Azeroth is in the process of shoring up its defenses, as it faces down its most savage onslaught to date. Forget Deathwing, the Scourge, or even the Iron Horde; this Summer, the Burning Legion seeks to bathe the land in the tainted glow of its sickly fel energies in the latest World of Warcraft expansion: Legion. If there is to be any hope of survival, much more than an immovable defense is necessary – piercing, crushing and rending blows must be dealt in return. And so, the world’s mightiest heroes outfit themselves with equally-mighty weapons. Enter: Artifact Weapons.

An armory of legendary weapons, some – such as the Doomhammer, and Ashbringer – already deeply rooted in World of Warcraft’s mythos!

WoW Legion artifact weapon Doomhammer

These righteous armaments are far more than trinkets for transmogrification, and here, we seek to get you up to date with what you’ll be bashing in demonic skulls with. So, what exactly are these WoW Artifact Weapons? They’re a set of 36 weapons – one for each and every specialization – that players will attain through a quest-line early in the Legion expansion. As your most ardent companions, these pieces of fabled equipment will remain by your side throughout the experience, blossoming alongside your characters own development.

But beyond that blurb, there lies deeper meaning to these items. To best understand it, we must first grasp their purpose.

Blizzard intends them to remedy what is potentially Warcraft’s greatest ailment – no, not in-game shops or Rogues in PvP – I speak, of course, of homogenization. It’s a criticism World of Warcraft is often smeared with, and often not unfairly. After all, in a game of this grand scope, a little mechanical spillage is bound to happen with some classes and skills. Legion Artifact Weapons are designed to soothe that ache. However, viewing them superficially, they may appear as less of a bandage for this wound, and more of a pair of wrenching fingers, further tearing away and stretching at it. Curing same-faced gameplay by pigeonholing every specialization into one solitary weapon throughout the length of an entire expansion? That poses its own set of self-contained worries, pertaining to both aesthetics and gameplay. Worry not, for not only does each one come pre-fitted with its own set of varying appearances, but you can also – just as you would any other weapon – transmogrify these mythological mob-smashers into something entirely different.

Ashbringer artifact weapon transmogrify

Your Godly, earth-shaking two-handed artifact sword can just as easily become a comically large trout. Your pair of bloodletting daggers? Two, slightly less comically-sized trouts. And that leads us off brilliantly to the most important facet of all, the meat of the scenario, what we all wish to know: how these divine doohickeys will effect Legion’s gameplay. How exactly will these cure the illness of bottle-necked gameplay?

This enters through the Artifact’s aforementioned ability to rise alongside you. Progressing through the imminent expac, you will accrue “Artifact Power” that will be put to use bolstering your weapon, allowing you to unlock traits as you soldier on. Traits that will take shape as magnifications of your current abilities – both statistical and skills – and new active ones entirely! Heaped atop these traits are the unfolding ranks that they possess. All the same, these will be down for the character to decide at what rate and in what order they wish to see them unfold.

Legion Artifact Power

In summary, the course you chart down your own Artifact Weapon’s particular tree of skills is yours to decide. And whilst Blizzard HAS confirmed that everyone will ultimately unlock the full depth of their tool’s potential, this won’t come about until months into the expansion. Until that time, Legion’s Artifact Weapons will fulfil their role aptly, and serve to punctuate the player-base with a fresh diversity of battle-ready skills, modifications and tweaks unique to each character based on their own selection.

Think a variation of WoW’s old talent system, that you can hold in your hand and cleave goblins in twain with. Pairing off with this system of healthy personal progression are “relics”, a further line of augmentation to your new-found companion. They will be found – in true MMO fashion – picked clean from the fresh carcasses of the beasts that roam the world.

WoW Legion monsters

Relics pursue a much similar vein to the various traits and ranks that the Artifacts prop themselves upon as foundations, albeit with an arguably even more individual tinge.

Socketed into your weapon at your own behest, and, in the aim of further distinguishing each person’s playstyle, divvied up into various sub-categories such as Fire, Water, Holy and Shadow that slot into each separate weapon. Relics will not only build upon what’s already laid out, imbuing pre-existing abilities with additional ranks but will eventually find themselves capable of erecting new monuments altogether, by unlocking previously unavailable traits, gifting them their first rank.

With the mind-boggling length of traits, ranks, relics and experience, Blizzard seems poised to give gameplay the shake-up fans have been vying for come. WoW Artifact Weapons trumpet a truly personalized approach that will differentiate each class, spec, and player. Right down to a fundamental level.

Legion weapon customization

But this is where we depart from an informational format and venture into one of prediction, and speculation. We’re done dispensing information, you’ve learned the brass tacks of the situation, but we still haven’t tackled the question that’s been dancing on players’ fingertips ever since these beastly weapons were announced to grace the battlefield.

What about life after Legion?

It wouldn’t rightly make sense to attain a weapon of divine magnitude, then only put it to use for the sake of one expansion, would it? But would gluing players to one solitary weapon in such a long-term sense run the real risk of clawing World of Warcraft down into the mires of a homogenized mess that WoW: Legion Artifact Weapons seek to uproot it from? That’s why the best guesses at this moment point towards Artifacts being singular to this expansion and this expansion alone. A defining trait, that helps separate it from the others; WoD had the introduction of Garrisons, Pandaria had its renovation of dailies, and stepping into Legion, players will always rekindle their passion towards their beloved weapons.

Garrisons in WoD

Don’t expect to see the system of advancement implemented alongside them go to waste, though. Expect to see if hauled into each new expansion in some incarnation. To blatantly ignore such a groundbreaking new feature year-after-year would be folly beneath a company of Blizzard’s stature.

However you view it, Artifact Weapons seem destined to jar the landscape in some very intriguing ways, and following an expansion in Warlords of Draenor that left many of the vehement fan-base resenting a sour taste in their mouths, they could just be the sweetener that draws many of them back in. And if nothing else, they’re something new and shiny to coat in the blood of Demons. And that’s one concept that very rarely misses the mark.