It is a safe bet to assume that in the weeks that follow, I’ll be doing a lot of writing about what you can expect from Legion. At this stage, only having managed a limited engagement in both Alpha and Beta, I can only provide the roughest of overviews. However, once we get to release (which, in case you didn’t realize, is two weeks) there will be considerably more meat on the bones of my assessments. For now, I am here to give you a feeling for what you can expect in the two backbones of this game. Since 2004, dungeons and raids have always been the benchmark by which any new Expansion has been judged. This time around, Activision Blizzard is well aware of not only what is at stake, but has come suitably prepared.
Dungeons Have Changed Forever
This means a pretty varied selection on release; of course, some of these dungeons will only be available at max level to players, but eventually they will all become playable in the new Mythic Plus difficulty. Let’s spend a moment to explain what that means and what you’ll be doing with the 100-110 leveling experience in a five man. There are still three levels of ‘standard’ Legion dungeons: the basic 5 mans drop iLevel 805 loot, Heroics have iLevel 825 and then there’s Mythic Plus (iLevel 840). These top tier dungeons give more than a passing nod to Diablo in their construction, which means that you’ll be seeing new ways that damage is specified. These terms are known as ‘affixes’ and currently there are eight that will indicate what you’ll be up against. But I’m getting ahead of myself. What does all this mean for the average player in simple terms?
If you’re old enough to remember Stratholme 45, you’ll know that three-quarters of an hour is a pretty decent time in which to get your work done. That’s how you unlock Mythic Plus: complete your specific dungeon in under that time period and you’ll be rewarded. It should be noted that you’ll still get loot if you’re outside the 45 minutes, but if you manage to beat the timers? Things get very interesting indeed. You’ll find a Challenger’s Pedestal at every instance entrance, and once you’ve completed the first Mythic Plus dungeon that’s where you’ll place your Challenger’s Keystone for further runs. As you get faster and better at each run (and it doesn’t have to be the same dungeon, just any if I read this correctly) that Stone becomes more powerful. Once you hit Power Level Three you’ll unlock the first of a group of affixes, which effectively randomize what abilities the mobs and bosses possess in dungeons going forward.
Mythic Plus means Random Dungeons, Every Time
If you still don’t grasp what this means? In the current Mythic setup the difficulty lies in beating a timer by dealing with mobs and bosses in an extremely organized way. The affixes mean that you then have to deal with them doing particular types of damage, or causing you difficulty when killing them. For instance: Skittish mobs ignore tank taunts meaning that if you cause too much threat you’ll be fighting them yourself. Teeming as an affix tells a team to expect extra trash in a Dungeon to deal with. The former is a Level 6+ affix and the latter a L3+, but the two can be paired together as a legitimate keystone combination once you reach the correct level.
Should you complete a dungeon with this Keystone combination, your end dungeon loot (which you’ll get in a chest, just to keep that Diablo vibe going) will be of a better quality than someone who only has L3+ affixes available to them. That means you’ll see people selling runs with L6 Keystones as time goes on in the same way now there’s Gold CM runs available, and if you’re lucky enough to hold a keystone with a particularly potent combination? Everybody will want to be your friend.
The key here I believe is that you’ll have a weekly lockout, and as once you’ve done one dungeon you’re then randomly assigned another, you won’t be able to run the same one over and over again in order to exploit it for loot. Mostly, this should become the de facto method for players who don’t do raiding to gear themselves to a standard so they can: LFR gear is only 835, and with Normal raiding marked at 850 this becomes the perfect level entry pursuit for players who want to prepare themselves in smaller groups.
For Everything Else, There are Five Mans
Normal and Heroic remain as they were, and you’ll have a selection of dungeons to initially learn whilst leveling. Once you hit Suramar (the massive and ambitious end zone for the game) you will be close to cap, and there are a number of five mans only accessible at 110. The rest have nods to the zones you’ve been leveling in, form the end stories for several, and in some cases they will be familiar already to players. The full list of dungeons (with brief descriptions until I’ve run them) are as follows:
Halls of Valor: Stormheim based, marks the end of your questing in this zone (remember there are no level boundaries when doing so in Legion and every zone can be completed regardless of your journey to 110.) There’ll be lots of Valkyr and presumably a great deal of shouting about honor and sacrifice.
Black Rook’s Hold: Located in Val’sharah, caved from solid rock, it’s an Elven fortress and home to Lord Kur’talos Ravencrest. It’s also maximum level only.
Vault of the Wardens: This place will be familiar to those of you who have already rolled/played a Demon Hunter, as it forms part of your leveling/starting area experience. The dungeon answers the question of why Gul’dan sought out Illidan (or so the Internet informs me), so I am already quite excited to see this one for myself.
Eye of Azshara: Lots of Nagas, all aligned to Queen Azshara and produced presumably as a nod to those who thought that was going to end up as the original title of this Expansion. Activision Blizzard is very good at self-referencing, after all.
Darkheart Thicket: Another dungeon in the Druidic-themed Val’sharah, located at the base of the World Tree where the Emerald Dream has been corrupted. You’ll be saving Malfurion from the Nightmare, among other things.
Neltharion’s Lair: This one is in Highmountain, where you discover the Drogbar. That’s nothing to do with a famous European footballer and everything about the disruptive element in the zone, who have stolen a Pillar of Creation which you’ll need to get back.
Hellheim: Already voted ‘this Expansion’s gimmick dungeon.’ You’re on a boat for this one, fighting the Kvaldir. If you remember the Argent Tournament, they’re the cursed should that become seaweed then you kill them and are even more angry than their living versions. Let’s just hope motion sickness isn’t a problem.
Violet Hold: With Dalaran’s shift to the Broken Isles (SPOILERS) there’s new and interesting baddies to deal with inside the city’s prison. I for one am hoping for another timed waves encounter as per the original, which could be especially interesting on Mythic Plus.
Suramar City: Finally, as the pinnacle of the End Zone in the End Game, you’ll be fighting the Nightbourne on their own turf. I’ll admit I’ve kept myself completely spoiler free for this, and am really very excited to see if this five man lives up to the hype everyone else keeps giving it.
All of these dungeons eventually will be available in Mythic Plus flavor and I can already take a guess that Helheim’s not going to be popular as a destination. As to how the others run? As I stated at the top of the article we only have two weeks to wait until all becomes apparent, so it’s probably a good idea that I’m prepared on my main as much as possible to run all of this when we go live. What we can conclude, however, from the work and effort thrown at Dungeons this time around is that Activision Blizzard finally got the memo over what holds an expansion together, and for those who raid it is the activities when they’re not that matter most of all. For those complaining they spent too much time in their Garrison last time around? I doubt being bored is ever going to be a problem on the Broken Isles.
When you look at the work and thought that has gone into the Dungeon setup this time around, you cannot help but think that without Diablo’s help, a lot of this inspiration would not have been possible, and when I consider the influence that game has had on a lot of Legion’s gameplay? I don’t see a problem. If this fundamental change means that dungeons are forever random at a certain level and the loot remains relevant through out the entirety of an Expansion? There is no way this will ever be a bad thing. I look forward to playing all of these 5 mans on all the levels: I hope to see you there too in a fortnight.Related: Blizzard Entertainment, Column, Expansion, Legion, MMORPG, World of Warcraft, WoW Wednesday