World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria

Mists of Pandaria (MoP), Blizzard’s latest expansion to World of Warcraft (WoW) is astronomical. They have launched expansions like this before, but this one seems to be bigger and better than ever. This being said despite the flack that Blizzard got for the central theme and it’s comparison to Kung Fu Panda. On one end of the new expansion you have level one, with a new starting area and a new race. On the other end of the spectrum Blizzard has really raised the bar with a level cap increase and an enormous amount of high-end and end-game zones. Given this, it is best two look at the expansion from two perspectives, and rate them separately. Let’s take a look at the new player experience.

Making the rounds from the bottom level

WoW is, not by any stretch of the imagination, a bad game. It does a lot of things very, very well. Sadly, many of these things are focused on getting players to that level cap as quickly as possible so that they can begin the end-game content. With eight years of reigning supreme in the MMORPG world, it is not all that surprising that WoW would be concentrating its focus on its loyal subscriber base. As a result, it doesn’t always feel very inviting for new players. This is demonstrated by the fact that you need to purchase the base game and all previous expansions, and then purchase an MoP key in order to access the MoP content.

The early-level Pandaren content also doesn’t really add very much to the new player experience. Although the Wandering Isle itself is beautiful, it gives players a dose of WoW’s many irritations early on. Every task needs repeating slightly too many times, is just an example. Still, the story arc that leads you through the Wandering Isle does a good job of setting up the importance, and purpose, behind Pandaren and it introduces both the Horde and Alliance as worthy partners for the new race. But once the Horde and Alliance are introduced, that’s it. The jig is up. Right around level 11 or 12, you depart Wandering Isle, never to see it again, and head straight into the familiar content we all know and love (or loathe).

In the end, I ended running through the low-level content after Panderan the same way I always did. I go through the motions of completing quests, unsure of why I am doing things, only keeping my eye on that prize of the next level.

Graphically, WoW still manages to look decent despite its age. Compared to other expansions and the world of Azeroth in general, the starting realm of Pandaria has the best detailed environments to date. The attention to detail gives Pandaria a very exotic feel and does quite an outstanding job of creating a sense of intrigue and amazement and the desire to explore. Something I haven’t felt since my early days with the game. On the sound design side, there’s a myriad of appropriate music that creates a unique feel for the new continent. There seems to be more cut-scenes and voice acting in the beginning stages, which is welcome as I became a big fan of it in another MMORPG launched around this time last year.

For this new starting content, I give MoP 3.5 stars out of 5. While I enjoyed the Wandering Isle content, it felt like there wasn’t enough of it and once you’re done it’s all about the familiar, redundant and old.