This week I did something for my first time in my 12 years of playing World of Warcraft: I stayed up all night to participate in an expansion launch. I've traditionally avoided the early hours, but this time around I wanted to do things differently.
Since I got such an early start, I've already logged more than 12 hours in Legion. Although I won't be writing my final review until a later date, today I will share my early thoughts on the expansion, and boy are they positive.
Legion starts off strong. The Artifact quests are some of the best in the history of the game. They have a strong presence of story, including the appearance of several notable characters and locales. It always feels as though you're doing something important.
The pre-launch events helped bridge the gap. Legion is a large and complex expansion. The questline that tied Warlords of Draenor and Legion together were very successful at easing players into the new world and its content.
The servers have been stable. Outside of a pesky DDoS attack yesterday evening, Blizzard's servers have handled the day one load with great success. I can't recall a single technical issue during my first night of playing, not even lag. This is particularly surprising given I play on a high population server where issues have been prevalent during prior expansion launches.
Demon Hunter adds some welcomed complexity. More classes means that there's more diversity in the player pool, in addition to there being extra strategy to think about when making groups or engaging in PvP. It's a visually stunning class that adds a lot to the World of Warcraft climate.
There are plenty of great surprises. Last night I visited a sub-zone in Stormheim that absolutely stunned me. We're talking amazing atmosphere and character design. Unexpected moments happen often in Legion.
Class identity is back. There are many systems in Legion that make every class feel distinct. We're talking exclusive class quests, gorgeous Order Halls, Artifact weapons tied to lore, and the big class design alterations of the 7.0 patch. These things have done a great job of undoing some of the damage caused by the many years of class homogenization.
Order Halls are a better Garrison. I'm a bit disappointed at how similar the Order Halls are to Garrisons, a feature that was an anti-social tragedy for Warlords of Draenor in the long run, but they do have some neat new ideas that provide compelling gameplay options. Also, unlike Garrisons they congregate many players of the same class, inviting a level of interaction between players that wasn't achieved in Warlords of Draenor.
The leveling zones are hit or miss. Val'sharah and Azsuna are the highlights, while Stormheim and Highmountain have some design issues. There are moments where leveling veers into tedium, bringing back memories of how agonizing leveling can be. But shortly after, Legion finds a way to re-invigorate the leveling process with great story moments.
Leveling is challenging. The mobs in the Broken Isles are tough… very tough. A lot of players are dying when they accidentally aggro adds. Many of us think this is a good thing for the game as difficulty has, for the most part, been missing for the past few years. But that doesn't mean it isn't occasionally frustrating.
Hitting level cap isn't necessarily "fun". Even with all the beautiful areas and new quest designs, grinding feels largely the same as the prior two expansions. It's not something I personally enjoy. I will say that spending some additional time to follow the story helps tremendously in this regard.
Collecting Artifact Power is addictive. Replacing weapon upgrades with the Artifact system has been a nice change of pace. Not only does it feel like you're always progressing toward a more powerful weapon, but there's a new element of choice thanks to the Artifact Traits.
Each zone has great story climax. All four zones have a main story questline that introduces compelling characters and story arcs. Toward the end of these questlines major things happen, which include visual spectacle and lore-altering sequences.
Treasure. Treasure everywhere. Blizzard has undoubtedly listened to the positive feedback of treasure design in Mists of Pandaria. There are rare mobs and hidden treasure spread densely a cross the Broken Isles. This rewards exploration with enticing items, as well as Artifact Power.
PvP still needs balance. There are some classes that are simply way better than others in PvP environments. As a healing-oriented Priest, I can't say my class is in a great spot. Thankfully, Blizzard has a new system in-place where it can alter the numbers of skills to be different in PvE and PvP, allowing for a level of fine tuning that should make balance easier to achieve.
There's plenty of opportunity to have fun. There are lots of new toys to be found in the Broken Isles, as well as many tall peaks that provide ample opportunity to have some slow fall fun.
The Broken Isles promote outdoor activities. There are many reasons that you will want to head back to places like Highmountain even once you're level 110. It helps that everything scales, so every zone will be relevant at level cap. This is going to be a big element at endgame.
It's on the right path. As someone who was burned out of Warlords of Draenor for the past year, I can honestly say that Legion is doing a lot of things right. It isn't perfect, and is unlikely to become the best expansion World of Warcraft history, but if Blizzard does as good of a job of post-launch support as I believe they will, this will be a very strong era of World of Warcraft that will surely bring back thousands of players who never thought they would come back to the game.