World Of War­craft: Le­gion PC

EDGE - - GAMES SECTIONS - De­vel­oper/pub­lisher Bl­iz­zard For­mat PC Re­lease Out now

There aren’t many games to which peo­ple ded­i­cate over a decade’s worth of at­ten­tion, and yet mil­lions of play­ers still clung to World Of War­craft prior to this lat­est ex­pan­sion’s re­lease. In the 12 years since the game’s ar­rival, its maker has bat­tled mul­ti­ple times against en­croach­ing out­side in­no­va­tions within the genre it birthed. In other MMOGs, com­bat has been re­fined to in­spire more ac­tive in­ter­ac­tion from the player. Tech­nol­ogy has en­abled us to smoothly co­habit big­ger and more vis­ually ar­rest­ing per­sis­tent worlds. Cru­cially, the hardy loot-loop struc­ture has been adopted by other main­stream gen­res, from first­per­son shoot­ers to driv­ing games. As more and more game plat­forms chip away at its player­base, how can Bl­iz­zard en­sure that its age­ing MMOG keeps on chug­ging, let alone re­mains rel­e­vant? Re­leas­ing the most con­fi­dent and con­tent-packed ex­pan­sion the stu­dio has ever put to­gether makes for a fine start.

Le­gion marks, for vet­er­ans at least, some­thing of a long-awaited de­liv­ery of an oft-hinted-at plot­line. The Burn­ing Le­gion, an army of amassed demons, has re­turned to Aze­roth, and it’s up to play­ers to take up arms against them. Such a vil­lain­ous en­tity, en­trenched as it is in the lore of the game, hints at an aim on Bl­iz­zard’s part to cater first and fore­most for longserv­ing fans. As such, new­com­ers will likely find them­selves lost in the name-drop­ping roller­coaster pace of the game’s Game Of Thrones-like open­ing mo­ments.

In the game proper, Le­gion is much more adept at mak­ing you care about its nar­ra­tive con­struc­tions than at any other stage in WOW’s long life. Even the most du­ti­ful of play­ers will ad­mit to hav­ing skipped a few quest-log en­tries in a bid to fill out to-do lists as quickly and ef­fi­ciently as pos­si­ble. Here, the flow of quest pro­gres­sion has been both sub­tly and overtly tweaked to en­sure you’ll want to stop to smell the roses.

A se­lec­tion of voiced in-en­gine cutscenes en­sure that po­tent info is aptly de­liv­ered, while in­stanced sce­nar­ios re­turn to tele­port you to iconic lo­ca­tions from the game’s past, giv­ing your pro­gres­sion through in­di­vid­ual sto­ries a se­ries of paced land­marks that stick in the mem­ory. The Ex­o­dar is es­pe­cially en­joy­able, trans­form­ing a for­merly frus­trat­ing en­vi­ron­ment into a bat­tle­ground full of iconic char­ac­ters spout­ing stir­ring speeches and fir­ing magic bar­ri­ers about the place.

There’s a sense, also, that Bl­iz­zard is more acutely aware of its game’s quest­ing short­com­ings than ever. Farm­ing respawn­ing Na­gas is still a valid way to pass the time, but while the ‘kill X num­ber of things’ base on which the av­er­age quest is built re­mains fa­mil­iar, the things you’re ac­tu­ally do­ing are wildly var­ied and, of­ten, hugely en­ter­tain­ing. Within one hour we go from train­ing in an un­der­ground mag­i­cal academy to tak­ing part in a beach­head pi­rate bat­tle where we be­come a bespoke Poké­mon for a cou­ple of gi­ants, be­fore help­ing an es­tranged prince rec­on­cile with his sub­jects af­ter mil­len­nia in ghostly ex­ile. This lat­ter story is a par­tic­u­larly fine show­case of the many tales Bl­iz­zard has wo­ven into Le­gion. All are worth dis­cov­er­ing, whether you’re nod­ding at the ref­er­ences as an old hand or be­ing swept up in the tapestry for the first time. Along­side th­ese tweaks and changes comes a new char­ac­ter class, the De­mon Hunter. Th­ese half-elf, half-de­mon types boast the vis­ual de­sign of some­thing you might find daubed on a bored teenager’s maths note­book, all burn­ing eyes, horns, gothic wings and glow­ing tat­toos. Be­hind the emo-de­mon fa­cade, how­ever, lies the most ac­tive and in­trigu­ing char­ac­ter class in the game’s en­tire reper­toire. De­mon Hun­ters can dash into com­bat, only to leap back­wards with a flip to charge back in again. Their movesets al­low for tele­por­ta­tion strikes, al­ter­ing po­si­tion­ing while si­mul­ta­ne­ously deal­ing out dam­age. Even when out of com­bat they boast dou­ble jumps and glide abil­i­ties. The world is sud­denly more fun to move around in when step­ping into the hooves of a De­mon Hunter.

In a way, it’s un­for­tu­nate. In the wake of th­ese new heroes, any ex­ist­ing classes you might want to play as feel stoic and un­invit­ing. This is en­demic of the one prob­lem that haunts ev­ery ex­pan­sion in War­craft his­tory, and rears its head again here: the lack of per­ma­nence af­forded to the things that went be­fore. The huge amount of game that al­ready ex­ists, from com­plete land­masses to spe­cific weapons and gear earned of­ten through months of ef­fort, are ren­dered point­less in Le­gion. The new Ar­ti­fact weapons are per­haps most em­blem­atic of this, un­locked early on through the main quest­line, lev­elled up and vis­ually cus­tomised sep­a­rately to your char­ac­ter as you play. They’re sup­posed to feel unique and in­cred­i­bly pow­er­ful, yet as a De­mon Hunter jog­ging through the new Class Hall, a so­cial hub spe­cific to each class and also upgrad­able in the fash­ion of War­lords Of Draenor’s Gar­risons, it’s easy to feel like you’re sim­ply toe­ing the line. Most play­ers grav­i­tate to­wards the same Ar­ti­fact weapons, so they quickly lose their unique status.

But while what has gone be­fore has lost its rel­e­vance and the new weapons sys­tem does its ut­most to make you feel like just an­other part of the throng, that throng does ex­ist anew. For the first time in years, it’s easy to meet up with other play­ers, drawn to­gether by en­tic­ing new sto­ries and months’ worth of new ad­ven­tur­ing to ab­sorb, ex­plore and pick clean. If Bl­iz­zard leaves Le­gion out in the sun for 12 months with­out a con­tent up­date, which was the sad fate of War­lords Of Draenor, then WOW’s days might be num­bered re­gard­less, but even as time and progress marches the genre on, this ex­pan­sion is an ef­fec­tive re­minder that War­craft isn’t ready for re­tire­ment just yet.

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