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wow Legion Previews: Stormheim, The Arcway and Court of Stars

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The Legion zone previews continue with Stormheim, while the dungeon previews conclude with the Arcway and Court of Stars.

Stormheim will remind you a lot of the Howling Fjord in Northrend: rough terrains are followed by peaceful green and yellow forests, while the whole zone is full of Vrykul lore. The mountainous areas of Stormheim are quite steep: you will walk on paths so small and so high, you will feel that you are about to fall to your death! Thankfully, the grappling hook system is both entertaining and handy.

As far as the lore of the zone is concerned, it's not just Vrykuls! If you want to find out about the aftermath of the Broken Shore events, then this zone is for you. The Worgen and the Forsaken have erupted into an all out war here. Greymane is keen on revenge, while Sylvanas seems to have her own agenda, probably related to the val'kyr residing in this zone.

Blizzard LogoBlizzard Entertainment

We sat down to talk about Stormheim with Lead Environment Artist Ely Cannon, Game Designer Don Adams, and Associate Game Designer Trevor Huwe to learn more about Stormheim and what you’ll experience there.
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Stormheim composed by Russell Brower

The land of Stormheim is one of harsh beauty, a reflection of the vrykul who dwell here. As you explore, you’ll learn more about vrykrul culture, including the origins of the mysterious Val’kyr and the terrifying Kvaldir. Along the way, you will contend with the vrykul God-King as he races to claim the Stormheim’s Pillar of Creation on behalf of his Legion masters. Ultimately, your quest will take you into the very heavens where the greatest champions of the vrykul await to test your worth.

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Q. How would you describe the zone's ambience? What's it like?

Ely: We set out to capture a verdant, mid-height mountain landscape with heavy basalt rock formations enshrouded in the kind of mists that you would see on the underside of a heavy cloud bank. It feels very wet—these guys are living in a damp environment with there’s always a sense that a storm is hanging overhead.

The zone starts with a heavy, oppressive atmosphere, and gradually moves into more of a bright, golden, fall-like environment to lift the mood. Then it moves back into a heavier, repressive mood again.

We really tried to use the environmental changes to go hand-in-hand with the story for this zone. It also starts heavy and then really moves into a little bit lighter story, then back to heavy.

Don: I would describe the ambience of the zone as dramatic. There are really big, dramatic cliffs. The Halls of Valor loom over the whole zone, and you can almost see it from everywhere. The mountain is right there, and there’s a crazy storm swirling over it. It’s filled with really dramatic vistas and cliffs.

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Ely: It’s really a rugged, big environment.

Don: It’s imposing. And you feel really small when you’re in Stormheim.

Ely: It’s different from Highmountain in that Stormheim has more of a weather dynamic—the storm when you first come in is lingering all around your view. You can see the storm head on the horizon and all the way around to the clearing right over the Halls of Valor. But like I said, it progresses into that lighter, brighter mood. Then you’re in the forest and you’re not on the big mountains—but the mountains are all around you.

Trevor: There’s also a lot of really cool juxtaposition in Stormheim. You have these harsh rocky cliffs, but interspersed there is this verdant green running through it. It’s very much like the Scottish Highlands.

It definitely feels like a place that you would find Vikings and that kind of thing. It also has these cool changes in environment where you’ll go from these nice rolling green hills to the mystic city of Haustvald, made of stone—it’s almost like a giant crypt. Then there’s Helheim, where everything feels very much like you’re in the underworld.

Ely: We tried to show show that the Vrykul here have a long history, and have been here a lot longer than in some of other zones you’ve encountered them previously. There’s more stone in their architecture. Haustvald is a very good example where they’ve actually burrowed down into the rocky ground and built this old, crypt-like temple—it’s all built of stone. We wanted to show that they’ve been here, that they thrived here, versus just recently showing up like they did in Northrend.

Trevor: Their cities, Skold-Ashil and Hrydshal, are very much fortified. You can tell that these people have lived in this land and they fought for the land. There are high walls, too. People probably tried to take it from them, but they stood their ground. They have this really hardy, fortified civilization here.

Ely: There’s really a history and connection to the land that they’ve been living on.

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Q. Which locations would you say are some of your favorites, and why?

Ely: Oh yeah. I like Haustvald. It’s my favorite area in the whole zone.

