It was only a couple of days in the past when Bree was sharing that I felt like Wrath of the Lich King was the greatest World of Warcraft has ever been. However was it truly the greatest, or is that a matter of reminiscence tilting it to be the greatest? I imply, that recreation was launched a decade in the past once I was nonetheless dwelling in a home with out air con. I’ve moved twice since then, tons of new video games have come out, we lastly received an honest Mega Man recreation. There have been modifications.
In fact, at a look I’m not inclined to vary that specific viewpoint… however there are individuals who have argued that Legion is, in reality, the greatest enlargement in the recreation’s historical past. And one of the advantages of this specific format is that I’m going in with no clear image forward of time; it’s all about placing collectively totals based mostly on the standards laid out. So let’s truly put these two expansions head-to-head. Wrath of the Lich King vs. Legion: Two expansions enter, one leaves as the greatest enlargement in the recreation’s historical past. Start!
The enjoyable factor about these two expansions is that from a sure level of view, they’re each persevering with the similar storyline. Wrath of the Lich King is coping with the prolonged fallout of a previous Burning Legion plot to demolish Azeroth; Legion, on the different hand , is coping with the abandonment of subtletly and simply brute-force invading Azeroth the exhausting means. This, to be truthful, sort of raises the query of why that wasn’t the first plan as an alternative of utilizing a number of dozen catspaws that each one failed.
(Sure, there are lore causes, however let’s not make Thermian arguments in right here. “Well actually” statements in the remark aren’t inspirational.)
For all that, although, it looks like Legion finally does a greater job of framing the battle in the mild of the general struggles of the world. Arthas looks like an exceedingly highly effective dude, however he nonetheless seems like only a dude and another in a long-running collection of dudes with armies. The Legion, nevertheless, feels virtually unassailably large. It seems like Arthas is a troublesome foe who will show near-impossible to battle; it looks like the Burning Legion is definitely futile to battle, and also you get a way of desperation by way of every thing.
The issue right here is that each essential plots wind up fumbling the soccer right here partway via. In Wrath, after an extended marketing campaign to convey down Arthas, at the absolute eleventh hour we discover out that there all the time needs to be a Lich King for intensely silly causes. There’s additionally an try and construct up sympathy for Arthas as a tragic villain, which works… as much as the level when he takes up Frostmourne and willingly damns himself. That tragedy was already explored and executed with.
Legion, on the different hand, persistently units up a necessity for redemption and correction with Illidan that it proves completely unwilling to comply with via with. There’s the first half of a redemption arc there, however it by no means truly goes anyplace; it principally ends on “Illidan is actually the hero because we said so” regardless of Illidan by no means truly, like, being heroic. The ending looks like the story is simply ignoring the many, many issues Illidan did incorrect with a view to fake he’s completely been justified in all of his patently unjustifiable actions.
Sadly, whereas Wrath’s issues solely crop up in the absolute finish, Legion’s drawback is shot by way of the complete enlargement, and “a kind of lackluster conclusion” goes to be higher than “systematically ignoring a horrible character being horrible.”
At first, I used to be somewhat extra inclined to offer this benefit to Wrath as a result of Wrath made positive that each single zone tied again into the marketing campaign towards Arthas. This was, in some ways, a great factor. Against this, in Legion it felt such as you spent so much of time fixing an issue to unravel one other drawback in a method that may ultimately tie again into the foremost battle. It was a bit of bit disconnected, in different phrases.
Nevertheless, upon additional reflection, this isn’t proper. The truth that Legion didn’t have each zone continually harping on the warfare towards the Legion meant that there was area to inform some actually nice particular person tales, like Mayla Highmountain’s progress into her position, the unhappy story of the blue dragons, the remoted Gilnean settlement of Bradenbrook… all of this stuff are nice. And you probably did get a way of how the presence of the Legion was destabilizing issues even when they weren’t always up in your grill. It didn’t repair the principal narrative, nevertheless it made the particular person zones extra enjoyable.
One of the huge guarantees earlier than the launch of Wrath was that the zones wouldn’t all be a continuing assault of ice and snow. That is true, and the environments do really feel totally different sufficient that, say, the Storm Peaks are visually distinct from Icecrown or Dragonblight. However all three of these zones are nonetheless principally simply “big snowy places.” Against this, the zones of the Damaged Isles are all instantly distinct, even on Argus; there’s some robust similarities between the Damaged Shore and large chunks of Argus, however they don’t really feel as same-ish as any stretch of Northrend.
In fact, the flip aspect is that Northrend looks like one land mass with a singular visible id whereas the Damaged Isles looks like a set of wholly disconnected locales. Nonetheless, I’m giving this nod to Legion.
After which, to flip the equation, that unified sense of visible design works out nicely for Wrath. There’s a distinct look to Wrath from its armor units on downward. Iron banding. Rivets. Worn wooden and leather-based. Damaged and splintered ends. Skulls. Ice. There are tons of particular person touches, however the pseudo-Norse aesthetic and general design by no means allow you to overlook that in Northrend, you’re the interloper. You aren’t needed right here, and this area just isn’t pleasant.
Against this, Legion is a visible seize bag to the level it might by no means fairly grasp one factor firmly. I don’t have any concept what visually impressed any given set right here apart from previous units, the enemies are all pasted from elsewhere, and even the most visually hanging bits (like Bradenbrook) are principally simply ported from elsewhere. It by no means develops its personal visible language; it traffics on being a biggest hits of the recreation’s visuals.
The fight in Legion felt the greatest that it had in a really, very very long time. Each single spec was designed from the floor as much as work on a hard and fast rotation and to play good with its particular person artifact. It was so good that it’s straightforward to overlook the cause it felt so good was partly as a result of fight had felt so dangerous for such a very long time, and in the course of it trimmed rather a lot of rotations right down to a three-button sequence.
