Legion release date? Take your time.

The more I read about Legion, the more I hope it is delayed as long as possible. I say this with full realization that the longer it is delayed, the longer we will be stuck with the debacle that is WoD.

Yes, that’s right, I believe Legion will be worse than WoD, and I am not anxious to get into it.

Before I list my reasons for believing this, here is my disclaimer: I am not one of the chosen, I am not playing the alpha and I do not expect to be invited to the beta if there ever is a beta. The most I can expect is to play the public PTR if and when we ever get to that point — a point at which for all practical purposes, the entire expansion will long since be set in stone. (And honestly, the same can be said for the beta.) No, I am forming my impressions of Legion from the few alpha testers who have very responsibly written about their experiences and put thought into interpreting them in terms of a wide range of possible play styles.

And not for nothin’, but Blizz has not exactly seized the moral high ground by granting alpha access to large numbers of streamers and others who make money from this game, to ensure they can keep making money during the long lull before Legion. Apparently the game would not be interesting enough in its current state for them to keep making money. For the plebeians, however? There’s plenty to do — Pepe and tons of old content and current achieves and what the hell we’ll throw in some valor as an incentive. And did we mention Pepe? Wheeeee! See? Plenty for the ordinary folk, just not enough for the streamers to actually be creative enough to generate interest.

Here is my second disclaimer: There will undoubtedly be a lot of good things about Legion — new transmog system, new zones to explore, some improvements to the way secondary stats are handled, a return to the Old Lore, etc. I know I will almost certainly be one of the ones who rises at 3 AM on launch day, takes the day off work, and plays for hours in my pajamas, chatting with my guildies, cereal bowl in front of my computer. That’s what I love to do on launch day (assuming there are not catastrophic server failures which is not exactly a safe assumption), and I am betting that is what I will do when Legion launches.

But the excitement of launch day, the fun of leveling to 110, and the quality of life improvements will not be enough to save Legion, because — from my worm’s-eye view — Blizz has taken a jackhammer to the foundation of the game. It’s like slapping a new coat of paint on a house where you’ve decided to raise termite colonies in the basement.

Bad Idea Number One is artifact weapons. In my opinion, the whole concept is flawed, not because of the cool notion (and in theory it does have some appeal), but because of the far-reaching implications they have for nearly every aspect of game play. (And, as I have pointed out before, Blizz pretty much stinks at being able to see or grasp far-reaching implications.) Here are just a few:

  • They are mandatory. If you want a functioning weapon in Legion, it must be an artifact weapon, and it must be the one Blizz has ordered you to have. You cannot progress in the game without it. This is just one more area Blizz has removed player choice, one more cattle chute Blizz herds players down. At some point — different for each player — the balance tips from the “wantas” (what you want to do) to the “gotstas” (what the game compels you to do in order to play it), a point at which people think it is no longer worth the trouble to play.
  • They are spec-specific rather than class-specific. (Why is that, by the way? Why could these have not been class-specific? And no, Blizz, do not give me a Trumpesque line of bull doodoo about spec “fantasy” because I am not having any more of that thank you very much.) This has a whole bunch of negative implications for many, many players.
    • It effectively makes every class a hybrid class, since there is a separate set of gear for each spec. For the traditional “pure” damage classes, this means they have the disadvantages of hybrids (completely different gear requirements) without the advantage of being able to fill a healing or tanking role.
    • It greatly complicates the task of leveling alts, requiring a much larger time commitment to do so, since without a weapon alt leveling is not possible, and the only weapon permitted is the artifact — requiring a quest chain not only to get it but also to level it up. Here again is Blizz closing a door to a play style choice, enforcing their view that alt play must only be done for the purpose of playing the alt as a mini-main, not for such nefarious purposes as to support your main with professions and gold.
    • It negates any touted benefit to Blizz’s announcement that in Legion you will not need to pick just two specs, you can play all of them! Except, of course, you will have to spend the time to get and keep upgrading a separate weapon for each if you expect to switch specs  with any degree of proficiency.
    • It promotes a degree of class elitism, because for some class-specs the artifact weapon is one actually wielded by one of the lore heroes, one we have seen in action over the years and many of us have wished we could have. These are cool and awesome weapons. But unfortunately there are only a few of these, not nearly enough to cover every spec in the game. So for those not smart enough to have chosen a spec with a real hero-derived artifact weapon? You get the idea Blizz just said, “Oh, hell, just make something up, no one will ever know the difference anyway.” So ret pallys will get Ashbringer — how cool is that, who hasn’t heard of Ashbringer? Whereas fury warriors get the “Warswords of Valajar” which no offense but whoever even heard of Valajar much less their weapon before Blizz had to invent something?

