At Gamescon 2015 in Cologne, Germany Blizzard Entertainment announced the sixth expansion to World of Warcraft, and it is… well… see for yourself…
I can’t be the only (former) WoW player who rolled his eyes when an orc opened up the cinematic. And I can’t be the only one who facepalmed at the Illidan Stormrage reveal at the end. I guess Blizzard wasted an entire expansion to bring back long-dead villains in Warlords of Draenor, so why not continue the “revolving door of death” trend in Legion, am I right?
Fortunately, Blizzard presented a second video along with the cinematic, this one with a list of features in the new expansion. Oh, wait, I mean a list of features that may or may not make it into the actual game release due to time constraints, tech limitations, under-staffing, or whatever the excuse of the day happens to be.
Okay, so what we gather between the two videos is that the infamous orc warlock Gul’dan (the alternate universe version, of course, because the main universe Gul’dan has been dead a long time) has been sent to the main universe Azeroth by the alternate universe Burning Legion to open a portal for the main universe Burning Legion to waltz into main universe Azeroth. Makes sense so far, eh? According to the official Legion webpage:
The Tomb of Sargeras has been reopened, and the demons of the Burning Legion pour into our world. Their full, terrifying might is fixed on summoning the Dark Titan to Azeroth—and they’ve already located the key to his return.
With the Alliance and Horde devastated, only you can take up Warcraft’s most legendary artifacts, scour the ancient Broken Isles for relics of the Titans, and challenge the Legion before Azeroth’s last hope dies.
Steel yourself, champion. Extinction is imminent.
I’ve no idea how the Alliance and Horde got devastated. Last we’d seen of them, they were sending small but elite forces into the alternate universe version of past events in order to stop an alternate universe army from invading, and those small forces succeeded with flying colors. The Alliance and Horde should have been rebuilding in the meantime. But hey, this is their story (I use that loosely), and they’re sticking to it. Or not. Depends on player outcry. Maybe.
So, the expansion features…
- Demon Hunter class: this class has been requested by a significant portion of the player base for eight years or more, ever since the Burning Crusade expansion. It was inevitable that Blizzard would add it at some point. This will be a hero class, the first in the game since Death Knights, and will possess two specializations (one damage and one tank), unlike all other classes, which have three-four specs. Demon Hunters will be melee, have excellent mobility and senses, and will be able to morph into demon forms. Basically, warlock monks.
- Artifacts: powerful weapons from existing or new lore which players will wield. There will be an Artifact for every class and specialization in the game. For instance, Retribution Paladins will wield the Ashbringer, while Enhancement Shamans will obtain the Doomhammer. These weapons will grow in power along with the players, and will have their own talent trees and customization options. The nature of Artifacts raise a couple of significant questions, however: (1) How do the players get the Artifacts? Some of them are in the hands of important lore figures, like the two aforementioned weapons. There were hints dropped during Blizzard’s presentation suggesting that the weapons might be lost in battle, which could mean that these lore characters might bite the dust. So, maybe another wanton bloodbath, like Alliance-side in Warlords of Draenor? (2) Will the Artifacts carry over into subsequent expansions, or is this just a one-and-done deal, like garrisons in Warlords?
- Order Halls: Blizzard has taken the concept of garrisons and applied it to classes. Each class gets its own “order hall” in the world of Azeroth, accessible only to that class. In these halls, players can do quests, customize their Artifacts, and recruit and work with followers from their class. The players are considered the leaders of these halls. I like the idea of class-themed areas, but there is so much about this that bothers me. Garrisons were not incredibly well-liked by the player base, so anything that resembles garrisons is a bad idea, in my opinion. Also, making the players the leaders of these orders, some of them crucial lore organizations, like the Order of the Silver Hand, detracts from the concept of the player as an adventurer. Garrisons already damaged this concept by making players into military commanders, and Order Halls sound like they are going to finish the job.
- New PvP Honor System: I admit, I didn’t pay much attention to this. PvP in WoW (or most games, really), just doesn’t interest me. From what I gathered, in the new system players earn “ranks” from PvP combat, unlocking new abilities and bonuses depending on rank. There are also “prestige” ranks, which from the sound of it means that you can start over from rank 1, but can unlock cosmetic benefits by doing so.
- Improved Transmogrification: not much has been revealed on this feature, but it appears that Blizzard will allow players to use the appearances from previously-collected gear for transmog purposes. Meaning, players won’t have to keep a weapon in their bank or inventory in order to use its appearance. Definitely handy.
