I’ve played my fair share of Diablo 3. That game is based on two main concepts – stats and specific gear bonuses. The RoS expansion went full bore on this theme, with good success. Some specs cannot be played without a specific number of specific items. There is very, very little strategic gameplay past that point – for most players anyway.
Getting those pieces of gear is the main challenge, and there are 3 main ways to achieve it. Random drops from farming runs. Cubing some items to have a chance at something better. And Kadala shard-trading. Kadala shard trading is the best way to get armor, while cubing is the way to go with weapons, from a cost perspective. You get shards, trade 25 or so to Kadala, get a random piece of a specific slot – say a chest piece. The optimum gearing path with a new character is to farm shards for gear. A couple hours is often enough to get all the pieces needed, then it’s a grind to upgrade those pieces and get the complementary ones.
This is where things go sideways, since WoW is not an action RPG. For a very long time, strategy won out over stats. Set bonuses took a while to acquire, and stats bonuses were not massive increases in chance of success. Except for legendary items. These have always been coveted, as anyone with a legendary (a current one) was significantly more powerful than others. The ring in WoD is the last example, but it required a significant amount of hoops to acquire. The path was known.
Legion kept the same “game altering” legendary item system as before, but took out all controlled mechanisms to acquire them. Not only was getting one a rare and random event, the actual item you received was random as well. You could easily get a crappy legendary. But the power benefit of a good one was massive. All you needed to do was grind endless dungeons.
This reminds me a bit of the tuning done for Burning Crusade. Raids past the first tier were all balanced against fully-gemmed gear, stacking Shamans, and everyone using Battle Drums. If the raids were balanced against “regular raiders”, then those using the above strategy ran through without challenge. Legion raids are not nearly as bad as thing, but the perception from raiders is that good legendaries are required.
Plus, let’s be honest. For every person in your guild that gets a legendary, there are many more that feel disappointed that they can’t get one too. Especially when the player has ZERO control over getting one.
Here things change, as Blizz is introducing the same Kadala mechanic from D3. Trade in shards, get a random item for a specific item slot. Any legendary will be for that slot. This addresses the full randomness of acquiring one, in that you now have another method to try your luck. It’s still RNG. We don’t know how many shards, or the chances, therefore how much time expected. But it’s an improvement.
Blizz also wants to tweak the legendaries to bring them closer together in terms of power. That’s good. It doesn’t really address the fact that legendaries completely change a spec’s playstyle… but it’s something.
I get what legendaries are trying to address. I don’t personally think this was the way to go about it. Adding the effect as a top-tier artifact trait would have accomplished the same thing. Having legendaries be simply big stat boosts with unique art would have been fine to me. I’ll be quite curious as to see how the shard dealer works in 7.2, and even just the analytical data that Blizz will collect on how people are spending them. My guess here is that after a month or so, legendaries will be tweaked again, as the majority swings towards specific ones.