World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria Hands-on Preview -- Meet the Pandaren MonkBy Leah Jackson - Posted Mar 20, 2012
World of Warcraft's fourth expansion, World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria, brings a ton of new features to the most popular MMORPG on the market. Part one of our Mists of Pandaria preview breaks it all down, like the brand new continent of Pandaria, the new dungeons and raids, an increased level cap, innovative battlegrounds pet battles, and more. In part two of our Mists of Pandaria preview, we're going to be taking a look at WoW's newest race, the Pandaren, and the Monk class.
When you start your adventure as a Pandaren, you begin in a place called the Wandering Isle. The Wandering Isle is fantastic, because it's really a huge turtle with an entire Pandaren civilization on its back that's swimming somewhere in the ocean, separated from Pandaria proper. We took a pretty in-depth look at The Wandering Isle during our BlizzCon 2011 preview, and since then the Isle seems pretty much unchanged.
It's still massive, and completely beautiful. As soon as you load in to the game you're thrown in to a training dojo high up on the turtle's back so that you can see the other Pandaren training against one another. One addition that we did get to see was the implementation of the female Pandaren models, and boy were they cute.
Female Pandaren come in both black and white and red panda varieties. They're stockier than just about every female race in World of Warcraft, save for Dwarven females, but I think that fits the bill. Their animations and facial expressions are just perfect for the silly race that the Pandaren are, and I found mine to be utterly charming. One thing that I really loved about the female Pandaren's customizable options was that female red pandas get long, fluffy tails just like normal red pandas have. I wasn't expecting that at all since the black and white female Pandaren don't get tails, and the male Pandaren don't seem to have the option to be reds.
Once we finished toying around with our cute female panda, we moved on to the much more ferocious level 85 Monk. At BlizzCon 2011, we played the Monk at its starting levels and weren't able to really experiment with how the class would work later in the game. This time we were able to check out one that's almost max level, and it's safe to say that anyone who loves a fast-moving, action-packed class will love the Monk.
Since BlizzCon, the class has seen a few changes. It originally had several resources, including light and dark energy, as well as Chi. Blizzard has refined the Monk's resources, and now we're just left with energy and Chi, which makes the system a lot easier to understand. Essentially, you build up energy over time and expend it to gain charges of Chi. A move like Jab costs 40 energy to use, does a bit of damage, and grants you one Chi. As you build up Chi, you can then deliver more devastating attacks, and the more Chi an attack costs to use, the stronger it generally is.
We also got some interesting background on the lore of the Monks. We learned that thousands of years ago, the continent of Pandaria was ruled by creatures known as the Mogu. The Mogu were a completely brutal race who enslaved everyone, and as a result of being enslaved, the captives weren't allowed to have weapons. So, the ingenious Pandaren developed a craft of martial arts that they could disguise as a form of dancing, and in the end, they developed their martial arts skills in order to overthrow the Mogu. Neat, huh?
Monks are classified as a hybrid class, meaning that their three skill trees offer one healing specialization (Mistweaver), one tanking specialization (Brewmaster), and one damage dealing specialization (Windwalker). We only had the chance to check out the Windwalker spec, which was the same one we tested out at BlizzCon. Luckily for us, this time around our Panda was level 85, so we got to see what it'll be like playing these guys towards the end of the game.
The way the class works is heavily reliant upon managing your energy and your Chi. You always want to be building up and using your Chi as efficiently as possible if you want to deal the most damage to your enemies. The other notable thing about the Monk is how fast they move around the battlefield. Moves like Roll and Flying Serpent Kick are great ways to both initiate combat and run away from potential threats. Roll is a simple move that moves your Monk a short distance and costs 50 Energy, while Flying Serpent Kick makes your Monk soar through the air at an increased speed, damaging any enemies in your path and slowing them for four seconds.
The Monk animations alone also make the class seem like they're majestic and fast moving. Abilities like Fists of Fury, which pummels all targets in front of you and stuns them for a few seconds, and Spinning Crane Kick, which makes you spin while kicking in the air, have fast-moving attack animations that seem fluid and graceful.
While I could have spent all day just pummeling enemies with my wicked-fast punches and kicks, I took it upon myself to actually explore the continent of Pandaria instead. Since BlizzCon, the developers have added two brand new zones to the already massive Pandaria, and the zones that we did get to check out just blew me away.
The first zone I hit up was The Jade Forest. This is the area where you'll start your journey through Pandaria at level 85. If I could compare it to any other WoW zone, it'd be Feralas. The Jade Forest is filled with huge bamboo plants and willow trees taller than you can imagine. The first five-man dungeon that you'll encounter in Mists is also located in The Jade Forest, called The Temple of the Jade Serpent.
Honestly, The Temple of the Jade Serpent was breathtaking. A lot of people criticize WoW for its graphics, but as I walked up to the temple my first reaction was, "Jeez, this looks amazing." The whole thing is nestled up on the mountainside over a huge stone walkway. As you enter the temple, you have to go through a massive Asian-styled gate to enter a huge, beautiful courtyard filled with different Pandaren Monks practicing their skills. It was a sight to behold, and throughout my journeys in Azeroth, I've never seen something quite as lovely.
The whole Jade Forest zone had an element of verticality that not many of the other zones in Pandaria seemed to share, save Kun-Lai Summit. As I made my way through The Jade Forest, I passed dozens of shrines until I finally got to the Valley of the Four Winds. This area reminded me of Nagrand from World of Warcraft: The Burning Crusade. It was filled with grassy plains and was a lot flatter than The Jade Forest. As I passed different towns, one thing that stood out was the massive size of their vegetables, thanks to the pure soil found in the zone.
While meandering around the valley, I came upon The Stormstout Brewery, another new instance. Since the developers are making all the instances their actual size in the world as well as in the instance, this brewery was just gigantic. The whole thing was in a shape of a barrel, and it was leaning up against a bright blue river. The brewery kind of reminded me of the bath house from Spirited Away.
- DETAILS: Mists of Pandaria Overview: What You Need To Know About The New World Of Warcraft Expansion
Unfortunately, the only other zone that I had a chance to visit was Kun-Lai Summit, the Northern Most zone of the expansion. It's really unique, as the terrain changes a lot from one part of the zone to the next. There are low plains in one part that lead all the way up to the highest mountain in Azeroth. I tried to make my way towards that mountain, but stopped along the way to check out the Shadow Pan Monastery where some of the elite Pandaren warriors train. It was a darker area, so the whole thing had a ninja-esque vibe to it, with the moon light shining in through the top of buildings in to the courtyard.
After I checked out the Monastery, my time in Pandaria came to an end. Luckily, we won't have to wait too much longer to get our hands on World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria. According to Blizzard, five out of the seven zones are finished and filled with hundreds of quests, and they're almost done with the last two as well. When we know more about Mists, we'll be sure to let you know. In the meantime, check out our World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria preview part one.