable max-level content WoW has ever had.
6. Voice Work Brings Everything to Life
This is one of those things that you might not notice at first, but will slowly creep up on you the more you play.
You see, Blizzard added a lot of talking heads to the game — sometimes literal ones, come to think of it — that introduce you to something you're about to do, or help guide you on a quest. And even if you don't see a talking head on your screen, there are several NPCs that have voice lines in every single zone.
Barring a meth-addict-like NPC with Winnie the Pooh's voice (yes, really), the overall effect is that the game feels more alive than ever. Again, it might take a second to fully notice just how many NPCs are actually talking to you out loud, but once you notice, it's hard not to stop noticing.
7. Cinematics Are Better Than Ever
I cannot stress this one enough. The cinematics department at Blizzard has outdone themselves with this expansion.
If you haven't seen them yet, the Broken Shore pre-expansion event (which doesn't actually require Legion to play) ended with the game's most unforgettable in-game cinematics ever. That's not an exaggeration, either. They're seriously mind-blowing.
And the best part is, that trend of cinematics continues in the Legion zones. Sometimes part-way through a zone, sometimes as a result of an important quest, and a few times to cap off a zone's story, you're treated with a cinematic that will honestly blow you away (and in some cases, really tug at your emotions).
8. So Many Great Little Things
For real, though, there's a lot to the game that has made the Legion leveling experience the best so far. I could go on and on (more than I already have) but instead, I'll leave you with the cliffnotes version of what else Legion has to offer:
- Faction-shared enemy tagging so your mobs don't get "stolen" if you're not grouped.
- Dalaran back as the central hub to hit you right in the nostalgia.
- A phenomenal soundtrack. Seriously, it's actually topped Taylor Swift and Beyonce on the iTunes charts.
- Actual appearances of Murky (Heroes of the Storm) and Sir Finley Mrrgglton (Hearthstone).
- Increased draw distance means you can see more of the game than ever.
- Lots and lots of hilarious antics that are sure to continue and grow.
If it wasn't clear, I'm absolutely loving Legion right now. It's brought life back into the game and reminded me why I was drawn into WoW in the first place, all those years ago.