Mists of Pandaria Review – Everything I thought it wouldn’t be 
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Yolanda Green
October 23, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Mists of Pandaria is the change we’ve all been waiting for without even knowing it. It brings something new to the World of Warcraft. It brings peace and chaos, inevitable conflict and a breath of fresh air. It’s the best it’s ever been for new players and gives loyal fans their money’s worth.

Just after Rage of the Firelands launched I felt completely saturated. I felt like WoW once again reached a point where it’s all the same thing over and over again, the same places, the same instances and the same quests. With the announcement of Mists of Pandaria I had lost all faith that the game would grip me again. Pandas!? Really!? THAT’s the expansion? I couldn’t have been more let down. I felt betrayed and thought, well, that’s it, that’s WoW down the drain. But as the time came closer to launch I felt a giant hole in my gaming life, it was missing WoW. I tried to fill it with other MMO’s, but nothing quite hit the spot. I then pre-ordered MoP and hoped for the best. Little did I know that the content added to the game, would absolutely blow me away.

The perfect place to start

For many starting to play MMO’s for the first time is not the easiest of experiences. Without some one to guide you, it could easily become tedious and frustrating. WoW used to be like this. It was never the easiest MMO to get into as a newbie. It’s not easy to know where to go, what to do, and how the hell to cope with the million spells available for use. You don’t know which abilities are key abilities and what rotations to use. It would probably put me off as a new player to see that you have to level to level 90 in WoW. But, Mists of Pandaria has turned WoW into the perfect starting place for newbies.

The game takes you exactly where you need to be and teaches you exactly what you need to know. You don’t need to have that million spells in your task bar as it’s been significantly reduced with the new talent system and you don’t need to figure out elaborate skill trees to optimally play your role. It get’s easier than that, believe it or not. Your spell book will even show you which are the priority abilities to use, reducing once again the number of abilities you use in combat. Essentially, what Blizzard has done, is take the knowledge players have that have been playing for years, and implemented it into a simple system in-game. If you’re new to the game and get a little bored of questing, I’d really suggest trying out the dungeons and player-versus-player activities using the looking for group tool. Apart from gaining super awesome amounts of experience (XP) to help you level faster; it’s a great way to start perfecting your class and role from an early stage. Taking up a simple gathering profession, like mining, skinning or herbalism (herb gathering) is also very helpful and will earn you easy XP as you run around happily questing.

But what does Mists of Pandaria offer to new players that previous expansions didn’t? Starting to play as a Pandaren is probably the best bet at having a completely new experience. The starting grounds are lush, beautiful green and filled with an atmosphere of adventure. You can play almost every class as a Pandaren, so if you’d rather be a hunter than a monk, go for it. Surprisingly the Pandaren aren’t as “Kung Fu Panda” as you’d think when not playing a monk and have an awesome feel to it. Their emotes, body language and combat animations are very well done. The quest line reminded me somewhat of Avatar: The Last Airbender, it’s got lots of reference to the four elements at the start, teaching you about the Pandaren race and then more to the end of the quest line, before you leave the starting ground, you get to learn about the Horde and Alliance. As a Pandaren, you are neither until you leave there. Mists of Pandaria offers a more story driven experience when playing as a Pandaren, than I’ve experienced as a new race, in previous expansions.

In short, it’s simplified, full of adventure and as immersive as it can be.

A change is as good as a holiday

For those of you that have been playing the game for years, Mists of Pandaria has changed the game in so many ways; it is not the game you remember it to be. You’ll probably not be very happy at first to see that your talent builds have been messed with, but don’t worry, it doesn’t make you a worse DPS than you were, doesn’t really change the way you played a healer and tanking is really quite easier. Blizzard has compensated for what they’ve taken away and the internet is full of new builds. It doesn’t take too long to get used to the new way of how things work.

Don’t expect levelling to 90 to be the same as cataclysm was, it’s entirely different, for starters you get shipped to a new continent, where you have to survive a battle before starting the new quest line. The new maps are different to anything you’ve seen in the game; new creatures (especially for hunters to tame) are absolutely stunning. This time round, levelling hasn’t been just a race to the top, to level cap; you actually get your money’s worth. Levelling to 90 in a short period of time, like we did in Cataclysm, will probably require you too play non stop for many, many hours. I don’t suspect that any one would want that though, Mists of Pandaria is more story driven, and even though you’ve been fed up with questing, you want to do the new ones. This is not a ten hour expansion.

