It’s been a long time since Warcraft antihero Illidan Stormrage saw the spotlight. I last crossed paths with the Night Elf Demon Hunter during World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade, a time I look upon fondly as the pinnacle of my WoW days. Since then, I’ve dabbled irregularly in the massive multiplayer online RPG, returning whenever a new expansion hit but never quite achieving that level of awe and enjoyment I experienced playing The Burning Crusade.
With Illidan at the forefront once again in the newest expansion, Legion, I wondered if the links to the Night Elf antihero and introduction of the new Demon Hunter class would be enough to plunge me back into peak World of Warcraft.
The Demon Hunter class is available to both Alliance with Horde factions, visually differentiated by the Night Elf and Blood Elf versions, respectively. Perhaps the most unique trait of the Demon Hunter class is its mobility; players can double-jump and glide, slowing falls and gaining a class-exclusive way to mitigate fall damage.
That newfound mobility the Demon Hunter brings to the MMO could be utilized in the class' starting area, but I found that it wasn't an essential to progressing through the questline. Save for a few slightly higher ledges and platforms, the familiar geography meant there wasn't much of a need for me to double-jump and glide through the first area.
However, jumping and gliding aren’t the only movement-centric tools in the Demon Hunter's arsenal. The class also allows greater agility in combat--dashing to deal damage to everything in your path with Fel Rush or executing a quick backward leap to avoid timed enemy attacks using Vengeful Retreat. I could use Metamorphosis to transform into a hulking Demon, performing a leap high into the air before slamming into the ground and stunning enemies nearby. My Demon Hunter was rarely stationary in combat, and it certainly made fights feel more kinetic.
While the new movement tweaks weren't an absolute necessity in the starting area, using them as a complement to the Demon Hunter's combat abilities brought an agile feel hitherto absent from WoW. It felt incredibly satisfying to gather multiple mobs together, dash through them using Fel Rush, stun and slay them using Metamorphosis, and then double-jump and glide away to another set of enemies. I was constantly on the move--a marked change from the static nature of traditional World of Warcraft combat.
Even venturing outside to the Broken Isles didn't dull the satisfaction of the Demon Hunter's agile toolset. Even when it quickly became apparent that the quests in the new continent had to cater to the movement limitations of other classes as well, my delight with the Demon Hunter's nimble combat style didn’t wane.
The story focus of Legion sees Demon Hunters represent a gray area in Azeroth's Horde-Alliance alignment. The class embraces demonic energies and abilities to combat demons in a fight-fire-with-fire approach, meaning that my character was often treated with disdain and suspicion from NPCs throughout Legion's story arc. It’s an interesting twist to WoW's usual good-versus-evil approach, but it’s also nothing I hadn't experienced before. Playing through Burning Crusade with a Blood Elf made me accustomed to dealing with prejudice in WoW's story.
Demon Hunters are granted exclusive access to their Class Order Hall, which serves as a new mini-hub for players. The area serves as a nice nod to the Demon Hunter’s exclusivity, since it’s accessible only to those who can glide over from the main city.
When it comes to dungeons and raids, however, I found the Demon Hunter's mobility more of a hindrance than a beneficial tool. At best, it adds nothing to the group combat setting, and at worst, it detracts from an otherwise controlled fight. Fel Rush and Vengeful Retreat could easily put my character out of position, attracting unwanted attention from additional mobs. As a result, I used both skills far less often during dungeon runs. When several Demon Hunters were grouped together, the battlefield felt excessively chaotic--multiple players dashed and leapt about to deal damage. Since the Demon Hunter is able to take on the role of either damage-dealer or tank, the class felt less “new” and more confined within WoW's typical framework of tank/damage/healer roles.
The Demon Hunter class shone during my solo gameplay experiences, but it felt routine during group scenarios. Fortunately, the Class Order Hall questline persists through level 100 to the 110-level cap, providing a setting for Demon Hunters to excel consistently. However, I found that later-game multiplayer content quashed some of what makes the class so unique--its agility and speed. I'm curious if later updates will make further use of this newfound mobility, but for now, the single-player experience more than suffices.