World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria|
Mists of Pandaria; even the name sounds cool and itís also pretty self-explanatory as to what the latest expansion to the wildly popular World of Warcraft brings to the table...Mists and Pandas...I mean Pandarens. Mists of Pandaria adds a lot more than just another location and the Pandaren race; it brings us a whole new world PvP experience with the addition, or should I say, RE-addition of world bosses along with the new pet battle system. Not since the days of Wrath of the Lich King have I been enthralled by the idea of leveling a brand new class and exploring new areas. Most people compare everything to Burning Crusades, but I believe itís time to move along and come to terms that while Burning Crusades did give us some of the best world PvP we ever had, it also brought along its fair share of problems that indeed got fixed when Wrath of the Lich King came along.
Blizzard faced a lot of challenges when the title was first leaked out earlier than anticipated and then at the official announcement at Blizzcon 2011 due to the player based concern that introducing something so similar to Kung Fu Panda would mean a less ďhardcoreĒ experience, and when I say concern I mean outrage that something so cute and cuddly might make it to their beloved fantasy MMORPG. Alas, some players seemed to think that Pandarens just didnít have a place in our story of conquest over beings of such great power as the Black Dragonflight, Illidan the Demon Hunter gone rogue or the old gods. Many have forgotten that Pandarens are one of the reasons we have our own heroes to cheer on in our online universe, as without them the basis for the kingdoms we swore allegiance to would have never been created, especially that of the Horde. With the ability for players to make their Pandaren heroes align with either the Alliance or Horde they quelled some fears that soon the races would be uneven and throw the balance of the game in a specific sides favor.
Mists of Pandaria gives us a brand new continent to explore instead of just new smaller zones, though a few have been changed yet again to better fit the story. The landscape is some of the most beautiful Iíve seen in all my years of playing WoW; everything from my view from the tallest peak to the lush jungles surrounding the Pandaren cities just had a certain brilliance to it that really immersed you into the fact that this was a new land with a rich culture to explore with your new allies. No longer reskinning certain models to fit the landscape, Blizzard created new fresh beings and creatures to truly give Pandaria the feel that it has been isolated from the world for ten thousand years and everything we saw was new and never before seen. Some of my favorites were the Jinyu, a humanoid fish people that the Alliance befriend, who I can only imagine being based on the legendary Kappa, a sea creature of legends from eastern cultures who serve as opposites to the amusing and almost childlike Hozen, a humanoid yet more monkey like and under evolved species of practical jokers that the Horde acquire as allies during the exploration of the landing zone.
The Pandaren race is based on Chinese culture and they pull it off very well, being cute and cuddly and also being fierce fighters in many different kung fu styles to differentiate the different clans of Pandarens that roam the land. The Pandaren as a whole are jovial creatures that are more likely to invite you to tea than to ask what you are doing entering the abode uninvited, but when provoked they will surely go tiger style on your ass. With the addition of any new race we are also given a new class, this one being the very fitting monk class available to many races of Azeroth who use more spiritual abilities to heal, tank and also deal damage. Monks have many abilities based on different fighting styles and include the idea of Chi energy to power their abilities, primarily spirit animal skills based on tiger, serpent and ox, depending on situation and role in the current fight. They truly bring a new fresh addition the raid lineups to give players another interesting play style to choose from.
Per usual, the questing has been changed with the new expansion but unfortunately, not for the better. Many quests used to have to be completed in a certain order so that you may open additional quests to further progress the story in what has come to be called a ďChristmas TreeĒ fashion, that being that one quest will open up many and give you choices in the way you handle the story and earn certain items and reputation towards your chosen faction. Instead, we are given a much more linear story where you must follow and complete everything given to you in order to move on at all, especially with the introduction of phasing in the last few years.
Many times I had to abandon quests because the phasing system would make it impossible for me to turn it in because I held on to it too long. Eventually the quests turn into a sort of order system that goes; Investigate > Destroy > Return to base for more things to kill that are likewise invading you. The road to level 90 isnít nearly as time-consuming as in earlier games due to the sheer amount of questing available and the variety of ways we can accomplish it such as new and remade dungeons to queue up for playing with people from around the world, but it is well worth it if only to gain the ability to fly yet again in Pandaria and really see the new continent how itís meant to be seen, from the air watching the sun shine over this new lush land.