Bad Idea Number Two is zone scaling. I know, I know, many people think this is a terrific idea, but hear me out. It probably is a great idea while you are leveling, because it means you can choose your zone sequence for leveling, or indeed stay in one zone until all the quests are exhausted, all the while staying challenged as you level. It negates the idea of starter zones and thus lessens the competition for many taggable resources needed for quests and profession leveling.

But think about what it means once you have hit 110. It means that every zone will be tuned to 110 level for you. It means you will never be able to go into relaxed mode if you just want to farm some mats in a leisurely, laid back way. It means every mob you have to pass on your way to some objective will require a significant fight to escape — yes, even the nuisance mobs Blizz thinks are so “immersive” and “fun”.  Always. Every time you pass them. (And make no mistake, Blizz will ensure you have to pass them on the ground for a long time — it says something that they have not yet put the flying quest line into alpha. Mark my words, the earliest flying will be available in Legion is 7.2.)

Zone scaling will become a huge negative quality of life issue in the game.

Bad Idea Number Three is, of course, the massive class and spec changes. (And naturally I will focus on hunters here as the main example.)

  • Blizz has a dismal track record for balancing specs, and the result is that there are constant and wild swings. A spec that is playable one day can easily become unplayable the next — I offer the poor SV hunter as the prime example in WoD. It started out horribly, then became very playable in 6.1, then was totally trashed again in 6.2. This was bad enough in WoD, but think about the ramifications of such drastic seesaw effects when changing specs means you also have to change your artifact weapon. Making massive class and spec changes in Legion means any final tenuous balance Blizz was able to achieve in WoD will be gone, and the whole thing will start over again. This amounts to RNG for spec selection, good luck.
  • Having to completely relearn your spec every 18 months is extremely discouraging, and for many can make a new expansion more frustrating than fun.
    • Not everyone has the genetic finger-synapse mutation found in elite players. For many of us, becoming proficient in our class/spec takes months if not years, and getting close to it only to find it completely changed is beyond frustrating. It is Lucy yanking the football away from good old naive Charlie Brown.
    • This is yet another instance of the Favored Few having an advantage over us peons. They are already developing the muscle memory that will allow them to prevail early on in the game, getting the experience they will need to allow them to focus on refining encounter techniques instead of struggling to remember which freaking button to push next in an opening sequence and remembering that the spell they always rely on is now gone.
    • This is another of those things that can become a tipping point, that for some, the 6th or 7th time they have to relearn everything becomes the point at which they say screw it, it’s not worth it any more.
  • Last, but certainly not least, the Legion class changes have disproportionately fallen on hunters, to the point that there will no longer be a true traditional hunter class remaining in the game. This is not something new I have been saying — sorry to keep harping on it — but I am having a hard time accepting the arrogant, high-handed way Blizz seemed to decide that of all classes they had created, hunters for some reason offended them and therefore must be crushed. After all these years, suddenly the class could no longer be tolerated.
    • It is unthinkable that Blizz would have applied similar drastic destruction to, oh, say, the mage class. Think of the wailing and gnashing of teeth that would occur if suddenly, arcane mages became melee, their staves were taken away and their artifact weapon was mandated to be something like a Magic Orb, they could no longer blink, they no longer had Arcane Brilliance as a raid buff, and Time Warp was removed as a raid cooldown. All in the name of “de-homogenizing” the class. But this will not happen, because there are Blizz devs who play and love the mage class, who see and appreciate all the nuances among its specs, who fell in love with it at some point and would never think of destroying the class they appreciate so much. Sadly, there are no devs, I am convinced, who play and love hunters in this way, so what the hell might as well screw with them.
    • Some may argue that at least Beast Mastery remains as a true traditional hunter spec in Legion. This — at least so far — is not true. In spite of the fact that Blizz said they thought BM hunters were “generally in a good place”, they have not been able to resist gutting the spec. They have succeeded in the alpha in making it a focus-starved mindless rote of a class, removing both engaging play and the thing they touted as part of the spec: pet control. From what I read so far about the spec in alpha, it has been reduced to little more than a play style any decent macro could reproduce. Don’t take my word for it, check out this post in Jade’s Forest. It is long, dense reading, but it is worth it if you are considering playing BM in Legion, even more so if you are hoping — as I am — that BM will allow you to continue to experience the awesomeness of playing a traditional hunter. (Spoiler: It doesn’t look like it will.)

