Video Games

World of Warcraft Legion Initial Thoughts – Give Us A Reason To Log In Again

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Blizzard has revealed its next expansion for World of Warcraft, entitled Legion. A good bit of information was revealed, including a new level cap of 110 and a new hero class, so we got four of our resident World of Warcraft players on staff to give us their thoughts and impressions on what has been disclosed so far.

Q. What is your initial reaction to what was revealed so far for the expansion? Are you excited?

Ron Whitaker: Not so much excited as intrigued. Although there was a good amount of info shown off yesterday, there are still a lot of details lacking. I’m interested to see what else Blizzard has to show off, and how they’ll implement things like the new PvP talent system.

Janelle Bonnano: They are making Demon Hunter a melee class!? Beyond that initial confusion, I’m excited. I love PvP and can’t wait to see a new talent system for it. The new area seems interesting, but the lack of detail in the release does make the new storyline seem a little disjointed from the lore. Illidan is supposed to be dead. The Tomb was destroyed. There are a lot of holes yet to be explained. I hope this is a return to original lore and not a cheap recycle of it.

Josh Vanderwall: Artifact Weapons sound a lot like the legacy gear (or whatever it was called) that levels up with your character. It sounds neat, but without more details, it doesn’t strike me as anything new.

Class Orders sounds very interesting to me, though I have a feeling it’s going to be super similar to the Keep thingys.

New Classes are always exciting, but a little displeased with the fact that Demon Hunter class is labeled a “melee” character. I recognize that it’s a different universe than Diablo, but it’s still a bit weird. Realistically, though, I expect very few established players will be willing to give up their lvl 100s to make a DH. I certainly won’t be, aside from maybe the starting area.

John Keefer: I tend to be an altaholic. I have one of every class, with eight of them level 100. I like the idea of a new hero class, so I’m excited to see how the Demon Hunter plays. It will be interesting what level Blizzard will let the DH start at (given that Death Knights started at level 55).

I also really enjoyed the Garrisons, so I will be watching how the Class Orders and followers are implemented.

Q. The Burning Legion has returned. We’ve already seen these guys once in the Burning Crusade. Is Blizzard running out of ideas?

Ron: I don’t think I’d say that. I’d say that they’re trying to do the most with the lore they have available to them. I’ve said for a while that letting players kill off all these iconic enemies from the lore might not be the best idea, and I think we’re seeing that a little bit. That said, it’s not like this is Cataclysm, where it really felt like they were just repurposing a lot of old stuff. The new continent looks great, and if they can get players invested in the story, I think it’ll work out fine.

Janelle: I don’t necessarily think so. I think The Burning Legion is effectively Azeroth’s greatest nemesis. There were three great wars due to the Burning Legion and Azeroth is the only known world they could not conquer. In that case, I would return too and I don’t think they really closed that chapter with the closing of the portal. Unlike Cataclysm where I wasn’t really interested in re-exploring old, but now fractured content, the Broken Isles excites me. I can’t wait to explore it. Plus, we’re back to focusing on Night Elf lore, which I really appreciate as someone who leveled up in Teldrassil.

Josh: I suspect it’s less about running out of ideas than it is reinforcing the existing canon. There’s been a LOT of story arcs over the course of WoW‘s lifetime, and I think bringing players back to something relatively familiar might be a move to re-hook players who particularly enjoyed the last Burning Legion arc.

John: I agree with Janelle that the Legion is an imposing threat and, given Gul’dan’s penchant for messing with the demons, I guess it isn’t that much of a surprise. I have to admit that I was intrigued that Gul’dan survived Warlords of Draenor, although hopefully his fate will be a little more dramatic than the anti-climactic nature of Garrosh’s demise.

Q. In this case, the Tomb of Sargeras has been reopened. What do you want to see this time around from the story?

Ron: I want to see players affecting the world. The examples I remember were Quel’Danas in The Burning Crusade expansion, and the Scourge Invasion or the Gates of Ahn’Qiraj in vanilla WoW. Those were events that not only told a story, they involved players in advancing it. That’s really key, I think. Players need to not only live in the world, but visibly affect and change it in order to stay interested. I think that’s where Warlords of Draenor fell a little flat. Players never got that feeling of investment.

Janelle: This confuses me. I thought the Tomb of Sargeras and all its evils were destroyed by Illidan? Either way, I would like to see the Legion purged once and for all and the Temple of Elune resurrected. I also agree with Ron on players affecting the world more. In the last WoW expansion, I felt as though the addition of the Garrison’s removed players from the overall world more so than I would have liked. The addition of more world events and player world advancement would undo that.

Josh: As one of the many players that typically just clicks through the story dialogue, as long as it doesn’t try to utilize too many one-off mechanics that aren’t particularly enjoyable (bombing runs) in order to further the story, I’m not that particular.

