Last tuesday, Blizzard released World of Warcraft’s latest expansion: Mists of Pandaria. Featuring a new race (Pandaren), a level 90 cap, new dungeons, raids and battleground, this new expansion had me hooked ever since it was announced.
I’ll try to keep this as (major) spoiler free as possible, but read at your own discretion. Also, keep in mind that this is a lot of content to go through, so it’ll take me a while before I finish the other parts of this review. Make sure to check back every day to see the new updates. Beware, really long review incoming.
New Race: Pandaren:
Let me just start off by saying that the new starting zone is amazing. Set on the Wandering Isle, which is literally an enormous tortoise, the player is tasked with finding out what’s wrong, since the Isle has been moving erratically lately, causing some problems for the inhabitants. Pandaren players have seven classes to choose from: Monk, Warrior, Hunter, Rogue, Priest, Shaman and Mage. It’s too bad they can’t be Death Knight, but I guess it would be against canon if they could. They start out as a Neutral race, and don’t get to choose a faction until they’re level 11. What is most important is that it’s not a dull zone. The lore of the place keeps you interested for the time you’re there, as well as the beautiful environments surrounding you. Although it’s certainly a fun starting zone, it’s definitely not the best, but it’s up there.
New Zones and Quests:
I still remember my first couple of days playing WoW, some years back. When I created my first character, a Night Elf hunter, I was immediately blown away by my surroundings. The vibrant colors astonished and enticed me. Blizzard has managed to recreate this feeling. As soon as I stepped into Pandaria, I was amazed by the style of the place. And to top it off, the game’s soundtrack fits perfectly into the theme. So if you’re going to play, crank up the volume and listen carefully, it’s well worth it.
What really surprised me was the amount of in-engine cutscenes included in this expansion. Wrath had a couple, Wrathgate and Fall of the Lich King for example, but Mists has tons of them. About a third of the quest chains end in a Cinematic, and so far, I have counted at least 10 different ones. And let’s be honest, Wrath Gate didn’t look all that good, but these ones blew my mind and gave me shivers.
Blizzard has introduced a new type of quests that I loved. They’re basically flashback quests, telling you the story of something that’s happened within the story whilst you weren’t there (instead of one character missing and only a couple of text lines to explain what happened). You are given control of a different character, and the person in question usually narrates what happens while you’re playing it. It’s pretty fun and innovative.
Overall, Blizzard has stepped up their quests. Back in the old days of WoW, 40 out 50 quests would be “Kill X of Y” or “Collect X of Y by killing Z” but now there are many different types of quests. Sure, you still get some of those quests, but there are many quests with fun objectives such as: Help a pandaren farm, kick some critters (literally), the aforementioned flashback quests, and much more. Levelling doesn’t feel like much of a grind now.
Another neat touch on Blizzard’s part is that when you have a quest that asks you to kill a semi-boss enemy, it doesn’t matter if there is someone else already fighting it, you can still jump in mid-fight and get the recognition of killing it. This way, you don’t have to wait for the other player to kill it for respawns, and you can work in a team without being in a party. For instance, I was once tasked with killing an evil witch, so I ran up to her and saw a fellow Druid already fighting her, and he was obviously struggling. So I joined the fight, healed him and suddenly two Hordes come up, and they start helping us out too. Of course, once we killed the witch we started fighting between us, but still, the brief alliance was a fun thing to watch.
Some of the zones are more light hearted than others, and some don’t even affect the main story. For example, within Jade Forest most of the story is set, but once you go into Valley of the Four Winds, you have a moment to take your mind off the main conflict. Still, all of the new zones are gorgeous and worthwhile.
What made the original World of Warcraft great was the ever existing threat of war: Horde vs Alliance. Yet in previous expansions, this was lost, because for the most part of them, heroes of the factions were basically banded together for their mutual benefit, for example, killing the Lich King or Deathwing. But in Mists of Pandaria this is completely different. The expansion itself starts with conflict, and the discovery of this new continent is also a consequence of the war. Throughout the whole expansion you’re reminded that not only you’re exploring a new continent, but also fighting a war against the opposing faction.