Wednesday, July 20, 2016

"World of Warcraft: Legion" Beta Review Part 2: Everyone is the Greatest Hero

My decision to play a paladin in the Legion beta is a blessing and a curse. It's a blessing in that I'm getting some training in how to play paladins in the new expansion; it's a curse in that both my mains are paladins and if I play too far, I will be going through the same or similar content three times instead of just twice. And no matter how much I like new content, doing it over and over and over does wear thin.

So I'm treading lightly in the beta: I've played enough to get the hang of how things are going to run without making it so leveling my mains is just going to be a massive retread. Fortunately, the way the early content operates, it's possible to not have multiple playthroughs be an exact retread. But more on that momentarily.

First up: artifacts and order halls. You know, the stuff I was so hype about earlier.

Paladin-side, there were three potential artifacts I could choose to pursue. I chose Ashbringer. Because... Ashbringer.

The quest for the artifact -- a solo instance with NPC help as you first come in -- was pretty fricking rad. The battle was rough, unsurprisingly, but I also blame this partly on me getting on my feet with the reworked paladin attacks and the new cycle I'd set up. I'm really liking the story behind it and how the battles play out. It's got the epic sort of feel I think we've all earned after 100 or so levels.

Then came the order hall and holy heck. I can only speak for the paladin order hall (which is, of course, in Light's Hope Chapel), but it was stunningly designed. I actually teared up a bit during that scene. Maybe I'm just a big sap. Who knows.

That scene was instanced, but the order hall itself afterwards was not. I'm going to need to interact with it more to decide how I feel about that. I don't see it being an issue since it's not meant to be personalized like garrisons, but it was pretty amusing to see a couple dozen paladins running around with the one legendary Ashbringer.

My big question when I heard about the expansion was 'Are they going to encourage or discourage garrison interaction once you get beyond level 100?' The answer is... I'm not entirely sure. I mean, when it comes to professions and materials, the garrison will probably still be useful, and I'm sure I'll still be blopping back with my garrison hearthstone on occasion. (Truth be told, I'm not done with all the Draenor content, shh.)

But it seems like order halls are going to become their own centres of upkeep in their own way, since bonus objectives will yield order hall resources. It remains to be seen how that's going to play out, and I think I'm actually going to save that for actual gameplay at the end of next month.

Now, what I said before about multiple playthroughs and variety. Once you're done with your ceremony and you start the Order of Whatever (Silver Hand in the case of paladins), you're invited to look at a map and choose an objective, rather than being told where you're going. There are five or six to choose from, each with a basic rundown of which major NPC needs your help and why. Honestly, this is a fantastic idea because no matter how fresh content is, going through it in order over and over on multiple characters can eventually make even the coolest stuff a little boring. The injection of choice and control is going to help keep the new content alive and interesting across multiple plays, I think.

Actually, that's something I'm noticing a lot in Legion: addition of little choices here and there that vary up your experience in more and more ways. It happened with the demon hunters (and I'll talk more about that in my next WoW entry), and I'm enjoying seeing it across other classes.

Now, to track back to things I discussed in the first entry. Yeah, paladins still feel a tad nerfed, but mainly because my favourite heal is nowhere to be found. However, there are other things that make up for it once you get the hang of it, so I'm fine with the changes overall.

To give you an idea: the moment I knew paladin was my favourite class was when I was in Hellfire Peninsula on my main and got mobbed by about seven various fel thingies. Another player apparently saw me under the pile blasting away and stopped, looking ready to jump in and help me. But after I killed everything without any help, they sort of stared for a moment and moved on. Had another of those moments in the beta.

Plus, there are some major cosmetic changes that make a massive difference. By which I mean the attack animations feel more... satisfying? Consecrate doesn't look like a holy fart anymore; it looks like the power of Heaven came down and slammed into the ground. Other attacks, and even shields and buffs, just seem to have more substance to them visually. So not only is it easy to adjust to with a little work, it also looks cool.

As to other things? I still don't like the red throbbing at the edge of your screen when you're low on health. I Do Not Care For It. It hurts my eyes so much, and it distracts me from doing stuff like, you know, healing and not dying. If there was even just an option to switch it off, that would be fine. (Please, if there already is, tell me. I'd rather feel dumb for not noticing than have to deal with it anymore.)

As I said, I don't want to progress too much farther into the content now that I've tested the basics -- plenty of other people will be have the time and inclination to run the gamut and check for, like, floating barrels of fish and massive glitches. I do have a few things of my own to turn in, but overall I'm pleased with how they're handling the new content.

Next time I sit down, I'll be testing what happens to demon hunters in the early content. And after that... one more test to run.