When the Legion expansion pack launches next summer for Blizzard Entertainment’s World of Warcraft massively multiplayer online role-playing game, it will include one new class: the demon hunter.
At BlizzCon this weekend, GamesBeat arranged a special chance to play through the entire starting experience demo for that class, which took a little under two hours. It’s the first new class added to the game since monks came on the scene as part of the Mists of Pandaria expansion more than three years ago.
Much like the death knight class before it, you’ll start a little under the level cap when you begin as a demon hunter. Currently, players can reach level 100 in the Warlords of Draenor expansion pack; they will achieve level 110 in Legion. Demon hunters start at level 98 in their own special leveling zone: Mardum, in the Shattered Abyss.
I won’t go into the lore much here, but demon hunters are elves pledged to fight the invasion of the Burning Legion demons — by stealing their powers and using them against them. Demon hunters are a leather-wearing melee class, using glaives as weapons and agility as a primary stat.
First step: Pick your looks
The character customization screens for demon hunters are a bit different from other classes. You may choose between blood elf for Horde-faction demon hunters or night elf for Alliance. In addition to the usual options, you may customize your tattoos, your horns, and your blindfold. These stay with you regardless of what armor your character wears.
This means you won’t go visually helmless as a demon hunter; however, one of the “blindfold” choices offers glowing green, flaming eyes without an actual blindfold. Needless to say, I jumped on that one right away.
Other differences in character customization include skin color choices, which include some options with scales (and some with more or less muscle). Demon hunter garb is skin-baring for both genders, so you’ll be seeing a lot of those choices, and your tattoos.
The tattoos themselves are in fixed color-plus-pattern combinations. Most are bright evil green or purple, and the patterns themselves are vaguely tribal — not a surprise, given the similar patterns on Illidan Stormrage, the former Warcraft villain/boss that now leads the demon hunters in this expansion.
Horns range from tiny devil nubs to Illidan’s enormous swept-back curves to models that I referred to as Draenei (like the Alliance race of spacefarers), ibix, goats, and rams. I couldn’t find an option to skip horns.
Earring options were normal for elves, but I’ll note they look a little strange in combination with horns, since they’re all a little dainty. I chose to go without. Hairstyles and colors appeared to be the normal choices.
Facial options included different than usual choices such as scars, studlike spikes, and fractured, glowing cracks.
Racial dances are the same for demon hunters as for other elf classes, but the jokes and flirting emotes players can trigger with /silly and /flirt and /train commands are different and specific to demon hunters. You get the Illidari title for your character to start, though it’s unclear whether you keep it or whether your other, non-demon hunter characters can use it as well.
The starting gear for demon hunters includes a pair of glaives whose looks are modestly reminiscent of the legendary Warglaives of Azzinoth, which dropped from Illidan in the old Black Temple large-group raid dungeon.
Your starting armor mostly carries an item level of 660 in uncommon/green quality, and doesn’t cover much: Males are shirtless, and females wear a fairly tiny chestband. The overall look feels demonic, Illidan-like, and fun, and you’ll likely choose to hang onto this well-designed set for transmogrification of other armor later.
As Blizzard designer Jonathan LeCraft said in a BlizzCon panel Saturday: “They wear leather armor — not often on the shirt area. They take the weapons of the enemy: warglaives, fel magic, sculpted biceps — everything. And they look good.”
Next up: Go kill things
Questing through the starting zone doesn’t feel much different from any other, and most of the quests are standard “kill this, click on that” sorts of missions. Most of the exceptions come from quests designed to help you to learn your new demon hunter abilities, which you pick up gradually through the zone as quest rewards. It certainly didn’t feel as epic as the death knight starting area.
One early quest asks you to make an interesting decision, but it doesn’t appear to change the consequences of events in the zone. Hint: If you want to hear some extra dialogue from Illidan, opt to die when the time comes. You will take charge of some interesting forces in your fight to save the temple; I found this the most compelling part of the zone’s content, but it doesn’t feel too fleshed out yet.
You’ll notice some new quality of life improvements right away. Targets have actual targeting circles on the ground underneath them, making it easier to see which monster in a group you have selected. It has a metric ton of voice dialogue: Quest givers talk to you, and the humanoid creatures you fight verbally spar with you. Above it all, the region’s villains give voice commands to their crew, and you’ll see their heads pop up on screen with their dialogue so you won’t miss it.
Quests give item level 675 blue/rare quality goods, and rare beasts in the area deliver the same. You can upgrade all of these randomly as you earn them, similar to the quest rewards in the Warlords expansion. Unlike the death knight starting area, it appears you may not fully replace all your green-quality items before leaving; I made a point of completing every quest, bonus objective, and rare monster kill I could find, and I still had a few when finishing up the demo, which appeared to end at the end of the zone.
