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Monday, October 24, 2011

Traversing the Mist: New Additions from Pandaria

The next World of Warcraft expansion, Mists of Pandaria, was unveiled during Blizzcon this past weekend. Now that Blizzcon has ended and we have reached the eye of the new information storm I wanted to take the time to reflect on the addition of a new land and the people and places we can expect to find there.

New Race: Pandaren -

The introduction of a neutral race to the world of Azeroth puts a compelling twist on the two factions we all know and love (or love to hate). The Pandaren were originally introduced to the Blizzard family of games in Warcraft III as an April Fool's joke. However, the community was so intrigued by the idea of the Pandaren race and culture that they were later added to the Warcraft game. While many players feel that the addition of Pandaren to World of Warcraft goes against current WoW lore, their lack of previous storyline means that Blizzard development is in the position to create new and captivating lore for this race to drive the expansion as it is created. Due to this "on the spot" lore creation I believe we can expect to see very rich and expansive story lines revolving around the Pandaren and their culture.

New Class: Monk -

Creating a new class and integrating it into a game that is now almost 7 years old is surely no easy task. Combine that with the fact that this new class will be a hybrid with the ability to tank (Brewmaster), melee dps (Windwalker), and heal (Mistweaver) and you could easily run in to some nightmarish balancing issues. However, I believe the introduction of a new class that can tank and heal could go a long way towards balancing out the current tank and healer shortages. After taking a first look at the Monk game play and considering the use of Chi along with Light and Dark Power as a resource system the class appears to provide an interesting new challenge to players who may be looking to try out a different play style. This new challenge combined with the ability to easily switch roles will likely make the class a big hit from launch.

New Zones -

One panel during Blizzcon managed to go beyond providing exciting new information by giving us a jaw dropping look at the work that the art team has done to fully develop Pandaria and the new zone set being released with this expansion. Inspired by Asian architecture and culture these new zones combine lush farmland with dense forests and detailed structures that are unlike anything we have ever seen in Azeroth. This incredible level of detailing can be seen in the Pandaren starting zone (which resides on the back of a giant turtle) along with the two previewed expansion zones Valley of the Four Winds and The Jade Forest. The design of these zones and the views given of them make me almost appreciative of the fact that we won't be able to fly until max level forcing players to really take in their surroundings.

New Dungeons and Raids -

Looking at the Brewery and Shadow-Pan Monastery you find massive buildings that will be represented at a one to one ratio in the actual zone allowing the development team to create quest hubs out of the dungeons themselves in a non-instanced version. This represents one of the few times in WoW where you will be able to almost fully explore an entire dungeon without ever entering an instance portal. Integrating the instances into the zones in this manner will provide a much more cohesive progression between questing and instancing during the leveling process so that it doesn't feel like you are being removed from Pandaria by joining a group.

Blizzard also announced that they have designed three raids for Mists of Pandaria and gave a preview of the six boss zone Mogu’Shan Palace. This raid is located in the Vale of Eternal Blossoms and will be inhabited by the Mogu who resemble the Chinese guardian lions. While only a small amount of information has been released about the other two raid zones the Mantid (insect-like creatures) and Sha (manifestations of negative energy) will both pose as formidable opponents with captivating direction.

Though some may be wishing we could turn our ships around I am ecstatic to be sailing towards the Mists of Pandaria waiting for this new land to unveil itself.

Blizzard has outdone themselves by creating a place of wonder and adventure that will breathe new life into the world of Azeroth and bring new and old players together to experience a level of immersion that the MMORPG genre has never seen.


  1. Great post!

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    - Jamin (New subscriber!)