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Looking Back at Mists of Pandaria

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It’s been just over a year since World of Warcraft died.  Or at least that’s what people on the forum tell me.  I can still log in it seems, and I see people running around.  Maybe that’s the WoW afterlife.  Doing the same thing you did before WoW died.  Kinda like Dawn of the Dead and that damn mall.  But with WoW.   And unlike the time WoW was ACTUALLY overrun with horrible zombies.  I miss that event.

Anyway, the big raid has come, we have a new “warchief” (I’m still unsure if he’s a warchief or just the leader of the Horde.  There’s a subtle distinction there that I might go into in another post) and we’ve learned what Wrathion was all on about this whole time.  Everything’s all tidied up now, eh.  So it’s time to look back and talk about what I really loved and hated about this expansion.

Let’s start on the positive with the things I actually really liked:

VRY’S BEST

Grummles: Is there anything these little guys don’t make better?  They brought a smile to my face every time I ran across a camp of them.  From their on-click statements that make to giggle to the demanding of a replacement yak at the “Yak temple” in Townlong, the grummles never got old, never got on my nerves, and still get me to smile and laugh every time these little trailblazers speak up.  Especially the munchies crunchies bit since they do always remind me of Gurgi from Disney’s version of the Black Cauldron.

The Story:  Everyone who reads this site or knows me online should know that oh man did I ever not like the story of Cataclysm.  The whole thing just felt like a giant let down.  Oh sure, the 1-60 revamp was top notch in terms of storytelling, but 80-85 was a completely divided up mess.  The events of Mount Hyjal had nothing to do with Deepholm or Uldum.  The conflict between the two factions that the entire 1-60 revamp spent building up has practically non-existent except for moments of Vashjir and the Twilight Highlands.  So would Mists be able to pull it all together and deliver a cohesive story?  The answer was Hell freaking yea!  The Shas, the killik swarms being early, the yuangol pushing outward into Kun-lai? All connected.  The battle in Krasarang and the story of the Divine bell? Wonderfully delivered.  And I will be one of those people who defends the Garrosh turning evil story and go on record as saying it was wonderfully told from Burning Crusade straight to the Siege of Orgrimmar.  The only story hiccup I didn’t like?  Well…  I’ll get to that in the Worst section.

Pet Collecting: I am a collector at heart.  I collect things in games, out of games… furbies (currently at like 30 of them), so when they added a metric crap ton of new pets to collect, I absolutely fell in love with running around and getting them all.  Oh sure, a lot of them were just look alikes or reskins of other pets, but that was fine.  It was something to collect! And it could be done on my time and didn’t require a group!  …Until Throne of Thunder.  That’s got to be the dark spot with the whole pet collecting craze is when they made them raid drops.  Why? WHY?  Even if you could do it in LFR, the drop is so low on some of these that you’ll be running them into the next expansion getting them to drop.  You know, the old raid pets were fine.  It gave you a reason to go back to old stuff that could quite honestly be solo’d most of the time. But Throne of Thunder?  COME ON!  /sigh.  Still it provided hours upon hours of entertainment just collecting these little things and unlocking achievements with it.

The Seat of Knowledge/The Farm:   Well after the last one on the list, I’m guessing you can probably figure out why this one is a two-fer.  Yes, they both involve collecting things. But more importantly they collect things in the actual world that you can see.  It’s not just an UI option with a list.  I can actually go to the farm and see the yak that was given to me, the cat wandering around, oh and there’s the dog I saved and fed, and the nice little house that was decorated for me by my friend.   That’s a nice feeling when you can tangibly see the reward in the world around you.  Even if no one else but you can.  It feels awesome to walk into the Seat of Knowledge and see the intact artifacts I found lining the walls in shining displays.  Now if only Blizzard would get it together and do player housing where I can customize it too.  Put trophies from defeated raid end bosses on the wall, and my old armors on mannequins for having a complete set.  I would just die for that.  But the Seat and the Farm is about as close as we can get so far and I love it.

The Pandaren:  Much like the grummles, I found the Pandaren a joy to just mingle with.  The NPCs are given so much enjoyable life throughout the Jade Forest and Valley of the Four Winds that they have permanently embedded themselves snug into my heart.  I still find myself saying “Slow down… life is to be savored!” to people in my best pandaren voice.  Of course, it would be unbecoming to talk about the pandaren and not mention the tragic ending to the tale of Aysa and Ji.  I won’t go into detail for those who wish to avoid spoilers for the Siege, but oh man.  The feels.  There are so many of them.  Large quantities to be sure.  Surplus sale for all these feels. That’s how many.  Who knew those two bit characters from all the way back at the Wandering Isle would show up again at the end of all things?  And who could of predicted such a sad way for it to end?  Still, overall the pandaren have that love of life that I can only wish for.

