MMORPGs on the whole are undergoing a change. So how does the latest World of Warcraft expansion, Mists of Pandaria, stack up?
To call the initial fan reaction MoP’s announcement mixed may be an understatement. Yes, the Pandaren were finally being put into the game, but the internet couldn’t help but throw the “Kung Fu Panda” label onto the expansion and dismiss it as child’s play. They were judging a book by its cover, as all of the fears and worries about the game’s direction couldn’t be more misguided. While Cataclysm was an expansion filled with good intentions, Mists is able to execute said intentions.
Since Wrath of the Lich King, the things to do for a freshly dinged max level character has been the following: run dungeons and heroics until your eyes bleed for raid gear, grind factions so you could raid, and maybe do some PVP. Maybe. Unless you’re a hardcore PVPer, then all you do is PVP. Never mind looking at it from the point of a “hardcore raider” or a “normal player,” this was it. To explain what it’s like to hit 90, here was my internal thought process: “Finally, level 90. Now I can finally check out the Pet Battle system. Oh, but there’s new dungeons I’ve yet to do! And I’d love to have a serpent mount…oh crap, I can’t do heroics yet. I guess I should do some dailies–what do you mean I have to raise my Golden Lotus rep before doing most faction dailies? It’s too bad I can only do 25–oh wait, I can do as many dailies as I want?! And ugh, Pet Battles are calling me, but I’d like to check out what scenarios are all about, and the challenge modes look like they could be an interesting challenge.”
Yes, there’s a heck of a lot to do at level 90. While the faction “attunement” regarding purchasing gear has been removed somewhat, you’ll still need to go through steps to access the full dearth of content. While not as impossible as some of Burning Crusade‘s attunement steps, I finally feel like I’m working towards a goal again instead of being handed the keys to WoW’s end game. But it’d be all for not if the actual content doesn’t stack up. For the most part, it does. I question the long term relevance of Scenarios. They’re a lot of fun to play through and use to tests out new specs in a live environment, but unless we’re given new ones at a regular pace, I don’t see them being nothing more than live action test dummies. As for the dungeons themselves, they’re short, sweet, and enjoyable. There’s nothing too challenging in Heroics, but don’t be surprised if you die due to ignoring certain mechanics. Then again, they were never meant to be challenging; that’s what Challenge Modes are for and, boy, are they ever difficult. You’ll need to use CC, you’ll need to blow cooldowns, and should you stand in the fire you will die. The hardcore crowd looking for a return to TBC style dungeons finally has their wish, and it’s complete with leaderboards and rewards should you pass them in a certain amount of time.
As for your daily quests, I’m still working on my Golden Lotus rep, but I’m finding that the quests are changed enough to keep them interesting. You’re not going to be doing the same quests over and over again, but instead you’ll be given different tasks in different areas, and even specific areas tend to mix up the quests now and then. More importantly, thanks to engine changes such as AOE looting and the ability to get credit for a major NPC kill even if someone else tagged it, I’m not reliving any frustrating memories from doing my Shattered Sun dailies. It’ll be interesting to see how big the story’s payoff from completing these dailies are, as my hopes in that aspect are high.
I’m not quite in the position to talk about the journey from 85-90 just yet, since I was admittedly in a hurry to hit level 90 on my monk, but I’ll quickly sum up my feelings before discussing them in further detail later this month: It was an absolute thrill to set out on foot and explore Pandaria, it’s varied and gorgeous landscapes, meet the new races, and witness the story progress. Granted, I’m not sure how much I enjoyed questing was due to the fact that I was playing a Monk, the expansion’s new class, and how much was the actual quest themselves; I’ll find that out once I play either my Shaman or Paladin. As for the monk class, I’ll again go into deeper detail later this month, but it’s a welcome addition to the game. I feel like I have more of an active role as I play, plus the modern animations and character cinematography help make my character feel more alive.
Sufficed to say, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed Mists of Pandaria thus far, but as we all know, we have to see how the game holds out in the long run, which is why I’m not giving out any final verdict just yet. But know this: Catalcysm was an expansion that was plagued with a severe lack of content. Blizzard seems to be sure to make sure they don’t make the same mistake again. They’re well on their way to doing so.