World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria Review
That’s it, screw it, we’re adding Pandas.
I’ve had an on again, off again romance with World of Warcraft since it launched back in 2004. The story is always the same; I play during every free moment I have for a few weeks, then sporadically for another few weeks, eventually breaking the cycle and moving on to a different game. Still, there’s just something about WoW that has kept me coming back for more. A new expansion is always a great excuse to dive back into the world of Azeroth, but I have to admit that I wasn’t that excited by the setting, or characters, of Pandaria from what we were shown leading up to the release. Let’s find out if the Mists of Pandaria expansion can change my mind now that it’s finally arrived.
Let’s just skip this section. There is plenty of content you can experience by yourself but the whole thing is really a multiplayer experience.
The Mists of Pandaria expansion pack does extend the level cap from 85 to 90, and adds a bunch of new high level and endgame content, but it also adds a new race and new class so let’s start there. True to the box art, and name, the new race are called Pandaren and look much like a humanoid version of their namesake, Panda bears. Pandaren characters can choose to be a warrior, hunter, rogue, priest, shaman or mage but, more importantly, can also choose to be the new Monk class. So, of course, I rolled up a Pandaren Monk and jumped into the new starting area.
The Pandaren starting area is probably one of the better looking areas you’ll find in World of Warcraft. It is filled with lush greenery, highly detailed natural features and plenty of stylized Asian architecture of the kind you would see in an old Kung Fu movie. In fact, the whole setting is based on the movie version of martial arts masters and Shaolin monks. The setting, and characters, do start to feel very campy, very quickly but the story that you’ll follow as a level 1-10 Pandaren is the most interesting of any of the other races. Where the other starting areas feel more like extended tutorials, Mists of Pandaria actually sets out to tell a story and finishes with a definitive conclusion before you’re let loose upon the rest of Azeroth.
The Monk class itself isn’t a great departure from the others but it is more versatile than most. Being a melee combat class, the Monk uses Energy as its combat stat and plays much like a Rogue does. You’ll spend Energy on some attacks to build up Chi points to unleash stronger attacks, much like the Rogue builds combo points. The one key difference is that the Monk can specialize as a Tank, Healer or melee Damage role upon reaching level 10.
The Pandaren starting area, and especially the Monk class, does a great job of making World of Warcraft about as accessible as it’s ever been. If you’re new to WoW, I would try starting as a Pandaren of any available class. You’ll learn a lot about the game and be treated to a decent narrative along the way.
Aside from the new race and class, the biggest new feature that comes in with Mists of Pandaria is the Pet Battle system. You can now train, capture and battle with a new class of pets that can be found all throughout Azeroth. Starting at level 5 you’ll be able to take on a quest in your faction’s home city that will allow you to train and heal battle pets.
You’ll be able to track wild pets on your world map and engage them in battle to level up your battle pet or catch a new one. You’ll also be able to queue for random PvP pet battles from your pet journal to really see who is the best Pokemon trainer, er, I mean battle pet trainer. This isn’t a system that I was particularly interested in myself, but if pet battles turn out to be your kind of thing the system is extensive and could really eat up a lot of your time.
High level content starts out with, of course, a quest from the war leader in your home city that will take you to the newly appearing land of Pandaria. Once you land on Pandaria you’ll experience a short series of quests that set up the battle between Horde and Alliance and just how the Pandaren factor in to the events. I found that with the previous expansion, Cataclysm, the high level content was able to really suck you in using cut scenes, instanced quests and other set pieces. With Mists of Pandaria, it feels more like you’re just dumped into another area with the same old type of fetch or kill quests.
You’ll still be questing for your leader, and moving things forward, but the same effort we’ve seen in prior expansions just isn’t present here. After the first handful of opening quests you’re simply left to run around on your own performing random tasks for random Pandaren. This might suit some people fine, but after the engaging experience in Cataclysm the environments, quests and story of Mists of Pandaria feel quite dull.
The dungeons that were added in this expansion are generally much shorter than the other dungeons in the game, but seem to be more focused on boss events/battles. If you like to grind dungeons for experience you’ll need many more runs to accomplish this than you did before, but if you enjoy the boss fights you’re going to have a good time with the dungeons of Pandaria. You can also take advantage of the new challenge mode to compete for the best dungeon completion times.
Reaching level 90 will open up access to a ton of new end-game content including nine Heroic dungeons, two new PvP battlegrounds, six new ‘scenarios’ and three new raids. I’m not a fan of the fact that Blizzard locks out most of the true co-op content until level 90, but this is nothing new and there are a ton of things to do when you max out your experience level. The new Scenarios also provide a new co-op experience by dropping three players into mini-dungeon experiences that require three players, but don’t require the tank/damage/healer combination to complete.
I wasn’t exactly impressed by the new high level environments, or story, of the Mists of Pandaria expansion but the new starting area is the best level 1-10 experience in all of World of Warcraft now. I had a hard time taking the Pandaren seriously, and didn’t feel the epic sense of conflict that is present in the other expansions, but the sheer amount of content is staggering. If you like dungeons, raiding and PvP then Mists of Pandaria won’t let you down. Unfortunately, the grind from level 85 to level 90 is just that, a grind.
Available on: PC