Over 8 years ago the valiant heroes of Azeroth banded together to defeat the demonic Kil’Jaeden and send him back into the twisting nether but now following on from the climax of “Warlords of Draenor” the burning legion has once again returned to set its eyes upon the world of Azeroth.

Just under a week has passed since the release of Blizzard’s latest expansion to their long running MMORPG and from first impressions things seem to be looking up for what had become a very stagnant game. With complaints about a lack of content and a frankly dis-interesting story arc, the “Warlords of Draenor” expansion had eroded a lot of the goodwill established during the games earlier expansions. Fortunately World of Warcraft: Legion appears to be a return to form.

Rallying against the return of the burning legion a unified  army of both Alliance and Horde staged an assault upon the legion’s base in the broken isles hoping to stem the tide and end the invasion before it began. Unprepared for what awaited them the initial clash against the demonic forces cost both factions dearly with Warchief Vol’jin and King Varian Wrynn both losing their lives in a total rout alongside  legendary crusader Tirion Fordring.

With their champions slain and their factions defeated and demoralised both Horde and Alliance leaders returned to debate their next course of action meanwhile many of Azeroth’s secret forces had begun to search for legendary artefacts once thought lost or simply too powerful to wield in order to bestow their great power upon their new heroes. To complicate matters a warrior faction has emerged in the form of the chaotic demon hunters, servants of the long thought dead Illidan Stormrage and nemesis of the burning legion.

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Having begun my play-through in the Vrykul dominated stoneheim, a zone focused on the barbaric vrykul originally introduced during the “Wrath of the Lich King” expansion I was struck by the beauty of the zone, its nordic inspired features filling me with an excitement I hadn’t felt since first stepping into Howling Fjord some 8 years ago. Quest hubs
are reasonably spaced apart and flow so well that the levelling process rarely feels tiresome. Padding them out are smaller optional quest areas in between that have little to do with the main story line but add much flavor to their respective zones typically focusing minor residents of the zones or members of the players respective factions.

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Unlike the previous expansions all the zones in “Legion” now scale with the player allowing them to pick and choose which the content they experience in whichever order they desire without any concerns about a lengthy levelling process or a lack of useful upgrades. Additional to the new scaling features is the introduction of the “Artifact Weapon” which takes place of additional player abilities in return for a weapon that grows alongside the player, coming with its own set of fully customisable abilities and benefits making “Legion” the most free-form expansion so far.

Many talent trees have also redesigned in the patch prior to the expansion’s release leaving those returning from a break on an even footing with newer players in learning the nuances of their class, though this is something veteran WoW players are more than familiar with. As a discipline priest player myself I found that many of my core abilities had been augmented by new complementary abilities that changed the class from a hybrid healer that dealt little damage in raids to a class focused on damage mitigation with the most efficient healing coming from dealing damage, in essence turning the specialisation on its head.

Rounding out the new zones are a series of dungeons each of which can be found either by following the zone’s story or by accessing them in the LFR menu. Personally I preferred leaving the dungeons until the end of the zone’s story line not just for the quest rewards but also because there is a greater feeling of accomplishment in uncovering the dungeon bosses identities and motives as you progress throughout the zone hindering the legion’s progress all the way.

Graphically WoW has retained its low definition cartoon-like style that continues to allow even the most basic computers to accommodate it yet still manages some impressive feats of design alongside an always stellar soundtrack. The environments are vibrant and full of life with a lot of work having been put into the enemy town and fortress designs. The broken isles are an ancient place untouched by time until the coming of the legion and the flames of war and the scenery accurately reflects that. The presence of the god-like Titans still lingers in the form of their massive temple constructs while the ancient Elven city of Suramar still stands with all its memories within. It is a place of great sadness and of even greater power.

With Blizzard having seemingly learning from their mistakes and much of the legions forces still ahead of me I cannot wait to see what the remainder of Legion has in store.

Chris Senz is a gaming writer and contributor to PN2.

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