The dust has settled from Thursday, and I’m here to tell you that Azeroth’s in all kinds of trouble. Remember I mentioned a few weeks ago that the way to make grown men cry was to whisper the name of the Place That Will Never Be Visited? Well, it looks like Blizzard decided to throw an ENTIRE EXPANSION around just that. Welcome to the Broken Isles, home of the Tomb of Sargeras, and the Expansion we’ll all now know by its own name and never an acronym: Legion. I’m quite pleased Blizzard threw the rulebook out of the window for this announcement: not just Germany for your backdrop, but TWO Cinematics: if you’ve managed to kill Archimonde in the Citadel you’ll know that shortly before his untimely demise the Demon Lord of the Eredar reminds Gul’dan of his ‘pact’ before zapping the Orc away… and now we know where he went. It’s fair to say that Illidan’s re-discovery has sent large portions of the Community into a Demon Hunter induced frenzy, and if you were going to pick a new Class this time around? Well, it’s already proving immensely popular, and we don’t even have a Starting Area yet.
So, I feel I would be remiss this week if we didn’t go full-on Legion on this column.
The second trailer Blizzard threw at us was pretty much mirrored by the presentation that the trio of Senior Designers gave afterwards: an explanation of the details behind the Legion ‘concept’, a look at our new Zone (which actually exists on maps right now but is likely to move before release proper) and an explanation of the key features we’ll see introduced. That means Artefact Weapons, the new Honor System, Guild Order Halls and the raising of the level cap to 110, plus (of course) lots of lovely Demon Hunter screenshots and concept art. You can only make them in Night Elf and Blood Elf flavours, unsurprisingly, and there’s already mutterings you won’t be able to move for them once the Expansion hits. The Death Knights are nonplussed, of course, and who can blame them.
For everyone who wasn’t there? Here’s a brief recap of what you can expect:
The Broken Isles
Site of the Temple of Elune, where the Pillars of Creation were shoved in an attempt to keep Sargeras himself at bay, the Broken Isles is now effectively Demon Central. The trailer shows masses of troops pouring from a portal (including rather worryingly Demon Murlocs) and players can expect a pre-expansion event that has already been deliberately trailed as different from anything players have seen in Warcraft for over a decade. Or, at least that’s what the hype would have us believe. Needless to say, this is the start of a journey for every player, because on the shores of the Broken Isle you’ll be picking up your first part of the only weapon you’ll need for the entire Expansion. Yup, no more fighting the RNG for an upgrade. Times have changed in Azeroth.
In the most surprising move of the Expansion for many, you’ll no longer be chasing iLevel upgrades for your weapon of choice. Only one item will be needed for everybody, and you’ll augment it with a combination of items sourced from Azeroth’s History (yes, you’ll be deliberately sent back to Expansions past to locate specific relics) plus ‘other sources’ in a system that owes more than a passing nod to Final Fantasy for inspiration. The choice of biffing sticks has already caused some controversy: Hunters will be given a melee option with a pet, or a ranged one without. Class changes have not yet been examined in detail, but this revelation has certainly got players talking on what might yet be in the pipeline. Needless to say, with Doomhammer and Ashbringer on the table? People are genuinely excited.
Class Order Halls
Garrisons are left behind in Draenor (which I’m sure will be a relief to many) but their successor still owes a fair bit to the concept: you’ll be asked to join others of your class in a place where you’ll be able to fight as an equal amongst your peers. No more digging mines or Professions grinds for you, and there’s a sizeable team in Blizzard HQ going to make sure that side of the game is taken care of and improved away from it being tied to any such structure. For now, imagine your Guild Order as a place to recruit heroes of your own ilk to go on missions with you, plus where you’ll do work on your Artefact. Don’t expect a Bank or an Auction House here either, becaue Blizzard have at least learned their lesson. What ends up in there is still very much up for discussion too, so get your ideas out there now.
This one’s huge, and if Blizzard get it right is likely to completely redefine a large portion of the game’s popularity for the next ten years. Basically, the company admitted that they never designed PvP properly to begin with, and have come up with V3 of the concept, effectively divorcing the entire thing from PvE once and for all. How this will affect those playing on PvP servers is yet to become clear, but for everyone else? All your abilities will now only work in Battlegrounds, will be completely different to PvE so that balancing is no longer an issue, and involve a lot more work and effort. If you want rewards, there’ll be Prestige levels and special cosmetic skins as well (presumably) as a whole new interest in eSports. Whether this is enough to save the concept and give it the much needed kick into touch required? Only time will tell, but I can tell you there’s a lot of money and effort at Blizzard going into making this side of the game commercially viable.
There’s me and two other people currently in Europe not insanely excited for this new Hero Class, and the biggest surprise for everyone else is that there’s only two specs to choose from: Tanking or DPS. As this is a Hero Class you can expect to start anywhere from 90 onwards, and your primary weapons? Unsurprisingly you’ll fight with twin Glaives. There’s already queues outside the Black Temple of people hoping that the much-anticipated Transmog System also announced for Legion will be account wide and so if you win Illidan’s pair? You can mog them straight to your Demon Hunter when you roll them. In good news, you’ll not need to delete that Monk you only got to 35 and gave up with either, as you’ll be getting a 12th Character slot to accommodate the changes.
And that’s pretty much the basics so far. Of course, this isn’t enough for pretty much all players, demonstrated by the disappointment on Sunday when an anticipated Q&A session failed to provide any real meat on Thurday’s bones. However, Blizzard have learned their lessons from Warlords, and have publicly stated they don’t want to promise things they simply cannot provide this time around. I for one welcome our Cautious Demon Overlords, especially as the Announcement trailer puts Karazhan front and centre in the action I have to look forward to in the months that follow. Frankly, for that alone I’m prepared to forgive some communications hiccups and the obvious reticence to promise anything until it’s actually working in a client.
As to how I feel about all this? There’s a real sense of a changing of the guard in this Expansion, an acceptance that the thing that Blizzard used to do best has somehow been lost. The story is missing in Warlords, of that nobody can deny, and when Blizzard themselves admit in interviews that they simply didn’t do a good enough job in engaging and entertaining their playerbase? You know things need to be seriously reassessed. What this means for the future however is still up in the air, until we actually see some zones complete and things to make and do within them. There’s also a phenomenal amount of lore being thrown at players this time around: some have suggested that this is simply pandering to complaints by going too far the other way. Personally, I’d rather have too much Lore than not enough, because that way I get to pick and choose.
All we can do now is wait and see where the Journey takes us.
However, what is abundantly apparent from the last ten days is that lessons have been learned over communication. The SNAFU over the Q&A on Sunday, where it was clearly apparent many people expected far more than was ultimately delivered, had been cleared up via Tweets in just over an hour after the event concluded. That’s a quantum leap forward in terms of how the Company have previously conducted their business, and shows that people are listening and willing to stand up and admit when mistakes are made. Warcraft’s always been a tough crowd, but after Warlords there are many baying for blood, for whom only a complete reversal of outlook and attitude will be enough to pull them back to the game. As we’ve been promised a pre-expansion event, I think these will be the last weeks of a Summer that will be remembered for many of the right reasons, especially for those of us who watched the American complain about having to get up early for Press Conferences and wondered if they realised just how lucky they’ve been all these years.
It is now abundantly apparent that Warcraft is taking it’s global responsibilities very seriously indeed.Related: Blizzard Entertainment, eSports, Expansion, MMO, MMORPG, News, PvP, World of Warcraft, WoW Wednesday