World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria Preview -- The New, the Improved, and the PandarificBy Leah Jackson - Posted Mar 19, 2012
When World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria was first announced back at BlizzCon 2011, the developers had a lengthy list of features that they wanted to include in the game. They've since refined that list, and at a recent press event at Blizzard Entertainment's headquarters, we got to see the updated version of World of Warcraft's fourth expansion pack in action.
In WoW's history, every expansion pack has brought one global threat to the two rivaling factions in the game, the Alliance and Horde, making both of their lives a living hell. They've dealt with demons, undead, lava dragons, and more. In Mists, there won't be one over-arching enemy, but instead, Blizzard is putting the war back in Warcraft and making the two factions fight against each other once again in order to gain everything that the sacred continent of Pandaria has to offer.
Really, this idea makes Mists the spiritual successor to the classic vanilla World of Warcraft. It will offer players a different sense of adventure, with a complete story ending in the sacking of Orgrimmar as the Alliance and Horde try to flush Garrosh Hellscream out of his seat of power. With engaging main characters, fantastic zones, a higher level cap, and brand new battlegrounds, Pandaria is bringing a lot to the table.
But these are all ideas that we heard of back at BlizzCon in 2011 when Mists of Pandaria was announced. Since then, Blizzard and the WoW team have been working extremely hard to bring Pandaria to life. The most noticeable change is that now the continent of Pandaria has seven massive zones instead of its original five. The addition of the extra two zones will not only make leveling less linear, but it opens up lots of ways to integrate other new, recently announced, features like the changes to factions and daily quests.
Factions in Mists of Pandaria will work a bit differently than they have since the beginning of WoW, but in a good way. Instead of getting a little bar at the bottom of your screen that increases when you perform daily quests or other tasks for your faction, in Mists, you'll see that progression in a whole new way.
The example we heard was that one of the Pandaren in the Tillers faction will give you your very own farm to take care of. Through daily quests, you'll be able to build up your farm and, eventually, you'll even be able to plant herb nodes and cooking ingredients that you can collect each day; perhaps you'll even be able to harvest a plantable pet. This type of personalized faction change seems great to me, as I like the idea of seeing my progression in game and being able to interact with it a bit more rather than just looking at a little bar.
Blizzard is also trying to update their daily quest model and gave us the example of raising your very own cloud serpent. Once they're fully grown, cloud serpents look reminiscent of ancient Chinese dragons, with a long body, short arms, wispy little whiskers, and puffs of swirly smoke coming out of their nose.
Basically, you'll get an egg somehow, and once it hatches, you get your cloud serpent as your pet. As you do daily quests with your little friend, eventually he'll become big enough for you to ride. Once that happens, you'll train it some more, via other daily quests, and eventually you'll be able to compete in races with your cloud serpent and use it as a glorious flying mount.
Aside from these updates coming to Pandaria, there are also a ton of new dungeons being added to the game. We didn't get a chance to actually play through the dungeons, but the two that we did get to see looked absolutely magnificent. The first was the Temple of the Jade Serpent, a dungeon filled with sha, the embodiment of dark energy and negative emotions. Just the temple itself was extraordinary. The whole thing was nestled on a tall mountain surrounded by a luscious forest of green and red trees. Surrounding the entire perimeter of the temple were Monks training in all different sorts of ways, and it was all very serene and beautiful.
- DETAILS: Mists of Pandaria Overview: What You Need To Know About The New World Of Warcraft Expansion
The second dungeon was the Stormstout Brewery. Many fans of the wily ways of Pandaren will absolutely love this place, as it keeps in line with the silliness of the Pandaren and ultimately Blizzard's sense of humor. The Brewery is a gigantic instance with outrageously huge barrels on the outside right along a bright blue river. Inside, pesky rodents called Virmin have taken over, alongside brand new beer "alementals." That's right. You'll fight different types of ale in the Stormstout Brewery, so don't let the lager catch you off guard.
We also checke up on the various scenarios and challenges that Mists of Pandaria will have in store for us. Scenarios, which were announced at BlizzCon, are basically group quests featuring a series of objectives that you can queue up for. Any classes of any specialization can queue up for a scenario so you can compete them quickly. This means that you won't need a healer, tank, and damage dealer to complete scenarios; you can go with whatever party composition you want.
Challenges of the other hand are what Blizzard's calling competitive player vs. environment (PvE). In this mode, you'll be racing against the clock in order to complete dungeons as fast as possible. If you complete the dungeon at the bronze level in challenge mode, you'll get titles and achievements. Silver rewards you with awesome looking gear that you can transmogrify, and at the gold level you'll get a special mount. To keep people coming back for more, Blizzard's implemented leaderboards to the Challenges system so you can always be competing for bragging rights.
Now it's time to take a step away from the pve side of things, and take a look at the upcoming player vs. player (PvP) features coming to Mists of Pandaria. First and foremost, Blizzard has officially chosen the two new battlegrounds coming to the expansion. They are The Temple of Mogu and the Silvershard Mines.
The Temple of Mogu is essentially murderball. In the center of the arena is an ancient artifact that both teams have to race for once the battleground begins. Whichever team holds the artifact gets points based on where their carrier is standing in the arena. If the carrier stands in the center of the ring, their team will get the maximum amount of points. But the farther from the center the carrier takes the artifact, the fewer points their team will receive. On top of that, the carrier also doles out more damage to their opponents but receives less healing. If you've played Rift's Black Garden Warfront, The Temple of Mogu seems very similar.
The Silvershard Mines battleground takes place under the zone Stranglethorn Vale. This battleground was a bit more confusing to understand than The Temple of Mogu, but as I understand it, there are moving mineral cars that approach checkpoints, and it's up to your team to capture the checkpoint so that you'll get the points. However, teams can switch the mine cart paths so that it takes different amounts of time to get to each checkpoint, which could either make your team score faster or the other team take longer to score. I think of this battleground as a mix between Team Fortress 2 and WoW's Eye of the Storm battleground.
And of course, Mists of Pandaria's PvP wouldn't be complete without pet battles. At BlizzCon 2011, pet battles were in their infancy, and now it seems as though they've made it to their toddler years. Pet battles are World of Warcraft's first official mini-game, and on top of being really cute, it seems pretty addictive (imagine that!). How it works is that each player can use a total of three of their non-combat pets in a turn-based duel against another player. Each pet has unique abilities, and you can level them up against critters.
We've also learned that pet battles are definitely going to err on the more casual PvP side of things. Blizzard isn't going to record your pet battle losses, and you won't get to communicate with the person you're pet battling with at all. The UI won't show the character's name, server, or anything identifying so that there aren't any negative PvP emotions associated with pet battles. It's supposed to be fun, not too competitive.
World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria is revving up to bring something special back to World of Warcraft. It's bringing back that lighthearted feel that WoW was once known for, on top of adding a generous amount of brand new, beautiful content that fans of the series are sure to enjoy.
By the way, if you came to this preview wanting to know more about the Pandaren race and the Monk class coming to World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria, be sure to check back tomorrow for our World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria hands-on preview!