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World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria Review

Updated Mon, Oct 01, 2012 by Messiah

World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria hit the stores September 25th 2012 and players have been madly exploring and leveling since then. While the expansion is huge if you delve into every nook and cranny, it also flies by quickly if you want to just blast through levels to the end game.

So what is Mists of Pandaria exactly? Well, to start of everyone calls it MoP, and it is the fourth expansion to the insanely successful World of Warcraft MMOG. WoW launched in November of 2004, and that means this expansion comes to us almost 8 years after the original release, which is a feat in itself since many of today’s games either fade into obscurity or meet their demise long before they reach that milestone.

Here there be pandas.

Mists of Pandaria expands the game with a large number of additions, enhancements, and changes while still keeping the same overall feel that World of Warcraft has always had. There are so many new or updated features that it would be impossible to list them all, so I’m just going to list a few of the key changes or additions. They are:

  • A new race called the Pandaren. It’s the first race that can play as either faction--Alliance or Horde.
  • A new class called Monks. The Monk class is a hybrid that can DPS, Heal, or Tank.
  • A whole new continent called Pandaria with many expansive zones to quest in and explore. In total there are 7 new zones, 6 new dungeons, and 3 new raids.
  • The level cap is raised from level 85 to 90.
  • A new type of instanced content called Scenarios were added to the game. Think of story driven PVE battlegrounds and you will not be far off.
  • A completely new talent system.
  • Pet Battles, a Pokemon style system that you can use your vanity pets in while trying to earn levels and rewards.
  • Much, much more.

Because Mists of Pandaria is an expansion to the still reigning king of the MMOG genre, there were a lot of expectations for it. Did it meet them, did it fall short, or did it raise the bar for the genre once again?

Cautions

World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria is an online game and therefore not everything can be rated up front. Blizzard has very little control over what people choose to say in online chat channels so parents should be cautious about that. Also, MoP’s humor is a little more adult-based than that found in previous WoW expansions. As for the game itself, it has been given an ESRB rating of Teen for the following reasons:

  • Blood and Gore
  • Crude Humor
  • Mild Language
  • Suggestive Themes
  • Use of Alcohol
  • Violence

    • Gameplay

      82Good

      As with all previous World of Warcraft expansions the major gameplay changes came about in a patch before the actual expansion release. For Mists of Pandaria that patch was 5.0.4 and has already been discussed in depth. You can find all the details here: Patch 5.0.4 Overview.

      While most of the gameplay in Mists of Pandaria is much the same as World of Warcraft has been from the beginning, there are some differences. They’re not earth shattering differences, but they exist, and veteran players will notice them. Keep in mind that not much change gameplay-wise is a good thing--after all we are talking about the most successful MMOG ever. Blizzard obviously has a winning formula and any large drastic change could drive players away.

      The kung fu pandas have arrived.

      The first of the differences players are likely to notice is the continued refinement of quest paths and the storytelling aspect of the quest lines. This improvement, which has happened slowly over the past expansions, is taken to another level in MoP through more storytelling, more history, and a brand new quest type. The new quest type is story-based and has you play out what is being described to you by NPCs. Even though you don’t get to be your own character for those quests, they work extremely well and throw something new into the mix for Blizzard to pass on story information and ensure players actually get it (since many players simply skip the quest text provided).

      The addition of the Pandaren as a new playable race provides for a great looking new starting area that is heavily story driven and extremely fun to play. Pandarens are also allowed to be either faction, which could prove interesting in battlegrounds and PVP realms, where visual faction recognition for Pandaren is not possible.

      Along with the Pandaren race comes a brand new class called Monks. This new class is another hybrid that can fill melee DPS, healing, or tanking roles. It fills all three in slightly different ways than other classes do, and will provide some more variety in the class makeup of the game.

