Mists of Pandaria: The Return to Fun

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I’m a little late for first impressions but this is a good thing. I’ve been playing far too much to have time to sit down and gather my thoughts on the expansion – and who would’ve thought I’d be having this much fun! It’s really what sums up this expansion in the best way for me. It’s just plain fun, and that’s something that was sorely missed in the last two years.

Here I am, grinning like a kid in a candy store, while I play a game I’ve begun to love again.

Storytelling

I am constantly amazed at how quickly the story began to draw me in. There were no disconnected storylines, no incomplete plot, and no confusing out-of-the-blue stuff. The writers made a return to good solid storytelling. It’s interesting how two stories that start out the same way can have such a different impact depending on how they’re told. Mists starts with war against the faction while Cataclysm started with war against Deathwing. The latter lacked context and immersion while the conflict in Pandaria makes you feel as though you’re in the thick of it.

Immersion. That’s a big one and I don’t mean it in a strictly roleplaying sense. A huge part about loving the leveling journey in Pandaria for me was getting drawn into a world that made sense. Yes, there was war but there was also so much more to give context and history to the land and its people. And lastly, what our role is as outsiders. Here’s where cut-scenes and other forms of storytelling come in. The cut-scenes in Mists are perfect – they’re well placed, not too long, add to the story and have some drama in them. There’s none of that “here’s your character moving 10 feet” stuff going on.

The newer type of quests I enjoyed involved learning of a character’s story by looking at it through their eyes – literally. I’m not going to give away the specifics but I have to say it made for a fresh way of looking at things and was rather fun to mix it up with things like this.

If you haven’t turned on the music yet, I highly recommend doing so. It’s really brilliant and adds so much to the atmosphere. I’ve just been blown away by some of the tracks and well, it’s awesome so check it out.

Art

Hands down possibly the best art I’ve seen in any Blizzard expansion to date. I knew Pandaria would be beautiful filled with cherry blossom trees and the likes. But I was never expecting the level of detail and intricacy that we got. Story is great, but if the world doesn’t make you want to stay there then no amount of story can fix that. Pandaria is beautiful enough that even if one doesn’t enjoy the story, it’s still a magnificent place to hang out in.

For the first time I noticed that even the trees looked beautiful – gone are the days of overlapping two dimensional polygon trees from Azeroth. These are the little things but they can add up to so much.

Keeping us on the ground until level cap was a small decision that went a long way. Running through the zones and finding your way adds so much more to the experience than simply flying over it all. Particularly when Pandaria has this much to offer, it would be a shame to miss it all by flying by.

One of the memorable moments for me was in Kun-Lai Summit where I used every trick I could possibly use to scale Kota’s Peak – all to get a view of the mysterious but breathtaking Shado-Pan Monastery. That little adventure reminded me of something I hadn’t done since Classic WoW – scaling the Greymane Wall anyone? 🙂

Dungeons and Dailies

I like the dungeons – I think they just got it right this time. They’re not the nightmare and exercise in torture the Cataclysm launch dungeons were, and neither are they complete pushovers. They have interesting mechanics that translate well to their heroic versions. They don’t take forever to complete and some of them have a fantastic sense of humour about them….Alementals in Stormstout Brewery for example! 🙂

Dailies are what really surprised me. I am the self-proclaimed hater of dailies. With the exception of Isle of Quel’Danas, I pretty much loathe dailies and all the reputation grinds associated with them. I’m still neutral Og’rila, Shatari Skyguard and Netherwing. Try as I might, I have yet to finish out the Argent Tournament dailies – that’s been going on for about a year now. And Molten Front – HA! Let’s just say it didn’t grab me.

Enter Pandaria and its infinite supply of dailies. I winced, ranted, pouted – yes, everything. And yet, here I am actually enjoying these dailies. What madness is this??!! I’m not entirely sure why I’m having fun with these dailies to be honest, but I’m going to take it and run. It partly has to do with the fact that dailies here come in all flavours and shapes. Don’t feel like killing stuff this morning? No problem! One could always cook up a couple soups and plant a couple crops in the meantime. Tired of hanging out in a particular zone? No problem! One can always mix it up and finish up dailies in another zone instead.

I like that dailies are not necessarily in phases like Molten Front was – whatever that model was, I just didn’t like it. I also like that the dailies are randomised to be different each day – that helps mix it up a bit.

There’s something to be said for having all the reputations require dailies to unlock – particularly with reputations not being account bound. I’m not sure this is the best way to go. I imagine having to the reputation grind for the 4th of 5th time just so my alt tailor can buy a cool pattern from them would not be as fun. But for now, I’m enjoying it.

I suppose the point of it all is that we’re not left twiddling our thumbs at level cap – which was the case in Cataclysm once we zoomed through our reputations at break-neck speed thanks to tabards. Rather than feeling like I’ve hit the end of the game at 90, I feel like I’ve hit the beginning of a whole new story – and that’s something! All in all, I can breathe a sigh of relief and happiness with Mists and get back to doing what I do best – having fun in my favourite computer game.

Are you having fun in Mists of Pandaria so far? What are your favourite parts of this expansion? 

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5 thoughts on “Mists of Pandaria: The Return to Fun

  1. I loved the fact I couldn’t fly while leveling to 90. It let me see more of the world. I really enjoy the look of Valley of the Four Winds. When I go do my Tiller dailies, I’ll leave Vale of Eternal Blossoms, as soon as i crest the mountain, I will dismount and use my Engineering Glider, and slowly glide to the quest hub as I look over the land.

    As for the Heroics, maybe it’s because I grinded so many over the last 7 days, but I’m slightly disappointed with how easy they have been. Reminds me of late WoLK days when we could chain pull half the instance.

    • I know what you mean by the heroics being easier than expected. I’m personally alright with this difficulty since it means that they’ll be puggable. As far as LFD goes, I’ve found its best to err on the side of being too easy rather than too difficult. Too many bad memories of hitting the LFD button and getting stuck in heroic Stonecore or Grim Batol I suppose. 🙂

  2. Oh yes, I remember Grim Batol.. When we first hit 85, Grim Batol was one of the ones the guild group couldn’t get pass the second boss.. Healer going OOM… Tank being super squishy.. and everyone not being able to dodge the Fire Shield thingy..

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