Many gamers consider World of Warcraft to be the video game equivalent of an elephant trapped in quicksand, slowly being sucked beneath the choking earth. There’s no chance for it to escape, but it’ll be a long time before its head finally goes under. There’s no denying that WoW has been hemorrhaging players since the Cataclysm expansion, but the reasons for this trend are difficult to pin down.
Some state that WoW has been pandering more and more to a casual audience, leading its dedicated core of exclusive players to feel betrayed, while others state that the “content drought” that struck the WoW playerbase during Warlords of Draenor meant that many who wanted to play the game simply couldn’t because there was nothing left to do. Others argue is just that Blizzard is losing its focus in WoW and working too hard to be things it isn’t. PvP and PvE are the two pillars that hold up World of Warcraft, and with the addition of garrisons many feel that Blizzard was turning WoW into a mobile-game-esque, check-in check-out system.
Many feared that WoW was simply becoming “Garrisoncraft” with the world’s most popular MMO an attached afterthought. Finally, there seems to be a dangerous trend in World of Warcraft where players are finding themselves increasingly cut off from each other. Originally, the guild and world chat were essential tools to engaging with Warcraft’s content, but with the growth and general streamlining of the dungeon system, players no longer have to communicate and overcome WoW’s challenges together.
But to return to my elephant analogy, it may be that Legion has wrapped a rope around the elephant’s legs and has begun pulling it out. Perhaps the largest boon Legion granted the WoW community was the elimination of the garrison system. While class halls are important, they don’t require the same level of micromanagement as the old garrisons. Another small bonus is that while garrisons cut players off from each other, instancing each person to their own world, class halls bring players together in the same area and give the impression of a group of priest, paladins, warriors, etc., coming together to fight a common enemy.
The new World Quest system seems to be centered on forcing random players to band together for short intervals, which is exactly what WoW has been lacking, player cooperation. The World Quest system is a huge bonus to those players who have felt that content has been growing increasingly scarce.
With real progression finally put back into the game, farming reputation is once again a fun and viable timesink for solo players.
Another huge plus for the Legion expansion is the beauty of its questing. Every task feels purposeful and taking steps towards accomplishing a greater goal. The world feels dynamic and really benefits from your work, whether that be uniting new tribes under the Allied flag or cleansing the world of demonic taint, Legion makes each player feel like a hero. Though sometimes it feels like Blizzard is caching in on its last lore pieces, the writing is surprisingly good and makes the leveling process really enjoyable.
The recent 7.1 announcement is another great reason to hope for the future of WoW. I’m sure many of us have fond memories of Karazhan and the chance to once again venture into that place of endless frustration is very exciting. Overall, the signs bode well for Blizzard’s direction and maybe, just maybe, this Legion expansion might be enough to bring back a game that so many of us hold near and dear to our hearts.