      Other new components include Scenarios and Pet Battles, which add additional gameplay elements to the game. Scenarios are like a form of PVE battleground that is story driven. They offer fast paced, instanced, small non-role group, quick-to-complete PVE content for those who may not have time for a dungeon or raid. Pet Battles are a new way to use your vanity pets that allow you to use them for something rather than just tagging along beside you. While it is essentially Pokemon in WoW, Pokemon is hugely successful and popular, so putting a variation on it in WoW may appeal to a huge number of players.

      Gotta catch 'em all?

      The last major change to gameplay is its continued simplification. Talent systems have been redone, rotations simplified, specializations refined, and much more. Some examples include:

      • The confusion caused by wondering when you should go from regular dungeons to heroic dungeons at level cap has been eliminated. The new answer is right away, since there are no more level cap regular dungeons, only heroic.
      • Raid buffs have been simplified and reduced in number, and a buff monitor has been put in place to keep track of which buffs you have out of the possible ones you could have.
      • Mana pools have become a fixed size based on level, forcing players to choose and balance between spirit for regen or intellect for spell power.

      Despite all the changes listed here, and the many omitted, actual gameplay in Mists of Pandaria has not changed significantly from Cataclysm, and that’s a good thing. The parts that changed (for the most part) are simply refine what was already there, cleaning it up a bit.

      That leads me to the one major drawback of Mists of Pandaria gameplay that comes as a result of the continued simplification. While early on in WoW’s history there were dramatic differences between a good and bad player, that line continues to narrow significantly. Gameplay should reward those who play well, and while you are still rewarded slightly, gone are the days of a skilled player in the same gear being able to easily put out 5x the damage as an unskilled player in the same gear.

      Overall I give Mists of Pandaria an 85% for gameplay. The questing and leveling aspects are amazing, as are the dungeons and raids. The only downside for me is the lack of some risk / reward since much of the game has been simplified or made easier for players to get through. I believe that the best games are easy to learn but hard to master. Those are the games that keep you coming back, and WoW is shifting more and more to easy to play and easy to master.

      Graphics

      90Great

      This is a strange category for Mists of Pandaria, since it is hard to talk about graphics on a technical level for a game that is running on an engine that is over 8 years old. Sure that engine has been upgraded and refined over time, but it is still based on an old system. On a technical graphics level Mists of Pandaria is significantly behind the times.

      However, none of that seems to matter. The new zones are absolutely stunning. Every time I go to a new zone I am blown away by just how good they all look. It all comes down to overall appearance and impression rather than technical details like texture levels or polygon counts. Blizzard absolutely nailed the visual look and feel in Mists of Pandaria. As with each and every expansion so far I am left wondering what they could do to make things better for next time.

      MoP Screenshot

      Sure, with a new and more powerful graphics engine they could come up with something even better on a technical level, but I am not sure that the game would gain anything from it. Keep in mind that due to the stylized nature of WoW graphics this game will still run and look good on a system that would not even start up most modern games. There is something to be said for making a game that runs on pretty much anything, and still manages to look this good.

      Sound

      95Outstanding

      This is an area that Blizzard really shines in for all of their games. They seem to have understood from the start that sound and voice helps bring players into the world just as much as graphics.

      The soundtrack that plays out in Mists of Pandaria focuses on the heavy Asian influence while still having a World of Warcraft feel to it. It ranges from slow haunting pieces to hard driving pieces depending on the action taking place. This is one game that makes me pity the players out there who don’t have quality sound systems hooked up to their computers.

      The voice quality is equally good this time around. In Cataclysm there were a lot of really poor quality voices in the game, but all that is rectified this time around. While some of the Asian voices sound a little too American, they are still of excellent quality. Many of the voices have great accents and really allow you to picture them as part of the game. The Pandaren characters especially have great voices backing them up. Many of the key NPC’s have voices that I picture fitting into any old school kung-fu movie as an old master. The only issue I have with the voices are how annoying the Hozen are, but hey, they are talking monkeys, after all.

