There are a lot of areas in Mists of Pandaria that have gotten mixed reviews. However, one area that is really impressive to me is in the Dungeons. There are some very solid encounters to work through in each of the new instaces as well as the challenge modes. Challenge Mode really is the icing on the new dungeon system cake. I played the dungeons as a Healer on my Shaman, because of the quick wait times to get in. I am trying to write everything out here without giving spoilers, although by this time most of you have played through the instances anyway… still, enjoy the good and the bad as we comb through each.
The Rough Spots (Week 4) - Dungeons
Again, I am having a hard time coming up with any “bad” in terms of how the new instances run. Blizzard has really economized the new dungeons, if that makes any sense. In other words, they are short, sweet and to the point. There is not a lot of slow pacing through trash; you basically find yourself thrust into dynamic boss battles from the beginning. For me personally this is a positive, however if there are players who enjoy a bit more of a dungeon crawl per say they may find this pace a bit too fast.
The Temple of the Jade Serpent was my first Dungeon and moved along extremely well. Blizzard has always done boss encounters right, but they have really taken a step towards more player interactivity during a fight. There was a time when you got a boss fight and it was a basic tank and spank scenario. Those are now old hat more and more often compared to what the new dungeons have to offer. My only complaint here is that Jade Serpent was a bit short, but that is okay, it’s the first dungeon you face in Pandaria.
Stormstout Brewery was my favorite of the dungeons I’ve played, and there are very good reasons. I will try to bring out what I thought some players may have issues with though when going through Stormstout: the story line behind this dungeon does get a bit silly. Sometimes to silly, perhaps in keeping with all of WoW’s mood lately, but again I personally loved it. The thing here is, if you are a player who likes the gloom and doom in a game, then get through Stormstout and move on to Mogu’shan Palace. That will definitely fit your tastes better.
The only overall negative I have about the instances in Mists of Pandaria is that sometimes they can get very rinse and repeat. For some players repeating the same bosses and running the same dungeons on higher modes can get a little dull. I have only gone through the dungeons on their normal runs and have not done them in Heroic mode yet. But by now, I’d think all players interested in WoW are used to the dungeon run for loot grind.
The Shiny Spots (Week Five) - Dungeons
Blizzard really has improved the dungeon system as a whole with Pandaria. It’s more fleshed out than ever before, and if you play in Azeroth for the fun of running the instanced content you won’t be disappointed. One of the great aspects of all the instances was the interaction with the bosses before you fight them. Stormstout Brewery was the stand out in this category. The story leads you around and takes you through all kinds of plot lines which eventually end with you running the instance and fighting the bosses you talked to. It was very cool, and very well done.
Another area that Blizzard has captured extremely well is the setting. While my run through Mogu’shan Palace ended in a horrible wipe, I was amazed by the setting of the instance. The mountains and buildings looked awesome and had a fantastically epic feel. In any game when you enter an instance it should really feel like it matters. Like it’s a big deal. You open the door to a dungeon and you can feel the intensity. I think Blizzard did a great job of that with the instances in Mists.
The boss fights were very fluid and moved quickly, they rarely if ever felt dull. In Jade Serpent, don’t stand in the water! But seriously I found myself moving more than any other instances WoW had to offer for a long time. This was great; I do think Blizzard has found a solid balance of game play and style with the Mist instances that is much more than some of their older offerings.
I think Challenge mode is the greatest thing for these dungeons. It really gives players a purpose to running them efficiently and it makes the whole thing competitive on a PVE level. Sure some PUGs may split with bad feelings, but overall this gem in the system is a new way for WoW players to be competitive and not have to PvP. It almost seems like every dungeon in the new expansion was designed around this philosophy. That being said, none of them feel like mindless races to the finish. They are all loaded with story and great fights to keep players active.
The other part that is cool is the constant story of the Sha and their corruption of Pandaria. If you like any type of Asian philosophy you will gain a great appreciation for how much the quest and lore teams have put into this expansion. If you are not a Zen master, then you might actually find yourself thinking of things like karma and energy as you play. Who knows maybe you’ll go read a book when you hit level 90?
Next Week – Final Review
I won’t lie. I went from being very let down by the beginnings of Mists of Pandaria to truly enjoying the expansion as I play more and more. World of Warcraft is like a comfy pair of old slippers for most MMO players, especially for those of us who started on Day One. As I continue to gather my thoughts for the final review I definitely think Mists has come out on top for a WoW expansion. Blizzard has a good feel for what their players want. It definitely has some bumps and bruises on it, but we’ll go through all of those next week. Side note? Blizzard needs to microbrew Stormstout Beer… seriously they do. I’d buy it.