Flying aside, you also get access to the new battle grounds called The Silvershard Mine, which is the newest resource gathering map for players to engage in. Consisting of ten players per faction the players must travel to the middle of the mines to take control of mine-carts and divert them to their faction base while the opposing team tries to do the same and also uses switches that are dispersed along the map to change the route to their own base. Much more strategy and control is needed than any other seen so far. The Temple of Kotmogu on the other hand is more akin to a standard battleground where itís an outright battle royale as the only objective is to decimate the enemy team and score the most kills with the help of artifacts laying around the perimeter of the grounds to increase playerís damage and health. Clearly not anything new but refreshing enough for players to flock to it and prove their keen skills that have not gotten enough use in the last few expansions, which have focused more on exploration and questing than actual Player vs Player interaction.
While the general dungeon experience hasnít changed we are given much more involved dungeon boss battles such as having to focus more on mechanics and less on just outright tanking and burning them down with damage such as a dance in the middle of a fireworks festival and taking down a bunch of drunk monkeys in a brewery. A new addition other than the standard normal and heroic difficulties is the Challenge mode, which serves as a much more difficult and teamwork based version of the jungle with better gear depending on the time it took you to complete the dungeon with rewards graded on a bronze, silver and gold tiers which give you increased item level gear, cosmetic accessories and overall prestige on your server as times and names are shown to all who challenge that dungeon.
While not a typical dungeon there is also the new ďScenarioĒ system which only requires three party teams to complete. This is done by replacing the standard clear trash and kill boss mechanic with a much more story driven experience as you receive actual objectives to progress to the end. The scenarios are instanced and take place in the open world rather than confined dungeons, as there are no true defined roles anyone can queue up for them with much shorter wait times.
I mentioned the pet battle system in the beginning and I would like to say itís one of my favorite additions to World of Warcraft in that it brings a brand new activity to partake in that doesnít include gathering in the sense the professions forced you into, archeology included. The name pet battles is literal, as it uses the pets we have gained throughout our adventures to do battle with other players and even pet battle master NPC to level up your pets and attain new skills for them all to better fight and capture new pets to train. Honestly, itís Pokťmon for WoW and itís awesome. Veteran players will have a small advantage as some unique pets that are either no longer attainable or much harder to come by have better base stats than the ordinary ones we come across now, but itís pretty fair considering how much time they have invested in WoW.
Iíve talked a lot about the wonderful new features that have been added in Mists of Pandaria and its time I mentioned things I didnít like. There arenít many but I feel itís important that they be known. First off comes the talent system, completely redone yet again, and this time into a much simpler format of gain a new talent point every fifteen levels from the prior every three and previously every level system. Blizzard has stated its to tone down the bloat of useless talents that should be a must pick for a specific role of class and to give players more choices and control over their own character; a great idea but it ends up being the same old system of everyone choosing the same skills because there always seems to be certain skills that end up being better than others. Many people feel itís made the game too casual and sometimes I seem to agree with that opinion. I liked the old system of having a huge talent tree to choose from that actually showed me what Iíve worked towards.
Secondly comes the fact that leveling has become so easy to do that professions and the selling of said professions have become so common that they are no longer money makers, everyone can do the same as everyone else so there is no need to buy profession skills from people. The third and final gripe is a truly personal one; why couldnít horde get the Jinyu? Why do we get the weird monkey-looking guys that repeat themselves more than any Pokťmon ever created?
In conclusion, the newest installment of World of Warcraft has truly brought the spark of adventure and camaraderie that has been dwindling in the last few years back to World of Warcraft. Mists of Pandaria is exactly what the doctor ordered and it couldnít have come at a better time, but the question always remainsÖwhat next? What else will we be battling and what else could they possibly dream up for us to try and overthrow, try to attain and attempt to befriend? Who or what else is going to try and destroy our precious Azeroth? No one but the masterminds at Blizzard know, but I for one will be impatiently waiting to see what surprises they have in store for us.