I don’t like Elves. There, I said it. This is slightly ironic considering that the first character I ever rolled in Warcraft was a Night Elf Druid, but after a while all the nature and purple of the starting area made me want to climb up the walls screaming. If I’d been forced to play the race without the choice of Dwarves, I suspect I wouldn’t even be playing now. I tell you all this because my next zone destination on the Broken Isles is all about long ears and angst.
Having taken a slight break from the action last week, I’m now here to pass judgment on Azsuna and I’ll be honest, it’s not going to replace Stormheim as my favorite. In fact, were it not where I have to go and visit the Wardens and Court of Farondis Emissaries each week, I’d probably never come back.
I’m not a big fan of either Elves or Naga, and that’s a lot of what this zone is built around.
Once you arrive to locate your latest Pillar of Creation, it becomes immediately apparent that Queen Azshara’s already on the case and isn’t going to give up without a fight. That’s the least of your issues, to be honest. The Blue Dragonflight’s got a leadership crisis, there are dead Night Elves all over the shop, and some Prince bloke who appears to be less than popular with his ghostly population is being all angsty from beyond the grave. There’s a lot going on and I think that maybe this is one zone that could have done without trying to shoehorn so many different story lines into one place. However, it is what it is, and I came here first, long before the questing mattered, as there’s a series of Leatherworking quests to complete. However, unlike the ones I had to do in Highmountain and Stormheim, these were awkward and largely unsatisfying.
I’m not sure why, but the terrain is a big factor. I was far more willing to throw myself off mountains or struggle for a path in Stormheim (where it was raining far more, it must be said) than I ever will be chucking myself into the water. In fact, anything underwater can just go take a running jump and that’s probably why Azsuna’s just not done anything for me. Add to this that I keep typing Azshara because I hated that zone so much in Vanilla before it was Goblin-retrofitted, and I’m getting the two mixed up for a reason. I know Elf history is fascinating to many of you, but as I admitted at the start, that’s not enough to keep me enthralled. In fact, I just keep wanting to leave, except I can’t. The game insists I come here and I think I might be beginning to hate it.
I’m still maintaining that Legion is my favorite expansion, by the way, there won’t be some massive about-face because I turned up in a questing area and it wasn’t enjoyable. What happens here is a massive (and some might say long-overdue) redefinition of the entire Night Elf timeline, with accompanying comedy side quests over wine and lost parents and how even when dead, you can be redeemed if you want it enough. It’s also graphically gorgeous and is a probable precursor to the amazingness that is Suramar (which we will get to next week). In fact, if you were marking simply on looks and not substance? You’d be hard pressed to not give this entire zone maximum scores, not simply for variety but also depth.
The other problem in this zone, I have to admit, are the Demon Hunters. Yes, I know lots of you rolled one and are having great times gliding off everything and being imba in instances but I’m sorry, I hate you all. Is hate too strong a word? In this case, no, because all I want to do is punch every single DH NPC I meet because telling me after twelve years that you’ve given up everything yet what have I done? It almost makes me think that this new Hero Class has become a metaphor for gaming entitlement. Yes, I appreciate that you have indeed sacrificed a great deal to help the Alliance track down the Legion, but you don’t need to tell me this every time we meet. In fact, if you could just let me get on with questing, that would be great.
Except they don’t, and then you’re faced with having to deal with the whining and the angst which would be great if every other quest in the zone wasn’t quite so serious. Even the Winery area is just a bit too serious. I get that there’s humor here, I can cope with the imp who makes me his familiar, for instance, but the comic relief is a bit thin on the ground. I think maybe that’s the underlying issue I have with Azsuna. It is taking itself far too seriously in comparison to other zones that are still big on the drama but counterpoint it well with comic asides. That’s why I’m rather glad I’m done here now, and I don’t stay long once I’ve done my World Quest hand-ins. There had to be one zone I didn’t like, and that’s now Azsuna’s job.
Now that I’ve done the main zones justice, it’s becoming increasingly hard to dismiss this change of direction from the dev team as being anything but a brilliant tactical move, because it doesn’t matter what order I do things in as the content scales dependent on level, assuming I have no interest in the Pillars of Creation on a new character I can effectively spend no time in a zone at all if I choose, the next time an alt does the journey. If all I want is that storyline to get another alt ready to raid, it is quick and easy to do just that and avoid the side quests. Or, if the urge took me? Just side quests and finding Treasures would be more than enough, and that’s even before we factor professions into the equation.
Mostly, I feel that this blueprint is perfect moving forward. New encounters can be hung onto our storyline, seamlessly laid over the existing foundations without an issue… except there are two caveats to that brilliance that should be noted. I can get more than decent FPS with top graphics settings in Draenor or Pandaria, but head to the Broken Isles and that all changes.
I’m struggling in high traffic areas to maintain a constant 25fps and this makes some areas pretty difficult to negotiate. To add to this, there’s the issue I know low-level players encounter when their leveling zone is suddenly a World Quest area. There are ways to improve this situation, and I’m hoping they’ll be explored going forward. Doubling up on content is a great way to keep people interested but now the game’s afoot, things might have to change going forward.
However, these new approaches must have done the business as we’ve seen the numbers and we know most people are enjoying the expansion. I suspect if the content keeps rolling out at a decent pace, a fair number of those currently playing will be likely to stay until at least Karazhan’s release (presumably in early 2017). How many of those will roll an alt, however, remains to be seen, because even with how easy it is to level and the brilliance of the zones, it’s a heck of a lot of work to get yourself ‘properly’ organized, especially if you’re one of those people who likes to complete everything before moving on.
Legion was not initially made for completionists, that much is abundantly apparent. You can do everything and go for every artifact appearance or recipe level, but to do so will involve a phenomenal amount of work and dedication that I, as an average player, am never going to reach. Once upon a time, I would have, and knowing people like this still exist is part of the reason why there are so many hoops for players to jump through, or carrots to pick and graze through. Making this expansion so it can be all things to every player is perhaps the biggest success of all, and the depth of retention will ultimately deem the overall success of this venture. I expect to be collecting Legion patterns even when the storyline is done, and I think that might end up as the biggest triumph of all.
Of course, I’m not done with my zone reviews just yet. There’s one place still to cover and Suramar is an odd place. In fact, in terms of both story and mentality, this last area pretty much redefines the rulebook, and could be highlighting some fascinating possibilities for short term, evolving game content going forward. But I’m getting ahead of myself, again. That happens a lot in Legion, and I’m surprisingly ambivalent when it does now. As long as I don’t have to go back to Azsuna that often? Everything will be just fine.Related: Blizzard Entertainment, Column, Legion, MMORPG, World of Warcraft, WoW Wednesday