It was unclear whether Blizzard tinkered with the experience to level during the demo, but I suspect not, since I wrapped up the session close to level 100 and just before porting to see Illidan. Getting from level 98-99 takes 675,000 experience and I was half there after four quests and a bonus area. (Pro tip: Do the bonus objectives. They’re 10 times normal quest experience.)
You’ll definitely enjoy the changes to how loot and quest items drop from normal monsters. Warcraft has had a system in place for a while where rare monster loot is available to anyone who attacks the beast, but individual creatures are typically locked to the party or character that attacks them first.
In World of Warcraft: Legion, the first four to five people or groups who attack a creature each get its loot and quest item drops, even if they’re not in a party with any other players. It’s a godsend in a crowded new starting area, where competition for quest monsters to kill always becomes fierce.
Quest givers in the demon hunter starting area, at least for the demo, also had the same “aura of no mounts” that some significant quest givers had in Warlords. That means no one can go summon a gigantic mammoth mount with their demon hunter and park it on top of the quest givers you need — they poof automatically. Flying mounts won’t work in this or any other Legion zone to start.
The zone itself is like Shadowmoon Valley (the Outland version), with craggy black mountains and lots of green fel lava. That’s not too surprising, since the events surround a demon invasion of Black Temple, which becomes a base to be defended.
Your starting abilities
Demon hunters have two specs: Havoc, which deals damage, and Vengeance, which tanks. Vengeance is still under development, and it’s not available to you until the end of the starting zone. (I’ll talk briefly about what I saw of that spec in a moment.) You play as Havoc throughout the starting area.
You’ll start with a few basic abilities as a demon hunter, and earn a few more as you work your way through the starting zone. Demon’s Bite is a quick attack that does about 5,000 physical damage and builds 20-30 Fury, the resource demon hunters use (it’s similar to warrior’s Rage).
(LeCraft again: “Like rage. You throw in a little smoldering hatred and a dash of purple.”)
Chaos Strike is your initial Fury spender. It does 18,000 damage and costs 40 Fury — unless you get a critical strike, in which case it’s free. Your initial starting zone gear gives you enough critical strike stats to have a 25 percent chance for a freebie.
It’s a super-fun mechanic in terms of being able to sometimes spam that ability, but I found that it made it necessary to keep one eye on your Fury bar the whole time you’re fighting so you don’t waste procs by using Demon’s Bite when you’re already full of Fury.
Watching bars isn’t much fun for melee. If Blizzard doesn’t include a much more visual critical-strike effect for demon hunters (right now the bar flashes when it’s full, but that’s about it), I foresee players using mods to add heads-up notifications.
A side note: You chance to hit an enemy can be an issue, at least to start. I was level 98, and the monsters I was hitting were level 98, and I was missing a notable percentage of the time.
Demon hunters are incredibly mobile, and I spent a good amount of time in the starting zone just jumping off things. For starters, they double-jump, the only Warcraft class to do so, and it’s surprising just how fun that turns out to be. Hold down the spacebar while jumping or falling and you’ll glide on demonic wings. It’s easy to fall into a jump-jump-glide pattern. (Notably, the cosmetic single-jump night elf flips and blood elf spin-jumps don’t appear to work for demon hunters — or at least I didn’t notice them, possibly because of this mechanic.)
If you’ve ever done the large-group raid dungeon Blackrock Foundry, you’ve seen people use goblin gliders to sail down the passages leading downward. Being a demon hunter is like having a permanent goblin glider. It’s fairly awesome anytime you’re running downhill.
As a demon hunter in World of Warcraft: Legion, you’ll also start with the ability Fel Rush, which has two charges and takes 10 seconds to cool down on each charge. This move is familiar to any Warcraft player that’s fought demons, as it plows through a group of enemies, laying a fire trail on the ground and doing about 10,000 fire damage to anyone in melee range. It’s also an additional short-term dash for moving around quickly, and you can use it in midair or while gliding. It’s also an amazing tool for “tapping,” or getting loot rights on, a large group of enemies in one place.
Warning: the Shattered Abyss has lots of cliffs that drop off into space. I narrowly avoided annihilation a few times where I cheerfully Fel Rushed through a group of monsters and right off solid ground, recovering only with a quick double-jump and second charge of Fel Rush.
The incredible mobility of the class gives combat a different feel for the demon hunter. You’ll use Fel Rush during combat with multiple enemies, which means lots of zipping around and repositioning. I liked it a lot, and while the damage feels a little undertuned at the moment, that may be due more to the crappy starting gear than the class itself.
