It’s been a week exactly since Mists of Pandaria dropped, and I have to fully admit to being completely swept away by this expansion in a way I haven’t been swept away since TBC and WotLK. Cataclysm questing left me pretty cold right from the start, whereas MoP felt fresh and exciting. Let’s run down my impressions.
Zones: I am not a fan of the whole Asian mythology meets World of Warcraft angle of this expansion, but I have to admit that every single zone is gorgeous. I can’t quite remember when I last stopped to take so many screenshots of vistas and views. It’s just impressive. It’s not Guild Wars 2 which is a very beautiful game, but for this ancient engine, it really delivered. My clear favorites as far as zones go are Jade Forest and Valley of the Four Winds. The latter causes the same feelings in me that I had for Nagrand back in TBC. Home away from home, here’s where I would like to build a home and have Kadomi retire. Maybe on that lovely farm of mine. Oh yeah, why can’t I have player housing again? They have the technology. Just have people come along to your instance and it’s all good. Come on, Blizzard.
I skipped Krasarang Wilds, which is another thing I find lovely! Choice between zones. In Cataclysm, especially after 4.2. you didn’t really have a choice which railway line to take, seeing as the Molten Front quests required a full stroll through Mount Hyjal quests first. I enjoyed Kun-Lai Summit a lot as well. Then came the zone that almost killed my MoP buzz, Townlong Steppes. I felt the difficulty went steeply up in that zone (I was 88 at the time). Not that this is a bad thing, I really enjoyed the difficulty curve. Not a faceroll anymore, at least not beyond Townlong Steppes. Maybe a touch too difficult at the zone start because the mob density in the yaungol areas was crazy. Aside from the difficulty, I felt very disconnected in this zone. I am still not quite sure what my role as character is. Why am I helping the shado-pan in Townlong Steppes? What’s the horde doing? I absolutely loved Jade Forest and the horde story. I felt like an explorer trying to make a home on a new continent. In Townlong Steppes I felt like a stranger in a strange land who had no reason to help the pandaren other than knowing that sha=bad shit. Maybe residual guilt from the jade serpent mess in Jade Forest? I don’t know, you tell me. As such, the last two zones felt very disconnected to me, though I generally enjoyed Dread Wastes more than Townlong Steppes. It felt like Icecrown with mantids instead of scourge. Despite the kinda creepy Klaxxi as faction I enjoyed it.
Quests: There’s a lot of standard fare, kill ten rats quests still in the game. It’s a formula that seems to work for WoW. Sprinkle in some vehicle quests, and then add the new kind of story quest where an NPC tells you a story and you act it out Bastion-style. I kinda loved those. Used sparingly, they are a lot of fun. I think WoW actually learned quite a bit from other games. NPCs were a lot more memorable to me this time round. Huge personalities and voice acting. Especially the horde folks like Nazgrim in Jade Forest, but also pandaren like Taran Zhu and Taoshi in Townlong Steppes. I could swear the latter is voiced by the fantastic Grey DeLisle but I might be wrong. The storytelling in the earlier zones made me laugh out loud, and feel sad at times. The tone of the latter zones was a lot more serious, with warfare, deaths and tragic storylines, like Suna Silentstrike in her grief.
I highly welcome the return of the quest hub! While every zone has one major storyline on rails, you get a bunch of quest hubs you can choose to do, but it’s also fine if you skip them. Freedom! I might never do the Nesingwary quests again, ever. Stupid foxes!
Professions: I am kinda blown away that Blizzard went all out with making raw materials accessible for professions. The amount of ore, herbs and cloth out there is almost insane. Where ever I go, there’s ore to mine. Ghost Iron, that is. Trillium seems so rare that it almost blocked my blacksmithing progress. Then one of my guildies killed a rare and got a cache of 20 black trillium ore, saving the day. Within a couple hours of hitting 90, I was able to craft a full set of tanking gear. Oddly enough, I cannot craft any blue gear for holy paladins nor for plate DPS. That I find disconcerting. Is this a reward for actually being a tank? I don’t know! As semi-goblin who really likes making gold on the auction house (currently have 142k gold on my server hordeside), I have no idea what to think. In the last weeks of Cataclysm my main source of income was shuffling elementium, selling uncut gems and cut Inferno Rubies. Right now, there’s no real market in selling gems, as a) people don’t have gear with sockets and b) the market is flooded with gems. Ore is cheap, prospects into insane amounts of gems and everyone is grinding their jewelcrafting, flooding the market. Prices have gone as low as 20 gold for some gems, so I am stockpiling and waiting for some of the insanity to pass. It might be that I will have to start the ore shuffle by crafting blacksmithing gear and disenchanting it, then sell the mats. We will see!
