How is World of Warcraft: Legion holding up three months later?

Despite some shallow grinding, Legion is a diverse expansion full of great ideas.

When I reviewed World of Warcraft: Legion, my glowing praise came with a heavy caveat: Many felt the exact same way about WoW's previous expansion before Blizzard left Warlords of Draenor to die on the vine from lack of updates. Like Warlords, Legion makes a wonderful first impression, but I was worried that it would be doomed to the same fate. 

During Legion's first few weeks, I was sinking hours every night into leveling up my Demon Hunter and exploring the Broken Isles. That frantic pace has settled into a comfortable routine now that I'm deep into Legion's endgame. Even though I'm playing less, I'm just as enthusiastic about the time I spend with World of Warcraft. If your main concern is that Legion won't have enough meat on the bone to satisfy you for months at a time or longer, have no fear. Legion is a mouthful that I can't chew through fast enough.

A great deal of that meat comes from what is, at its most reductive form, a traditional MMO grind. I'm still running the same dungeons each night, completing the same repeatable quests, and slowly acquiring marginal improvements to my gear. But Legion takes those exhausted MMO concepts and breathes new life into them with smart improvements to the endgame that make it more satisfying and accessible than any other I've played in a traditional MMO. 

A new kind of endgame 

The biggest change is the new 'Mythic+' dungeons, which offer a viable way of gearing up without having to dedicate a few nights a week raiding. These dungeons increase in difficulty with each successive one you beat in a week. Completing a Mythic difficulty dungeon awards you a 'Mythic Keystone', which tasks you with tackling another Mythic dungeon but at a higher difficulty level, giving monsters more health and damage and adding a timer to keep you moving at a frantic pace.

Mythic+ dungeons feel like the new gold standard for MMOs.

Beating that dungeon before the timer runs out upgrades your keystone and sends you to an even more challenging version of a different dungeon. At certain levels, monsters also get random affixes that alter their abilities similar to Diablo 3's elites. One week monsters might spawn damaging energy pools under your ranged characters, the next week they might buff enemies or explode when they die. The higher you climb up the Mythic+ ladder, the more these affixes begin to stack.

Mythic+ dungeons feel like the new gold standard for MMOs. Constantly sweating the timer while dealing with increasingly vicious monsters makes running them a serious and fun challenge. I've had more than a few exhilarating moments where my party clutched a win by beating the final boss with seconds left on the timer. 

Learning to tank

Mythic+ difficulty can feel intimidating, which is exactly what I went through when I first learned how to tank in World of Warcraft.

More importantly, the Mythic+ difficulty has kept dungeons feeling fresh and exciting after dozens of runs. I've always resented the way MMOs forced me to run the same dungeons again and again, but the randomized affixes keep them varied so I'm always looking forward to running one. The learning curve is also steep enough that I feel like it'll be months before I master any dungeon on the highest level of +15.

Another reason I'm grateful for Mythic+ dungeons is that it finally relieves the pressure to raid in order to feel like I'm progressing as a character. For years, raids have been the main focus for endgame content, but Mythic+ dungeons offer the same challenge without all the tedium. While I was happy to invest hours of every night to playing when Legion first launched, real life soon had other plans. I sometimes only have an hour or two per week to play. In previous expansions, that would leave me out in the cold, but in Legion, I can still hop in and run a dungeon or two in an hour. Gone are the days of needing a dozen hours a week just to feel competitive. 

Grinding my gear 

It's a bit frustrating then that when all I want to do is run Mythic+ dungeons and occasionally raid, Legion forces me to spend my time in other areas that aren't as satisfying. The new world quest system was a blessing when I first reached level 110, as it turns the entire Broken Isles into an endgame zone. Each day new quests appear across its expanse that I can complete for various rewards, and for a time, I really enjoyed how alive it makes the world feel as players work to complete quests together.

Sadly, world quest rewards only scale up to a certain level which I've already surpassed. That means that, by and large, most of the gear I'm acquiring from them is useless. I still feel the need to complete them however as they reward order hall resources and faction reputation—two resources that are necessary to continue progressing but also represent a rather boring grind. If I manage to login each day to complete them, world quests only take 20 minutes or so. It's a relatively small timesink, but those 20 minutes each day do add up.

The endgame zone of Suramar suffers a similar problem with grinding. Ancient mana crystals are a new currency introduced in the zone and are frequently required to complete quests and access certain perks. The nightfallen elves that occupy the zone are addicted to the stuff, and each day they need a certain amount to stop them from going into withdrawal and becoming unresponsive. Ancient mana is scattered around the environment, but it's such a chore to collect it all that I'm beginning to ignore it entirely. 

Then there's some issues with how gear works, which in theory is fantastic but has clear problems that need working out. The system is now adaptive so that rewards are always tailored to your level and specialization. It's a great concept because useful rewards come at a steady stream, but stat balancing creates annoyances. Right now, figuring out if a piece of equipment is better than another can be tricky. Secondary stats are weighed too heavily, and pieces of gear that seem weaker on paper are actually stronger—meaning sometimes I'm downgrading when I should be upgrading. This is particularly frustrating when it comes to legendary items, which are supposed to be ultra-powerful but often end up being useless, deflating all of the excitement over getting one. 

A dash of mystery

One of my favorite aspects of Legion has been all of the mysteries and easter eggs Blizzard has tucked within the Broken Isles. Read how one guild had to complete a brutal speedrun to discover a hidden boss.

It's these more superficial grinds and unnecessary complications that occasionally detract from Legion's best aspects. I could just ignore them, but I'd be missing out on a very necessary stream of rewards like artifact power to upgrade my weapon. Sitting down for a play session can sometimes feel like needing to eat my vegetables when all I want is that delicious dessert. 

These frustrations are largely a symptom of just how big of an expansion Legion is. There's so many satisfying pursuits outside of dungeons like crafting, PVP, and my remaining story quests that I'm already overwhelmed with things to do each day. Having a few artificial grinds to contend with on top of all of that feels superfluous.

That said, Legion is like a warm blanket that I look forward to cuddling up in as often as time allows. It can be a little itchy, but three months later and I'm just as happy with it. Looking to the future, things only look to improve. At Blizzcon, Blizzard laid out their plans for the mini patch 7.1.5 and the much bigger patch 7.2. Both will add lots of new activities like Hearthstone-esque PvP 'Brawls' and Blizzard has plans to address issues like the problem with secondary stats.

Since both are slated to arrive before summer, that means that Legion looks to have a very lively next year. New raids, new dungeons, and general improvements show that Blizzard is clearly listening to its players. I've already invested hundreds of hours into Legion, and despite those irritations I see myself happily investing hundreds more. So much of Legion is just too damn fun. Like my first impression suggested, Legion shows that World of Warcraft isn't the sinking ship some people are worried it is. The demon invasion of the Broken Isles might be Azeroth's darkest hour, but it is also World of Warcraft's brightest. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Steven is PC Gamer's contributing editor and has a nose for sniffing out the interesting and unique stories being told every day in the PC community. He likes RPGs of the MMO persuasion but isn't that popular so regular RPGs are good too.
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