WoW Factor: Fighting against the Legion and the end of the world

    
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Here, there, wherever.

I honestly don’t know what the Burning Legion’s strategy is in World of Warcraft right now when it comes to picking places to invade. Azshara, sure, that makes sense. Tanaris, all right, it’s near a bunch of important ruins; I can sort of understand it. But Hillsbrad? Westfall? Some of this stuff just plain doesn’t make sense, people. Then again, perhaps there’s a reason I don’t understand the motivation of immortal and nigh-on limitless forces from beyond the reaches of reality.

The invasions running right now are obviously meant to presage our efforts against the Burning Legion in World of Warcraft: Legion, and it’s crazy to think that the expansion is less than two weeks away. We’ve been waiting for so long that it’s felt as if it’s just always going to be off on the horizon, after all. I’ve been digging pretty deeply into the invasions, and while last week I was all about the lore, this week I want to talk about the actual acts of shuttling back and forth and taking on the Legion as it hits the ground.

Did we not tell you this is how things would go down?

Rewards and issues

There are a couple of really great things to be earned from the Legion invasions, but there have been hiccups as well. The biggest one is simply that there’s not quite enough to get with nethershards past a certain point; once you have all of the transmog sets and the accessories, you can buy Coalesced Fel if you have the weapon, and then… nothing. If you’ve been leveling heavily through the invasions, you wind up with a lot of unusable currency and no real way to compensate for bad luck with chests, which is the whole point of currency like this.

Blizzard has also been regularly shuffling around frequency and experience rewards. The change to three every two hours instead of two every four hours means that you wind up getting a lot more experience on a given character in the same timeframe, so I think the complaining is overblown, but it still requires you to pick a character and play that character rather than shuffling through alts. While it doesn’t make it less fun, it’s one more thing players have to adjust to.

There’s also the fact that the invasions are basically just constant death if you’re playing a melee character. There are some mechanics that are hard to deal with as melee (like the demons who fart out huge ground AoEs at random). There are some mechanics that are easy to deal with but require coordination you rarely find in random gatherings (having an explosive debuff usually means dying, since half of the people won’t move away). And then there are some mechanics that just seem designed to kill everyone in melee range (Searing Flesh, as near as I can tell, just wrecks you). The system doesn’t require you to be alive to reap rewards, so that’s good, but it is a mite bit frustrating.

Given all of that, I think it says something about the invasions as a whole that I still find this to be insanely fun content, from both a mechanical and lore perspective.

Fine, we'll win the war for you, whatever.

Mechanically fun

Invasions are fun. They’re zone-wide events that have a lot going on right from the start. I’m particularly fond of the third phase, when there’s a ton of stuff going on across the zone and you’re rewarded for spreading out and doing different things. Hunt down and close gates, deal with wandering enemies, rescue people, find vehicles, all of that fun stuff.

Having the events as phased encounters where you don’t have to worry about things being cleared away in two minutes definitely helps. The result is that you get all of the emergent fun of dynamic events without the usual problems of showing up late to the party. I know that whenever I make it to an invasion, things will be going on, and I don’t know for certain what the situation will be ahead of time. There may be a lot of elites in one area or nothing at all. It evolves as the event does.

The chests are also fun, and while I’m not fond of them as the only way to get main-slot gear, I do like that the gear therein scales. It creates an interesting tension – do I open this now on my lower-level character or save these when I’m done leveling by this event? Which is going to produce the best results over the long term?

Also, at the risk of sounding endlessly snarky, I’ll do almost anything other than leveling through certain expansions again. Bypassing Cataclysm and Warlords of Draenor leveling definitely earns the event some points from me on that merit alone.

Right in the eye of the storm.

Also, lore fun

One of the more subtle and also more functional bits of the invasions we see is that every single one of them doesn’t end. That’s necessary from a mechanical standpoint, yes, but it’s also necessary from a lore standpoint. We aren’t fighting to end the invasion, we’re fighting to earn a respite. The best we can hope for is to make this push too costly for the Legion to continue right now. That’s always been the last, best, and only hope for Azeroth.

Everyone knows it. This is a fight we’re stalling until we have a means to win it.

I enjoy the fact that the zones also have calls going up from all through the zone, seemingly forgotten or irrelevant components of the zone coming together to fight back against an invasion that seems too big for any given group to take on. The Legion is assaulting everything at once, and there is no sideline to sit on. We are literally struggling to stop the end of the world, and the outcome doesn’t feel like a foregone conclusion, even though realistically we all know that the game isn’t going to just end with the demonic forces winning.

That’s the other part that I like about the fighting: It feels pitched. It feels as if we’re throwing everything we have against demons to slow them down. In the past, the Burning Legion has always been a vague threat that doesn’t manifest itself directly, despite the fact that we’ve faced down against the Legion’s leaders on multiple occasions. This event addresses that side of things. What we fought before were, essentially, personal holidays by the leaders, small excursions just to see what they could accomplish. This is an invasion, and it doesn’t stop. It doesn’t slow down. It works us over until we’re crushed. And it can’t be stopped.

Well, not until the game hands us the means to stop it, anyway, because this narrative has a foregone conclusion. But even if it’s a shadow play, it’s putting up a sufficiently convincing front.

Feedback is welcome down in the comments or via mail to eliot@massivelyop.com, as it is every week. Next time, I want to round things off with a look at what we expect for the future of Legion already and how the pre-launch can be expanded.

War never changes, but World of Warcraft does, with a decade of history and a huge footprint in the MMORPG industry. Join Eliot Lefebvre each week for a new installment of WoW Factor as he examines the enormous MMO, how it interacts with the larger world of online gaming, and what’s new in the worlds of Azeroth and Draenor.