A while back I wrote about something a lot of geeks have struggled with: nostalgia for the juggernaut of the MMORPG scene, World of Warcraft. Most of us have played it at one time or another – some to the exclusion of everything else in our lives – and a lot of us have stopped. Still, we end up pining for the late nights spent with a bunch of friends in Karazhan, a half-gallon of chocolate milk, and no pants. Or we go see the recent movie because we just can’t help but be curious how that old story will look with a proper budget and modern special effects.
And every time there’s an expansion, we end up wondering if it’s time to go back. Did they fix that awful change to our favorite class? Is the new storyline interesting? Has it just plain been long enough that it’ll feel a little bit new again?
Blizzard is hoping the answer to at least some of your questions will be “yes” with the World of Warcraft: Legion expansion, released on August 30th.
Legion introduces the first new class since Wrath of the Lich King’s Death Knights all the way back in 2008. Like the Death Knights, the new Demon Hunters are more antihero than hero. And also like Death Knights, they’re closely connected to a big-name character who plays a central part in this expansion’s storyline – this time Night Elf/Demon/Nice Guy hybrid Illidan Stormrage. While they hunt demons, they do so using the demons’ own power, which has corrupted them to the point of becoming demon-like themselves. This gives them horns, sweet tattoos, and the ability to tank shirtless.
Demon Hunters start near the previous expansion’s level cap of 100 and make up the difference in their own starting zone, which highlights a change to the way Blizzard has approached the game over the last couple expansions. WoW has been out for so long that for most players, the real fun happens at the level cap, in the endgame raiding and Heroic dungeons. This is where real social bonds are formed. So they’ve focused on sparing players the journey and dropping them right at the destination. Legion comes with the ability to bump one character up to level 100 immediately. They also led up to Legion’s release with an in-game demonic invasion that was like an XP pinata just waiting to be whacked. (Seriously, your humble writer created a new Death Knight who went from 55 to 100 in just a few days.) So if you’ve been out of the game for a while, they’re more than happy to help you get up to speed.
There’s also a new emphasis on the different classes, with each class getting their own quest lines, their own leaders and their own artifact weapons. This is something that’s been sorely missed since pre-expansion WoW, when some classes even had long quest chains to get their own special mounts.
So is it time to return? If you were dreading the leveling grind and just wanted to get to raiding with friends, it may well be. If your sticking point was that your character couldn’t have glowing green tattoos, they’ve got you covered. But if your problem is that $15 a month is a heck of a lot to pay for an MMO in the current free-to-play environment, well, Blizzard doesn’t seem to be fixing that problem any time soon.