Trevor: I was going to say that, too—probably Haustvald. Just from a visual standpoint. When you go in, it’s got this really weird sense of being both simultaneously gigantic and claustrophobic. You see these big monoliths, but then you’ve got these little tombs that you would be going into. It really speaks to what the mystics are who live there, because the mystics are the Vrykul masters of life and death. The place they live looks like a giant stone tomb.

Don: And then you have the Runewood all around it, too. It’s this mystical forest that’s just awesome to see, with a talking tree named Vydhar. That area just sings.

I also really like the Kvaldir area in Tideskorn Harbor. It’s where the Kvaldir tribe are originally from, and it tells the story of how they first came into contact with Helya and ended up being cursed. It’s a super creepy awesome area that’s not quite like any other in Legion.

Ely: Then there's the obvious, Helheim.

Trevor: Yeah, Helheim is sort of the easy obvious answer. It got knocked out of the park.

Don: It goes back to the theme of imposing. The statues are imposing, along with the mountain and the Halls of Valor. Then once you get into the depths of Haustvald and into Helheim, you see Helya—and she’s huge. It’s grand in scale, and there are these moments that are like something out of epic literature.

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Q. Why do you think a player would want to start in this zone first?

Don: Sylvanas vs. Genn Greymane.

Trevor: How about Vrykul, dragons, Kvaldir, oh, and lest we not forget, grappling hooks. Basically, when we set out to do Stormheim our general goal was to try and create this Norse epic where the player is the character in the middle of it. So if you’re a fan of Vrykul culture, if you want to learn more about the Kvaldir, if you dig dragons. . . .

Don: Storm Dragons.

Trevor: What else do you need to hear other than Storm Dragons?

Ely: This zone has such a great main storyline, but it has such great side stories, too—some really cool and funny ones that lend charm to the zone.

Don: Tension between the Horde and Alliance has been building since the Broken Shore and the demon invasions, and this is the zone that kicks off more of that. It’s red versus blue right out of the gate, which then leads off into this epic story. It then returns to Alliance versus Horde again later. If that’s still fresh in your mind and you want to chase down Sylvanas, then this really is the zone for that.

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Q. What is it that will bring them back to this zone? We know there are World Quests and Dungeons to look forward, but what else?

Trevor: I’m not going to say why, but the Sixtrigger brothers. There’s also Shield’s Rest, which is a maximum-level area off the east coast of Stormheim and out in the water. It’s like an ancient burial ground that’s being raided by Kvaldir. They’re trying to get these powerful souls like the mystics that have been there forever. There are also some dragons there too.

Ely: And grappling hooks. There are lots of treasures to find and little nooks and crannies to explore.

Don: This is also where you can collect the best-named herb in the game of all time, Fjarnskaggl.

Trevor: You also get to fish up the Oodelfjisk.

Ely: Some of the best named profession materials ever are in Stormheim. And you get to talk with the tree Vydhar more—well, the tree talks to you.

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Don: I think the Kvaldir is also a good point to bring up. Without spoiling anything, we’ll say that Helya’s not done, so you may have to come back to deal with the Kvaldir.

Trevor: There are world bosses there too, so during your level-up experience you may have gotten killed by Nithogg a time or two. When you return at max level, you’ll be able to get your revenge for that.

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Q. Is there anything else that players should look forward to that you haven’t mentioned yet?

Trevor: I think the big thing is, there is a big central storyline in Stormheim and it’s massive in scale, it’s heavy, so it may be tempting to just keep following that road, but every now and then you’ll want to branch off to the side because there are some really fun little things to break up that flow. You might meet some memorable cool characters; you might have some fun things happen that aren’t part of the main story.

Don: Some of the most memorable things might be the ones we don’t send you directly to that you just find. There are a lot of really awesome side quests we added in.

Trevor: That’s another thing. Follow the grappling hooks. Follow them even when it seems like they aren’t going in a direction you need to go because you might find something there.

Don: Yeah, we didn’t place any of those hook points on accident. They’re worth following and if you’re not a demon hunter, maybe take some goblin gliders with you just in case you find yourself in a precarious situation.

There’s also a lot of verticality to the zone. Highmountain is the tallest zone, but Stormheim probably has the widest range of high and low points because it comes out of Highmountain and goes all the way down to sea level. It’s one of the reasons it looks so imposing—the cliffs.

Ely: It has a long view distance too. You could probably glide a long way.

Trevor: Another little tip: if you’re leveling up in the Runewood and your screen gets dark and it starts to snow—run.

