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World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria Impressions – The Pandaren Starter Zone and Monks

Posted on October 2, 2012 AT 05:24pm

With the lost isle of Pandaria being discovered by the Horde and Alliance comes a new race and class. The stoic pandas of Pandaria bring the martial arts skills of the monk class to the forefront of everyone’s favorite MMO. Unlike previous expansions, the new panda starting zone is autonomous to the neutral leveling experience it provides. Not until you complete the opening story arc do you make the all-important decision of who to side with – Horde or Alliance. Because of the neutrality of the starting zone, there are no mailboxes, no guild invites, and chat in relegated to a single public channel on the island, no more no less. That means no account bound gear, no guild perks, and no power leveling. Frankly, the experience is better for it. Because of this controlled environment, Blizzard is able to weave a personal tale the likes of which we haven’t seen since the Death Knight starting zone in Wrath of the Litch King.

The exposition provided by Blizzard in the panda starting zone is well written and not only fills you in on the once secret race of the pandas, but truly invests your emotions into struggles of this proud race being torn apart by the Horde and Alliance. The leveling experience is as you would expect; kill ten things, gather ten things, but it’s the way blizzard presents these time-tested quests that makes them feel new again.

If you aren’t blown away by the breathtaking vistas and environments, then you’ll surely love the fully voice acted NPC characters that join you on your early quest. Is it Kung Fu Panda? Sure. But any true knowledgeable fan of Warcraft lore knows that the pandas have been around since Warcraft 3 (so quit yer’ whinin’). The starting experience provides a fascinating look at the history and culture of the pandas but truly let’s you feel their desperation at that pivotal moment at level 12 when you have to make the all important choice between factions.

The monk class is versatile, you can be a healer, a tank or a DPS. Each spec is fleshed out impressively. Tanking is fun, healing is a blast (especially group healing), and I haven’t had this much fun PVPing in a long time. DPS is extremely fun and hard hitting with a versatile move set of punches, kicks and combonations. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed a pure malee class, since, well, ever, and it makes it’s all the better that the monk can fill any role in a group. Right now it’s hard to judge how the monk balances amongst the rest of Azeroth’s classes because every dungeon I’ve run thus far has been filled with the plump and endangered pandas. But I can assure you this: five panda monks can certainly roll face in the early goings of the game. So far 10-30 PVP is panda and monktastic. Most encounters boil down to what resembles a Bruce Lee movie. The only negative About the pandas being on both horde and alliance is the slight confusion of who’s who on the PVP battlefield, but I quickly got over that.

Check back for more Mists of Pandaria coverage, including the full review which is in progress. You can even read last week’s impressions on the dungeons and the new Pet Battle system, which is horribly addictive.

The dungeons.

Pet Battles.

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