I see the reactions in our forums to the recent Blizzard announcement of Mists of Pandaria, the 4th expansion to World of Warcraft. And after taking the lot of them in, ruminating on it all, and spending a lot of time sick from BlizzCon with fever-induced hallucinations of Jack Black and Sho-Nuff running around in panda outfit… I have to say, why all the hate?
Maybe I’m just getting old, but I see every single change coming to game with Pandaria as a potentially awesome thing of awesomeness. The Pet System, striking a resemblance as it might have to a certain Nintendo property, is bound to give me hours on new stuff to do in the game because I like turn-based battle systems, I like pets, and I’ll love growing them, customizing them, and fighting them like an Orc version of Michael Vick. The new Scenarios, though seemingly ripped from LotRO’s Skirmishes will likely again give me more of what I need from WoW these days: quick, accessible content that I don’t need to have too long set aside to complete.
I’m even okay with the Talent System 2.0. I know it seems like a holy crap WTF moment at first, but after playing with the new skills system in Diablo III, I have a feeling that the WoW team took some inspiration from New Tristram with this one. In D3, you no longer have all these 1% boosts to stats to choose from. You don’t get skill points. You just learn skills, choose your build with a limited amount of slots on your hotbar, and customize the hell out of them all with Runes. It works amazingly at giving players the ability to really make their own builds. And I suspect that the new talent system in WoW is aiming at doing the same thing. Give players less convoluted tiny statistical upgrades, and make them choose things which really and truly alter the way they play.
And yes folks, I’m even okay with the Pandaren race as a whole. I do think their current models are a little too cute and rounded for my liking, but the Pandaren are a race of creatures I’ve had a soft spot for since Warcraft III and nothing but nothing is going to stop me from playing one at least through the starting zone come launch. Sure it’s like something right out of Kung-Fu Panda, but dammit… they’re as serious as a heart-attack (according to Chris Metzen). I know there’s no way I’ll convince some of you that this is truth, and really it’s a style thing.
Some folks loved the Goblin starting area, and I thought it was ludicrous and cheesy to no end. Some loved the Draenei, and I loathe even looking at them. But the Pandaren? Guys, the Pandaren are drunken ravenous bear-people from an Asian-themed continent and you’ll be able to choose to go Horde or Alliance at level 10. They’re the game’s only neutral race, and that along makes them worthwhile. They have a spec in their talent tree called “Brew Master”. Maybe it’s a little frat-guy of me, but as a lover of all things ale I’ve been waiting for the Pandaren to be playable in anything since WC3’s now infamous “joke”.
My only real worry at this time, given what we heard from BlizzCon is the state of World PVP. Metzen and everyone throughout the event talked about how Pandaria would be all about getting the Horde and Alliance back at war with each other instead of loose alliance against a greater baddie. But they didn’t really divulge how. The focus of the show was entirely on the new race and the new class (both of which are surprisingly fun and gorgeous looking, by the way). But if Metzen’s words are to be believed, this expansion marks a turning point for WoW back into the whole WARcraft part of World of Warcraft. But just exactly how they plan on accomplishing this is up in the air.
But hey… there’s always next year’s BlizzCon right? Because lord knows, this one ain’t dropping to store shelves before then. Until it does, I highly recommend waiting and seeing. I know WoW’s not the coolest kid on the block anymore, if it ever was, but as a fan of Blizzard and one who still hasn’t lost trust in their ability to design a fun game (see Diablo III), I eagerly await more details.
Just don’t get Jack Black to do any voiceover and we’ll be cool.