World of Warcraft: Legion hands-on preview: Getting Prepared

As Warcraft hits theaters this weekend, World of Warcraft is preparing to withstand a demonic onslaught from the Burning Legion. Shacknews goes hands-on with Legion and tries out the new Demon Hunter class.

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While Blizzard is introducing the Warcraft universe to theaters this weekend, the lore of the company's long-running World of Warcraft is preparing to move forward with the upcoming Legion expansion. During an event in Irvine, California earlier this week, Blizzard offered a glimpse at the next chapter for the vengeful Illidan Stormrage and filled in some of the blanks of the Legion backstory. Shacknews also had an opportunity to go hands-on with the expansion's beta.

The day kicked off with a look into a new animated short that spotlights Illidan and his disciples. Starting with his iconic "You are not prepared!" quote, the short explains the demonic power of the Burning Legion and also gives some background to the new race of Demon Hunters. Acting as the new class in Legion, the Demon Hunters were forged out of the rage and sorrow of watching their homes ravaged by the Legion forces. The short moves on to illustrate the Demon Hunters' final test, an invasion of the Legion's realm that leads to the slaying of a massive demon. With their test complete, Illidan declares his troops ready for the invasion ahead, pledging to take the fight directly to the Burning Legion. This short is set to be released to the public soon and will be a part of a series, which will lead to the launch of the Legion expansion.

As has been the case with the Legion alpha, the Demon Hunter is available with two distinct builds. The Havoc build focuses on dealing heavy damage, while the Vengeance build focuses more on tank play through the use of fire and chaos magic. Regardless of the build, Demon Hunters come across as one of WoW's more mobile classes, with both a double jump and limited glide available. The Legion realm has some nasty lava pits, making double jumping a nice ability to have around. The Demon Hunter's twin war blades make it more of a melee class and much of the beta is spent going toe-to-toe with towering demons. There are also certain attacks that can be used for crowd control, such as one Havoc attack called Eye Beam that sees the Demon Hunter remove his blindfold and blast anything nearby with eye-induced fury.

The questing system remains what one would expect from WoW, with the bulk of the hands-on focused on gathering Illidan's coalition of the willing, with armies of Naga, Felblood Elves, and others gathering their forces to take the fight straight to the demons. The quests largely consisted of clearing the way for these factions to get their forces in, while occasionally joining up with them to take down larger demons. There were occasional moments were Demon Hunter abilities were specifically called upon to move forward, such as one instance where I was asked to use my Spectral Sight ability to scout out enemies inside a nearby cave.

In addition to the solo quests, there are entirely new areas that will be open to seasoned WoW players. Aszuna, Stormheim, Highmountain, Val'sharah (complete with a giant dragon lurking about), Suramar, and Dalaran will be among the new playable zones. Players will ward off demon invasions, wander the new Class Halls, and fight alongside some new Champion followers. New dungeons will include The Arcway, Vault of the Wardens, Darkheart Thicket, Assault on Violet Hold, Neltharion's Lair, Black Rook Hold, Halls of Valor, Eye of Azshara, and Maw of Souls, while those looking to get into even bigger trouble can try out one of the two new raids: Emerald Nightmare or The Nighthold.

For longtime WoW followers looking for additional lore and new quests, Legion looks to add an ample amount of content. Those that have moved away from the MMORPG over the years should definitely find something interesting with the Demon Hunter class. They'll also notice some crisper graphics, as part of a series of animation upgrades that will come alongside Legion. As is the case with most WoW expansions, the question will be whether Blizzard can sustain the excitement with regular content for the months following Legion's release. That answer remains to be seen.

World of Warcraft: Legion will release on August 30.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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