A pain begins to throb within me once new World of Warcraft content is announced.
A dull feeling, like longing for a forgotten love or memory of better times, lost to the wind and never fully grasped again. This ache grows into a crescendo of urge and want until, eventually, I give in to this carnal need to launch myself back into the world of Azeroth.
Then…nothing. I play, and as quickly as that drug is shot into my veins, that want phases into a gaming fugue state. I come out on the other end of that tunnel thinking “Oh, right. I just remembered why I stopped playing.”
Despite how much joy the World of Warcraft used to provide, the metaphorical needle marks of multiple relapses have left my senses numb to the sensation of that faithful drug reentering my system. For seven years I didn’t play video games, I played World of Warcraft. Anyone who has been enraptured by World of Warcraft knows exactly what I mean. Sure, other games came out and I played them, but for that stretch of time World of Warcraft was the only digital world of note.
My closest friends were in my guild. My nights consisted of 25 man dungeon raids for 5 or 6 hours straight. During the day and when not in school, I was finishing quests, gathering materials to craft items, and killing time until raid time. Don’t get me wrong: I completely understand that this was not a healthy lifestyle by any means. Yet, it was mine and a space I had control over. Ultimately, I don’t regret it. I made some friends that I still have to this day and experienced one of the largest social experiments that gaming may ever see.
With that being said, when a new World of Warcraft expansion is announced I am filled with excitement, boredom, trepidation, and worry. I love big gaming announcements, and Blizzard has always had some of the best reveals. It really is something to feed off the excitement of other people when it comes to new World of Warcraft content. Yet, as a former hardcore raid healer, tank, and full-time player, there is very little that can usually be shown that really makes me feel the pangs of no longer playing.
At the same time, I worry that this expansion may potentially be the one that derails and draws me back into the fray. Taking these thoughts into consideration, let’s take a look at what shown during the World of Warcraft: Legion announcement at Gamescom in Germany.
New continent: Broken Isles
For anyone that has played Warcraft 3, the Broken Isles will look somewhat familiar. Originally the home of the Tomb of Sargeras, the Isles will be a fully fleshed-out lore zone in Legion, with a focus on a new race of elves, a return of the Vykrul from Wrath of the Lich King, and more encounters with the Naga.
It appears as though Blizzard is finally taking the gloves off and throwing down the content gauntlet. Included in this zone will be heavy involvement with the Emerald Dream and Nightmare, run-ins with Queen Azshara, a portal to the realm of the Burning Legion via the Tomb of Sargeras, and more connections to the Titans.
For raiders and lore nerds, all are a long time coming. Each of these plot points were rumored at one time or another to be the focus of an entire expansion. One cannot help but wonder if the sudden collapse of active subscribers over the last few years has forced Blizzard’s hand and moved them to include everything but the kitchen sink in one expansion.
In regards to raid and dungeon content, the Emerald Nightmare and a new World Tree will see the center stage. The possibility of facing off with more longtime villains in the Warcraft lore is exciting and has been sorely missing since the defeat of Arthas in Wrath. One of the failing points of Mists of Pandaria was certainly that the end-game content felt lacking and disconnected to Azeroth as a whole.
I have a feeling that the artifact weapons in Legion will be divisive among end-game content players. Likewise, I am excited and skeptical of the system. It appears as though one of the first things players will do upon launching into Legion will be starting a quest line to obtain your specialization’s artifact weapon. In many ways, this reminds me of the legendary item quest lines from Mists and Cataclysm.
I think the idea of powering up a special weapon that is fully customization in look as well as skills and power is a great idea. In the past, obtaining a weapon while leveling up and in the early part of max level play has always been a pain. A system in place to give your character an awesome weapon is a welcome addition, especially since it can be changed to fit your play style.
On the other hand, this essentially means that ever using any other weapon would be a poor decision. Assuming that weapon drops are still in the end-game, I cannot fathom any situation where a player would pick a rare loot drop weapon over your lovingly powered up artifact. I suppose you could choose not to use the artifact weapon, but the talent skills and changes that your character receive from just using the artifact seems far too important to just give up.
I am going to assume that any end-game raid weapons that drop — if they do indeed still drop — will be so much more powerful in regards to statistics that they will make up for any lost skill talents that the artifact would give the player.
Personally, I always hated attempting to obtain an end-game weapon, as you were often fighting other players as well as the random number generator. Artifact weapons solve this problem by giving each player a weapon that fits their spec and grows alongside them, which doesn’t sound too terrible to me.
New Class: Demon Hunters
One of my most vivid memories of World of Warcraft will always be the beta test period for Wrath of the Lich King, when Death Knights were introduced. I was in the initial beta test and was given the chance to see Death Knights change, nerf, and grow as the beta test phase pressed forward. The experience was interesting, as you really could observe Blizzard’s design decisions press forward on a week by week basis.
That being said, Death Knights went through many growing pains, and the class they began the beta as were nowhere near being the class that was released to the general public. The first tier of raiding in Wrath was a mishmash of Death Knights attempting to find their place in the world. In many instances, guilds and public raids would discriminate against Death Knights, limiting one per group or banning them outright because of (at the time) the class’ ability to tank and deal damage, but never two both any better than classes created specifically for either role.
As an original raiding Death Knight, I freely admit that those times were tough. I had to work twice as hard to get noticed, but was often passed up for the “safer” choice in regards to roles. Eventually, Death Knights settled into their place in the class food chain, but it took time.
I mention all of this because I see Demon Hunters suffering from a similar series of events. Like Death Knights, Demon Hunters are a class that players have been craving for a long time. I am going to assume that, much like with Death Knights, most people will not be happy with Demon Hunters, no matter how they are implemented.
I am sure that Demon Hunters will find their place in the raiding pyramid. Still, a word of warning for early adopters: Be prepared.
Upon viewing the Legion press conference, I will excited, but skeptical. All the while, I could feel the old urges bubbling again to the surface. Thus far, Legion appears to offer enough content and changes that I could see myself falling back into old habits. Yet, I am reminded that I am no longer the 23 year old with time to spare and an urge to farm mining nodes all the doo-dah day.
If Legion ends up being the final World of Warcraft expansion, I would not be surprised. At the same time, I feel like Blizzard is prepared for that reality and will attempt to give players everything they have asked for over the last ten years.
I will watch from the sidelines, for now. It is entirely possible that I delve back into raiding on some level, but it is far more likely that I will observe from afar, keeping my distance from the thing that once provided me with such entertainment, yet is now a reminder of the past.
Will Harrison is a journalist covering video games for the Toledo Blade, a daily newspaper in Toledo, Ohio. Contact him on Twitter @DoubleUHarrison.