Maybe Legion really is the expansion we hoped it would be

Blizzcon 2016 is now in the archives, and I am cautiously hopeful that Legion may indeed fulfill its promise as the anti-Draenor. I did not watch any of the panels live, but I did watch them in the videos afterwards, and I was struck by the amount of information we got from Ion Hazzikostas and the devs — concrete plans for Legion as it moves forward as well as Blizzard’s philosophical approaches to this game and its design. There was a lot to digest, but let me address what I thought were a few of the highlights from what I considered to be the major presentation.

But first, a little groveling on my part. I am often very hard on Ion Hazzikostas, but I thought he hit it out of the park with his presentation on “Legion – What’s Next?” I got a sense that he is finally coming into his own, possibly as a result of being promoted to Game Director, that he is at last comfortable with the game’s direction as well as with communicating that direction to the player base. His presentation was smooth, informed, relaxed, and lively. He seemed to finally shed the tendency to lapse into lawyer-speak, and there was absolutely none of the patronizing comments or snarkiness he has been prone to in the past. I would go so far as to say his presentation was the best we have heard from Blizz in many years. He will never, I think, be very good with interactive player communication — he does not strike me as being an extemporaneous type of guy — but if he continues to give us the quality of information we saw over the weekend, that does not matter. He is in a management position where he can “have people for that”.

I am beginning to believe that Blizz is ever so slowly working itself out of the trust deficit they dug for themselves in WoD. Of course, we still must see if they come through on the promise of Legion, but at least so far they have done what they said they are going to do.

So here are a few items I was most interested in from the “What’s Next” panel. (You can watch one of the many videos of it or check out one of the summaries like Wowhead’s.)

  • Major and minor patches. We know these happen, but it was enlightening to have them defined for us. And it was very pleasant to hear that they are being more or less pipelined in the PTR — once one goes live, the next one is queued up and ready to go for testing. Additionally, it was interesting to hear that content patches are not necessarily tied to raid tiers.
  • Micro holidays coming in Patch 7.1.5. While I am not a big fan of the current world holidays, I do think the Azeroth-based micro holidays have the potential to be a lot of fun. (I am imagining things like Leeeroy Jenkins Day, although it was not mentioned as one of the examples.) The fact that there will be no achievements, mounts, etc. for these events is good, I think, because it reinforces the idea that they are just for a bit of fun. I like the idea because it seems like Blizz is returning to one of their strengths — creative whimsy.
  • Class changes. This was probably the most exciting announcement in my opinion. It seems there will be a ton of substantive class changes coming in 7.1.5, but more than the actual changes, it was the way Hazzikostas described them that caught my attention, particularly as they relate to hunters.
    • He addressed the problem of class play style and feel, and he admitted that they had gone a bit too far in creating spec identity, sometimes at the expense of overall class identity. This has been the main concern of nearly every hunter comment since Alpha, and it gives me hope for qualitative improvement to the brain-dead BM rotation.
    • Traps! Yes, he actually said it, all hunters will get traps back in some form. This was part of a broader discussion of utility, and it seems that Blizz will be adding back some of the utility they had cut from certain classes. This is good news for many, but I think it is especially good for hunters, the class that has historically been “the” utility class in the game. I have heard some argue that utility was in fact the major defining feature of hunters, and that the Legion removal of nearly all utility abilities from hunters effectively destroyed the nature of the class. I am not sure I would go that far, but there is a certain amount of merit to the argument. I hope traps are not the only utility being restored to hunters.
  • Class order hall renewed emphasis in 7.2. Basically, there will be an extension to the order hall campaigns, and a renewed commitment to the idea of classes banding together to save Azeroth. I have not been a fan of this whole concept since it was first announced, and honestly I feel like it is an artificial convenience — to cover Blizz’s decision to continue garrisons in Legion — rather than a smoothly-fitting part of the story. Still, if it is a vehicle for providing continuing content, it is hard to argue with it.
  • Flying. Contrary to my predictions (eating a small portion of crow here), it will arrive in Patch 7.2. However, since I had not considered the possibility of a semi-major 7.1.5 patch, I think my initial prediction of 7.3 (third major patch) was not far off. But I am still not convinced that most people will be able to have flying before well into 2017, given both patch scheduling and the rather significant achievement additions to Pathfinder that will be required. Still, I think it is likely to be closer to early summer than my initial prediction of the end of the year. Which brings up ….
  • Class mounts. I am not much of a mount person, tend to look at them as basic transportation, but I have to admit I was pretty excited about the announcement of class mounts as the reward for completing requirements for flying. I am not exactly sure what that half-wolf, half-eagle thing is that hunters will get, but I want it!
  • Artifact weapons. I am already pretty sick of this mechanism and the way it influences nearly every aspect of the game for me, so the announcement that there will be extensions to them in 7.2 in the form of additional traits and a level 4 for existing 3-level traits was not welcome news to me. The only saving grace, in my opinion, was the comment that they would definitely not/not be continued in the next expansion. Thank goodness. Let’s just hope there will not be artifact bloomers or something ….
  • World invasions. These daily events, similar to the ones we had in the pre-patch events in WoD, will be returning in 7.2. I think this is a good move as a way to add content. The invasion scenarios were fast, fun, and they gave decent rewards. Also, I think they were very well received by most players. Good move on Blizz’s part.
  • No mention of Patch 7.3, and maybe extra-planetary travel?? Hazzikostas did not venture much beyond plans for Patch 7.2 — he did not specifically mention patch 7.3. The timeline, though, argues for such a patch.
    • Assuming 7.2 goes live sometime around March or April of 2017 (wild ass guess on my part), that would mean Legion is less than a year old by the time 7.2 goes live.
    • If Blizz’s previous declaration that they were going back to 18-month or 2-year expansions holds, that leaves a lot of time for more major Legion patches. And it seems unlikely, given the bad recent experiences with patches lasting for a year, that we will not have one or more after 7.2. Even if there is a Patch 7.2.5, there will still be a lot of time left in Legion, certainly enough for a Patch 7.3 and 7.3.5 before the next pre-expansion patch.
    • The hint Hazzikostas tantalizingly dropped was that the battle will be taken directly to The Legion’s home planet of Argus. This does not necessarily mean space travel with star ships and all — magic portals seem more likely — but still…. Remember the world invasions we got before Legion as part of the pre-expansion events? Those big things in the sky where there was a swirly spiral certainly looked like they might be space ships, didn’t they?
    • If in fact Argus is the new zone we get in Patch 7.3, it opens up an entirely new planet for future expansions. No more trying to cram new zones into what is becoming a rather crowded Azeroth map. Honestly, it is quite exciting, and it goes a long ways towards laying to rest the perpetual WoW-is-dead theories.

