I love Nintendo. I have extremely high hopes for them regardless of how much I think they are screwing up. I think they are doing a lot of things right, but I also think they are doing a lot of things wrong. With just a couple of tweaks here and there, I think they could be doing everything right.
Pandaria Set To Shake Up The World of Warcraft
Today Blizzard lifted the NDA over a ton of information about World of Warcraft’s newest expansion, Mists of Pandaria. With players leaving in droves, Blizzard is looking to shake up the game in order to not only bring the hardcore crowd back but also the casual. There is a bit of everything for everyone in Pandaria which is a great idea by Blizzard given the state of the game. Cataclysm was definitely a return to a more difficult time in Azeroth, that is, before Blizzard nerfed the encounters for those complaining. It was seemingly too tough for players to remember to use crowd control and other forms of survival tactic that were norms back in Vanilla (classic) WoW. Aside from that, it seems Blizzard is ready to fix everyone’s problems with Mists of Pandaria.
When Blizzard announced the fourth expansion to its top tier MMO, many players were up-in-arms about the new race and no inclusion of a main enemy. Players that may not have followed Warcraft through its paces may not have heard of Chen Stormstout, a Pandaren Brewmaster we met in Warcraft 3. Chen was a strong fighter who fought alongside Thrall and Jaina Proudmoore. So when players cried out “Kung-Fu Panda!” at their monitors they were either making a joke or have never played a Warcraft game prior to WoW. The Monk was a clear choice for the Pandaren as their culture and fighting styles were always represented in that fashion. Plus, if anyone has ever played a Monk in another MMO, RPG, or table top game you would know they are seriously bad ass. Blizzard divulged new information about the Monk class today as well a ton of other aspects of the expansion. A lot of Warlock changes are coming up and those who were hoping for new race models will be disappointed. Changes to questing, raids, and PvP are coming which seem normal to a new expanion but the way Blizzard is dealing with past problems or suggestions is interesting. We also have more information on the pet battling system that many people begin imagining Pokemon when talked about (trust me, this actually sounds pretty cool). We also find out how the story in Mists will unfold leading to a huge climax patch involving a main character introduced in Wrath of the Lich King.
We’ve taken the information and placed it in an headline-style way below. If you’re excited about this expansion, you’ll only like it more after reading this. If you weren’t for some reason, well you may find plenty to like now.
The story for Mists of Pandaria is all about the continuing war between the Alliance and Horde. Many challenges have forced them to work together but now they are back at it. The war has taken them to the Pandaren continent where the locals are having their own troubles. Two major players in the Pandaren, Ji Firepaw and Aysa Cloudsinger, see a way to utilize the two warring factions in order to help them save Pandaria. When creating a new Pandaren character, you will travel through the Wandering Isle and choose either the Alliance or Horde based on if you believe one way of life is better than the other. Ji Firepaw believe that inaction will cost the Pandarens dearly and he is a firm believe in the path of Houjin who see the Horde as potential allies. Aysa Cloudsinger, on the other hand, believe the Alliance run down the same path of Tushui and are honorable and filled with justice. This is how new Pandaren join the factions and are included in the story of the game.
As for the bigger picture, both factions are vying for the Pandaren to help them against each other but first they must save Pandaria. Though throughout this, the war still continues in force throughout the land and one side commits a terrible act that begins to cause political and personal problems throughout both factions. This will culminate in a massive invasion during the last patch of Mists of Pandaria. Both factions were storm Orgrimmar in order to end Garrosh Hellscream’s reign as Warchief. I said this was involving a main character introduced in Wrath of the Lich King and while Garrosh was in Outlands his story only ramped up to “interesting” and “important” while in Northrend. Garrosh took over for Thrall during the Cataclysm so the shaman master could better focus on the conflict at hand. With Thrall out of the picture for right now, Garrosh has fully take the Horde headlong into war against the Alliance and has been ruthless. During the course of events in Pandaria, Garrosh’s actions prove too costly and wrong which turn his forces (except the most loyal) against him.
As for why there is no main badguy this time, Blizzard wanted to bring back the feeling that classic WoW had. They were looking to bring back the feeling of adventure and exploration rather than a bunch of events that lead up to a huge fight. Ya know, kinda like every Marvel Comics event.
Pandaria has been upgraded to seven zones from the original five. This means more content and a non-linear way to enjoy the new continent. Blizzard din’t want players to go through Pandaria on two different characters the same way; although they could. Strung throughout the zones are five dungeons for group content: Temple of the Jade Serpent, Stormstout Brewery, Shado-Pan Monastery, The Ox Temple, and a mysteriously unannounced dungeon. These will join Scaret Monastery and Scholomance which will see transformations like Deadmines and Shadowfang Forest. There are also three raids and two world bosses that are scheduled for launch. Each dungeon and raid in Pandaria will have a theme and a central enemy. Since the continent is being overrun by the Mantid, Sha, and ghosts of the Mogu those three will take a bulk of the focus. The only announced raid is the Mogu’shan Vaults.
Blizzard has a variety of zones in Pandaria that should make for a fantastic ride to level 90. Every zone sounds like it a different adventure and while they didn’t talk about every zone (Dread Wastes and Townlong Steppes) it is easy to get excited about the differences of scenery and themes we’ll see.
The Wandering Isle: The starting area for new Pandaren where they will be introduced to the Alliance and Horde and choose their faction.
