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World Of Warcraft: Mists Of Pandaria
April 11, 2012 | Ted Bade

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Scenic Vistas
Players of World of Warcraft have no doubt heard of the newest expansion to the MMO game, called Mists of Pandaria. This expansion introduces a new playable race, the Pandarans, as well as a new continent (Pandaria) with several zones for leveling your World of Warcraft characters up to level 90, and a new class, the Monk. There are also several other changes to how the game plays.

I, along with several hundred thousand other loyal WoW fans had an opportunity to try out this new world after Blizzard Entertainment opened up it’s “public beta” in the last weekend of March. Although it is a beta test, there were a lot of testers and no real reporting system. Anyone who signed up for the annual pass gets to participate in this beta. The first wave was selected from participants that have the longest membership in WoW, others will follow.

The Pandarans are Panda looking bipedal creatures. For the most part, they are a bit more slender then a real panda, and obviously are an intelligent race. The cultural background of the Pandarans is Asian-like. The houses, gardens, clothes, and general scenery definitely reflect Asian culture. One really glaring lack, at least in the beta, is the fact that Pandarans don’t speak. Unlike the previous new races, the Worgen with their obvious British Hackney accent and mannerisms, or the Goblins with their squeaky accent and mannerism, the Pandarans in the WoW beta are all silent.

I wonder if Blizzard has been getting some negative feedback by making use of accents (accents at least from the US English perspective). The obvious accent for the Pandarans would be an English viewed Chinese or Japanese accent and mannerisms. While I think this would give some charm to the game from my perspective, I am thinking that Blizzard has to satisfy a more worldly view these days. I don’t know any of this for certain, but it is my best guess. In any case, I have no idea how the accent US English speakers would recognize as “Asian” would sound to a player from say China or Japan.

Pandarans get some interesting racial abilities. First of all, they can fold into a ball and roll at high speed for short distances. Secondly, they love to eat. The benefits they gain from food are increased, and they get double stats from well fed effects. They also get a cooking skill bonus. Their “Inner Peace” means they stay rested twice as long as other races. Finally, they are bouncy, so they take half damage when falling.

Moving through the Pandaran basic low levels is pretty simple. The quests in some cases reflect Asian culture. I decided to make my Panda a Monk, the new class that will be introduced with this expansion. There isn’t a lot of new material in the basic questing areas. There are the standard quests: collect this or kill so many of that. There was also a string involved with finding and working with some elemental creatures you try to convince to help the Pandaran elders. There is an attempt to capture the feeling of a monk in training by “learning” lessons, interacting with masters, defeating other trainees, and the like (this was for all classes, not just the monk). For the most part, quests were just too typical. I truly wish that the Pandaran starting areas were as interesting as that of the Goblins from the previous expansion. Blizzard needs to re-invent their questing system or stand to lose many players through sheer boredom….

There is also a new higher level area to quest in. Mists of Pandaria raises the level cap from 85 to 90 and provides a whole new continent to explore and do quests in. I ended up entering the new zones by going directly to the new city hub called Dawn Blossom. Playing an Alliance character on a PVE server, I began to roam the starting zone called the Jade Forest. The scenery is a mixture of forests, towns, and temples. All standard WoW fare but with a new flavor. I eventually wandered my way down to the starting zone for the Alliance and was able to find a number of pretty typical quests. There are some different monsters as well as some newer animal types along with the standard WoW fauna. Blizzard uses phasing to allow your completion of quest goals to change the environment. For instance, you locate and save the flight master and then there is a flight point. The major issue I see here is that, long term players of WoW will find this all too familiar. Same stuff, different place. While the first time through will be a fun exploration, repeating the process multiple times will quickly become old.


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