Every expansion, Blizzard creates some sort of tie-in outside the main game – something to explain the lore, or get us hyped up. One day Theramore is blown up, the next Gorehowl is embedded in a taxi in Times Square.
In Legion, that model has been updated quite a bit, and I have to say I’m very impressed. Legion’s lead-ups have – before the pre-launch event begins this upcoming week – covered one novel, a selection of comics, videos and an audio drama. Most importantly of all – the vast majority of it was free to access for everyone. Let’s discuss.
(NB: There’ll be no discussion here of the Illidan novel as I’ve yet to read it, though I hear it’s very good!)
Our first hint of lore came with the release of the first comic, dealing with Magni Bronzebeard’s return, his daughter Moira’s reaction and the clans of Ironforge. This was quickly followed by comics revolving around the Nightborne’s alliance with the Legion and the beginning of the Nightfallen’s rebellion; the mantle of leadership falling into Anduin Wrynn’s hands following his father’s disappearance; and the eruption of war between the Drogbar and Highmountain Tauren in the wake of the seizing of the Hammer of Khaz’goroth.
The comics came in both a default PDF version and an animated version with sound and music available on Madefire. As comics go, they’re very well-made, and in the Madefire adaptations Blizzard have stumbled upon a format that is unique, eye-catching and a level above a regular comic.
In comparison to the other pieces, the comics stand out as perhaps the weakest of Blizzard’s tie-ins, but on their own they still shine. They provide a depth and visceral experience that makes you feel almost there, and the stories covered within give just a hint of the plotlines to come. I was very impressed by them, and rather disappointed that we didn’t get more – Sylvanas/Genn tie-ins would particularly have been served well by this format, I think, and learning more about the other factions of Legion couldn’t hurt. But as a taster, they were fantastic, and I’d love to see more in future.
In the vein of past shorts Blizzard has produced (Shaohao’s Burdens and Lords of War) the three Harbingers shorts follow a storybook (and, as some have now pointed out, Hearthstone-style) format with beautiful animation, voicing and music. With just three episodes, there is less on show here than we’ve seen in the past, but each episode stands out very well.
The three episodes explore briefly the motivations and recent actions of the three titular ‘Harbingers’ – Gul’dan, Khadgar, and Illidan – no doubt marking them as main players of the expansion. Each features unique and well-drawn graphics, and I have to say I was very impressed, having not been as enthused by Maraad’s narration during Lords of War. These more personal stories brought us a lot closer to the stories of these three characters, and definitely got me more interested in where they were going.
There were some outright stunning scenes during these shorts – Gul’dan’s experience at the Throne of the Elements, as he draws close to, then rejects the elements in favour of darker powers, was haunting. The beam of magic shooting out of Karazhan was also visually stunning, as was the shot of Kor’vas removing her eyes to become a Demon Hunter. In particular, the Illidan short is the first thing I’ve seen that has truly enthused me about Demon Hunters.
I would again have liked to seen a couple more of these – having only three designated ‘main’ characters in Legion is a change from Warlords, or indeed Mists – though hopefully it sets the stage for other characters to impress during the expansion. Now part of a well-tred tradition, the Legion tie-in shorts were some of the best yet, and long may they continue.
This was the wildcard, I have to admit. I was incredibly surprised to see Tomb of Sargeras announced, and very interested to listen to it. If you haven’t, I completely recommend you listen to all four episodes, available on Youtube and iTunes.
Written by Robert Brooks, who has done many past short stories over the past two expansions and adds Tomb to an impressive array including most recently two of the four comics and Chronicle, Tomb of Sargeras impresses both in literary and audio fashion. Between Brooks’ writing (which I’ve found to be among the best in the universe) and the incredible narration of Steven Pacey (who covers both the narration and all the character voices), Tomb is unexpected, stunning and incredibly immersive.
For me, Blizzard have almost nailed this format on the first try. The music and effects are just as well-chosen as that of the comics and shorts, the story is well-paced and intriguing, and the narration is perfect. I was blown away, and I have to say Tomb went above and beyond anything I expected. For me, it’s the breakout star of Blizzard’s Legion tie-ins.
The only disappointment was, actually, how fast it went. Released over four episodes, one a day, Tomb was over in a week, and after it ended I just wanted more. It covered a crucial story point we likely won’t see explored in game – the events at the Tomb just before the invasion begins – and included some incredible new lore about Aegwynn, the Pillars of Creation and the Tomb itself before the expansion even launches. This is one of the things I’ve loved most about these tie-ins – they haven’t been afraid to reveal things before the game does.
Without a doubt, Legion has had some of the best lore and tie-in materials I’ve seen, with not as much produced for one expansion since Cataclysm, and certainly never released all as fast. I can only hope that the tone Blizzard have set will continue, both throughout Legion and in the expansions to come, as it’s some of the best work they’ve done.
As with every release, it wasn’t perfect, and it can be improved on. In particular, the provision for hearing-impaired players was incredibly lacking, something I don’t think Blizzard anticipated would be a problem, as I’ve certainly never seen so much hype for out-of-game materials before. Dedicated players have created transcripts, but it would be nice for this omission to be rectified in future – everyone deserves to experience what is some of the best-made lore I’ve seen in years.
Blizzard have set the bar higher than ever before with Legion, and following the hype they created for Warlords, to say even that is an achievement. I hope beyond hope that they live up to it, because I don’t think an expansion has ever deserved its hype more. This kind of fantastic lore-building – stuff we rarely see in such detail in-game – absolutely needs to continue. Well done to all who created such fantastic tie-ins.