Jade Forest: The lush forest serves as an eventual battleground for the Alliance Horde. The zone is filled with Cloud Serpents, Hozun monkey-like creatures, and Jinyu fish guys.
Kun-Lai Summit: Players will travel through plains and mountain tops in this zone. The Shado-Pan Monastery is located here.
Krasarang Wilds: A rainforest with a planned future with patches. More Alliance and Horde shenanigans will happen here along with a ton of story.
Valley of the Four Winds: Farmland with giant crops that the Pandaren use. Players will be able to have their own farm and take care of it.
Dread Wastes: Not talked about yet.
Townlong Steppes: Not talked about yet.
Blizzard went into detail on how the class mechanics for tanking, damage, and healing work. Monks will gain either an energy bar or mana bar depending on which spec you are in. Healing uses mana while the others are given energy to manage. Aside from those, the Monk also can build up a second resource called Chi. This builds with attacks and skills and can be expended into powerful abilities. The healing spec is interesting as the healer is in the midst of the fight instead of hanging back. Blizzard is doing its best to not make any spec of the Monk seem like another class. They will tank, deal damage, and heal like nothing else you’ve seen. The combo system, rolling, and melee healing are proof of that. Blizzard also mentioned that there are a ton of animations being done for the Monk and there are new sets for every spec. A lot of detail going into this class.
Pet Battle System
The Pokemon PvP system is going to be fun. If you can’t get into, you’ve never played the Pokemon games. If you did and you still can’t get into it, stop acting macho. This is cool! There are over 100 pets around the world that players can catch and raise. You can battle other creatures in the wild (ala random Pokemon battles) to raise your pets and battle. You can also fight other players but Blizzard is taking this in a different direction. To keep a sense of fun in this system, they aren’t counting losses. All you will see is wins. Also, the other player you are battling will have his or her name and other info hidden. This is just like NPC battles in Pokemon except not with pre-determined battle AI. Every pet you can raise has stats and an initiative. The player can choose from 6 different skills for every pet through their own talent system. Just like the new simplified talents in Mists of Pandaria, there are three tiers of abilities where you can choose one in each tier. This is definitely casual but just something that seems so fun. To travel Azeroth finding NPC’s and critters to battle sounds like something NINTENDO SHOULD DO!!! Grrrr..
One of the highlights of the new info is how different Warlocks will be. They have the most changes in any class and are nearly reinvented. The Warlock specs of Demonology and Destruction face big changes while so far we don’t know too much about Affliction. Demonology Warlocks will be able to stay in Demon Form longer if they can keep a new bar filled. Destruction Warlocks gain a fiery aura around their entire character that builds up to unleash powerful moves like Conflagrate. The Warlock will also have new pets such as a Beholder-type monster (yay!), a Shivan, Wrath Guard, and some more they did not say. I need a Beholder. That is so cool!
Blizzard also said they are still working on female Warlock pets but its on a long list.
Scenarios and Challenge Mode
Blizzard is seemingly getting rid of the group quests that inhabit the ending of long quest chains or areas. These will now be a part of Scenarios that place you in an instance of an area. Objectives will be in place for players to obtain points. There is no need for a group make up, either. You can be all damage dealers or have a healer and/or tank along with you. Blizzard wanted to make this feel like a longer quest with friends and not a dungeon.
They are also adding Challenge Modes for certain content that will have Bronze, Silver, and Gold challenges to face and beat for ranking. You can compare with your friends and maybe later on with a World ranking. These will be difficult and only get harder as the tiers get higher. This will be the new difficulty after heroic.
Mists of Pandaria will launch with one new arena and two Battlegrounds, Silver Shard Mine and a Temple devoted to an unnamed Mogu lord. Silver Shard is in Stranglethorn Vale that reminds me of the cart maps in Team Fortress 2. You try and control a cart before it reaches the end with switches throughout the map to change its direction. The Temple in Pandaria features fast-paced gameplay that focuses around an artifact. The artifact hurts you over time so one person cannot be the “hero” of Warsong Gulch here.
Blizzard is also thinking of implementing a way of “gear scaling” for PvP but if they do it will be a separate mode from Battlegrounds and Arena. They feel that obtaining gear is a huge part of World of Warcraft and they don’t want to get rid of it just to completely balance a section of the game. They are constantly trying to balance but they will not make the current PvP modes obsolete.
AoE looting is finally in. Thankfully.
Talent system was redone to make “perfect specs” go away. They don’t want players trapped in a spec they don’t want to play. I know a Mage who favors the Arcane ways that will be happy about this.
The “Mists” of Pandaria will change with every patch bringing in new gameplay and content in the zones.
Major and Minor Glyphs are being redone. Minor ones will be for fun while Blizzard said the Major changes will be surprising.
Rewarded Mounts will not just be color palette swaps but will actually look different. No more “oh, a blue dragon instead of red? You must be a heroic player.” They may have armor or something like that.
Looking for Raid loot rules are being redone. Players now vote on a piece of gear off a boss’ loot table. If you want it, and its there you will win it. More details to come.
There is a lot more to the information that came out today. All-in-all, Mists is looking a lot better then most originally thought. The beta for Mists is still up-for-grabs with a starting date but if this info really excites you then maybe it’s time to subscribe to WoW’s annual pass.