Well, I have rambled on far longer than I intended to. But the more I see coming out about Legion, the less anxious I am to play it. I am happy that it looks like it will not be out before the end of September. If I had any say in it, I would delay it even longer. It has, in my opinion, some serious basic flaws that will negate any fun aspects to it.

About Fiannor
I have a day job but escape by playing WoW. I love playing a hunter, and my Lake Wobegonian goal is to become "above average" at it.

12 Responses to Legion release date? Take your time.

  1. Grumsta says:

    Eloquently and passionately expressed concerns, as always.

    The artefact weapons are my biggest concern by far: it’s the Garrison and Legendary Ring rolled into one, per spec, per character. *shudders* It appears to be a gating mechanic on a truly terrifying scale.

    I’m keeping my options as wide open as possible for Legion in which class & spec I choose. I’m in no rush for Legion either, and I hope that the devs listen to the feedback they’re given and make some positive and sensible changes.

    There is some hope: the Rogue class is probably the best from a few weeks back. The more recent Water Strider debacle showed Blizz in typical knee-jerk reaction mode, but they did relent (in stages) reasonably quickly.

    • Fiannor says:

      I think you are right about artifact weapons being the garrison and legendary ring rolled into one. They are indeed a huge gating mechanic, but I think it is more than that. Recall that the new Activision Blizzard success metric is now not subscription rates or total number of players, but rather time played per active player. Basically they count “monthly active users” and then calculate the “engagement” factor (time played per active user per month).

      Pretty clearly, what this means for game development is that the longer Blizz can force a player to pursue a desired objective, the better it looks on the quarterly report. And now that I think on it, I am doing a forehead-slap “DOH!” because this is the answer to my question of why the artifact weapon is per spec rather than per class. Such a realization, I might add, makes me feel manipulated and “handled”, and I do not like the feeling.

      Are you maybe a professor or teacher? You always seem to make comments that make me go to the next level of thinking about topics I have written on. Thanks!

      As an aside, I note that Blizz seems to prefer the British spelling”artefact” over the American “artifact”. This is kind of interesting, since Blizz is a California-based company. But we Americans have a tendency to think the Brits have the corner on elegance, especially when it comes to language (we are pushovers for a British accent, no matter what regional one it is). So my tinfoil hat theory for today is that Blizz, by giving us the “artefact” weapon in Legion, is trying elevate its status by giving it the spelling equivalent of a British accent!

      • Grumsta says:

        I’m no teacher or professor, but I am British, guilty as charged 😉

        I always like to understand the “why” as well as the “what”, which is why I enjoy discussion forums such as your opinion piece and the often erudite responses they receive.

        I have to confess, I have often been heard during WoD exclaiming “WHY?????” 😀

  2. Hi on a dutch webstore site they say ( dont shoot me for this i dont know were they got the date from) Legion on 30-june-2016 see the link below.
    (its Dutch but u see the date on u right side in green). for my self i hope on 27e July (patch day) because iam free at August (4weeks). for the rest blizzard got stil time to fix it, but will they?

    • Fiannor says:

      Yeah, interesting. (Your very long hyperlink was giving my spam filter fits, so I deleted it. Interested readers can go to the Bol.com website, search for “Legion” and see what you referred to.)

      I hope the site is being overly optimistic, but it may be out by the end of June as you imply. I read an argument a couple days ago (can’t remember where) that went like this: The WoW movie comes out in June, and it — along with some freebie game enticements — is expected to bring in a lot of new players as well as recapture some players who have quit. Blizz’s marketing strategy is (so the argument went) to bring them in, let them play for a couple of months and get involved in the end game, then dangle Legion in front of them as exciting new content and a way to keep them playing.

      This would indicate two things: Legion release in September or October, plus the pre-expansion patch in June.

      But it is all pure speculation at this point.

  3. Amourice says:

    I have been in the alpha since it went public in December. The artifact weapons aren’t difficult to get and shouldn’t be a detriment on alts. The questlines are all short and sweet. Leveling up your artifact weapon does take time and effort. Though, Blizzard did say that there would be catch up mechanics for those working on their second or third (or in druid’s cases their fourth) weapons, we just don’t know how effective those are yet. As for it being mandatory and taking away people’s choice… eh mandatory yes, taking away choice… how? You can still transmog your artifact to look like other weapons. And honestly, the weapon you equip is typically based on boss drops. Unless it’s a pvp weapon, we aren’t going to a vendor and making a choice.

