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World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria [PC] Review

Posted on October 8, 2012 AT 02:47pm

The pandas are here for good in Azeroth, are they a welcome addition or is Pandaria nothing but Kung Fu Panda? If you embark on your journey into the Mists of Pandaria with negative preconceptions about the direction the beloved Blizzard MMO has headed in over the last four or so years, you will be disappointed. If you’re a WoW addict, you will be pleased. Casuals will remain casual and newcomers to the series have even more to be overwhelmed with with this latest expansion bringing the level cap to 90 amidst a slew of new gameplay techniques and additions to the core WoW experience.

If you’ve been in Azeroth for eight years like me, you’ll approach Mists of Pandaria with a sort of grizzled and world-weariness only an MMO vet could understand. When I rolled my Panda Monk, it felt like I was grabbing my hardhat and lunch pail and heading off to work.  The grind is still there, in fact very little gameplay wise has changed in Mists. This could be a good thing depending on the player, I found it both comforting and depressing to collect 10 things, kill ten things once again. At least this time the locales on the island of Pandaria were more aesthetically pleasing than anything Cataclysm provided. Aside from the beauty of the new zones, the story takes the forefront to a degree we’ve never seen out of a WoW game. The knock on Burning Crusade was the bad guy we didn’t know about, Wrath of the Lich King threw Prince Arthas into players faces a bit too much, and Cataclysm, although great in storytelling, only got its point truly across if you played through the new 1-60 zones and the 80-85 content. Mists of Pandaria strikes an eloquent balance between storytelling and the leveling process. You’ll get experience from more conversations than ever before, and many quests from 85-90 may take place in the shoes of someone other than the character you are leveling. This is well done, and is the direction Blizzard should take. I feel more connected to the world of Azeroth than ever before, and the renewed rivalry between the Horde and Alliance burns with a passion not seen since the original release of WoW, or even the RTS games.

Yep, this expansion feels like a nod and tip of the cap to vets of the series. Hot on the heels of their first real competition in years in Guild Wars II, Blizzard has seemed to hunker down and give us what we want, even if it’s barely a shiny new coat of paint. Somehow, it’s very satisfying still. The dungeons have been steamlined to get rid of pointless garbage mobs, the Pandarien starter zone moves quick and has a great narrative.

To read more about the dungeons, Pet Battles and the Panda starter zone:

Plenty of side-activities have been implemented into the base game, Pet Battles, an expanded and more forgiving Archeology system, Panda cooking (yay another grind) and a smattering of new PvP modes that borrow from Team Fortress 2 in objectives and feel. Mists of Pandaria is equally everything I love and hate about World of Warcraft. I wish I could give this game two scores, one out of appreciation for making the game that much more accessible and another in reaction to having to kill 10 things, collect ten things again and again and again and again…

The Panda starting zone isn’t so much a zone as a giant turtle!

The Monk class is fun, albeit completely derivative of the Death Knight class. It’s cool to have a martial arts based fighter on the team, but I can’t help but think Blizzard is running out of ideas to add to the game. Where do we go from here? I don’t know, and I can’t help but think that WoW has jumped the shark in a big way. They once again have re purposed dungeons we’ve been going through for 8 years at lower levels into level 85 dungeons, which I just don’t understand. It’s a false sense of added content when they re-tune things like this. The new dungeons are great, and challenge modes that add to the dungeon crawling experience with your usual group of buddies will elongate the experience and probably break up a few guilds.

As far as the reworking of the talent tree, it’s a breath of fresh air to not have 51 points of ‘must do’ skills. Now the skill system is a lot like Diablo III, accessible to everyone and still basically what we know and love about WoW. By and large your rotations will be left as they were, there are just 44 less arbitrary points to spend. The reworked talent system in indicative of this expansion – completely reworked and completely the same at the same time.

SUMMARY: Mists of Pandaria is made for the veteran WoW player. Ironically that means more collections and more arbitrary killing and reputation grinds to complete. Although that may seem daunting, this expansion has the level of polish one expects from Blizzard. I think they may have been spread too thin with the enormous project of revamping the old world with Cataclysm, this expansion seems more focused, and fun. MMO games are very hard to score, for $35 you have literally hundreds of hours of gameplay here, but if you didn’t like WoW before this won’t make you like it and if you’re burned out you will stay burned out. If you love WoW? This will be your new fling for the next few months.

  • THE GOOD: A renewed interest in telling the story of Azeroth by Blizzard.
  • THE BAD: Grindfest is grindy.
  • THE UGLY: The vanilla character models, yuck.

SCORE: 8.0

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