The new content of Mists of Pandaria
I still remember the rant-explosion with the announcing of the next World of Warcraft expansion: Mists of Pandaria. WoW's official website forums were full of mockery and complaints about the new race, the Pandaren. It is true that nothing is written on opinions, but I don't see why should this be such a bad feature in the new expansion.
Almost everyone mentioned how WoW was becoming more and more childish and related the new Panda-like race to the Kung Fu Panda movies. This is understandable, particularly because along with the new race, a new class is included: the monk. In other words, the kung fu fighter. That the new continent has the flavor of the setting of an Ang Lee movie didn't help to prevent these comments either.
But my answer to all that is and will be: So what? Yes, it reminds to Kung Fu Panda (is Kung Fu Panda for kids, or is it just for whoever enjoys it?). But the important question is: will the new expansion enhance the game experience? Let's simply take a look at the trailer presented in Blizzcon2011.
Ignoring the first 55 seconds, which are an -awesome- introduction to get the viewer in the mood of what's coming next, we get to know some of the new features (i.e. those that Blizzard wanted to reveal). These are explained in detail elsewhere. I want to highlight here only the most promising to me. Elsewhere are detailed the remaining new features (i.e. level 90 cap, Pandaren, the new monk class and the pet battle system). I'm fine with them. They're simply either discussed already a lot or I don't find them so invigorating. Here we go:
1) The new continent, Pandaria:
I think that the appearance of Pandaria shows to which extent Blizzard cares about the environment of the game. It looks simply breath-taking and contains 5 zones.
- Mysterious baboo woods in the Jade Forest, in which two opposing factions face each other during the arrival of the Horde and the Alliance.
- Rice fields extending everywhere, the horizon concealed by tall chinese-like mountains and a brewery of the Pandaren, while the coastal zone is governed by a dense jungle populated by mantids, in the Valley of the Four Winds.
- The Townlong Steppes, enigmatic zone inhabited by mantids.
- The Kun-Lai summit, a temple surrounded by snowy peaks. One can almost feel like breathing the breeze.
The high walls, the beautiful red temples with minimalistic sculptures, the kites and the flying dragons transmit perfectly well the exotic feeling provided in our world also by the traditional chinese legends. I can't wait to see what the central zone of the continent, the Vale of Eternal Blossoms, assumed to be the zone of maximum level, looks like.
The beauty and richness that will come to the world is going to be astonishing and will feel like a renewed wind. Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms are set asunder by the cataclysm, and vastly destroyed. Finding a new land beyond all this destruction is a new beginning and a sign that the world is large, that there's still much to see at a moment that felt like the whole Azeroth was explored. That there are still unsullied places in Azeroth, for us to explore.
2) The new talent system
In my personal opinion, a great idea which will be very successful. The actual situation in World of Warcraft consists on one talent point earned every 2 or 3 levels, which then mut be assigned to a given talent of one of the three the talent trees. The problem with this, as commented by Blizzard, is too many irrelevant choices. If a player wants to go for a tanking specialization, there are predefined talents in internet which are optimized for tanking, if a player wants to maximized the damage per second (DPS), the same situation applies, to the point that there's no real choice. The only choice is to make less DPS, or to be a worse tank, which competitive guilds won't accept. Therefore, it is not a valid choice for many players which want to fulfill their roles in a group.
Instead, the new talents will provide a new skill every 15 levels. Players will chose new skills according to how appealing they look like to them, not because they are forced to chose that if they want to tank, or to heal (i.e. no choice at all). The talent system is being reviewed constantly. We can expect that Blizzard will do their best to tune the talents so that they are fun and offer the player an actual choice.
3) PvE Scenarios
Something new and promising. It may enhance the questing experience, if Blizzard implements it from level 1 (instead of only in the new continent). It will consist on tasks or quests in an instanced scenario, performed by a group of 5 or less players, without role requirements. The all time mandatory tanks and healers will no longer be required for these scenarios. This will provide short time queues for everyone -DPS players included.
I expect that it will be a fun alternative to solo questing or dungeon farming for leveling up. In a sense, all the old content feels less impressive that the new one. I think that, at this stage, Blizzard should being to consider how to make the old content visitable once again. Azeroth is huge, but sadly deserted for the most part. It is not easy to find someone below the level cap to go to dungeons, or simply. They certainly do since Wrath of the Lich King, by introducing heroic modes for old dungeons, and in the Cataclysm by reshaping the world so that travelling around is faster (flying mounts in Azeroth) and the old zones are changed. Hoever, I still feel like there's work to be done. Leveling begins to be a too long procedure.
4) Challenge Mode Dungeons
A fresh feature which will change how we see dungeons. Players competing in these challenges will be given new equipment, according to the difficulty of the dungeon, and then they'll have to complete it as fast as possible. A Time Attack mode, so to say. If Blizzard gives the adequate incentives to do it (special and useful items, accurate ranking system, etc), I think it will prove to be a powerful tool to keep players in dungeons and in the game. The power of this, is that it will be challenging, no matter what level you are or how well geared you are. If Blizzard implemented this mode in all the dungeons, playeres would have good incentives to play all the dungeons of the game, even the old ones.
Let's hope for it.
Any guess, anyone, for the launching date of Mists of Pandaria?