The best reason to revisit World of Warcraft by way of its new Legion expansion, out August 30 for PC and Mac, is that you're a lapsed devotee. You already grasp exactly the sort of rock-rolling footslog you're signing up for, though maybe a year or three or five away from the game was enough to bleed off any lingering longing to return.
And to think: five years would be less than half the time Blizzard's online fantasy opus has been with us (of upwards of 12 million concurrently subscribed in 2010, and over 100 million if we're talking discrete accounts). Released in November 2004, it predates YouTube, Hurricane Katrina, Angela Merkel's chancellorship, Twitter, the Wii, the 2008 global financial crisis, Barack Obama's presidency, both the iPhone and iPad, the Deepwater Horizon explosion, Edward Snowden's leaks, Brexit, and of course, Donald Trump's candidacy.
Which bring us to Legion, the sixth expansion to a game that's managed to buck all attempts at shelf life prognostication. Here's a quick primer on what it's peddling for $50.
A level cap north of 100
Legion lets you scramble up the experience ladder 10 more rungs to a lofty 110, while providing you the option to insta-boost one existing character to level 100 off the block. If you've yet to play a character to 100, however, I'd resist the temptation, since in a game like this, the journey is all, and wielding a megaton nuke having skipped the user manual can be a quandary unto itself.
Customizable, class-specific weapons
They're called "artifacts," and each class gets its own, drawing from a pool of 36 total. Will customizable weapons that grow in power as players do rectify years of imbalance between the classes? We'll see. Whatever the case, use them while you can, because Blizzard's said they'll work in Legion only.
A brand new continent
Blizzard says that continent, known as the Broken Isles and extant in the lore, lies at the heart of Azeroth, calling it a “long forgotten graveyard continent” and “formerly a bustling Night Elves civilization.” It’s draw is the tomb of Sargeras, another throwback lore point harboring the well-known creator/leader of the Burning Crusade, last seen in a convoluted flashback circa Blizzard’s pre-World of Warcraft real-time strategy entry Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. Sargeras’s tomb is apparently an active gateway to endless legion worlds, a demonic invasion Blizzard described as bigger than the War of the Ancients, and “the biggest demonic invasion of Azeroth ever.”
Overhauled PvP progression
Instead of spending Honor and Conquest points to buy gear in Legion, you'll earn Honor Points (after hitting the level cap) by slugging it out in Battlegrounds or Arenas. Blizzard contrasts it with earning experience points at lower levels. Thus as your Honor Level climbs (to a max of 50), you'll earn loot and artifact perks, as well as special PvP-only Honor Talents.
A new mobility-focused hero class
Meet the Demon Hunter, the game's second "hero" class (after the Death Knight) whose special abilities include a glide attack, double jump and the ability to see enemies through barriers. Designed to fill "tank" or "damage" MMO roles, Demon Hunters start at level 98, have a unique starting zone and story, and can only be played by Night Elves or Blood Elves.
Class-specific, cross-factional clubs
They're called Order Halls, and Blizzard describes them as a "base of operations and rallying point for heroes of your class." Building on Warlords of Draenor's (the last expansion) garrison's, they serve as an alternative hub for players of the same class. The bigger deal here is that they support all factions, and that you'll be able to recruit "champions" to deploy on class-specific sorties.