World of Warcraft: Legion is out and I am playing.
The short story is this: Blizzard apparently knows what they are doing by this point and built a good product.
The longer story is that I was concerned that Blizzard was going to shift back towards the ugly Cataclysm style of game design where players just watch cinematics and follow singular quest trails through the story. No choice, no optimization, just a crappy movie.
When I started out in Legion it seemed like that was the case. The quests were well done, and the cinematics were pretty, but everything was lined up in a row and it felt awful. I just don't have time for that crap anymore, and several hours in I had simply done the quests stuck in front of me in order with no variation and I was really getting frustrated with it.
However, it turns out that after you slog (or joyfully play through, I guess) the introductory segments and then get started on your first zone things actually seem pretty great. I began in Stormheim which apparently is the zone with the least choices and the most railroading, and while it was annoying in the beginning it has worked out well.
Blizzard brought back things that I loved, like treasures scattered throughout the land in tiny caves, hidey holes, and on top of remote rocks. There are all kinds of random bosses everywhere and they have a nice variety of tactics and abilities and seem well tuned. I have to pay attention and play correctly against them, and if I do something dumb I can easily get myself killed. It is great to have little bits of neat stuff to stumble upon and it really makes the main questline's linearity much more tolerable.
I also wandered into multiple small quest hubs and ended up doing stuff for ravenbears, Sir Finley Mrrrrglton, and even some light fingered goblins.
As usual Blizzard polish is really there and the servers had only a couple minor hiccups, which is pretty good for a major launch like this. The product looks slick and pretty and there are plenty of beautiful vistas to feast your eyes upon.
The new mechanics of the order halls where individual classes go to congregate strike me as well done and I like getting a legendary weapon to cart around and tinker with. I get to wield Ashbringer itself! Hearing Tirion whisper for the strength to break his bonds while I was completing the quest to get Ashbringer made my heart pound, no denying it. /salute for the Lich King fight, all the way.
One thing that really struck me was just how powerful it was to go back to having Dalaran as my home city. The music there brought back a huge rush of memories, dragging me forcibly down memory lane to the days of Wrath of the Lich King. I played so much WOW then, and was so deeply involved, that hearing it made me react powerfully every time I entered Dalaran again. It reminds me of how much this game was a part of my life back then.
I miss that, so much.
But you can't go home again. Those days of running a tight ten man guild with my university crowd are gone, never to return. The shiny rainbows of the past are unreachable, and honestly weren't as shiny as all that when I was there in the first place.
But oh, the music! The remembering!
So it is clear that Blizzard made a good product. They are trying some new things that strike me as solid attempts, though who knows how they will be long term. They appear to have cobbled together the best of their old strategies and left the things that worked in place too, which is just as important.
The game can't ever be what it once was to me. Not anymore. But what is there is well wrought, and I will play it.