The next chapter in the World of Warcraft saga has been revealed at Gamescom on the 5th August 2015. World of Warcraft: Legion is the sixth expansion to the most successful MMORPG of all time but is this announcement strategically well-timed? Given that subscribers have dropped down to 5.6 million at the end of June 2015[1], is Blizzard trying is best to build up hype for the next expansion? We had seen the introduction earlier this year, of the possible free-to-play alternative with the WoW token in hopes to plug the exodus of players. Are you going to be excited enough to re-subscribe for what is essentially version 2 of The Burning Crusade expansion, considered by many as Blizzards most successful content release? It is unconfirmed when the new expansion arrives but my guess is sooner than you think. So what can we expect from Legion:

World of Warcraft Legion wallpaper
Credit: Blizzard Entertainment, Inc.

Background to the Expansion

The story continues from where Warlords of Draenor (WoD) left off with Gul’dan, the first warlock has found Illidan Stormrage entombed at the Vault of the Wardens, the demon hunter prison. Gul’dan has opened the dark portal in The Tomb of Sargeras allowing a demonic invasion called the Burning Legion to invade Azeroth again. Players will have to search for the Pillars of Creation, in order to close the portal and stop Gul’dan and his armies.

New Features of Legion

Level Cap Now Raised to 110

Thankfully the expansion is not a 5 level increase as we have seen in the past.

New Continent: The Broken Isles

As you journey to build your weapon artifact you will be an exploring land that is rich with ancient wonders. The Broken Isles is the epicenter of the demon invasion and the Legion’s marauding army. This is the expansions new continent and it has quite a varied landscape. The starting zone for Legion is the Broken Shore. The continent is divided into 5 zones, these being:

Val’sharah: This one of the first zones that you will encounter in the expansion. It is a beautiful enchanted forest that is rich in night elf and druid lore. This is a forgotten druid refuge.

World of Warcraft new Zone Val’sharah
Credit: Blizzard Entertainment, Inc.

Screenshot of enchanted druid zone, Val’sharah.

Stormheim: A very pretty Norse inspired zone, that reminds me a lot of the Howling Fjord from Wrath of the Lich King.

Azsuna: This is truly an awe inspiring zone. You will see massive fortresses and building ruins that are the remains of ancient night elf civilization.

High Mountain: The highest and most rough terrain of the continent. The colossal mountains found here are home to the mountain Tauren.

Suramar: Probably the maximum level zone since it contains the end-game raid. The land is occupied by a new race of elves that are misusing their magic and have become pawns in the burning crusade. They have one of the last relics that you will need to collect.

New Dungeons and Raids

Blizzard has felt that the dungeons, especially noticeable in WoD, are very short lived. Players were collecting the gear from the dungeon or via raids or rewards and have very little reason to come back, since their current gear was better. In Legion, dungeons will become a bigger feature and they hoping in this expansion to have more of them and make the re-playability a lot better. Some of the dungeons that have been described are the following:  

Halls of Valor: This is a low level-up dungeon in the clouds above Stormheim. It is heavily inspired by Valhalla, the Norse ‘heaven’. You will encounter some of the greatest vrykul warriors and learn of the origins of the val’kyr.

Black Rook Hold: A max level dungeon in the zone of Val’Sharah. It is basically an ancient elven military fortress that has been carved out of the mountain. As you explore the dungeon you will notice how dark and shadowy it is and there is an evil corrupting the castle.

Vault of the Wardens: This is where players can return to the Demon Hunter prison, and begin the hunt for Illidan. It is a Warden maximum-security facility where Gul’dan finds Illidan. You will be able to investigate what is happening in this dark and evil place.

Other Dungeons: Eye of Azshara, Darkheart Thicket, Neltharion’s Lair, Helheim (a similar instance to the popular Grimrail Depot the train ride from WoD but instead you will be aboard a dammed ship on a stormy sea), Suramar City and the Violet Hold (it is back again with new secrets that were not revealed the first time).

The expansion is currently planned with two raids:

The Emerald Nightmare: The long awaited Emerald Dream that was built by the Titans and has now become a twisted and shadowed nightmare. Players will pursue Cenarius in the hopes to root out the corruption of the emerald dream and face Xavius as the end boss. There are seven bosses in this raid.

