Mists of Pandaria is the fourth expansion for the tremendously popular Massive Multi-Player Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG) World of Warcraft (WoW), which was created by Blizzard Entertainment as an online multi-player offshoot of its popular Warcraft game series. The expansion is on track and set to be released on 25 September 2012.
Set in the Warcraft Universe, World of Warcraft takes place within the Warcraft world of Azeroth, approximately four years after the events at the conclusion of Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. The release of World of Warcraft coincided with the 10th Anniversary of the Warcraft Series, which was itself one of the most popular game series in the fantasy action-adventure genre pretty much ever. Mists of Pandaria is the fourth expansion to the base game, and follows The Burning Crusade (January 16, 2007), Wrath of the Lich King (November 13, 2008), and Cataclysm (December 7, 2010). The announcment of the expansion by Chris Metzen at BlizzCon 2011 put to rest rumors that were circulating in the community that Cataclysm was the last expansion and a new World of Warcraft 2.0 was in the offing.
Mists of Pandaria introduces a number of new elements to the game world, including the much-requested new character class -- the Monk -- as well as adds a new playable race -- the Pandaren. The expansion raises the character level cap from 85 to 90, includes an overhaul of the vanity pet system, and adds a new pet battles feature. New Challenge Modes are added to the Dungeons, and new zones are added to include nine new dungeons, four new battlegrounds, and three new raids. The expansion introduces new PVE scenarios, as well as removes the current 41-point talent tree, replacing it with a new tiered system that adds talents every 15 levels.
The Discovery of Pandaria
Old stories of the fabled land of Pandaria had circulated for ages, with colorful descriptions of the people and their odd ways being largely considered to be fantasy made up to entertain children -- until a large naval battle fought between the Alliance and the Horde accidentally shattered the magical barrier that kept Pandaria hidden from the rest of the world, revealing its presence and the existance of an entire and, as far as the rest of the world was concerned, unexplored continent on Azeroth!
The world view of Pandaria differs depending upon who is doing the viewing: to the rest of the world Pandaria is a new continent that is located south of the Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor, while to the Pandarians it is an old land that existed outside of the flow of the rest of the world for good reason, its wealth and way of life needing to be protected from the avarice and evil of the outlanders.
The indirect result of the re-discovery of Pandaria is the introduction of some special lands that make up the hinterlands of the continent, including the Valley of the Four Winds, the Kun-Lai Summit, the Vale of Eternal Blossoms, the Jade Forest, Townlong Steppes, the Dread Wastes, and the Krasarang Wilds.
It is via the Jade Forest that the Alliance and the Horde make their way into Pandaria -- a lush and vibrant rainforest whose stone spires clearly illustrate that this is no land that any of the outlanders had seen before. Living in the Jade Forest are the Hozu and Jinyu people -- new races from the region, which contains the Temple of the Jade Serpent, a new dungeon to be explored. Beyond the Jade Forest is the Valley of the Four Winds, the breadbasket of Pandaria in which hectare after hectare of land is put to the plow to provide the food that feeds the nation.
In addition to the farms, the Valley contains the Stormstout Brewery (dungeon), and in addition to the auction houses scattered throughout the land, the Valley of the Four Winds boasts a very special auction house, it being a "black market" auction house which is situated in a small section of northern Valley called the Veiled Stair. The black market auction is run by NPC's, who post rare status items and items that have been previously removed from the game but now exist to be had -- if you have the coin -- in this new undiscovered land!
In addition to the new lands, exciting and historic places, and wealth for those bold enough to seek it out, the Pandaren lay claim to the lands of Pandaria, but they share it as home with other races -- races that have not been seen in the outer world for ages, including the Hozen, which are a monkey-like race, the Virmen, who clearly resemble the Kobold, and the Junyu, who have appearances similar to the Murlocs and Naga. Deeper into the lands are found the Mantids -- an insect race -- the Mogu, who may be the oldest species in the land, and finally the Sha, who are the literal manifestation of all of the negative energy on Pandaria and are widely considered to be the enemy of most of the races that can be dealt with on diplomatic terms.