I am very fond of the hubs for cooking and fishing with the Tillers and the Anglers. Fishing, cooking and farming work so seamlessly together, it’s a joy to behold. Well done! Can’t wait to harvest my pumpkins later so I can cook my first few feasts. Whenever I go to Halfhill it’s packed so I think the Sunsong Farm and the Tillers are a huge success with players.
Life at 90: when you hit 90 and head to your faction’s capital, you will probably keel over from the staggering amount of quests offered to you, sending you to all available factions (with the exception of the klaxxi). Two of the factions are gated through Golden Lotus first, which keeps the amount of dailies somewhat under control. It is a nightmare for dailies haters though. After three days of doing dailies, I am sufficiently pleased with the variety of the quests but I can see how that will get tedious on alts. In my ideal world, the first character to hit Exalted could buy a BoA tabard for reputation gains for alts, to help them. That would be nice. Alas. I’ll have to see how much I will hate dailies when I get there on the characters I plan to play through Pandaria content. My current plans now that Kadomi is 90: death knight, priest, then roll a monk on Llane, and finish leveling my druid there as well. I feel I have my work cut out for me.
I do however not mind the old-fashioned reputation grind. In a way, that makes reputation more meaningful to me. In Cataclysm I never had to work on anything but the Dragonmaw, the rest was just ‘put a tabard on and forget about it’. I am a hamster running on Blizzard’s progression hamsterwheel, and stuff feels good to me when I can achieve it with work. I don’t need everything handed to me on a plate, so this throwback to TBC style reputation I enjoy. Raiders obviously can focus on the factions that sell valor gear. It’s a shame that Tillers, Anglers, Order of the Crimson Serpent, the fun factions all award valor as well, so hardcore players will find those dailies all mandatory as well.
Dungeons: I have only done the four leveling dungeons so far. I am geared for heroics but as tank I prefer playing with friends. Waiting for more friends to hit 90 and then the heroics fun can begin. As far as the leveling instances go, there’s definitely not enough of them. That gets repetitive fast if you like running a lot of random instances. Most bosses felt very gimmicky but there are a bunch of interesting fights. My least favorite is probably Stormstout Brewery. Great scenery, but the virmen trash and boss makes me want to punch some vermin. Too gimmicky. I hear that heroics are undertuned and feel more like Wrath heroics which is disappointing, but then, I am looking forward to challenge modes with my friends. I doubt I’ll ever get a gold time as I am not exactly a speed demon tank, but I think it’ll be fun in any case. DotH is always slow to get back to raiding, as it’s a guild full of people with their mains somewhere else, so I have all the time in the world.
Scenarios: I have only done the Arena of Annihilation, which was interesting. I went as DPS and on the first fight already wished I hadn’t because I had all the aggro in the world, oy. My hunter friend saved my ass by turning growl on on her pet, and it went a lot better from there on. The scenario queue was very short, and I am looking forward to just jump into those whenever we feel like doing them. Three people is so easy to find.
Speaking of my hunter friend, she tamed one of the porcupines, and named her Kadomi. I need to take a screenshot of us. She tanks rares, the bristly Kadomi. Go her! 😀
My overall verdict is that I am having a blast, moreso than I have in the past few years. I see some clouds on the horizon because I know the day will come that I will be done with dailies. Also, the story of how the horde and alliance take their war to Pandaria is totally unfinished and left hanging without even as much as a cliffhanger. It is my hope that Blizzard will deliver more content in a decent timeframe. They will have to, because so far, the story of this expansion is totally in the air.