(source)

The dungeon previews conclude with the two max-level Suramar dungeons, the Arcway and Court of Stars. Both of these dungeons have an 'attunement' of 8000/12000 Honored reputation with the Nightfallen, while they are only available on Mythic difficulty.

The Arcway is a pretty fun dungeon, sporting unique boss mechanics. The Court of Stars is also unique in the way that you don't necessarily have to fight all the time. Instead, there are useful items you can interact with based on your class, role, race and profession.

Blizzard LogoBlizzard Entertainment

Many challenges await the heroes of Azeroth in Legion, and among the most dangerous are the dungeons found in and around the Broken Isles. In this preview, we take a look at the final two of the expansion’s new release dungeons: The Arcway and Court of Stars.

The Arcway and Court of stars are accessible a little differently than a dungeon like Maw of Souls. To gain access to these two maximum-level dungeons, you’ll need to work on your reputation with Suramar which you’ll be able to do as a part of the zone questline. You’ll also need a premade group to take them on as neither of these dungeons will be available in Normal or Heroic. Read on to learn more about them.

The Arcway

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Minimum Level: 110
Location: Suramar
Requirements: Faction with Suramar, Mythic Premade Groups Only
Bosses: 5

As vast as the city of Suramar is, the vast network of tunnels beneath the city spans an even greater reach. Nightborne society has grown to depend on the power of the Nightwell, and the Arcway delivers that lifeblood throughout the city. This labyrinthine complex was built thousands of years ago, running beneath the foundations of the city’s largest buildings, and most modern citizens live their lives entirely unaware of what may lurk in the shadows beneath their feet….

Developer Insights: Right around the time we needed to begin planning this Suramar dungeon, we had been reflecting on some of our older dungeons like Blackrock Depths, which covered a massive swath of territory and were full of twists and turns. We decided that the foundations beneath the massive city of Suramar would be the perfect setting to revisit something on that scale. While the Arcway does not feature randomized bosses like the Assault on Violet Hold, each time players enter the dungeon they will find a different configuration of open doors, varying the gameplay experience and providing different choices for how to navigate the labyrinthine corridors.

Ivanyr: Cut off from the power of the Nightwell and cast into the dark expanse of the Arcway, Ivanyr wandered aimlessly, slowly withering away, until he came upon a trove in the foundations beneath the great library of Suramar. He spends his days feverishly working to decipher the tomes there, feeding off the power of relics in the archives in order to sustain himself. But, even as that magic sustains his body, his mind cracks and weakens.

Corstilax: This massive construct patrols the tunnels beneath Suramar, searching for anomalies and correcting them. He has detected one such anomaly — a breach in one of the conduits that carries the power of the Nightwell — and works to repair it. But living outsiders wandering the tunnels are also an anomaly; one that Corstilax is empowered to remedy.

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General Xakal: When Gul’dan threatened Suramar with his demands, those were not idle words. A Legion invasion force burrowed into the tunnels beneath the city, and Xakal leads those forces. He awaits further command, ready at a moment’s notice to surge forth and bring death and destruction to the streets of Suramar.

Nal'tira: This massive spider made its nest in the hollows beneath a great mana tree. Over the years, loose magical energies and runoff have warped the creature, imbuing Nal’tira with arcane energy that makes her perhaps the deadliest predator in the Arcway.

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Advisor Vandros: Vandros is one of Elisande’s closest advisors and an adept at harnessing the arcane magic of the nightwell, second only to Elisande herself. He would not ordinarily venture in to the Arcway himself, but after monitoring the state of the nightfallen resistance and their allies, he now feels the need to take matters into his own hands.

Court of Stars

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Minimum Level: 110
Location: Suramar
Requirements: Faction with Suramar, Mythic Premade Groups Only
Bosses:3

Even as Legion troops patrol the streets, casting a pall over the grand city of Suramar, the socialites of the Nightborne nobility continue to cling to custom and routine. On this clear night, the cry of revelers echoes through the chill air, as the largest mansion in the Noble District opens its doors for a grand gala. Rumor has it that Grand Magistrix Elisande herself may be making an appearance in an effort to reassure several of her closest allies despite recent turmoil.

