After the arguably disappointing Cataclysm expansion, World of Warcraft players are gearing up for the next one. Mists of Pandaria takes place  primarily on the continent called Pandaria that was previously hidden by magic and mist. After Deathwings' Cataclysm, the mist began to clear and the island was discovered during a naval battle between the Alliance and Horde.



Pandas! Pandas everywhere!

One of the primary changes that happen in this expansion are the introduction of the Pandaren race. They look like, you guessed it, pandas! Kung-fu monk pandas that claim to have no relation to the movie Kung Fu Panda, but make an easy case to draw parallels between.

For the first time in World of Warcraft history, this race is a cross faction race. Meaning that both Alliance and Horde players can have a panda of their very own. So realistically in the near future, one could wander into a player versus player battleground and see pandas as far as the eye could see!

Why are they cross faction? Well as the story goes, when the Alliance and Horde washed up after their naval battle, the different monk sects took sides with either Alliance or Horde. So when you first make your panda, you will be neutral, but eventually you will be forced to choose.


Setting: Asiatown

As you can tell from the trailer below, World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria looks extremely...Oriental. Between the setting and the Pandas it has kind of picked up a bad rap, but the hardcore player will come back. They always come back.

The Pandarian continent is located south of Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms, since that is really the only place it could be put. It features several zones have been announced, including the Jade Forest, Valley of the Four Winds, Vale of Eternal Blossoms, Townlong Steppes, Kun-Lai Summit, Krasarang Wilds, and the Dread Wastes.

The Jade Forest will be the first zone, and the entry point for the Alliance and Horde. It will feature lush rainforest and stone spires, and introduce the player to the Hozu and Jinyu races. It will contain the Temple of the Jade Serpent, one of the new dungeons, and introduce the Sha enemy. The Valley of the Four Winds will include Pandaren farm lands, with a coastal jungle. The Stormstout Brewery, another new dungeon, is located in the valley. There will be auction houses scattered across the five zones of Pandaria.

Along with these normal auction houses, a "black market" auction house will be located in an area north of the Valley of the Four Winds called the Veiled Stair. Unlike the player controlled auction house, this auction house will be controlled by NPCs who will post items, usually of rare status or those that have been removed from the game in previous expansions. Both Horde and Alliance can use the black market auction house.

New Playable Class: Monk

The new class that comes with World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria is the monk. The monk is open to every race except Goblin and Worgen. The monk class is a specialty class that can play as any of the three roles: tank, healer, or damage depending on their specialization.

Monks play similar to how it sounds, they hit things and roll around like warrior monks do. They use energy or "chi" to use their special moves. It's said that monk healing utilizes statues for proximity healing, similar to the totems that Shamans use.

New and Semi-New Instances

Among the new instances that are unique to Pandoria such as Temple of the Jade Serpent, Stormstout Brewery and Shando-Pan Monastery. There will also be another revival of old instances like Scarlet Monastery and Scholomance. Because who didn't miss those and want them back!

At max level, which has been raised to 90, there will be three raid instances that will consist of a meager 14 raid bosses. These raids will also be offered in the newish Looking for Raid version, which is getting a whole new loot system to make things a tad bit fairer for people that don't have others to run with to roll on gear for them.

Challenge Modes and Scenarios

Mists of Pandaria's Challenge Mode is a new gameplay option where a dungeon group will be challenged to finish a dungeon as quickly as possible. All players' gear will be normalized, allowing for fair ranking. Depending on how quickly the group clears the dungeon, the group will earn one of three possible medals. The higher the medal quality, the higher the prize for achieving that medal.

This is meant to keep end game a little more involving if you have already done your raiding for the week.

Scenarios are similar, but sound way more interesting if you like lore. You will be given a scenario that you can complete with your dungeon group. The first of which is the battle for Theramore, where Garrosh Hellscream has taken his armies to sack Theramore, sending legendary mage Jaina Proudmoore over the crazy end. If there's one thing you don't want to mess with, it's a pissed off crazed mage.

This scenario will ultimately lead to a race through Orgimmar where both Alliance and Horde race to stop Garroshs' reign of tyranny.


Play Pokemon

That's right, World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria also comes with your very own built in Pokemon game.

But not really...Well, kind of really.

It does introduce pet battles though, which looks strikingly similar to what you'd imagine Pokemon would look like in World of Warcraft. The pets that were previously used for just looks can now be pit against other players and their pets or other wild pets. If you defeat wild pets they can be captured and added to your ranks. If you defeat a players pets well, you're cool. You can be Ash and they can be Gary Oak.

Oh, you can also travel around the world and battle master pet trainers for abilities.

The only thing missing here is Gyms and Badges, seriously.

World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria
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(price as of Oct 8, 2013)