The adventures in Mists of Pandaria begin in The Wandering Isle -- which is not an island at all, but is actually a giant turtle! Pandaren player characters begin their adventure on the Wandering Isle, but once they have chosen their faction, they leave that place for the broad plains and mountains of Pandaria -- and elsewhere -- as they embark upon their personal journey to find fortune and fame, or at least a comfortable existence. Their integration into the large world will not be a smooth process, especially considering that they are the sole truly neutral society in the world, and up until their magical barrier was penetrated, they never saw the need to take any side, any time. That has all changed!
The Pandarens face interesting and unique experiences when they leave their lands -- mostly because they are a race of giant pandas who, because of their isolation from the world, start out in life without the indoctrination of a faction to guide their interests. New Pandaren spend their first nine levels without a faction -- being forced to choose their faction at Level 10 -- and among the Pandaren can be found Hunters, Monks, Mages, Priests, Rogues, Shaman and Warriors. As with all of the races in the world, once a Pandaren chooses their class, the language barrier between Alliance and Horde comes into play.
The new class -- Monk -- has long been requested and now it has arrived, delivered to the lands of Azeroth by the rediscovery of the fabled lands of Panderia! These quiet warriors with their mystic powers occupy a place of honor in the old stories, which tell of their ability to literally destroy their foes using the Windwalker's devastating attacks, and how they can quickly replenish their allies with the Mistweaver's spiritual energies, and shrug off enormous amounts of damage with the power of the Brewmaster's unyielding strength. Hoowah!
These Monks appear to be magical warriors who follow a holy calling; masters of discipline endowed with unyielding faith -- well, that makes sense doesn't it? After all the legends of Panderia almost always include mention of its mystical warrior-Monks and the special magic that is endowed there. Sure, it was assumed that those stories were just that, fantasies made up to entertain children. But what if they are true? What if there really are dungeons hidden among the jungles full of gold, gems, and magical weapons? What if the fantastical creatures that the legends speak of are real? The Panda People that seemed to be convincing evidence that the stories that were thought to be pure fantasy have turned out to be real... True... So how about those treasures?!
The Pet Battle System numbers among the most exciting new features to be added to the game and game world, especially for players who are competition-minded and who have already embraced the vanity pet system. A turn-based combat system, Pet Battles come in two basic flavors: pets versus players, and pets versus pets.
When vanity pets battle players it is a battle for the fun of it, with no anger, animosity, or first-blood snarling being part of the event, but when pets battle other pets, and particularly other wild pets, well that is a battle of a different sort completely! Characters who have well-trained and capable pets can head into the wilds and have their pet take on any wild pet that they encounter and, if their pet wins, they can then capture their defeated opponent and make them their own. To facilitate that process players can seek out Master Pet Trainers who will teach their pets new skills and abilities -- assuming that their pet was able to defeat the Master that is.
To assist the serious and dedicated pet masters in their pursuit of victory and the path to acquiring and training new pets, a new resource has been added to the game in the form of the Pet Journal, which keeps track of each of their pets, the pet levels, their abilities, and their battles. This will be invaluable to the serious pet trainer, considering that with the expansion the pet system is increased to ten pet classes, and each class has a set of strengths (and weaknesses) as well as special abilities, so knowing those will be crucial in deciding which pet to pit against the wild pets you find in the wilderness -- if winning is important to you.
Very little information is available with respect to the new instances and dungeons of the land -- save for the fact that there are new instances and dungeons in the land! The Challenge Mode being added with the expansion has player-groups accepting the challenge of clearing a dungeon as quickly as they can -- and their motivation is a reward system that includes the winning of one of three possible medals, the medal type being dependent upon how effectively they answer the call to the challenge. When a group accepts a challenge, when they enter the dungeon to begin it their gear is transformed to the base level for the dungeon/challenge just to keep things fair, and so the time that they score in completing the challenge can be fairly judged against all of the other groups who have participated in that particular challenge.
The faster the group completes the dungeon challenge, the higher quality their medal reward will be, and the higher the quality of their medal reward, the better the prize is for their challenge victory, so getting good at challenges will mean putting together a group that is just as committed and motivated as you!
World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria
Street Date: 25 September 2012
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Platforms: Windows PC / Mac OSX
Genre: Massive Multi-Player Online Role Playing Game / Fantasy / Action-Adventure
Official Content Ratings: ESRB Rating: T (for Teens) / PEGI 12+ / BBFC: 12
Posted: 7th Sep 2012
Tags: World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria, PC, Mac,