- City of Dalaran: in the second expansion, Wrath of the Lich King, Dalaran was added to the game as a neutral city that both the Alliance and the Horde based out of. However, in the fourth expansion, Mists of Pandaria, Dalaran ended its neutrality and firmly aligned itself with the Alliance. In Legion, Blizzard is making Dalaran the expansion city once again, and somehow its gone neutral again. Am I the only one rolling my eyes right now?
- Broken Isles zones: the Broken Isles were a chain of islands housing the Tomb of Sargeras, where the physical manifestation of Warcraft’s big bad guy was buried after his defeat a long time ago (he’s still around, of course, just not on Azeroth). The islands are now continent sized. Somehow.
- Emerald Nightmare: like Demon Hunters, players have asked to see the Emerald Dream/Nightmare in the game for years. This is a realm of dreams and nature, a parallel version of Azeroth that acts as a sort of life force of the world. The Nightmare is a corruption introduced into the Emerald Dream by a servant of the Old Gods. It never had anything to do with the Legion. It makes no sense for the Emerald Dream/Nightmare to be in this expansion, unless as a side story.
- Queen Azshara: Queen Azshara was a former elf who majorly dabbled in magic, which attracted the Burning Legion to Azeroth in the first place. This created a catastrophic event which split Azeroth into various continents, and plunged Azshara and her followers into the sea. The queen made a pact with an Old God (the same one behind the Emerald Nightmare, coincidentally) to prevent her destruction, and she and her servants became the naga. While she does have history with the Legion, she would better fit in an expansion featuring her Old God master. Sadly, not likely to happen now, since she appears in Legion.
- Alleria and Turalyon: famous Alliance heroes who went missing many years ago. Players have asked what happened to them throughout the entire history of WoW, but despite opportunities to reintroduce them during The Burning Crusade and Warlords of Draenor, Blizzard has failed to do anything with them. Until now. But we still don’t know what is happening with them. All we know is that “it’s their time.” Which could mean almost anything, really. “It’s their time… to be discovered as corpses floating in the Twisting Nether.” Yep, anything.
Honestly, it sounds to me like Blizzard decided to take everything that players have requested for a long time – Demon Hunters, Emerald Dream, Azshara, Alleria and Turalyon, etc. – and stuck them all in one expansion, whether or not it makes sense or is well-implemented, and hope it draws people in. Granted, they just announced it, so we haven’t seen anything in action yet, but I played through Warlords of Draenor, and this sounds like another Warlords of Draenor. The features list didn’t include anything that isn’t already in the game in one form or another, with the possible exception of Artifacts. Although, Artifacts might simply be the Legendary items of the expansion, in which case they would have a precedent in the game already.
If you want to see the full presentation, here’s a link. I got about halfway through it and lost interest. The men making the presentation did a terrible job of it; they have no energy and no connection to the crowd. And it’s clear that many people in the crowd did not like the reveal. I guess they were not prepared for this announcement?
The feature overview makes a better teaser than the trailer. That speaks volumes about their focus on the story, when they clearly build a better narrative out of gameplay details than trying to focus on story alone.
The best part about Warlords of Draenor was how they managed to come out ahead on gameplay. When it came to storyline — why the characters were in Draenor, what they were going to do there, how they were going to do it, and who even cared — that rapidly fell apart.
Garrisons weren’t bad on the face of it. If they had more customization and you, the PC, weren’t alternately presented as a lower commander versus the top officer in your faction’s army, it would have been better. Oh, wait, that would require more than a slapdash approach to storylines.
Right now, the only interesting thing for me to do would be Loremaster achievements. Go through the old storylines and enjoy what WoW used to be. Of course, I’m currently playing through Mass Effect 2, and just spent the cash to get every DLC mission pack because Bioware has a clue about storytelling and game mechanics, so Blizzard games just aren’t interesting to me right now. Heck, this game is a lot like what I was hoping Overwatch would be, and it wouldn’t take too much to make this sort of story into a persistent world. Yes, I say this as someone who isn’t a video game expert, but if you play the game and compare the two it gets blindingly obvious where WoW’s deficiencies come in, especially if you compare the expansions separately.
I’m not opposed to garrisons per se, but looking at forum posts, comments on third party websites, and in-game conversations, it seems pretty clear that the player base largely disliked them. That’s something Blizzard should definitely take into consideration whenever they’re creating content, and Order Halls suggest they didn’t.
And while the concept of garrisons isn’t bad, the execution in game is, in my opinion. They became the focal point of not only the questing experience, but the end game as well. The whole expansion revolved around garrisons, and that got boring very fast. The only reason many people (myself included) kept doing things in the garrison was because we had to, and the gold income was good. This is especially annoying because when WoD was announced, garrisons were advertised as being optional yet beneficial content that would serve as player housing. The only part of that which proved true was the benefits.