World of Warcraft Legion

Legion Zone Review: Stormheim

The zone journey continues for me, in my attempt to cover every square pixel in Legion before I get overwhelmed with subsidiary content. That means that while many people are already gearing up for the Emerald Nightmare, I’m just leaving Stormheim. I’ll be honest, this is beyond the most fun I’ve had in questing, and Stormheim experiences pretty much knock both Highmountain and Val’sharah into a demon portal.

It’s amazing considering it was quite complicated even starting the initial journey: the Alliance arrival via Gunship has been notoriously bugged since Alpha, and shows no signs of being fully operational even now. However, in a turn of events that must demonstrate something in relation to my love of the Broken Isles, I wasn’t that fussed over the problem. A dozen repetitions of dropping and retaking the starting quest later and I was sorted, well on my way to a meeting with the Forsaken, who King Anduin sent me to keep an eye on. It appears Sylvanas has more than a passing interest in the contents of the rocky, mountainous area, which includes the indigenous Vrykul…

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Except if you think that’s all this zone has to offer, you’re sorely mistaken. Sticking the ‘Trials’ quest line front and center is doing a lot of other content a massive disservice, because the area is teeming with hints and echoes of what you’ll finally discover when hitting 110. It also includes some of the most enjoyable Profession quest lines I think I’ve ever experienced, along with some genuine moments of amazement.

This zone pretty much has something for everybody: pirates, dragons, warring factions and canny Goblin businessmen are just a selection of what’s on the table. However, my personal favorite is the section you complete while dead. No, I’m not giving away more than that, but suffice to say I’d like to see more content based around the afterlife, as I seemed to spend so much time there while exploring. It is all too easy to Disengage yourself off a cliff to an early death, multiple times. Trust me. 

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A not-so-rocky journey after all

There will be those who’ll argue this kind of rocky, mountainous zone is what flying was made for, or rather what it helps you avoid. However, once you work out the lay of the land (literally and metaphorically) it proves to be the easiest zone so far to navigate. It’s also the one your Goblin Glider or Kite was meant to be used in, and the sweeping vistas from top to bottom are worth stopping and taking in. It’s a beautiful mix of classic Viking history, water, and bleak, rocky outcroppings.

There are places of genuine wonder, and the dwellings are beautiful both in construction and placement. Also, the entrance to the Halls of Valor (which also doubles as the Warrior Class Hall) is probably one of the most inspiring entrances to instances in the game so far. I absolutely adore it as a class hall as well as the accompanying five-man, annoying mobs and dangerous pulls combined. Plus, it has the best mechanic ever for a last boss, only slightly surpassed by Cordana Felsong in the Vault of the Wardens.

I really had to work in Stormheim, especially at 110. Respawn rates are extremely robust, and the objectives often needed some careful thinking and planning to complete. More importantly, the questing is becoming less and less about being on rails and far more organic, almost episodic in both telling and execution. It’s odd that things appear so natural and unforced, especially since that is usually the case with all the zones where the main storyline leads to a dungeon as ‘conclusion’ or ‘continuation’ to the plot.

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It helps that Stormheim looks and feels feels so vast, and a lot of this undoubtedly is wrapped around the construction of objectives over multiple levels. As you travel in pursuit of your objectives, there’s also a strange sense of working alone even though you are well aware of other people around you. I suspect the new instancing technology has something to do with this, and it can well create a feeling of claustrophobia. This was particularly true of the section where I ended up ‘dead’ and had to fight my way out of purgatory.

However, what I enjoyed most were the weather effects. There’s almost as much rain in Stormheim as you’d expect, but it is the lightning that really gives the most distinctive feel. Coupled with the zone’s music (you should turn it on), it is enough to make me fall in love. You’d think a place where it rains so much would get you depressed, but all it does is highlight the beauty of the art assets. Then, when you’re left with open-ended quest conclusions and unanswered questions, or stumble upon NPC’s you know are from places you’ve not yet visited (looking at you, Suramar) it’s apparent that even though you’re done with a part of business, that’s not nearly all there is to the story. Suddenly you’re already looking forward to coming back, realizing that this place became your favorite zone.

 

Professions

The skinning’s plentiful in Stormheim, and if I’m going to find a place to grind, it needs to have spots with decent respawns. There’s a bunch of wolves that fit the bill as one of ‘Alt’s Preferred Grinding Spots’ so I’ll be back, probably quite often once I finally max my Leatherworking.

That’s been a long, hard slog, but I’m finally in a position to start picking up some useful crafting recipes. However, like so much else I am discovering, I need to be in Suramar to make the transition to serious rewards. That area’s not going anywhere, I’m still in absolutely no hurry to finish the content any faster. I can distract myself with fishing all over the place, collecting and upgrading the Battle Pets, and faff in so many other fronts.

As a case in point, I started Archaeology this week, and discovering that I have two weeks to complete 25 solves in Azshara couldn’t have come at a better time. In fact, digging sites and combining questing could be something I could also do on an alt at a later date. I realize there’s only about twelve other people in Europe who enjoy this profession as much as I do. I’ve not spoiled myself for what happens afterwards either, so that is going to be yet another pleasant surprise to look forward to.

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Having established that Stormheim now holds the favorite zone title (and is likely to continue to do so until I sink my teeth into World Quests and Suramar) I can look at the perfect storm of factors that have finally come together to make questing so enjoyable in Legion. A perfect example of this comes with two Tauren whom I met in Alpha and who offered a set of boring and rather predictable set of beast killing/skinning quests which rewarded a recipe at the end.

on live, after you meet them, the conclusion is considerably more entertaining. What this tells me is that Blizzard weren’t afraid to tear up their own rules and try new things, and make them suitably different that old players like me would still be surprised. It’s part of a raft of changes that make the game something far more entertaining than I can remember for many, many years.

 

Sheer enjoyment

Here’s where I decide to go out on a limb: I don’t remember ever enjoying questing as much as this. Even going back to ‘classic’ expansions such as Wrath or Burning Crusade, nothing has made me quite so excited. This time there are perilously few gimmicks; sure, we get bombing and underwater stuff, but they never overtake the thrust of the story.

That’s the undoubted joy in all of this, for someone who considers the best Warcraft like a good book, to be lost in and read again and again without losing any impact. This time, I really think that the designers have cracked it. There’s just so much to like, and incredibly few issues or problems with anything. In fact, it is almost perfect. It might seem hyperbole after twenty days, but I think this could be my favorite expansion ever.

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I’m not raiding in Legion except for LFR. I have little or no concern for high level organized content. All I’m looking for is a place to call my own, and stuff to distract me along the way, and this is far, far more than I’d either expected or anticipated. I’m sure I’ll find something not to like, but in all honestly there is so much else I can do instead that it doesn’t really matter.

So, yes, I can say it with confidence. This is my favorite expansion since the game launched, which is the last time I remember feeling such a joy in pure unmitigated exploration, coupled with a real sense of progression and satisfaction with the content I was presented with. Considering I’m not even done with the questing content? Blizzard have done the impossible, and removed my cynicism over Azeroth ever living up to it’s own hype.

Frankly, things can only get better from now on.

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