John: I’d like to see some combination of what Ron and Janelle said. I want the Legion eradicated, or at least crippled so bad that it will be some time before they return. That said, I’d like to see more player driven events that lead to key plot points or dungeon/raid unlocks. I do like the lore, despite some of the plot holes, so it will be interesting to see how they explain how the tomb is still around, and what mumbo jumbo brings Illidan back as a character.

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Q. Several characters seem to have prominent play in the expansion, according to the official site. Genn Greymane, Sylvanas Windrunner, Anduin Wrynn, Maiev Shadowsong, and even Illidan are back, along with some new characters. Which character do you want to see explored in more detail and why?

Ron: I’d love to see Blizzard really go in depth on Sylvanas. My first characters in WoW were Undead, and I always thought her story would be really cool to dig deeper into. That said, I also want to know what happened to Illidan after we killed him about a million times in Black Temple. How is he still alive?

Janelle: I definitely want to know more about Maiev Shadowsong. She always seemed like such an interesting and deep character. Plus, she’s a night elf, which being my only true character, is near and dear to my heart. With the return of Illidan, she has renewed purpose, but… SHE KILLED HIM! Why is he back again? Obviously, this will not sit well with her at all.

Josh: I’ve always loved Illidan, personally. I’d love to see more about him. I like the character archetype: ‘dude abandons his people in pursuit of power, with ambitions and motivations that aren’t necessarily clear.” I feel like there’s a lot they can do with him.

John: I’m intrigued by Anduin. He really grew up quite a bit in Mists of Pandaria. The proposed character development explains that “Anduin will learn the true cost of peace … and whether he is willing to pay it” so I will be curious to see if Anduin goes through a crisis of conscience that Arthas did when he became the Lich King. Can the Alliance handle another defection to the dark side?

Q. We are finally getting a new class called the Demon Hunter. With all the expansions, this is only the second hero class to come out, the first being the Death Knight. What do you think of the concept and do you think it will work?

Ron: I don’t see why not. The Death Knight is still a really popular class, and I’m sure the Demon Hunter will be too. The only catch is that Blizzard needs to be careful balancing it to make sure that it doesn’t become the “best of the best” class. I like the concept of a mobile melee DPS, and I hope they maintain the theme by making Demon Hunters agility-based tanks, heavy on dodge and avoidance.

Janelle: Why is the demon hunter a melee class? Ultimately, it sounds very much like Druid kitty DPS. I hope there are enough differences that make it stand out, but doesn’t become the must have class like Death Knights were for a while.

Josh: Don’t forget the monk! It will definitely work to some extent. Dedicated alt-ists will want to cap him out. I do feel like making him a melee class is going to drastically reduce the interest of Diablo fans, though.

John: This will be a very intriguing class, depending on implementation, of course. As Ron said, the greatest challenge to a new Hero class is balancing it against all the other classes in the game. The Death Knight started as a Hero, but between nerfs and redesigns, I doubt anyone really thinks of it as anything more than just another class. I’d like to see if they can keep the Demon Hunter as a true hero type, with limitations in other areas of balance instead of a rock-paper-scissors type of balance.

Q. New Artifact weapons are planned, and, based on the video, it looks like they will be able to be augmented in some way that allows them to act as Heirlooms. What are your thoughts on this?

Ron: I think the artifact weapons have the potential to be really cool, or really annoying, depending on the implementation. I like the idea that each spec has its own artifact, but what about players who play multiple specs regularly? Do they have to do the grind twice? If I typically tank, but the guild needs me to DPS, do I have to do so with a substandard weapon? I’m sure Blizzard has thought of these questions, but we haven’t heard them mention anything about this yet.

Furthermore, I think Blizzard needs to be really careful that the “leveling up” of Artifact weapons doesn’t feel like it was designed solely as a time sink, or they could lose people’s interest. It’s a cool idea, it just needs careful implementation.

Janelle: I like the idea of leveling up weapons, as long as it’s a time substitute for getting better ones in raids. Unfortunately, Artifacts already sound like they are at the top of the weapon tiers, so I’m not sure how this won’t just turn out into another time sink. It will give end-gamers more min/maxing content to peruse though. And as a life-long Druid, I hate that they are spec dependent. I really loved re-specing often and WoW seems to have moved further and further away from that.

Josh: As above, I think we’ll need more information before we can make any conclusive statements, but my inclination is the same. The concept has been done already. Not only that, it’s been done in WoW already. They really need to do something to set it apart.

John: I always liked the idea of magic weapons that gained experience with me as I leveled. As with all of these early reveals, implementation is key, but I’d love to see a strong lore associated with each of these, with the player’s adventures being added to that lore as the weapon levels. Wouldn’t it be cool if they could add some sort of random intelligence to it that made it incredibly unpredictable?