VRY’S WORST

Golden Lotus Dailies: You know, I actually liked most of the dailies in the expansion.  I didn’t have the driving hatred of them that so many did.  It was a fun thing to do everyday.  With one exception.  The Golden F-ing Lotus.  Maybe it was the fact that as soon as you thought you were done, another link in the chain was added?  Maybe it was because you could only do the hubs in order?  Or maybe it was because all the mobs seemed ridiculously tough for a fresh level 90 and are still some of the toughest non-dungeon/raid mobs around?  I did not lament seeing them go when the Vale blew up.  I usually avoided them using the farm and dungeon finder when I could on alts.  Sure it takes longer, but less of a pain.  These dailies just sucked, and the fact that were smack dab likely to be the first thing you tackled at level 90 I can see how many people grew to hate dailies in general.

The Throne of Thunder:  Behold! The one storyline that Vry actually hated in the expansion!  Yea, I didn’t like the story for the Throne of Thunder very much.  Mostly it came from the fact that the actual villain wasn’t very well established.  Oh sure, during the quests in Kun-Lai we HEAR about all the evil stuff he did way back when, but what does he do when he comes back?  Runs off to his island fortress and then… nothing.  We actually go up to his house and start poking the hornet’s nest with a sharp stick for not much reason either.  He hasn’t done anything since coming back to life to warrant this reaction!  I know, I know, better safe than sorry but it stills feels like an over-reaction.  So what does the terrible Thunder King do?  Well,  he came back from the dead.  He uh… sent his lackies?  And then he totally like broke that bridge and dropped us into a sewer level.  And sewer levels suck! He must die!

I had hoped that Lei-Shen would get a bit more fleshed out as to why he’s a threat during the dailies, kind of like how the Landfall dailies showed the story of the Divine Bell and what not.   Nope.  Just the Sunreavers and Kirin Tor fighting to take over the island or each other.  That’s all.  Lei Shen shows up once to send a lackey at you ala Rita Repulsa but that’s about it.  What a fricking let down for what seem to be a great build up for a new threat.

Battlefield Barrens: Oh geeze. The grindfest that was Battlefield Barrens.  It’s like a TV show that had a really great premiere followed by having the same rehashed formulaic episodes week after week until the season finale/next patch.  There was nothing exciting or interesting about Battlefield Barrens other than it wasn’t a daily.  It was a weekly!  I supposed it had those tap-to-anyone-who-damages-it boss mobs that would spawn.  That was a neat mechanic.  But all it did was give you more resources.  The same resources you got from everything else.  And you just grind them. Then turn them in.  That’s it.  That’s all it was.  It just seemed like small potatoes considering what it was building up to.  Heck, the new scenarios gave us more plot than the battlefield barrens quests did.  Mechanically cool, but extremely underwhelming.  The whole thing felt like a technology test for the Timeless Isle.

Pet Battling:  Oh I love pet collecting.  But I hated battling.  Especially the trainer battles.  Right around the end of Outland going into the Northrend, the strategy quickly changed from ‘level up your favorites and battle with them’ to ‘prepare three precise pets at ze proper level with ze proper abilities to ensure victory over ze veak minded fools!’  It make me miss pokemon where yea, if I didn’t have an optimized team I’d be at a disadvantage, but it didn’t mean a guarenteed butt whoopin! See even the final bosses in Pokemon Red/Blue only used like level 60 or something pokemon.  So if you were determined and had a lot of time on your hands like High School Vrykerion did, you could level any team up to 100 and have a good chance of winning.  But with the trainer battles here, by the time you’re hitting Outland they’ve started using level 25 pets.  That’s max level.  You can’t out level the battles from that point on. So it’s level the right pets or gtfo.  I decided to gtfo.  I still haven’t beaten that undead using punk in Crystalsong Forest.  Go level three rare quality turtles to 25 to win.  F. THAT.

Pride: The ever looming question in the expansion was the identity of the seventh Sha.  Oh there were plenty of guesses, mostly around the seven deadly sins but heck if I know why since ‘Doubt’ and ‘Fear’ are not deadly sins.  But it was eventually revealed that it was of course, Pride.  Now my problem isn’t with Pride being the seventh sha.  It’s the other stuff surrounding it.  Pride was the Sha that Shaohao could not defeat.  His pride took the form of the Mists that cut off Pandaria from the world.  So why did the Sha of Pride let the Horde and the Alliance in?  I mean, if the mists were his pride that would mean the Sha of Pride would be able to manipulate it yes?  That’s how all the other Shas seem to work.  Using your doubt, fear, hate, etc to take control of you.  So why let them in?  To unleash havoc? How would they know they’d unleash panic? To unleash the Sha?  Well, they do release ONE Sha.  But timeline indications seems to imply that the others may have been active long before the Horde and Alliance found Pandaria.  Especially Fear, who has been causing a good deal of trouble.

So what’s the deal with the whole pride thing?  It’s stated that Shao Hao possibly parted the mists because his people had grown stagnant and fallen to their own Sha.  Well, that means Shao Hao was in control of the mists?  Did that mean he conquered his pride?  In the Seven burdens of Shao Hao he says he creates the mists because he people needed time to prepare and learn the lessons he did.  So if they grew stagnant instead, why did he wait to part the mists until now?  Why did Yu-Lon say that they parted for a reason involving you (the player)?  GAAAAAH! IT JUST RAISES TOO MANY QUESTIONS!  Nothing else in this expansion has made me pull my hair out more than that.  The puzzle of pride.  Truly it is good until it is bad.

