[Review] Kung-Fu Pan… I Mean Mists of Pandaria!

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[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wvYXoyxLv64[/youtube]

Reviewing an MMO is a monumental task; especially when that MMO is the current reigning champion of the genre. Mists of Pandaria brings a handful of new content to the MMO giant. A new continent filled with adorable fuzzy pandas, an increased level cap to level 90, new dungeons and two new PvP battlegrounds are some of the new content included with the expansion. The expansion so far is responsible for bringing the playerbase above ten million accounts. That’s crazy. Is the game really worth all of the hype?

Pandaren Starting Zone & New Features:

Should you choose to create a Pandaren character, you start out at level one on the Wandering Isle. As it’s name implies, it is an island that moves about the oceans of Azeroth and is a Pandaren home. For some reason, the island has started moving erratically and we’re not sure why. It’s up to you to train and develop your skills, while assisting the locals to figure out what is happening to the island. The quests in this starting zone are very basic and teach you how to play the game while introducing you to the Pandaren culture. One thing I have to say about Mists of Pandaria is that it looks great for an 8-year old game. The Pandaren character models are much more detailed than the original races, and they definitely stand out. The Asian-inspired landscapes are gorgeous; WoW has never looked this colorful and vibrant before.

So lovely

I did the Pandaren starting zone with the new Monk class. I have to say this was rather disappointing. You are only given an ability or two for the majority of this starting zone, which makes completing it very slow and tedious. The class really needs to start with more than two abilities, because I nearly almost passed out from being bored. I really enjoyed the look and feel of the zone, but playing through it as a monk was really rough. I think they’re way better once you start getting some levels and opening up abilities, but I have no interest in playing a one of them right now. I’m only able to comment on how they feel when you start one.

One of the most talked about new features is the introduction of pet battles. Basically, they added Pokemon to WoW. Throughout WoW, you have been able to collect non-combat pets that would just follow you around and not do much else. Now you are able to utilize your collection of pets as battle pets. You can train them by combating other similarly-leveled critters throughout the world, catch new pets, and battle other player’s in true Pokemon fashion.

Gotta Catch 'Em All! (I'm so sorry...)

A neat little side-game they added, in addition to the pet battling, was the harvest moon game. It’s not actually called that, but the premise is the same. In the second Pandaria zone, there is a ranch. If you help the farmers there with some errands, they will give you a small plot of land. You can buy seeds and take care of the land and eventually your farmland will get bigger and you can grow more crops. The crops are a source for crafting materials. Its dumb, but it’s addicting and helpful.

Slow Down: Leveling from 85 to 90.

Pandaria’s culture is so unique compared to the rest of Azeroth & Outlands. World of Warcraft has had a medieval-fantasy theme throughout it’s existence. Pandaria brings a heavily Asian-themed continent to the game and really breathes new life into World of Warcraft. The isle has such a delightful personality and feel to it that is unlike anything we’ve seen in the game so far. You might think that only five levels isn’t much to tackle, but when the levels take multiple millions of xp to attain, you definitely have your work cut out for you. However, plowing through the expansion’s leveling content is probably one of the worst ways to play the game. One of the things you will hear over and over once you find yourself on the continent of Pandaria is “slow down.” Leveling will take a while, so you might as well take it easy and enjoy the process. Rushing through the quests without reading them is a tragic decision, as the storylines in Pandaria are some of the more unique and fun stories the game has offered so far.

We have this unique culture that has been undisturbed by the squabble of the horde and the alliance. Having literally crash landed into the isle, the two warring factions are now disrupting the established Pandaren way. It’s a tragic story; the Pandarene are a peaceful race who are beyond petty fighting, but they are forced to get wrapped up in this war they they don’t want to be a part of. As you level through Pandaria, you will meet many notable members of their race and learn their stories, and you will listen to opposing arguments from within the Pandaren as to whether or not they should assist the Azerothian races. Through the first couple of quests, you learn that the continent is a living thing that reacts to the events happening within it. All of the negativity and hatred drummed up by the horde/alliance warfare has brought back the Sha; a physical manifestation of hatred.

That's a Sha. A big one.

This is the first time I have really been interested in the story of the game since I started playing. The Pandaren have such a cool mentality and I’m actually bothering to read quests and learn why I’m fetching supplies or killing x amount of creatures. If there’s one criticism of all MMO’s, it’s that the quests are generally really repetitive. While Pandaria doesn’t escape this criticism, it’s mitigated with the great storytelling and intriguing characters.

