Mists of Pandaria: A Deeper Look

Blizzard's latest expansion brings in many new features, but will it revitalize the ageing franchise? We ask Gazimoff for an answer.

It’s not just the raiders and dungeoneers getting all the attention. PvP players are also getting some love with a couple of new game modes and some very welcome world objectives. Both of the two new battlegrounds of Temple of Mogu (“kill the dude with the thing”) and Silver Shard Mine (“we push cart for great honor!”) provide a unique Blizzard perspective on two popular game types. 

World objectives have been resurrected from The Burning Crusade, but although capturing these raise your personal Conquest point cap it’s not clear if there’s an incentive to persuade non PvPers to join in the fun. While World Objectives are a great idea, work needs to be done to ensure they don’t become a deserted sideshow.

Even if you’re not a hardcore raider or bloodthirsty PvPer, Mists of Pandaria is still brimming with new content. Aside from the new race (Panderans) and the new class (Monk), progression through Pandaria will keep you busy for a long while. The linear questing of Cataclysm has been dropped in favor of seven zones of multi-path goodness. Couple this with the revamped reputation mechanism and replacements for daily quests and you’re left feeling that the content will stand up to repeated play through.

It’s these new more casual features that make all the difference. The farm you can build with the Tillers and Anglers, the Cloud Serpent you can raise from an egg, and the Lorewalkers showing hidden stories of Azeroth all point to one thing – Blizzard understands that MMOs are not just one game, but several games working together. It’s this mesh of several different games as one cohesive package that will keep us playing the expansion long after we’ve hit level cap.

Under the hood we’ve seen the same refinement of game mechanics that we’ve come to expect over the years. Along with the Talent revamp, Prime glyphs have been rounded up and wiped out. Major Glyphs will still be there to provide some degree of character specialization, but it’s in the minor bracket that we’re seeing the real glypsplosion. Almost every single cosmetic change and spell effect ever conceived has been stamped on a minor glyph, with the only notable exception being the Warlock demand for Green Fire. It’s an interesting change to see customization switch focus from function to aesthetics, but it should mean that characters act in visually distinct ways.

The surprise omission for game mechanics is the Great Number Squish and trying to normalize damage output across character levels. In TankSpot’s interview with Greg Street, Lore challenged him on this exact issue. It’s worth checking out the full interview, but to summarize: the game didn’t feel right. With all the other changes being made to mechanics in MoP, Greg and the team felt that it was too risky to try and convince us. For now we’re left with the Mega Damage solution, but it’s likely we’ll see this revisited in a future expansion. 

The big question remains: when will beta start? Although invites are starting to trickle out, it’s going to take some time before all Annual Pass members manage to get in. During an interview, production director J. Allen Brack agreed that they’re battling with the problem of how to handle the “largest beta of any Warcraft expansion.” At the moment it seems likely that invites will be in waves, with veteran subscribers that signed up earlier to the Annual pass getting in sooner than their newer or tardier brethren.

Although the announcement of the Siege of Orgrimmar may have removed some of the mystery surrounding Mists of Pandaria, Blizzard is still on course to deliver an exciting, interesting and involving expansion later this year. Greg Street’s relentless assault on game mechanics and Cory Stockton’s war on the grind should ensure that this expansion feels as new and as fresh as ever. But can Warcraft survive a battle against War itself? Only time will tell.

Gareth "Gazimoff" Harmer, Staff Writer

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