The last ability you’ll get to start is Spectral Sight. This outlines monsters (living and dead) in a red blood-like fire, including those inside caves or behind walls out of sight, and outlines treasure chests in purple fire. It slows your character; on the build I played, it was about the speed of an unboosted cat druid in stealth. It is active until you turn it off.
Spectral Sight sees through stealth and invisibility and only has a 10 second cooldown — a powerful spell indeed for player-versus-player realms. If you listen closely, you can hear rogues screaming on the Blizzard forums from here.
The last thing in the area isn’t an ability, but a ground effect: After killing demons, a small cloud remains. Passing through the cloud gives you the “Demon Soul” effect for a dozen seconds or so, which increases your damage by 20 percent. It does not stack, but it does refresh if you run through another cloud. It was unclear whether this is specific to the starting zone, or something that will happen anywhere you kill demons as a demon hunter.
Abilities and rewards you pick up on the way
One of the early quests gives you access to the Fel Saber, the demon hunter class mount. This undead demonic catlike mount features lots of fel green and glowing smoke — it looks sharp. Still, it almost feels like a shame to ride it, since it doesn’t have the vertical mobility or sprint mechanics of the character while running, which you quickly get used to.
Of note in this demo was that as a blood elf demon hunter, I could summon both my own class hawkstrider mount and the night elf black nightsaber cat mount. I’m not sure whether Blizzard intended that behavior.
Early treasure chest loot included a reusable agility/stamina flask buff item on a 15-minute cooldown and a 28-slot bag (you start with 16-slotters.) Many treasure chests contain Legion healthstones, which operate like standard healthstones/potions.
One of the quests will award you Eye Beam, a 50 Fury-cost spell that channels for a few seconds to do 63,000 damage in a line in front of you. It’s on a 45 second cooldown, causes your character to appear to transform, and does a satisfying job of making things melt.
You’ll also learn Consume Magic, a spell-interrupt and 3 second silence effect that fills your Fury bar if you use it successfully. It’s on a 20 second cooldown. Your only ranged attack is Throw Glaive: a 40-yard toss that will be useful to pull bosses as a tank in Vengeance spec. It does about 12,500 damage and can ricochet to up to two additional enemies within 10 yards. It has a 10 second cooldown.
Finally, toward the end of the zone, you’ll learn Metamorphosis, the 10 minute cooldown spell, and choose your spec (Havoc or Vengeance) going forward. In Havoc spec, Metamorphosis leaps and lands on your target, doing 8,000 damage in an 8-yard radius and stunning everyone in the area of effect for three seconds — again, a monster ability in PvP. It also transforms you into a demon for 30 seconds, giving you 100 percent leech (so that all your damage also heals you for the same amount) and boosting the damage of both your Demon’s Bite and Chaos Strike.
Metamorphosis as a damage player turns you into a giant winged demon, looking more like Illidan than like demonology warlocks’ current Metamorphosis spell (which is going away in Legion.)
Your bonus for your mastery stat also becomes active at this time: for damage, it’s Furious Havoc, which gives you a 13 percent chance to earn double fury on abilities.
Early signs of the demon hunter tank spec
As I mentioned, the tank spec demon hunter was not playable in the demo — if you chose Vengeance from the options given, you were put in Havoc spec regardless. However, there were a few clues about things to come for demon hunter tanks.
Early screenshots show the Metamorphosis form for Vengeance is a massive demonic wall of flesh glowing with fire. The tooltip in the demo on the spec selection screen said that Metamorphosis for that spec will be on a two-minute cooldown, give max Fury and health, and reduce incoming damage by up to 60 percent, with the damage reduction increasing as health percentage of the demon hunter decreased. It lasts 15 seconds.
LeCraft said the Vengeance spec will focus on protective spells and inflicting pain with fire, including flame whip, firebrand, and a short-range area of effect damage spell immolation aura. The demo suggested Eye Beam turned into the aura (a 6,000-damage short-range AE for 10 seconds). Mastery was Inner Demon, which improves Leech by 13 percent.
Their abilities will disrupt enemies, protect the demon hunter, and protect other people, he said. Demon hunters will be able to parry with their glaives.
My final act in the demo was to take a fel bat to the Fel Hammer to return to the Black Temple and meet with Illidan (the demo ended before arrival, sadly). Fel bats are goofy looking: dangly feet, green fel eyes, definitely a different skin than the undead bat mounts currently in game. Expect to see them pop up on the mount list sometime soon.
All told, the demo took me from 98 to about 100, and took less than two hours to complete, even with various running around and random shenanigans.