I’ve been very impressed with the new instances; they look great and have a different feel to it than previous instances. Stormstout Brewery has been my favourite so far. If American McGee’s Alice were a brew master, then Stormstout brewery would have been her twisted wonderland. Even though I enjoy the new look and gameplay in the instances, I have to say that I find it a bit too easy though. What I loved about new instances in the past was the challenge it presented, the challenge of figuring out the tactics and implementing them just right. With the new instances in MoP though, you succeed in doing it the first time without really wiping at all. I don’t feel like it has any real challenge to it. Loot and dungeon quest rewards are great though, it’s not that hard to get you item level up at all.

Playing the monk class is a really interesting experience. The healing is great, the DPS is great, but I don’t know how fond I am of the tanking gameplay. Although, if you love beer, you’d probably love the tanking. Chucking barrels of beer to gain aggro = win. Is the monk in WoW a clone of the monk in Diablo? No it isn’t. The abilities differ, even though both are hand-to-hand combat.

Simpler, better, more impressive

As I’ve mentioned, Blizzard have simplified many things in the game. It’s easy to see the logic in it. Players no longer have to go train at their class trainers every two levels, which is something I’m super glad about! No one wants to go train 180 times, literally. So you can level without that worry in the back of your mind.

Pre-released content, just before the expansion release makes sure that you now have account bound mounts and pets and saves you all those gazillion hours of rep farming and currency farming. The same concept applies to pet battles. WoW is a now better game for many reasons. Apart from the obvious shift to making it easier to get to level cap, it’s more newbie friendly, cuts out the endless grinding and gives you the chance to just enjoy the game.

The game seems to impress way more than it used to, purely because it’s not just the same old thing. It’s visually evident that Blizzard is making an effort to improve graphics and implement new content without alienating old players.

In closing

WoW has probably been the king of MMOs because of the wide variety of things available to do in the game. It has everything in it, it’s well rounded and there’s really isn’t much left for people to say: “man I wish the game had this and that in it.” This is partially because the game has been around for so many years but also because the developers have just thought about almost anything. Only now with more MMO’s releasing, are people innovating with new features and straying from the old MMO formula, which is always welcome and sets games apart. Many have said that WoW has gone backwards with the decline in players, but what they fail to see is that only recently, the genre expanded and people had more games to choose from. Three years ago WoW has more subscribers because they didn’t have as many options. Today, there’s Guild Wars 2, Rift, Tera, The Secret World, Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Can the game improve still? Yes it can. Blizzard may want to take a tip from ArenaNet by sorting out the infuriating queues at the launch of new expansions. The obvious thing to improve would be the graphics, but it’s not easy to just transform over a decade of development into updated graphics over night. Mists of Pandaria has added something to WoW making it worth while again.

I have to admit that I found it incredibly difficult to write this review. There are just so many things to discuss and it’s easy to over think it. The game has so many new features and awesome new stuff and it’s hard to mention ALL of it. I already feel like this is just way too long (sorry for that!). The bottom line though, is it worth buying? Yes, it is, but if you don’t have lots of cap or fast internet, for the love of all things logic in this world, please buy the retail version.

Scoring:

Gameplay: 8.0/10

Mists of Pandaria has added a fresh feel to gameplay. Stronger storyline and simplified gameplay make for a pleasant experience.

Design and Presentation: 7.0/10

MoP is visually stunning and presents an improved user interface. Graphics seem to be boosted, but not quite there yet. Maybe after this expansion it’s time to develop World of Warcraft 2 and start fresh in that department.

Value: 8.0/10

The expansion adds many hours of game time, a player can easily get more than 20 hours out of it depending on your gaming style. When starting fresh from level one, well, that might take you a whole lot longer.

Overall: 8.0/10

Mists of Pandaria is a visually stunning expansion, more so than previous expansions. Presents some of the most story driven and entertaining questing from 85 – 90 and adds loads of new and enjoyable features to the game. It’s a kite surfing, dragon riding breath of fresh air.

I like bacon and games, and occasionally I say something coherent about it. I'm not old or cynical, and I'm not the Dork Knight. I AM SHE-RA! Wait, what?