Against this, much more of Wrath’s fight felt wild and wooly… however it additionally had tons extra in the approach of situational talents that didn’t match right into a agency rotation however required evaluations and sensible play. There was undoubtedly stuff to be refined right here (as an alternative of gutted and thrown out, which is what we truly received), however at their core, each spec on this period used the similar primary class toolkit and tuned accordingly. It was simply extra involving to play.
The dungeon recreation in Wrath was the greatest it’s ever been, on an entire. That doesn’t imply none of the later expansions had dungeons which have been good; some of them have been even outright nice. Nevertheless it does imply that on stability, the Wrath dungeon surroundings was the greatest, and it was the level when the builders began to actually perceive find out how to develop fascinating boss arenas and fights.
Sadly, the drawback is that the recreation has by no means actually moved on past that. Dungeons and their mechanics have by no means gotten higher than Wrath on an entire. Extra to the level, many of the encounters in Legion have been unnecessarily easy in regular and Heroic mode in favor of specializing in Mythic problem. This meant that the majority of the fights become “beat on this punching bag for far too long without currency rewards,” which was one thing lower than the rallying cry to group content material.
Wrath launched the concept of each raid having a 10-person problem and a 25-person problem. On the one hand, meaning it’s the apparent factor in charge for the recreation now providing 4 distinct raiding difficulties, three of which can by no means be skilled by the majority of gamers and two of which might be skilled by solely a tiny minority. On the different hand, it additionally meant that the recreation made extra variations of content material accessible to extra gamers, even when 10-player runs wound up usually tougher on account of much less cushion than 25-player runs.
Legion, at the very least, gave you an choice to see the raids in the event you weren’t inquisitive about forming a raid group. Nevertheless it additionally had the issues I simply described above. Frankly, I’m inclined to name this a wash and transfer any discussions of the high-quality level into endgame fashions.
“But what about the actual challenges of the raids?” Dude, each of these led to a raid whereby the complete social gathering routinely died after which received resurrected. So far as I’m involved, if that’s your most important mechanic for the finale, you’ve failed at raid design.
Do you know that Wrath is when Blizzard found out methods to do automobiles? As a result of gosh, the recreation wouldn’t allow you to overlook it. It was automobiles from nightfall till daybreak. Typically even when it didn’t make an entire lot of sense. It was clear that the questing had taken an enormous step up, however so much of parts have been nonetheless very unfamiliar to the design workforce.
Against this, Legion exhibits a group with a mature, restrained, and educated strategy to questing. Issues like bonus aims work marvelously to interrupt up the movement and scale back the quantity of arbitrary separate quests in a given space, and also you get a great movement from level to level as you degree. It’s instantly apparent how a lot studying has occurred between the two installments, and it makes questing in Legion nonetheless really feel natural and enjoyable.
At the least Wrath launched a brand new career? However then, at the very least Legion truly had crafting quests? Speaking about crafting in WoW isn’t a great time, I’m not going to let this choice journey on this level.
Ion Hazzikostas was completely right in saying that you possibly can mark whenever you would get your upgrades on a calendar, proper up till the level the place he thinks that’s dangerous. He’s additionally improper as a result of it was potential, even possible, that you’d get upgrades in different methods. Typically you’d get a fortunate drop, typically you’d get to a wanted fame quicker than you thought, and so forth. There was nonetheless moment-to-moment pleasure, however you didn’t depend on luck to get upgrades.
Legion did that. And that’s all the time going to be a mark towards it, extra so as a result of Legendaries exacerbated the similar points current in the prior enlargement, after which much more so when the waning days introduced a vendor that simply bought legendaries that ought to have been in the recreation since launch. There was great things about Legion’s endgame with Phrase Quests and such, however at a elementary degree, it might’t match the proven fact that in a single mannequin you may plan your upgrades and content material consumption, and in the different it’s a must to hope.
That is an space the place each side actually sort of common out to a wash. On the one hand, Wrath’s tabard system was actually good for supplying you with a method to farm up fame if you wanted it, and it was one other aspect of getting rewards out of the dungeon you run even when you don’t get a brand new piece of gear.
On the different hand? World Quests are a superb system, the Emissary system allows you to take days off and break up tedium properly, and the reputations felt far more targeted in Legion. So slightly than each side getting it partway proper, each side do good issues that cut up the distinction.
Content material lulls
Sure, we’re on to the barely sillier classes, however let’s not overlook that the lull between Wrath and Cataclysm was so dangerous that Blizzard promised it will by no means be that dangerous ever once more. (And the lie detector check decided that was a lie.) The pacing of updates in Legion was so much higher, even right down to having extra on supply for the post-conclusion stretch.
In Wrath of the Lich King, the Vrykul have been bizarre however neat. That they had some Norse taste and a few factors of fantasy there, however additionally they had a very bizarre set of interlocking beliefs that was clearly the end result of somebody performing some excited about what it meant to revere demise. They felt alien and unique.
In Legion, there are Vrykul as a result of individuals appreciated Vrykul, they usually’re principally simply tall Norsemen who yell at you numerous. So, like… nonetheless cool, however not likely taxing the previous creativeness muscle.
This was an in depth one! However whenever you neglect the classes the place issues are toss-ups, the final choice comes down in favor of Wrath of the Lich King, the winner and nonetheless champion. Positive, Legion does a greater job with questing and its visuals, however its final lack of ability to actually work by way of its essential story and the tedious state of its endgame signifies that you’re going to hit a a lot earlier wall of not having a lot to do. Otherwise you would, if it weren’t far in the rearview.
Will something dethrone Wrath? Properly, mix the design panache of Legion with the issues that Wrath acquired higher, clearly. So, you recognize, just about the reverse of Battle for Azeroth.