Developer Insights: From the outset, we knew that this was going to be a non-traditional dungeon. It is set in a portion of Suramar City, which is not inherently an untamed, active combat space full of aggressive enemies. Rather, we decided to focus on a specific moment in time, and an event: a dinner banquet replete with targets of opportunity, setting the stage for an infiltration mission. In many ways, the old-school Dire Maul “tribute run” served as an inspiration for the structure of the dungeon. Why does violence always have to be the answer? What if we could encourage and reward players for seeking out creative solutions to obstacles in their path, leveraging unique class abilities, tradeskills, and even basic powers of observation and communication?

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Patrol Captain Gerdo: Captain of the Duskwatch, Gerdo has devoted his life to keeping the peace within the walls of Suramar. Though he has a growing unease since the arrival of the Legion, he remains faithful and loyal to the leadership of Suramar. Elisande has safeguarded them for generations, and she knows what is best for the people of the city. Tonight, Gerdo’s task is to ensure that only citizens with the proper credentials are able to enter a gathering of particular importance at the manor.

Talixae Flamewreath: A sadistic eredar sorcerer, even as she understands the importance of the nightborne to her master’s plans, Talixae chafes at the indignity of standing guard over a building full of elves. Nevertheless, she and her lieutenants remain vigilant, and while they live, no intruders will disrupt the gathering.

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Advisor Melandrus: First Blade of the Grand Magistrix, Melandrus rarely leaves Elisande’s side. He has eschewed the magical arts, instead harnessing the power of the Nightwell to heighten his reflexes and his movements to inhuman levels.

(source)

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      Overall it would be more ideal if the Roll the Bones buffs were closer in value. True Bearing has gradually crept up over the course of the expansion (around the time of Legion launch, I believe Shark Infested Waters was considered best, and they haven't changed much since then). I expect True Bearing climbs in value as the rotation gets faster due to stat increases and other bonuses being added over the course of the expansion, which all feed into the True Bearing positive feedback loop. Simply making it baseline would speed up the spec even further and contribute to the energy flood and other issues that it can have. While the similar effect was passive in Warlords, I'm sure (I haven't dug into this closely) that the Legion spec churns combo points much more rapidly. In any case the Legion version of True Bearing has the added synergy with Marked for Death that heaps even more combo points into the rotation during True Bearing.

      Point being, while there's not a specific plan yet for balancing out the different Roll the Bones buffs, we agree that it would be better they were more even again. Longer-term, there's something to be said for tweaking the rules/probabilities of Roll the Bones in a way that would further reduce the value of rerolling frequently. Warlock
      Afflicition should feel most at home when applying dots to multiple targets (multi-dotting) and if Tier 20 Set Bonuses (Item - Warlock T20 Affliction 2P Bonus //  Item - Warlock T20 Affliction 4P Bonus) interfere, they will get changed. Overall, different specs within pure DPS classes should have better delineated distinct strengths than they have right now.
      Sigma (Source)
      We do agree that Affliction should feel most at home when it is applying DoTs to multiple targets. With specs like this where the basic mechanics and history of the spec lean towards being strong in one area, there's often a fine line to draw on how it should perform in the other areas (here, single-target damage). It shouldn't feel useless, but should feel like other players may have the advantage there. It's fine for a talent like Malefic Grasp to exist, but this logic probably implies it's slightly stronger than would be ideal. It's good feedback on the preliminary T20 set bonuses that they might push Affliction _away_ from feeling good when multi-dotting, which is something we'd want to avoid.

      More broadly and looking ahead to the future, we agree that different specs--especially different specs within a pure DPS class--should have better delineated distinct strengths than they currently have in some cases. That doesn't mean the magnitude of the difference has to be very large (see the "useless" comment above). Especially in a context like single-target DPS, which is the subject of intense analysis and scrutiny, even a few % of difference in DPS is more than enough for players to notice and take seriously as a strength or weakness of a spec. Simply that it should be more clear what the scenario is that each spec has to look forward to as the place where it stands out, such as sustained multi-dotting for Affliction, or situations that allow Destruction to leverage Havoc especially well. Twitter
      There are no plans for 7.2 to increase the number of Legendary items you can wear (it may come in the future). Power Ascended is the gating behind new pets, Class Mount tints. To purchase them, one needs a fully- unlocked Artifact weapon. There are only four pets (3 for Death Knights, 1 for Monk), a Pepe toy for Demon Hunters and different Class Mount tints that you get for additional Order Resources. Placeholder for tweet 832328668324130816 Placeholder for tweet 832018705194242048 Placeholder for tweet 83202241408296960