Many people — me included — expected Blizzcon 2016 to be a real yawner, but surprisingly I found it to be one of the more optimistic and exciting ones in recent history. It seems like Blizz has finally turned the corner from the long, dark days of WoD, and I am excited by the notion that Legion may actually be the expansion we all hoped it would be. For the first time in many, many months, I am enthusiastic about the future of the game.

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.

5 Responses to Maybe Legion really is the expansion we hoped it would be

  1. Grumsta says:

    “….we still must see if they come through on the promise of Legion, but at least so far they have done what they said they are going to do.”

    To be fair, I think Blizz have been on this path since 6.2.x – I guess the issue many have is that they didn’t like what Blizz did to several classes and specs in the game, even if they did do exactly what they said they’d do to them. The fact that these issues have been acknowledged and will be addressed (hopefully to the satisfaction of all parties) reinforces their credibility for future delivery.

    Perhaps in hindsight the flying fiasco of WoD has been the turning point for Blizz and the game? That was the low point for high-handedness, snarkiness and “we know what you want better than you do” attitude. Since then their communication has improved, culminating in the clear vision presented at Blizzcon 2016.

    There are still design decisions I’m not happy with, but overall the game feels in a good place right now. Flying in Legion at the same time that Hunter issues get addressed? Who’da thunk it?

    • Fiannor says:

      Yes, I still have major objections to some of Blizz’s design decisions for Legion, too, but I agree overall it does feel like the game is in a good place. (Although, it seems like that phrase “in a good place” may be somewhat unfortunate, as those are the exact words Hazzikostas used back at the Legion expansion announcement to describe BM hunters… And then look what happened.)

      To me, it is encouraging that there was an admission that some of the “pruning” and class redesigns went too far. I remain puzzled and a tad angry, though, that it took them nearly a year to acknowledge — much less address — the hunter problems. It still seems pretty damn high-handed to have steadfastly ignored hunter concerns since the early days of Alpha, as if we were all just so many pesky insects to be ignored and brushed away. That refusal to pay any kind of official notice to very real class concerns certainly harkened back to the worst days of WoD, and it is what makes me hesitate in believing there has indeed been a sea change at Blizz. The words were — finally — good to hear, but actions will speak.

  2. gnomecore says:

    Damn Argus 🙂 I have no idea why people keep shouting Argus! and are so excited about it. We see many Legion worlds and Legion camps, all are scorched rocks with fel green puddles, no exception. Why would Argus be any different, being under Legion for thousands of years? Do people really want to play in ashes for a whole patch/expansion?

    Yes, it maybe the ships. Anyways, the ships are teleporting devices as well.

    • Fiannor says:

      LOL, ya you may have a point about trashing up the place. One of the continuing albeit minor annoyances I have about the game is the way beautiful Azeroth places keep getting destroyed and made ugly, never again to be fixed. Except SW Park, finally.

      • demonnick001 says:

        I do think Argus will be the destination for 7.3, it just seems like the natural progression in the “defeat the legion” theme. I share your lack of excitement in heading to another scorched rock with fel green puddles area, but I would prefer it be a patch than a whole expansion.

        On the subject of complete speculation I did read an article on WoW Subreddit describing someones theory that Suramar will be the next major city, with the expansion being the long rumored South Seas. I encourage anyone who is board to give it a read. Although its pure speculation, it is quite entertaining. (https://www.reddit.com/r/wow/comments/5bmsgw/suramar_city_the_next_dalaran/).

        Personally for me, I try not to hold a grudge over Blizzard ignoring the hunter community since legion (although this is totally warranted for those who do), and instead will take the approach of praising them for finally admitting their mistake, which honestly is hard to do for most of us. I do think the specific nod to hunters was completely needed, as I agree that we were once identified as the utility class…and now literally have no baseline utility.

        The hunter class mount is pretty damn cool, and I think its definitely in the top 4 or 5, it can’t top that shaman one though honestly. Some classes definitely got the short end of the stick though, looking at you paladins…and enjoy your totally unique horse…

        For me Blizzcon 2016 was AMAZING! I wish I was there…maybe next year…*sigh*…maybe next year.