World of Warcraft’s latest expansion, Legion, has been live for almost a month. We revisit our original review to see how the endgame holds up.
Earlier this month, I reviewed World of Warcraft: Legion’s early experience. After playing through all questing zones, trying out both Normal and Heroic difficulty dungeons, professions, and getting a glimpse of the new endgame content, I was pleasantly surprised by the turnabout from the snoozefest that was Warlords of Draenor. An exciting questing experience, quality of life improvements, and a promising endgame zone had my hopes up for an expansion worth resubbing for.
But first impressions don’t mean much for an MMO expansion that needs to last two years or more. An excellent questing experience means nothing when it ends at max level. So since the initial review, I’ve delved into the endgame content. Namely: the max level zone, Suramar; Mythic+ dungeons, and the expansion’s opening raid: The Emerald Nightmare. Here’s how it all shaped up, with my final score for the expansion at the end:
Power of the Crystals
You’ll likely spend the bulk of your solo time at level 110 in Suramar, the gorgeous new endgame zone and home of the Nightborne. These mana-addicted elves have been sequestered off from the rest of the world for thousands of years and have only just now reemerged to side with the Burning Legion. Your fight against them unites you with some strange allies: the Nightfallen, exiled Nightborne deprived of the mana needed to survive and hovering just on the edge of becoming the maddened, violent Withered. Suramar’s questline is a slow, steady effort to bolster the Nightfallen’s power, with the end of eventually retaking the city of Suramar from the Nightborne and driving out the Legion.
The ultimate goal of your questing experience in Suramar is actually to raise your reputation with their faction from Unfriendly to Exalted, unlocking storylines and two new dungeons in the process alongside the usual quest rewards. While much of this is done via story quests that appear at certain reputation benchmarks, the rest you’ll have to seek out on your own by helping further the Nightfallen insurrection in the city and aiding their allies outside of it.
To that end, Legion presents World of Warcraft’s most varied questing experience to date. It’s a combination of resource management, stealth gameplay, exploration, and dungeon crawling. One day, you might sneak around the city, Assassin’s Creed-style, wearing a disguise and hiding in baskets from observant guards. Another day, you’ll ride atop an enormous T-rex, gobbling up demons and stomping the oppressors in the heart of the city. You’ll feed the needy in the markets; release escaped prisoners, spread rumors, and herd cats. There’s even a World Quest scenario where you lead an army of Withered minions through a dungeon, using strategy and caution to keep the team together and return home with loot.
Though Suramar is technically a dreaded “rep grind,” none of it feels onerous. By the time you’re tired of one set of quests, the next quest chain will unlock, and you’re off to a new part of the city. As you progress, you’ll watch the hub city, Shal’aran, grow and fill with the people you’ve helped. It’s all a giant lead-up to the opening of The Nighthold in patch 7.1, an upcoming raid where we take back the city. Rewarding, varied, and with one of the most interesting storylines I’ve seen in the game so far, Suramar alone makes for hefty endgame content.
Of course, it’s not alone at all.
On top of the known structure of Normal, Heroic, and Mythic level dungeons, Mythic+ dungeons opened up this last week. Mythic+ dungeons are continuously upgraded versions of the existing dungeons that add health and damage to the enemies within, along with a timer to ensure you finish without dawdling. At certain levels, dungeons will also receive special effects, such as mobs that increase in power as other members of that mob are killed, or deadly stacking debuffs.
Instead of receiving loot after each encounter, a few pieces of loot will drop once the dungeon is clear per how fast a dungeon is cleared. Any Mythic dungeon can be upgraded to a Mythic+ via a keystone item attuned to that specific dungeon. Clear a dungeon on regular Mythic difficulty, and you obtain a Level 2 keystone for any of the random dungeons. By completing the Level 2 dungeon within the time limit, your keystone will attune to a new dungeon–at Level 3 this time; and so on.
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What this means is that dungeons, long left to languish in past expansions once raiding had begun, are suddenly viable again. I have two complaints with the system. The first is that how the keystone system works is exactly as difficult to understand as it sounded in the previous paragraph. My second complaint is how the system punishes random groups. There’s no queue, so you’ll need to use the Looking For Group tool to fill out a party if your friends aren’t coming along. Then there’s no ready check if someone drops in a Mythic keystone you weren’t prepared to use. And finally, if someone drops, you can’t fill their spot. You have to finish the dungeon with four people or fail.
I’m not sure how high the keystone levels go yet–at least to level 15 since there’s an achievement for it, but I found the Mythic+ dungeons to be a fun but serious challenge even at level 2. Better gear will gradually make the earlier levels trivial, but given that the loot scales with you, this new dungeon mode ensures dungeon viability not only as a support for raiding but as an alternative for those who can’t manage 10-man groups. Got four friends? Start up a Mythic+! It’s fast-paced, hectic dungeoneering that will push your skills (and your healer’s mana) to their limits.
Into the nightmare
Finally, we have the Emerald Nightmare, Legion’s first raid. While it may seem off to have an Emerald Nightmare raid in an expansion about the Burning Legion, anyone who plays through the gut-wrenching conclusions of the Val’sharah storyline knows why we’re here. Seven bosses await in the tangle of red and black brambles–all characters from Warcraft lore. That’s right! There are no throwaway generic bosses in the Emerald Nightmare, and multiple famous characters get time in the spotlight.
Blizzard seems to have maintained their excellence at interesting raiding mechanics while improving on visual and lore design.
Normal mode shows off the different fighting mechanics well enough, though admittedly a few of the encounters are easy enough to just stand and hit the boss. Heroic, meanwhile, remains true to its name in difficulty. Nythendra provides a comfortable intro to ensure players know how to perform basic mechanics. Il’gynoth is everything that similar past encounters such as Hellfire Assault and Blast Furnace wished they could be, forcing players to balance killing different trash mobs with powerful burst damage on the boss itself. Ursoc and Dragons of Nightmare each provide chances for DPS to breathe while the healers and tanks prove their prowess. Elerethe Renferal is pure fun, especially if you are assigned to fly up high and stomp on spiders.
All around, Blizzard seems to have maintained their excellence at interesting raiding mechanics while improving on visual and lore design (Emerald Nightmare is stunningly beautiful at times). Class balance is, as usual, a work-in-progress, though the abundance of gear opportunities should mean anyone who wants to can easily access normal raiding.
That is, if they can afford the start-up cost. Flasks, gems, and enchants for your equipment are currently so difficult to farm the materials for and craft that the Azerothian economy is in turmoil. A single night’s raiding for a team costs multiple people hours of work or piles of gold. Some profession fixes may be needed to make basic raid items accessible to the majority of people who aren’t gold farmers.
Between world quests, Suramar, Mythic+ dungeons, professions, raiding, and even more little bits that it would take pages to talk about, Blizzard has more than made up for the content drought of Draenor. In fact, there’s almost too much to do, if such a complaint can be made. I feel like I have to log in for hours daily just to keep up with everything going on. But the truth is, I don’t. Scaling rewards ensure that all content I do at any level can provide upgrades for me, and the accessibility of dungeons and questing helps me catch up quickly.
Though I’m concerned Blizzard may have frontloaded this expansion and the content flood will taper off eventually, this problem seems unlikely. I’m a month in with plenty still to do, and a promised 7.1 patch on the way with even more. It seems, at least for now, that Blizzard can keep Legion’s momentum rolling for a long time to come.