Everyone has heard of, scoffed at, ridiculed, played, dominated (cross out the ones that do not apply to you) World of Warcraft. For those of you who chose the two latter choices, this is the article for you. For all the rest, you can stop judging, get yourselves an account and then read this article!
So now to set the scene. After the release of Cataclysm, many players (including yours truly) were a bit disappointed and annoyed at Blizzard. This move was motivated by the attempt to have new players join the 10 million strong online community, however it did frustrate those die-hard vanilla players, who had expected more from the expansion. Once you had killed Deathwing (I currently stand at 19), there was not much to do apart from Twinking.
Mists of Pandaria was Blizzards way of saying sorry and thus a lot of pressure was mounting on MoP to deliver. Reports from the beta did nothing to stay the hype and finally on the 25th of September, MoP was released, allowing the average player to explore Pandaria, level up to 90, play as pandas and monks, and even more. So did MoP really live up to the expectation?
In the humble opinion of this writer (level 90 Pala), I must say, YES. From the off, Mists of Pandaria was a success. I played from day one, and, I must say, I felt like I always had something to do and never was it tedious. Also, my opinion was shared by many others, who I questioned (mostly Guildies). Usually the verdict included the words “amazing”, “incredible” or any other expletive that you can think of. For all you raid leaders, guild members and newbies, here is your guide to the main points of MoP and how they will enrich your gaming experience.
So the first port of call is the new continent, Pandaria. Pandaria is not actually a land mass, but in fact a giant tortoise. From the shape on the map you can vaguely make out its contours. Seven regions will lead you through your quest to gain max level. Most of these are absolutely stunning (my favourite is the valley of four winds), which just highlights all that blizzard put into this expansion. Cherry trees, mountains and typical Chinese architecture dot the areas that you have to traverse, which just adds to that exotic effect. Another positive is that you can’t just fly through the continent. ‘You CANNOT fly?’ I hear you scream. ‘That’s a positive?’ you wonder. Well just think about it, in Cataclysm, most of the new regions were quickly explored, but not actually seen. With your trusty flying mount, you just flew easily over Mount Hyjal, Uldum, etc. The big question is, do you remember ANYTHING of those areas? I don’t. However I can recall with vivid detail my journey on my chopper through the Jade Forest. Not only did I see more than I would have flying, it was also significantly more difficult and consequently more impressionable. For all those who can’t live without their flying mounts, don’t despair, just make it to level 90 and then you can fly to your hearts content. One con that is not really a con, but personal preference, is the that some regions did feel repetitive, but that may just be me.
The quests are, for the most part, extremely fun, although you do get a healthy mix of the “kill bad guy, get loot” type quest that we all know and just grind through. The fun quests include helping to brew a barrel of beer (the ingredients were not so tasty) as well as infiltrating a brewery and sucker-punching various demons. I did find them quite enjoyable, and there were enough new elements to stop me from getting bored. In fact I would have been quite fine with just questing to level up.
However I did do the dungeons, which not only helped me gain XP that much faster, they were genuinely FUN. I mean, who doesn’t like the sight of your fine companions barfing their guts out into buckets while evading huge streams of alcoholic beverages and healing/DPSing/tanking at the same time (I couldn’t stop laughing... until I was the one heaving)? Another aspect was that you actually, genuinely, hate some of the bosses in the dungeons, most notably the “Sha”. These are black masses of emotions come to life usually anger or hate. These things look, for a lack of a better word, evil (yes I am aware of the cliché), but I actually felt like a better person when I had finally destroyed one of those things. All in all, I enjoyed the dungeons a lot and will be doing them many more times.
Now about the new class. When Blizzard first announced that a new panda race would be introduced, most critics laughed about this decision.I however applaud it, as not only are the
Pandaren ass-kicking cool, they also provide some comic relief for all those of us who take ourselves too seriously (myself included). They come in multiple varieties and colours, with the females even getting a tail. They have several abilities having to do with cooking, which will probably be nerfed in the next update as right now it’s overpowered. Also for all those wanting to start a new Pandaren char, you get a bonus on your rested XP and this makes levelling quite a bit more efficient. The biggest thing with the Pandaren race is the fact that you can choose to be an ally or a horde. Now that is deep, think about it, you have the choice to become an amazing ally or a horrible horde. Seriously now though, it is quite cool as this means that you can see pandas on both sides of the war!
The monk is... epic! They are fun to play and if you play a Pandaren Monk, it just adds to the whole epicness. Most of the variations you can play of the monk, are also quite creative, including: Brewmaster (Tank), Mistweaver (Heal) and Windwalker (DPS) For me, who already plays a Pala, I love classes that can perform many different roles and thus the monk is a cool addition to the hybrid classes. Not only that, but all different specs have this really awe-inspiring kung-fu fighting style which is really fun not only to play, but also just to watch. Combining this with the racial XP bonus of the Pandaren, expect many monks in your raid in the foreseeable future.
Now for all you casual gamers, or for the times between your raids. There is the new pet battle system. Stolen shamelessly from Pokémon, it still is an amazing addition. I actually had a hard time deciding if I wanted to level up, or my gorloc pet. Somost of the pets that you already own are battle ready and you can use these to fight other wild pets, specific trainers and other players. You can also catch these wild pets, which makes it so much more easy to collect those pet related achievements and titles. The pets also have different types, and these have strengths/weaknesses against other types. Thus a certain element of strategy is included in the battles. All in all, since I really enjoyed Pokémon as a child, this is just a welcome addition to WoW.
Another rip-off that Blizzard has incorporated into MoP is a Farmville one. Yes, my dear readers, you can now farm your own crops, rip out weeds, water your own plants and then harvest them to use in your various cooking recipes. It takes quite a while to build up a substantial farm to actually spend time in, but once you do it is quite rewarding. This also has a positive knock-on effect on the secondary profession of cooking (which also has been modified quite heavily, now being split into 4 categories, e.g. master of the Wok), allowing for you to level more quickly and have ingredients easily at hand. For all of those with a business sense, the farming was a really good money maker, as you could sell produce in the auction houses, for incredibly inflated prices. I do not know if this is still the case, but maybe you wanna check it out!
There is so much more that I could say, including the talent tree, the new flying mounts, the new cities, etc. But I am afraid my fellow games writers would appreciate me not hogging the whole issue with my ramblings. I must say this is one of the best expansions of WoW, if not THE best, that Blizzard has released and it is really worth the money! C’mon what are you waiting for?