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Monday, July 18, 2016

"World of Warcraft: Legion" Beta Review Part 1: Beginning


Let joy be unconfined, for I have been called upon to take part in the beta for the new World of Warcraft expansion, Legion.

I have been wildly excited about this since I first heard about it. My absolute favourite character in the lore getting more screen time, a new hero class (I've loved exploring hero classes best of all ever since my City of Heroes days), and class order halls so I can paladin my little heart out with Azeroth's finest.

To get non-players caught up:

The world of Azeroth is home to two warring factions: the Alliance, who proclaim to be motivated by a desire for peace and justice, and the Horde, an uneasy union of outcast races joining forces to find freedom and acceptance. The Alliance consists of humans, gnomes, forest elves, Scottish dwarves, Russian space goats, Victorian werewolves, and some pandas. The Horde consists of orcs, Jamaican trolls, Native American cows, zombies, emo elves, Bronx gobins, and some other pandas.

The leader of the Alliance is the human king, Varian Wrynn. The warchief of the Horde has been getting changed up a lot lately. For a while recently it was an orc named Garrosh, but he was eventually overthrown by a troll because people didn't like that he wanted to kill everyone who wasn't an orc, so he was like 'Fine, I'll start my own Horde with blackjack and hookers' and then did some time travel to raise an army of space-orcs and basically no one likes him now, including the players. tl;dr, a rebel elf zombie named Sylvanas is the warchief now and she's the best and I will not hear anything to the contrary.

Ever.

Anyway.

Legion sees the Alliance and Horde joining forces against a massive army of demons known as the Burning Legion -- both with each other and with the demon hunters of the Illidari, a group of elves who ritually blind themselves and use these demons' own magic against them. In the beta, you're given templates to make characters on. I rolled up two, a Draenei paladin (since pally is my class of choice in all things) and a night elf demon hunter, to get at least two sides of the early expansion content. I didn't do a Horde-side character, even though I do have some, because I kind of want to be surprised by something... and like I said, Sylvanas is my girl.

So, Alliance-side early content. I won't give away too much, because some things happen that are major game-changers lore-wise. Suffice to say my Russian space goat landed in Stormwind and was told to go polish her armour and have a good dinner because we're all gonna take airships to crazy-town and kill some demons. I ended up in a very packed instance that started with us heading to the Broken Shore and ended with the Alliance and Horde tag-teaming a boss. Which I thought was a very cool way to go -- our experiences were separate up until the end, at which point we could see each other on opposite outcroppings taking turns wailing on the big bad.

My only complaint with this instance was there came a point toward the end where I literally could not see. There was so much stuff on the screen, and I get that when there is a full-scale war going on with three whole factions, it's gonna be a bit busy. But targeting anything felt clumsy. That wasn't 'til the bitter end, though.

The fight gets taken to Stormwind, where we're introduced to the demon hunters, and then everyone's favourite silver fox Khadgar summons you to Darnassus where... things happen. Again, won't go into it. Sadly, that's where I left off because the beta server was under some heavy strain.

What I've seen so far story-wise, I like. I think this is going into areas of lore that I personally find intriguing (your mileage may vary), and the idea of getting me some badass artifacts is kind of exciting. I'll know more once I play more, hopefully on a more stable evening.

My issues come in two places. One, the interface seems a little hinky. Things like hiding your helmet and cape (which probably seem unimportant to some) are impossible to find now, and I hear you have to go to an NPC to do that. Which seems a bit complex. I'm mostly okay with how the life bars on NPCs are done now, but I'm not happy with the throbbing red glow around the screen when you're low on life. I don't like it in other games, and I don't like it here. Obviously it's not a concern for most, but for someone like me with light-sensitive seizures, it's a lot more unnerving (and potentially dangerous) than anything else.

Issue two... maybe it's just me, but paladins got nerfed. Then again, paladins always get nerfed. Likely for good reason. But I'm a serial tanker, so I like to feel ridiculous.

Speaking of ridiculous... fricking demon hunters.

They can double jump. They can hang-glide. They can see through walls. They have eye beams. They're rad as all get-out. And thank God, even though there are only two specs, one of them is perfect for tanking.

I really, really enjoyed the demon hunter starter zone. And I'm so picky about starter zones. I can get bored in them fast. The Death Knight one was aesthetically pleasing and had awesome story, but had too many vehicle quests for my liking. This has branching stories with decisions (and you know how I love my branching stories), lore-as-you-go, and I am really impressed at how they tied receiving new powers in-game to the concept of how demon hunters actually operate.

Hell, I even love the starter zone from an aesthetic standpoint, and I wasn't a fan of most of the fel stuff in Burning Crusade because of the colour palette. This looked incredibly cool.

The wings (which are for gliding, not flying) are giving me a little trouble. They only seem to work about 50% of the time. Either that or I'm really bad at pushing the up arrow. Either is equally possible, really. Other than that, my only other point on demon hunters isn't an issue so much as a warning to players: you are burdened with choice. You have so many powers, they fall off the action bar in a way that I've yet to see from any other class. Though I noticed they give you due warning when you want to play either a DH or DK that this is what you're in for. Which is nice of them. I assumed it, but you never know.

I took my DH up to the same point as my test paladin. The Stormwind events for the DH mirror, but don't exactly replicate, the other Alliance-side content. I'm curious to see what happens Horde-side, but I think I'll save that as a treat for myself when it drops for real and play through it on my blood elf.

From here, there are definitely reasons to tinker with both characters. The DH had to choose between two very different routes, which I'm sure will lead to different encounters. Meanwhile, I want to explore the whole class order hall thing. Provided the server behaves, the latter is what I'll aim for first ... and what you'll hear about next.

Are you in the beta? How has your experience been so far?