Shades of Kae

Insert Panda Pun Here

I haven’t played WOW for a few weeks. I haven’t even logged in to check the AH. Actually, I haven’t played any video game for a few weeks. Apparently a weird sort of video game apathy came over me. I’ve spent some time reading, being sick, watching Game of Thrones, and other more passive activities.

As I suspected, the release of news from the Mists of Pandaria press tour was the shot of excitement needed to my blood pumping again. And there is so much to be excited about!

For more in-depth details about MoP, head over to MMO Champion, Wowhead, or the Warcraft  Mists of Pandaria site itself. I’m just going to discuss the things that made me go “squee”, as well as some things I’m sad were left out or unmentioned. I’m sure that factual errors abound, but I wanted my raw first impression of the news. No shiny pictures here, as I wanted to publish this post during my lunch break.

Druids FTW

First, some druid news that made me want to run home and level my druid:

Several new minor glyphs for cosmetic form changes!

  • Glyph of the StagTransforms your Travel Form into a stag that other players can mount
  • Glyph of the Treant: Allows you to shape shift into Treant Form. The act of shapeshifting frees the caster of movement slowing effects
  • Glyph of the ChameleonGives you a random appearance when you shift into Bear or Cat Form.
  • Glyph of the OrcaTransforms your Aquatic Form into an orca
  • Glyph of StarsTransforms your Moonkin Form into Astral Form
And a simple quality of life fix:
  • Glyph of the Moonbeast: You can now cast Healing Touch, Rejuvenation, and Tranquility without canceling Moonkin Form.

Upon reading these my thoughts were: (1) Travel form stag… squee!! (2) OMG OMG Perma-tree is back! (3) I wish I were “working” from home today…

It’s funny – I don’t even really play a druid seriously, but these small changes make me so happy. Shapeshifting is the true core of the class, and these tiny cosmetic changes show that Blizzard finally gets it.

Pet Battles and Farmville

Mini-games “borrowed” from favorites outside of WOW are a common theme with MoP. Pet Battles were explained fairly well at Blizzcon, and of course have many parallels to Pokemon. I’m sure I’ll engage in some pet battles, but I’m mostly just excited that pets will be account-wide. Collecting the “wild” pets will also be a fun new thing to kill time.

A Farmville-style game also makes an appearance on Pandaria. A faction called the Tillers runs a farming community. There are daily quests, and a personal farm that shows your progress. You can plant cooking ingredients and herbalism nodes (nice!), and boost rep by growing gifts for other farmers, as well as some sort of mini-pet. There are also decorations that can be added to the farm. While it sounds a lot like Farmville, it’s also another twist on the Molten Front dailies.

Pandaren and Monks

The female pandaren model was revealed, and I think it pleased most people. I don’t think I could have imagined anything better. She’s cute, rather stout, and still very feminine. The hairstyles don’t look like pandas wearing a wig (ala the original worgen female implementation), but they’re a lot more interesting and varied than the final worgen implementation.

The rational behind the Pandaren splitting across the factions is that they follow different “philosophies”. I like this, as it adds a bit of that Eastern flair, and gives a clear reason to a gameplay element.

The Monk sounds like one of those things you just have to try to really understand. A lot of focus will need to be made on the Monk class in the beta to really get things ironed out. I’m sure it will be incredibly unbalanced for at least the first patch of the expansion, because adding a new class is just hard. They really didn’t talk about the Mistweaver healing spec, which is what I’m most interested in. I wonder how much they really have the melee-style healing fleshed out?

Mounts

Cloud Serpents are the panda mounts. They discussed how they can be acquired through 20 days of daily quests. This is all still a bit fuzzy. Do Pandas still have to do the daily quests to get their racial mount?  Edit: I’m an idiot and wasn’t paying attention last month. Pandaren have Yak mounts. The Cloud Serpents are just one of many themed mounts for Pandaria, with a lovely grind component to them. I’m excited to see what other new mount models Blizzard releases.

Story

I’m a lot more interested in the story of MoP than I was after Blizzcon. Pandaria has a lot of interesting creatures and lore that can take us in so many different directions.

The news that Garrosh is the final boss of the expansion is quite pleasing. It indicates that the Alliance is finally taking some steps on the offensive. I’m very curious to see the developments between the factions as the expansion progresses, as well as the interactions inside the Horde itself. Will Thrall attempt to return to leadership? We already know that the tauren, trolls, and undead aren’t particularly pleased with Garrosh, but how will it ramp up to the point that they’re willing flat-out assault him, especially fighting alongside their greatest enemies?

Random Quality of Life Features

Area looting: This was an easy enhancement to borrow from SWTOR. This will be fantastic in dungeons where it never seems there is time to loot.

11 character slots per server: One per class? I guess Blizzard can’t imagine why you would play more than one character of a class? This is probably quite disappointing for alt-aholics, or those that play both factions on the same server.

7 zones for questing:  This is a huge boon for repeat-ability, as well as easing the load during launch. One of the biggest complaints of Cataclysm was the extreme linearity of questing, so hopefully this will resolve those concerns.