    I really enjoy the zone scaling. The potential issues at 110 are really just minor annoyances, we will eventually gear up and be capable of one shotting everything short of rares. /shrug

    Balance… yeah. The thing with survival was super shitty, they made it so we wouldn’t play it in WoD ON PURPOSE, they did the same thing to demonology. Didn’t feel like making the specs work so they broke them so they could fix them for Legion. MM I like, SV is melee so at best I’ll merely play at it when the mood hits me. BM… I just want them to make it like it is on live… fits their supposed spec fantasy better now than it does on alpha. So much of our toolkit has been removed or nerfed that maybe in Legion we will no longer be the go to choice for all the mechanic based odd jobs.

    For me, the hunter class as a whole has changed enough that I’m looking at retiring mine. I’ll keep checking back on my alpha hunters, but I’m leaning towards healing on my resto druid again.

    • Fiannor says:

      Good info, thanks. I remain unconvinced on the artifact issue, though. First, the reason I say it removes choice is that it is the only weapon you can have in Legion. You cannot craft one, cannot buy one with tokens or some kind of currency, cannot get one from a world/instance/raid boss.

      And the initial quest line may be almost trivial (I will take your word for it), but leveling it even minimally seems like it will be a long drawn out RNG-dependent process. This would not be so bad except that the leveling process does not merely increase the weapon’s power, it adds the equivalent of skills/spells/combat effects to it. In other words, you cannot play the full aspect of your character without leveling your weapon. This is a huge leap from just increasing a weapon’s level. It makes the weapon the key to playing your class and spec, similar to the current 4-pc tier for MM hunters. If you are not lucky enough to get the exact drops, you cannot play to your full potential.

      Blizz has done a vague hand-wave of saying they will “do something” to make getting a second or third artifact less onerous, but my bet is that they are only talking about the initial quest line. Dollars to donuts they have no plan to help level the weapon. The best thing they could do would be to just make every spec weapon automatically assume the highest level your main spec has achieved in the artifact tree, but there is no way they will do this.

      And I am also betting that whatever they do will NOT be account-wide, so it will be back to square one to equip an alt. Depending on how the upgrades drop, some alts will just be unable to finish their artifact tree — maybe you do not raid on them, or you are not part of an organized raid team or guild, or you are chronically unlucky, etc. Now, normally you do not expect to gear your alts to the same level as your main, but at least until Legion your alts have always had the same talents/spells as a main. In Legion that will no longer be the case, because without a filled-in artifact tree you will be missing some presumed critical functions. It will be a handicap like the current MM tier gear problem, only magnified.

      Last, the time factor will end up being an alt-killer for most people. Again, depending on your luck, filling your main’s artifact tree could easily consume weeks or months I am betting, then add in an additional spec or two. Most people have a pretty set amount of game play time they can spend each week, and having to spend as much time on an alt as on a main just to get a viable weapon is not in the cards.

      I have said it before, and I stick to it — gear should not determine your character’s abilities in this game, it should only increase their effectiveness. And if Blizz insists on making gear another talent tree, then it is inexcusable to make progression in that talent tree dependent on pure luck.

    • No, some of the artifact questlines are disproportionately hard, at least at this point in tuning.

  4. *mind blown*
    There is a LOT going on moving into this expansion, I had no idea!

  5. Pingback: Legion: Take Your Time – Coffee Cakes and Crits

  6. See this is why I follow you, it’s like you’re in my brain 😉 When I first got alpha access I touched on most of these points. Personally, I also find the Class Halls may be a sticking point — they’re all the bad parts about the garrison plus the annoyance of other players. Just get rid of them already and let us use our capital cities again.

    Further, besides Demon Hunters, which don’t really interest me, what is actually being added? Artifacts are just another repackaging of the ring/cloak, class halls I covered above, and… uh… new zones? The much-lauded class quests and adventure mode seem to just be a repackaging of dailies which, while I appreciate, aren’t new either. Granted, I have not played the alpha in several weeks, but I still saw absolutely nothing to convince me to open my wallet. And having several of my favorite specs gutted hurts bad, man. There are serious concerns from mythic raiders of my class about the way our mastery works that so far have been ignored.