The class talent trees have had an overhaul. Instead of big long talent trees that required a lot of planning, the trees have been broken down significantly. Instead of having to plot out 41 individual talent points among three trees, you now choose six talents from 18 to customize your class. You still choose one of three specializations, which will determine what abilites are available to you. It just makes it more streamlined and you don’t have to worry about as many things. Not to mention talent choices can be changed on the fly, so you don’t have to fly to a major city to have them change it for you. Also, they make sure to put a note in the spell journal that tells you what has changed with your class’ playstyle and what core abilities you need to use and how to use them. It’s a bit hand-holdy, but with the amount of bad players there are, I’m sure it’s bound to help someone.

Life at 90: DAILIES!

A big part of hitting that level cap is the honor of doing dailies! Since sarcasm doesn’t always read well: that statement was sarcastic. There are a metric butt-ton of new factions in Pandaria. Each of these factions has some really cool rewards, but you’ll have to do their daily quests if you want access to those rewards. This means doing the exact same quests every day until you acquire a sufficient amount of reputation to get the reward. Dailies are an easy source of gold, but they’ve always been tedious. They seem cool at first, since you get cash and are working your way towards prizes, but the curse of the daily is that you’ll get sick of it by the time you get your reward. Dailies are a necessary evil though. They have to put something in the game to keep you playing. Also, handing out awesome gear for little effort is something WoW has become notorious for, so it’s nice to have some of that necessary dedication back. You feel a sense of accomplishment once you earn that Wind Serpent mount.

So pretty :3

There are heroic versions of dungeons once you hit lvl 90 as well. Heroic dungeons are basically dungeons that you were able to do while leveling, but they have been scaled up in difficulty to match level 90. They are still fairly easy; unless you get a group of idiots, you will complete them successfully. Once you have enough heroic grade loot, you are able to queue into the raid finder. The Raid Finder is a tool that was implemented in the last expansion. It allows you to look for a raid group across different servers and lets you experience raid content that you may not be able to access on your own. It presents this randomly put-together group with an easier version of the current raid dungeons. Instead of having to organize a group of 15 properly-geared people, you can use this raid finder tool to do all of the work. The earlier raid difficulty means that the gear quality is lower, but it’s a fair trade to be able to experience end-game content.

Additionally, there are two new PvP maps: Temple of Kotmogu and Silvershard mines. In the Temple, there are four orbs and you accumulate points for holding them. Each team will attempt to kill the other orb holders while defending their own. Whoever reaches 1600 points first wins. With the Silvershard Mines, you escort up to 3 mine carts along a track and whichever faction has control of that cart will get points when the cart reaches it’s destination. So basically you’re trying to kill off the opposing team so your team can take ownership of the carts.

Silvershard Mine!

I find the Temple of Kotmogu to be really bland and boring. It’s a boring, open arena that’s just too chaotic for my tastes. I much prefer the Silvershard Mines. You can steal a cart at the last second to get points, and the map itself is really cool. Of course, you still have all of the previous battlegrounds available to you. The arena season just started, so I can’t really comment there yet. The only thing I have to say about it is that some of the arena gear sets look rad.

Once you hit the level cap, you’re basically looking at two things: gearing up for PvE or PvP. Gearing up is what it all boils down to.

Should You Get It?

Coming in at $40, I think it’s safe to say that you get more than $40 worth of value out of it. Even if you just play it for a month, all of the new content and side quests are enough to keep you active on one character alone. If you have alts you plan to level, Pandaria could keep you busy for a long time. If you’ve played WoW in the past and want to know if you should pick up this expansion and come back to WoW, I say why not? It feels like the same game you’ve played, but with a fresh coat of paint to keep things interesting. Those new to the game might be a bit overwhelmed, but with all of the class and race choices, there is something you are bound to enjoy. Though you should try to find the original game+expansions on sale somewhere, buying all of the previous expansions and then plopping down $40 for MoP is a bit steep.

Bottom line: this is probably the best expansion Blizzard has put out for World of Warcraft so far.

[Final Breakdown]

[+Great Storytelling] [+Fun New Features] [+Simple Class Customization] [+Pandaren Are Pretty Rad] [+Crapton of Content] [-Endgame is Same Old Stuff] [-Rep Grinding is Rarely Fun] [-Limited Abilities Make Starting Areas Rough]

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About Author

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Trey is a delightful, colorblind writer for the site. He enjoys playing electric guitar and bass, professional wrestling documentaries and writing about video games & the industry. Favorite games include Persona 3: FES, Final Fantasy Tactics and Castlevania. Feel free to follow him on twitter @radiopools!

  • IamJeffGoldblum

    Harvest Moon and Pokemon the perfect way to bring the white man down. This game is made by communist! that have nothing better to do then watch Honey boo boo on a Church day,while eating gravy smothered tacos! This is america godflammit! we need education! cable cars! candy corn flavored milk shakes! We need to stop this hippocricy and stop titillating the rhinos! Now stand with me my brothers! These tarantulas cant web us no more! stop this pandamonium! and that’s how Aurthur Luther King won Americas and became the president of In and out burger. amen.