And to think subscriptions means more content, well 9+ months of DS and nothing else added in says hello. 70-463 exam Actually impressed with Rift and how much they pour out in their much smaller studio. Even then a subscription gives you what? LoL and GW2 70-463 practice test is actually proving that this 70-464 exam micro-transaction model works and the old $15 a month is becoming an outdated model. All it is now is a source of revenue, not entitlement 70-464 practice test for extra content and paying for development costs.

Graphics engine is 8 years old with few 70-459 exam upgrades and wow still looks fresh and fabolous. Every expansion have superb breath taking views. Could be because of trademark "cartoony" 70-459 practice test look that never gets old, as stand for me, does not need any upgrade. All is working completely smooth with all settings on max, not even minimal 70-460 exam lag on my computer. Had pretty a lot of problems with many engines, mainly Aoc, War, TSW,. 70-460 practice test Many. No problems with wow, Rift and Gw2.

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I'm playing WOW from months now, but i bought it only few days ago. I was waiting for it to has lower prices. And finally - i bought it for €19 at http://www.go2arena.com/ . I don't regret it at all. There is so many possibilities in Pandaria!

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"While the quests and story line are really well done, and I give Blizzard major credit for their storytelling and quest lines, it is all focused on you as an individual."

Has this guy even played WoW before? The quests have always been about YOU saving the world. They have seldom referred to the 10 million collective of other heroes. You're saying that it's a bad thing that it makes the player feel involved in the story? You can still do all these quests with friends, nothing has changed.

"The thing that prevents this expansion from getting a higher score is the fact that you only have 5 levels to work through before getting to the new level cap. Worse yet, getting those 5 levels can fly by in less than 24 hours of play time"

So you're making this judgement on the number of levels, and not the content?
Just an FYI, players have been reaching the level cap within 24-48 hours of an expansions release since The Burning Crusade. There are 5 less levels but the EXP required is probably substantially higher than your standard 60-65 or 75-80.

You also state that you level up quickly without seeing all the content, so whose fault is that? Go back and enjoy the game instead of rushing through it to write your bias review.

How can you criticize "value for money on an ongoing basis" on an expansion that just came out? I know Cataclysm was sparse in the new content department, but Patch 5.1 has already been announced as coming soon to the PTR. It just seems like an unfair prejudice rather than a valid criticism that has any place in a serious "review." Also, I'm a 29 year old "serious gamer" and I quite enjoy the Pet Battle System. Just putting that out there.

Wow graphics are great, that cartoony look make them evergreen. Simple as that. No need to change anything unles for some small tweaks. Besides working on any computer.

B-O-R-I-N-G-G-G-G!!!!

A game geared for pre-school kids with Disney cartoons which also has been altered to the point, one finger is all you need to play the game. It's been completely watered-down.

According to WoW's constant inflated figures, they currently have about 10 milliion subs but all they've sold is over 2 million of this new content. Let's see...2 million into 10 million.

Seems to me there's about 8 million smarter people in WoW. They themselves are not too smart to begin with since they still pay for this crap of a game. But at least they're a bit smarter then the 2 million who paid for this new garbage.

Obviously you do not have a clue and have never really played wow. At very start did not loke to much cartoony graphics, but after short time have discovered they are incredibly well done and fun. And big bonus, they will never be outdated. Btw, I'm 50.
About your one button only shows maybe you never even watched some video of wow. You just hate wow. Because main reason so many love wow is complexity and need for at least 2 full toolbars where nearly every button have some use at some time. Ok, there are some builds that do not require really so many, i.e. fire mage build or rogue, but still need decent combination of speels.

As far as the Multiplayer aspect goes seeing other people questing is what I cherish more than having to group willingly or blindly with them. I really like the fact that I can go complete nearly every quest in the game solo if I choose. If you do have trouble you can grab a guildy or a local in the area. I would like to see public events like they have in Warhammer. Doing what GW2 would be going to far but something that gets tossed in every once in awhile that is dynamic to a extent would be fun and a welcomed addition.