Suramar Palace: A traditional raid that is very reminiscent of Black Temple from The Burning Crusade, except much prettier with elven architecture. Raiders will enter the palace through a backdoor entrance and work themselves up through the many levels. There are ten 10 bosses with Gul’dan as the ultimate boss.

Concept art of the Suramar Palace
Credit: Blizzard Entertainment, Inc.

Concept art of the Suramar Palace showing the elegant elven architecture. 

Most Importantly the New Hero Class: The Demon Hunter

Legion will be adding the 12th hero class with this expansion, the long awaited Demon Hunter. Players will only be able to create their Demon Hunter with a selection of horns, tattoos and eye wear that give the class its unique appearance. The demon hunter will only be accessible with the two playable races, night elves or blood elves. Players will start off at high level similar to how Death Knight’s start and begin at level 95; finishing their starting area at level 100. They will then continue with the Legion content along with all the other classes to level 110.

Demon hunters will be the first class not to sport three specializations. There will have a melee DPS specialization called Havoc and a tanking specialization called Vengeance. Perhaps there is room for a future specialization such as ranged DPS? The class is characterized as being very dexterous, able to perform a double jump; and deadly in PvP combat with the unique ability called Spectral Sight – allows you to see enemies through physical barriers, as well as those stealthed and invisible.

Demon Hunters will be able to wield fist weapons, daggers, one-handed swords, one-handed axes, one-handed maces and be limited to cloth and leather armor. Though from Warcraft lore, demon hunters are seen to have little to no armor, they do have some pretty awesome weaponry like the curved warglaives which Illidan uses.

Havoc Spec Blood Elf
Credit: Blizzard Entertainment, Inc.

Screen shot from Gamescom of a Blood Elf Demon Hunter in the Havoc specialization

Artifact Weapons: Customizable Weapons That Grow in Power

Apart from the new hero class, one of the new features that I think got most people's attention is the artifact weapons. To defeat the greatest foe, the Burning Legion, heroes will be able to wield the legendary weapons of the Warcraft universe. Every class specialization will have a specific artifact weapon to reforge or acquire. A total of 36 weapon artifacts will be added to the expansion for each class specialization. The weapons will give heroes additional powers or traits which must be unlocked with artifact power as you adventure. Each artifact weapon will have tree that is overlaid over a picture of the weapon. You will be able to choose the path in which you unlock the hero powers.

Blizzard has also gone to great effort to bring a lot of customizability to the weapons. Heroes will begin with the original base weapon and be able to upgrade the look of the weapons. A huge number of variants are possible in many colors. As you can see below some weapons will evolve into a reimagined molten fire, shadow style or lightning version. Other possibilities are a holy version, ancient titan look or a magical crystal finish.

Ashbringer Artifact Weapon
Credit: Blizzard Entertainment, Inc.

The legendary paladin weapon, Ashbringer, reimagined into its many variants.

Class Specific Order Halls

These are unique to each character class. An order hall will be your base of operations where you will lead your followers to try and uncover the Pillars of Creation and become Azeroth’s salvation. Legion has a heavy focus on class identity with the Order Halls being a base of operation for the entire class. Specific quests for your hero class will be found here and it will be the place where you can customize your weapon artifact.

New Player-versus-Player (PvP) Honor System

Legion is giving the PvP honor system an overhaul by introducing a PvP talent system. This will be the third version of the honor system. Just like how each class has a talent tree that gives heroes special abilities and powers, an honor rank system from rank 1 to rank 50 will give unique PvP abilities that won’t have much use in PvE. Players will have the ability, due to the layout of the system to get high abilities relatively early however it will take some time to reach rank 50. However this new honor system has been designed for extra replay-ability for players wanting to unlock cosmetic rewards. Once rank 50 has been reached, heroes will be able to trade in honor levels to earn the next prestige level. Players will have their honor rank reset to 1 and lose access to all your honor bonuses. Cosmetic rewards are PvP specific mounts, prestige emblems and the PvP artifact weapon variants, notable the shadow/fel version of the weapon. 

Well that’s it for now but I am sure we will be hearing a lot more about Legion at the next BlizzCon which is scheduled for November 2015.

Check out this announcement trailer for World of Warcraft: Legion