World of Warcraft changed last week for everyone as Mists of Pandaria launched. The new expansion offers a host of new features which we will be focusing on throughout these weekly review pieces. I am slowly playing through the 85 to 90 zones in hopes of taking the expansion seriously. There are a lot of good elements, but in my travels I have also seen a lot of bad. The latter really adds up to how tired WoW has become. The game still has a ton of potential to grow and change with players' expectations... yet it seems to have stalled with this expansion. This week I want to focus on PvE and Questing. The good with the bad, let’s begin our review of Mists of Pandaria.
The Rough Spots (Week One)
One of my biggest complaints about Mists is in the questing. You used to walk into a town and find several NPCS who had marks over their heads for quests. You could then run around pick them all up and go. This wasn’t a horrible system. It worked and was fine; if you ignored a quest, big deal. However, now with quests you really are running along a quest chain. You unlock more quests as you complete the ones you have. So if one NPC has a mark over her head, you have to do that quest to open up the others in the area. This type of gameplay forces you to do all the quests in once place before you can truly move onto the next. You can no longer avoid a quest for fear of missing out on an entire quest chain. The system is too linear, and I'm hoping it changes as I go through the content.
There is no more exploration with WoW. No more random guy on the road with a mark over his head offering a quest nearby for a quick boost of XP while running from one town to another. That system is gone from Mists. Oddly enough, it makes the zones feel very under populated. When trying to level you really do get stuck in a trap between hubs. The quest system is very disappointing and the most frustrating part of this week’s review.
The overall PvE experience is really brought down by linear quest lines and the fact that players can steal your kills... something that just feels dated these days. WoW did make it easier to fight mini-bosses and get credit for them. There were several quests with small boss kills in them and the bosses were open to everyone. Once you get into these areas things get a little easier. Still, the idea of randomly exploring an MMO world in WoW is pretty much gone. The “go here and do this” aspect of the game is just too linear now.
The Shiny Parts (Week One)
Not to spend my entire time complaining, Mists of Pandaria definitely does a few things well. Staying true to Warcraft as a whole is a big part of that. After sitting out most of Cataclysm after I hit level 85, it felt very good to be home in WoW again. The zones have an amazing flair to them and the Jade Forest is a great place to start. Pandaris is easily Blizzard's most gorgeous zone design to date. I did love the look and feel of the world once I arrived, that's for sure.
The story of really playing the Horde vs. Alliance angle is great too. Since both sides are now exploring and tearing this new continent apart, landing and killing Alliance is a great start for someone who's missed it when Warcraft was about war. I liked the story-line on the Horde side of things: how the Pandaren want us to work with them to purge the Alliance and fight with the honorable Horde. It was fun to watch the in-game cut scenes as well through the adventure.
Next week, I will be taking a short break from the review to go to GDC Online and NY Comicon. Bill Murphy will chime in with the Monk class next week and talk about the opening zones and early experience of the expansion. For the week after though I am definitely going to focus on the talent system and the pet battle system: two features that have been highlighted for some time. The new pet battle system combines achievements with the collection parts of WoW and really does open up new things for players to do. Are you playing Mists of Pandaria? If so, what do you think so far?