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World of Warcraft: Legion just gave the world’s leading paid-subscription massively multiplayer online role-playing game a massive boost in the right direction. And the expansion pack’s enormous scope and nearly endless run of things to do, combined with an unbelievably smooth launch — oh, and a new mobile app — make it the best expansion ever written for World of Warcraft.

Blizzard Entertainment released World of Warcraft: Legion August 30 for PC and Mac for $50. A companion app for iOS and Android is free. Legion requires the base game and earlier expansions to play, all of which are packaged now for $20; monthly subscription fees average $15. It comes with a free boost for one character to level 100, in case you’re just starting or need to catch a character up to speed.

I played on both platforms, leveling several characters (though only one to max — see below). I earned the Loremaster achievement for questing in all possible zones; completed more than 200 world quests; completed every dungeon on normal, heroic, and mythic difficulties; capped three tradeskills; and fished up a rare shark. We’re not going to discuss how many hours I played.

And I haven’t run out of things to do yet.


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World of Warcraft: Legion

Above: A group of 40 works toward getting their sharks. That’s a lot of fishing bobbers.

Image Credit: Heather Newman

What you’ll like

Welcome back to having one main character

I’m an alt-o-holic. I have a second WoW account because I’ve capped out on high level characters on all servers (that’s 50 of them, for anyone counting), and every expansion to date has gone like this for me: Gun to the level cap, either ripping through quests without reading them or running endless repetitions of dungeons to get there. Start working on preparation for large-group raid dungeons. Get bored. Start the treadmill of alts. Either raid or start to disengage.

I took four days off from other projects to level up this time in Legion, expecting to burn through my customary two starter characters in that time and get a good concept of the expansion for this review. A week later, I was still working on the same character. Sure, she was 110 (the new level cap) by that time. But I hadn’t run out of things to do, and it was so much fun playing the end-game content with her, and playing with new friends, that each time I turned to an alt I quickly returned to my main character.

This is the first Warcraft expansion where you literally have more to do at cap than you do while working through the robust leveling content.

Loads of max-level quests will tempt you: for your crafting professions, new fancy artifact weapon, new class order hall (where all the other druids or paladins or warlocks or what have you hang out), and world quests that offer nearly guaranteed gear upgrades or recipes or PvP honor or artifact weapon power. A new zone to explore with quests and content designed specifically for max-level players to cavort in. Dungeons with gear that scales to you so you’re never without an upgrade. New dungeon modes that allow you to play over and over again, getting more challenge out of them each time.

The result is near-paralysis from so many interesting, engaging, fun things to do. That’s a feeling I absolutely haven’t had since 2004 in this game, and I’ve been reveling in it for the past couple of weeks. Incredible.

World of Warcraft: Legion

Above: A world quest screen shows the remaining quests in one zone, after I’d cleared out a pile.

Image Credit: Heather Newman

High quality content and a new scaling mechanic add to the story — and your friends list

Other odd things happened along the way while leveling. The writing on quests is the best it’s ever been, and almost all of them included some kind of voiceover. The result was that I started reading quests and caring about storyline for the first time in years. They made me laugh, at least one made me cry (no! not … her), and every line of dialogue resonated with thought, editing, and echoes of people who cared about and were enthusiastic for what they were doing.

One of the key mechanics is that every encounter, quest, and reward scales to the level and power of your character. This means you can start with almost any zone in the new Broken Isles continent, regardless of your level, and you’ll see all the quests and angry monsters as being a manageable challenge.

You can group up with people who are different levels than you and quest together. If you’re level 101 and join someone who is level 107, you will see the monster as 101 and they will see it as 107, and it will damage you — and take damage from you — accordingly.