So that’s my best and worst of World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria.  Overall, it was a pretty good expansion.  Not my favorite, but far far FAR from the bottom of my list.  What were some of your best or worst moments this expansion?

Look Like Panda, Talk Like People…

Man, oh man. Did you see that Heart of the Swarm trailer? Wasn’t that…  oh.  You don’t want to hear me talk about how Kerrigan is awesome, do you? You want to hear about the fuzzy wuzzies don’t you?  Fiiiine.

So like most folks yesterday, I was frantically trying to keep up with the news flowing out of Blizzcon – to the detriment of my job, naturally (WoW > Job, yes?).  I had been telling people for weeks that ‘Yes, there will be pandas.’ Now, how those pandas manifested was unsure.  You couldn’t just give them to one side.  So they’d have to do something wacky with a neutral race or they would be a NPC faction/enemies.  Honestly, the idea of a bunch of pandaren kung fu masters snatching up members of the Alliance and Horde and dragging them off into the recesses of the dark wilderness would be pretty cool.

However, I had no doubt in my mind – not a smidge – that the next expansion would be the Mists of Pandaria.  My guess from back when the great old one known as the internet unveiled a vision of a copyright being registered was that World of Warcraft was possibly going to start moving away from “Here is your villain, this is the story” and focus more on “Here is this new place, lets see what there is to find here.”  I was however, not expecting the continuing advancement of the Alliance and Horde war consuming the globe.  It makes sense, but it had never occurred to me to push that.

Otherwise, here’s my two silver (my opinion is worth that much! Don’t laugh!) about the rest of the stuff announced, in a convenient bullet point list!

  • Pandaren: They’re big and fuzzy. Here’s hoping the females look good. Can’t be hard. Just copy the Jack Black movie. They did alright with male and female pandas in the second one.  The neutrality thing is neat, and I’m curious about the story leading into making the faction choice.
  • Monk Class: A new tank/melee healer/melee dps class?  Hmm…  No auto attack?  Uses Light and Dark energy to fuel its attacks?  That sounds familiar. HMMM…  Honestly, it’s not shocking with the Pandaren being added that this would come too. There’s some neat ideas behind the class, and I’m interested in how a melee healer would work.  Also, gnomes can be monks. So that’s pretty awesome in my book.
  • Pet Battle System:  It’s Pokémon.  This is not a bad thing.  Pokémon has survived the initial backlash from its surge in popularity and has becoming appealing to a range of people because it is fun to collect and the battle system is fun and requires strategy.  This should be a fun addition to the game.
  • Challenge Mode: You scale down your gear and time trial dungeons for transmog gear and valor points.  Not a bad idea. I foresee lots of complaints about ‘rehashing content’ with this. Could be a fun activity.
  • New Heroics and No Normal Dungeons: Yes, apparently there will be no normal dungeons in Mists.  Apparently that will be made up with endgame questing and dailies.  How exactly you have a ‘heroic version’ of a non-existent normal dungeon is beyond me though.  Also there was some news that Heroic Scarlet Monastery is a new lv 80 heroic and Scholo is lv 90.  I wonder if that’s a typo honestly. Seems odd to add a Wrath level heroic in.
  • PvE Scenarios: A fascinating concept really. Small group events without the need of dedicated roles for VP?  I really like the idea. But they can’t be like dungeons.  You can’t just have 5-6 of them and then say “done”.  Because from what they’re proposing, without a sense of freshness being injected now and then or enough total to avoid excessive repetition, these could more annoying than dungeon grinding.
  • Level 90 Cap: Five levels don’t bother me if there’s stuff to DO at the end.  If all the above pans out, this won’t be a problem for me.
  • More focus on Endgame PvE: They said this about Cata too.  It was supposed to be the trade-off for only having 5 levels.  In turn we got a couple of daily grinds, 5 new heroics post-launch over the course of at least a year, a couple of amusing but short story quest chains, and 2 new post-launch raids.  I’ll be happy if they can deliver, but I’m not holding my breath.

So, I’m sold right?  Put me down for that silly 12 month contract?  Uh… no.  Sorry.  As much as my finger twitched over the renew button on my Battle.Net account page, I am still going to let my subscription lapse in late November.  Why you ask? When so clearly this is a dream come true for the casual, PvE orientated, semi anti-social, achievement hunter like myself?  Because I remember.

I remember Blizzcon of years past.  I remember the ideas proposed for Cataclysm.  That there was only going to be five levels for more focus on endgame content, that there would alternate progression paths through the Path of the Titans, and all the wonderous potential and fun that Archaeology would bring to the game.  Call me jaded and cynical, but Blizzard has earned my interest with all of this but not my trust.  I will withhold giving them any money until I see what actually becomes of all this – the stuff that actually makes it in – when it goes live on the servers.

At best, coming back to WoW for a few months has become a definite possibility when I tire of other games.  Which is more than it was getting before the announcement.

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