New Endgame Options

Scenarios

Scenarios are group quests on steroids, with instancing, and a queuing system. No specific roles are required. One of my top questions here, is how hard are they? Are you just along for the ride like with the Wrathgate or will they require a modicum of skill? Will it be really hard/easy with specific class combinations?

Challenge Modes

Challenge modes are basically just speed runs, with medals and fun rewards for beating certain times. It sounds like there will be some sort of realm leaderboard, which adds a nice competitive element.

I can see this being great in a guild environment, since running a dungeon at top speed really requires precision and a solid understanding of the dungeon and your character skills. I could also see it being a fun guild event to compete with multiple 5-man groups against each other and the clock.

It sounds they are a separate mode altogether – ie. you can’t earn medals while just running a heroic dungeon in LFG. I suspect that it will be more like rated battlegrounds in that you can’t use LFG but must queue with the full group. Edit: Sounds like you can use Dungeon Finder to fill out a group, but would you really want to? Real Id and the future Battle Tags should make it easier to find a group of hand-selected competent players.

This is huge for replay-ability of dungeons, especially when LFR takes away most of the incentive to run dungeons for Valor points.

World Bosses

We don’t know much about these, but more content is always good. I never experienced the World Bosses from the Vanilla days, but I know they were full of issues. I think Blizzard can make it better this time around.

Missing Elements and Potential Missteps

Revised character models:  It sounds like they are working on them, but they won’t be completed for launch. It’s nice to hear that it’s at least in the pipeline.

Removal of “Have Group, Will Travel”: This is the guild perk we use the most, and makes raids start so much smoother. I guess summoning stones were feeling neglected?

Account-wide achievements and mounts: Hopefully in the first patch?

Item squish: I understand this is hard, but the stats are getting ridiculous.

New Guild Perks or Guild Achievements?: They mentioned they’ll be replacing a few guild perks such as the teleport one mentioned above, but it doesn’t sound like they’re adding a lot. What about guild achievements? Hoping this is just something they haven’t talked about yet.

Archaeology Revamp: Have they just given up hope on Archaeology? Will it become as neglected as First Aid? Are they at least going to add some new stuff for the continent of Pandaria?  Edit: Just read an interesting tidbit on the Warcraft blog: “The changes to Archaeology are pretty great so maybe I can mix in some dig sites as I go. I actually got a chance to teleport to a different dig site last night after finding an artifact, which really helped, along with now being able to dig more times at a single site” (link). This implies there are changes in the works, but it remains to be seen if they’ll really fix some of the core issues.

What’s Next?

There is so much left to learn about Mists of Pandaria, but this initial burst is enough to pique my interest.

The beta should begin very soon. I’m quite curious how they are going to do the beta, since they promised Annual Pass subscribers would get in. I doubt they can let everyone in at once, since previous betas were rather limited and Annual Pass subscriber numbers are quite high. And will they let in other folks who couldn’t commit to the year agreement?

As always, answers to questions always lead to more questions.

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5 Comments

  1. sil says:
    March 19, 2012 at 12:48 pm

    I thought the windserpent was going to be the mount you’d get like with the frostsaber in Winterspring and the raptor in Un’goro?
    And the yak was going to be the pandaren mount?

    1. Kaelynn says:
      March 19, 2012 at 1:02 pm

      I totally missed the yak mount in my time away from WOW – thanks.

      The serpent is certainly in the style of the Winterspring frostsaber. I originally wondered if that was the mechanism for earning “Pandaria flying” but that doesn’t really make a a lot of sense. It’s probably just a level-based check.

  2. Twice says:
    March 19, 2012 at 9:29 pm

    Great post as always. I agree with a lot of your first impressions.

    –I think I play a Druid even less than you do, and those changes made me squee.
    –Losing Have Group is going to SUCK – It is going away the thing most of the WoW/SW crossover folks lament not having access too.

    I’m just fascinated by the narrative that is going to justify the Hordeside of the Org raid. I have a hard enough time with the idea that the Alliance is willing to take a step as profound as offing a Horde faction leader (in an in-game, he’s actually going to be DEAD dead sense) — I’m boggled by what he must have to to piss off the Horde to that extent.

    Ought to be interesting.

  3. Fal says:
    March 20, 2012 at 5:07 pm

    This looks very interesting. Have been in a warcraft funk lately and you are my breaking source for
    Pandaria info. Great read and I agree mayhap need to dust of my long neglected druid.

    Killing Garosh will bring me back with the idea to raid. I didn’t like him in outland and as horde leader bah.
    Who and how the horde side will play out makes my UD warlock a toon that will see alot of time also.
    And big squee for one more slot on per realm I guess parallel will have to deal with another alt of mine lol

  4. sandy7 says:
    April 1, 2012 at 5:01 pm

    I have been travelling for 18 months and just got back to the UK, I am setup with broadband at last and ready to get back into my online gaming, reading this has really got me thinking.

    Where would you start if you were starting fresh?

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