Not sure why comment disappeared ... will try in short.

Graphics engine is 8 years old with few upgrades and wow still looks fresh and fabolous. Every expansion have superb breath taking views. Could be because of trademark "cartoony" look that never gets old, as stand for me, does not need any upgrade. All is working completely smooth with all settings on max, not even minimal lag on my computer. Had pretty a lot of problems with many engines, mainly Aoc, War, TSW, ... Many. No problems with wow, Rift and Gw2.

Sub model will (hopefully) never die. Would be tragedy. Trash games however I agree could never ever even live on sub model. I.e. gw1, Aion, Rappelz, ... I just hope so called f2p plague never gets to wow, Rift, Swtor. GW2 is here first exception of great game on P2P model. Exception.

You can comment negatively about wow as much as you wish, is still no. 1 and will stay there for long. I agree on drop on subs, but there are many more games out there today so I guess this is also completely natural.

Many people just have this strange satisfaction when something goes wrong, instead of simply enjoy.

Anyway ... many thing I do not like in changes to MOP (or Cata even more for this matter).
I personally do not care even minimally about "8 years old engine". It is GREAT and in this form could stay for many many more years. That "cartoony" style is preventing completely wow graphics to become old or outdated.

About subs dead ... yes, for very low quality games only. For premium quality games they will exists imo for ever. You can not run quality restaurant feeding random visitors from streets for free for ever. There is ALWAYS some price to pay.

Only surprising exception in positive sense over all this years I have been able to find is GW2.

I agree with most of the review up until the multiplayer score. I haven't played an MMO that required grouping to advance to max level since EQ1. While I agree that queues have taken a lot of the social scene out of servers, You still find guild members grouping up and joining the queue and no longer required to find that last person to run a heroic. I do miss the skill required to be a top level performer, the game does still require coordination and teamwork to succeed in heroic mode raids and is available for those that want it.

I do agree fully that subscriptions are dying out and that Blizzard should be looking at alternatives similar to what Sony has done with EQ2 and other games. Though I really don't see Blizzard moving to this model until its required to stay profitable. Currently their subscription base is so large it would make no sense to move to a f2p model at this time.

Overall I think MoP will only help to extend Blizzards success. My guild went from 1-2 players on at a time to 40+. Even if this only lasts for 6 months it will still add revenue to help with continued development of WoW and further development with project Titan.

WoW will continue to be the game that you either love or hate but there will never be a valid argument to it's failure after 8 years of being the big dog out there. One day it will fade into the past but that day is still far away.

If someone would have told me in 2003 that WoW would have the impact that it did and that I'd stop playing EQ I would if thought you were crazy. I honesty can't wait for the game that dethroned WoW because it will have to be the greatest MMO of all time...

If you say GW2,... Been there, done that,.... Playing WoW again.

Surprised WoW is still classified as an MMO. It's more or less like a console game where you join a queue and group up with random people never to see again.

And to think subscriptions means more content, well 9+ months of DS and nothing else added in says hello. Actually impressed with Rift and how much they pour out in their much smaller studio. Even then a subscription gives you what? LoL and GW2 is actually proving that this micro-transaction model works and the old $15 a month is becoming an outdated model. All it is now is a source of revenue, not entitlement for extra content and paying for development costs.

See I disagree about the pet battle thing, that is one thing that makes those of us collectors (211 Pets plus (Unique)) some additional interest after leveling several toons to 85-90 range. Something more to kill time with as Archeology can still be tedious and boring.

The graphics engine is antiquated today, sure, but 8 years is an eternity in the PC world.

I remember the days when WoW's graphics used to put some serious strain on my then-2-year-old Alienware Laptop.

I'm amazzed how good looking MOP graphics is. They do always one step further with same engine. No need to change anything for years and years to come. Maybe more textures or some finess, but nohting that wow would really need.

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