Having been around for just over 10 years, it’s not surprising that World of Warcraft’s subscriber numbers have steadily dropped in recent times. The last time that an official number was reported was during Activison Blizzard’s Q3 2015 financials, with 5.5 million subscribers at that time. Since then, Blizzard has announced that such numbers aren’t an accurate way to report how well it’s performing. This is presumably because of its limited free-to-play model (you can play for free up until level 20), and due to its multitude of add-on purchases now available.
One such thing that could change the tide quite significantly is the arrival of a new expansion pack. Legion is that expansion pack, set to shake up a lot in Azeroth come September. Here’s a look at what we know about it so far.
The shake up is going to be visible
You’d be forgiven for not paying a huge amount of attention to the lore involved in World of Warcraft, but as always, it sets the scene for expansion packs. This time around, the focus is placed on the return of the Burning Legion, and the corrupted Titan Sargeras, who’s been mentioned in lore since Warcraft III. Consider him the root of all evil, and you’d be about right in your assumption. To counteract that, our heroes seek salvation in the new area—the Broken Isles. By doing so, they find pretty much everything that forms a fundamental part of the rest of the Legion expansion pack.
Don’t worry, as with all previous shake ups, you’ll still be able to check out all the previous zones and so forth, but this serves as the basis to the explanation of how the Broken Isle have come about.
Demon Hunters are the new class and they look pretty cool
The new area also sets the scene for the new class-arguably always the most exciting part of a new expansion pack.
Demon Hunters look like they’ll be quite similar to Death Knights. Rather than starting at level 1 and working your way up, Demon Hunters start at level 98, giving you 12 levels to wreak your Demon Hunting magic. Only Blood or Night elves can be Demon Hunters, restricting your options, but tying into the Elvish lore well. New skills include Spectral Sight, which allows them to detect enemies, even if they’re hidden, as well as the option to double jump.
The focus for Demon Hunters is split between providing plenty of damage, or tanking in battle, with their two specializations—Havoc and Vengeance—demonstrating that. Unusually though, they appear to be fairly weak tanks compared to warriors, since they can only use leather, rather than mail armor.
Class Halls help distinguish you from the pack
Within the Broken Isles will be a series of Class Halls, unique for your class, will each reflect a certain tone that ties into the theme of your chosen character. These Class Halls will work a little like the Garrisons introduced in Warlords of Draenor, the previous expansion pack.
You have a group of followers called Champions that can assist you on quests. They’re more customizable than your Garrison followers with a little more to them. You can send them to patrol a zone, for instance, gaining you combat bonuses along the way. Or they can seek out treasure to aid your progress. Each is set to be related to your class again, further encouraging Blizzard’s renewed vision in making each class seem unique.
More ways to make your character stand out
Taking a page from EverQuest, Legion introduces artifact weapons. These are powerful weapons made specifically for your class and specialization combination, but it’s how you acquire them that’s most interesting: following a trail of quests, rather than simply spending money. Completing dungeons on the Broken Isles as well as attaining various achievements will make your weapon more powerful. It’s a small but significant step in making you feel like you’re enjoying a more personal experience than simply doing the same as everyone else.
The personalization doesn’t stop there, with rumors of a new Wardrobe tab. Presumably working a lot like the Toy Box and Heirlooms options currently available, it looks like you’ll be able to fully customize how your character looks, ensuring you stand out from the crowd. Sure, it’s purely a matter of aesthetics, but this is an RPG after all. You want to feel in tune with your toon, right?
Professions have a point again
Much like in real life, it’s satisfying to look at something and think ‘I made this’, yet for too long, professions in World of Warcraft have been a bit, well, pointless. I generally find myself working on my professions for the sake of it, or just to see some achievements pop. Ultimately, any equipment I make is sold for scrap. Legion sets to buck that trend by making crafted gear worth it again. Each recipe will have three ranks to work through, each making things more efficient than the last. Crafted gear will have better bonuses too, such as offering increased run speed or offering some kind of specialized weaponry. Will it be better than the epic gear you can find on raids? Doubtful, but it’ll be ideal while you’re being put through the paces, and it should reinvigorate the crafting community massively.
PvP and PvE guilds will be equally happy
Legion promises 9 new dungeons, as well as 2 new raids. While the details are still a little scarce, we do know that one raid is Emerald Nightmare. It’s been teased since the very beginning as a spirit realm containing green dragons. Once referred to as Emerald Dream, it’s been corrupted by dark forces, setting things up nicely for a hefty seven-boss raid.
Fans of PvP combat will be even happier with a new Honor system that sounds a lot like Call of Duty’s perk system. With 50 ranks in all, as well as a Prestige system, you can earn new abilities and bonuses each time you level up. One past problem with implementing PvP-focused abilities is how they can unbalance a class in PvE combat. This has now been circumvented through the option to have PvP-only abilities that will only work within battlegrounds and arenas. This might be the ideal time to dip your toe into the more aggressive side of World of Warcraft.
The ‘little’ things
Existing classes are seeing some significant changes, too. For instance, Hunters will now have to choose through their specialisations just how important their pet is to them. Marksmanship will have you enjoying extra powerful ranged weaponry options, but without the assistance of a pet, while Survival will offer similar for melee combat, and your trusty creature.
There’s going to be a fair bit to relearn when it comes to existing classes, but it’s all in a bid to make each class choice feel unique again, rather than stick with the fairly safe formula of World of Warcraft that we’ve seen before. It’ll be interesting to see how it works out for Blizzard, and just what fans will make of it.