Mists of Pandaria: Kung-Fu Pandas or Best Expansion to Date?

“You weren’t at work today.” The bloop from my friend appeared across the screen.
“Dude, I told you I’ve had today and tomorrow off for over two months.” I thought I had said it enough, yet people kept asking.
“Oh yeah… Mists came out last night didn’t it?”
“Yep.”

If any of you payed attention during Battlestation week, you’d know that I’m a very big World of Warcraft fan. While the game has only been out for a few days, I obviously can’t cover all of the new content (a lot of it you can’t even access) however I will give the skinny on my journey with my Warrior from 85-90. We’ll go into zones, quests, and dungeons to discover if Blizzard can breathe some more life into an eight year old game.

Zones

“WoW has aged well.” is a phrase I often hear when people discuss the graphics, and how areas look. To be honest if you take a look at when WoW was first released you’d probably disgusted at this day in age in gaming. However Blizzard shows how robust and clever they are produce a lot of beautiful looking zones when it comes to Mists of Pandaria. Often while questing I stopped whatever quest I was doing, and took a look around in awe at the fact that this is the same game I started playing back in high school.

Each of the zones contains a plethora of creatures and enemies that are just as beautiful and stunning as the zones they’re in. While the Pandaran are the main race in this expansion, that doesn’t mean there’s a lack of various creatures. From the Mantid swarm to the silly and whimsical Grummles, the creatures are just as beautiful as the zones themselves. The creatures of Pandaria are robust and as interesting as the lands they inhabit.

One of the biggest things is however, is that you can’t use your flying mount until you reach level 90. I was a little bit upset by this in the very beginning but then I realized that’s part of what made leveling up dangerous and even sometimes scary. The fact that you couldn’t just jump on your get-out-of-free-jail-mount and get away once you’ve completed the quest objective, restored old thinking of, “How do I do this safely and efficiently?” While some players may be upset about this choice, I think it was a fantastic one.

Quests

If you played World of Warcraft: Cataclysm  you’d know that while the quests were definitely more interesting in terms of content in the past, but they lacked a lot of freedom. For the most part your character went from Mt. Hyjal or Vashj’ir to Deephom, to Twilight Highlands, doing the same story quests without much variation in which order you could do them in. In Pandaria Blizzard only bottlenecks you at the very beginning as you land into Pandaria. After that you’re set to go explore and help whomever you like. In fact you’re even shown where new quests are at on the map now.

The freedom was also great, it wasn’t the only thing that changed when it came  to questing. There’s a lot less phasing involved in Pandaria, as well as the fact storytelling has a made some huge changes. Instead of people kind of just telling you what happen, often times you’ll play as the character to discover their story. At one point you actually get to play as Chen Stormstout (The first Pandaran in Warcraft History) instead of just listening to what he has to say. Questing has been much more enjoyable as opposed to things in the past.

Dungeons

If there’s any qualms I have with Pandaria so far, it would have to be the dungeons. Blizzard does a fantastic job of explaining the story and the purpose behind all of the dungeons, and they look fantastic. Even the remakes of Scholomance and Scarlet Monastery had me in awe. However they lacked difficulty, even the heroic versions of some dungeons. After coming from Cataclysm, who’s dungeons where brutal in the beginning of the expansion, I was disappointed with the fact that my groups had reverted back to the grab-everything-and-AOE tactic that generally only comes once the general population of the game out gears the content.

In addition you actually can’t access four of the dungeons until you reach level 90, and then you can only access them if you have a high enough item level to que for heroics. This was a very big let down when trying to push into heroic content (Which in all honesty wasn’t too hard to do).

Scarlet Monastery has undergone some major changes this expansion.

However the dungeons do have a new feature called “Challenge Modes” where players race against the clock to see how fast they can complete the dungeon. The monster gain new abilities, hit harder, and your own gear actually gets pushed down to a specific level. Apparently this is where the difficult and hard content for dungeons exists, however I haven’t had the luxury of playing this mode yet.

While there’s plenty I haven’t experienced yet (Challenge Modes, Raids, and PVP for a few) it seems like Blizzard knew exactly what they were doing when it came to creating Mist of Pandaria. If you’re on the fence and unsure if you’d like to try it, Blizzard does have a free trial available for returning players. I suggest anyone that’s been a fan in the past should at least give the free trial a chance and let it speak for itself.

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