MISTS OF PANDARIA

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:

 Image

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:

Image

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.

Image

Image

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.

Image

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.

 

Advertisements

WORLD OF WARCRAFT’S SUCCESS AND ITS KILLER

Legend speaks of a so called “WoW-Killer”, an MMO so good and well built that it drains Blizzard’s subscription number down to a low amount. Games such as Star Wars: The Old Republic and RIFT have been called this, wrongly. After a couple of months, they all fall, and Warcraft remains strong.

 Why?

It’s simple: WoW is a game that has years of content within it. Spanning the original and its three expansions, that’s nearly seven years of constant development and work. So when a new player comes in, he/she has a gargantuan amount of quests, arenas, dungeons and raids to go through. Therein lies the problem. Picture this: The Old Republic comes out, and offers players 50 levels plus a mediocre endgame, which BioWare promises to improve later. Gamers go, grind through the 50 levels, defeat all the bosses in raids, get the gear. And all in less than two months. Then what? The developer is having problems fixing the bugs, and isn’t able to release more than a mere dungeon in the next update. The patch releases, and the players chew it and swallow it. Yet they need more, and there isn’t enough in the game to keep them satisfied. That’s why they go back to Warcraft, because in there, they have at least 100+ hours of game time guaranteed.

The new game that BioWare had just released, is basically the same that Blizzard released 7 years ago. But why play that, when you can play an updated and improved version of it: Warcraft?

Also, Warcraft gives both unexperienced players and hardcore gamers an immersive experience. The game is layered, and although it might seem simple, many complex formulas and strategies exist for those who like a challenge. Let me be honest, I’m not a hardcore MMO fan, and sometimes when I start in a new game I’m just overwhelmed by the complex features, even though I’ve played my fair share of them. Yet in Warcraft everything has been simple from the start.

Will Guild Wars 2 kill it? Perhaps. Maybe it will suck 2-4 million users. But remember, Blizzard is cunning. They know what to do in moments like these. Once it launches, thousands will go to play it. And Blizzard will just smile, because a month later, their own fourth expansion releases. Those couple thousand people that went running to play Guild Wars? They’re going to run back around. Sadly, I think that Guild Wars is not a franchise that is popular enough to dethrone Warcraft. To hit it hard, a huge fan base will be needed, and it does not have it. Perhaps the Elder Scrolls will, once it launches its own MMO, or maybe Dungeons and Dragons online, who knows?

Their numbers are strong. Credit goes to MMOData.net

It’s the ugly truth. Unless developers start being innovative, instead of just trying to do what WoW did, their games are all going to fail. We have to hope that one day, a developer’s light bulb will light up and a Killer will be born.

But to be honest, I believe that the real WoW-Killer is none other than Warcraft itself. With a stunning number of 9.1 million (as of August) subscribers, it’s going to be hard to topple it. That’s why I believe that the fall will come from within. Maybe Blizzard will commit a huge mistake with an expansion, causing its own demise. It seems to me that the WoW-Killer is just a myth, after all. Let’s wait and see.

MISTS OF PANDARIA: CINEMATIC TRAILER AND OTHER NEWS

Ever since Blizzard announced their fourth expansion, Mists of Pandaria, I felt uneasy. “They’re going to include Pandas? They’re not going to be good characters at all!” Trust me, after watching this, I had no doubts that this will be a good expansion.

This trailer might be what Blizzard needed. It seems like many people have now changed their minds. Have you? I certainly have. I’m leaving later to pre-order this, just so I can have it day one. I’ll be writing more reviews and articles about this expansion, once it comes out this September.

Along with the trailer, Blizzard revealed two things: First, that all races are going to be playable, no matter which expansions you own. If you only have Warcraft and Burning Crusade, don’t worry, you can still play a Worgen. You won’t be able to create a Death Knight, though. Even the Pandaren will be available, but no Monks without Mists. It’s likely that the continent of Pandaria itself won’t be available to people who don’t purchase MoP, but the starting area for our beloved pandas will.

The other news is something that excited me a lot. One of the problems that I felt that this pack was going to suffer was the lack of a major threat. Cataclysm had Deathwing, Wrath had the Lich King and Burning Crusade had Illidan. But now, Blizzard told us who’s the last boss now. Watch out, spoilers. It’s no one else than Garrosh himself. That’s right, we’re finally going to be able to kick some Hellscream ass.

Are you as excited as I am for Mists of Pandaria? You can pre-purchase it here, as I have done already.