Q. One of the news things promised is class specific halls and followers. The garrisons in Warlords of Draenor were rather popular. Given we know little, what do you think this will be and how could it work well?

Ron: It sounds like Class Orders will be the new Garrisons, albeit with fewer followers. These Champions, as they’re called, will go out into the world and set the stage for you to do things, or do things alongside you. It’s less followers doing quests for you, and more a feeling of you doing things alongside your champions, as I understand it. I’m very interested to see how they’ve evolved the concept, as I thought the Garrison idea was a solid one, just not fully thought through.

Janelle: Blizzard is quoted as saying “unify champions of their cause at their class’s Order Hall.” I hope that means that, unlike Garrisions, they are more social. I’m excited to see the idea of Garrisons evolve. While I loved them myself, they didn’t seem quite completed in terms of idea and execution.

Josh: Given the seeming similarities to Garrisons, I have to assume people already have a time-sink and reason to log in every day with those. I think they’re going to have to really make this something new and interesting to garner much interest.

John: I tend to be a solo player, so I spent a lot of time in the garrisons. Many of my characters had the gear ilvls increased solely from crafting and follower missions. Yeah, it was a bit like a Facebook game, but I enjoyed it within the context of WoW. As Ron said, I’m curious to see what Blizzard sees as the next evolution. We have gone from the small phased plot of Sunsong Ranch in Mists of Pandaria, to the expanded Garrison that could be a good money-maker with the right management. I do hope that the new class orders give us a reason to get out in the world a bit more.

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Q. Blizzard is revamping the honor system again. It’s now going to look more like the prestige system from Call of Duty, where you can max out and then start over at level one to earn more exclusive rewards. How do you feel about that change?

Ron: I think the change to the honor system is a much needed one. Not so much because the prestige idea is awesome, but more because the design of this system looks to finally give Blizzard a tool to start balancing PvE and PvP on a separate basis. This is something that’s been needed for year, as balance changes to either one have had unforeseen consequences in the other. With the new PvP talents, Blizzard can hopefully make the changes they think they need without affecting PvE in an adverse way.

Josh: I’ve always been on the fence about the honor system. The most fun I had in PvP was in vanilla, before honor existed. There’s something to be said for rewarding players for pvp stuff, but I think the system inherently took the focus off of the exciting world PvP and put it onto pvp bubbles with virtually no actual impact on the game experience. I want to see some kind of incentive to engage in open world pvp on those dedicated servers, rather than putting all emphasis on battlegrounds and such.

John: I have not PvP’d at all since burning out hitting Rank 12 in vanilla WoW and hitting exalted with the three original battleground factions. So that is an area of the game that interests me the least. But I do know that plenty of people love to PvP and I will be following their reactions to the changes.

Q. We recently gave Blizzard a hint as to what we would like to see in the new expansion. Given we still know very little, what is most important for you to keep playing the game?

Ron: One of the most compelling reasons to play WoW is the people that you play it with. LFG and LFR have made maintaining a group of friends or a guild less important, and the main incentive that was left (guild perks) is gone too. I want to see Blizzard encourage guilds to grow and people to form those relationships again. I think LFG and LFR have been boons for getting people to see content, but they’ve hurt the social aspect of the game tremendously. I’d love to see a focus on bringing that part of WoW back.

Janelle: Ron took the words out of my mouth. One reason I no longer have my WoW account active is that I lost reason to. Most of my friends ended up spending most of their time in their garrisons. Make guilds important again!

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Josh: I’m an expansion player primarily. I play through new content, hit the new level cap, and unsub until the next x-pack hits. I can’t imagine too many things that would keep me subbed between expansions, but solo/scalable dungeons would definitely be one thing that would stand a chance. Being able to run a dungeon with just my wife and myself would be incredibly appealing.

John: Given that I tend to be a solo player, I would love to see more solo dungeons and a way to impact the world as an individual. I have used LFR quite a bit just so I can see content, but I would love to see some sort of branching possibilities where outcomes can be different based on choices or accomplishments made in dungeons. Granted, that means more phasing, but I think it would be fun.

Q. Finally, if you could give Blizzard a piece of advice on what to do with Legion, what would it be?

Ron: They need to keep the world interesting. One of the reasons I think Blizzard has seen the precipitous drop in subscriptions that they have lately is that Warlords of Draenor‘s end-game was far too static. They need to give people compelling reasons to log in again, and they need to do it through making the world fun to inhabit again.

Janelle: Keep advancing the lore in a social-dependent way that is accessible. And make WoW feel more dynamic again.

Josh: To be honest, Blizzard executes waaaay better than I could ever hope to. Do what you do. Make a great experience. Embolden the players. Engage the players. It’s what Blizzard does.

John: More lore and more solo-style end-game content. Yeah, I know I’m the minority, but …

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