With Mists of Pandaria now getting on a bit, I feel now might be the time to judge some of it. There’s a fair amount of commentary on this subject, but I just want to have my say about where Blizzard have went right and where they’ve went wrong with their latest expansion. This is a discussion forum, after all.
All in all… I think there’s more good than bad here, a far cry from what happened in Cataclysm. There are some particular highlights and lowlights, though, so let’s cover them in a bit more detail.
1) The new continent is lovely. I know this is purely subjective, but nobody can claim effort hasn’t gone into realising and designing Pandaria and its inhabitants. I really like the new races (with the exception of the Jinyu) and find that each zone really does have its own distinct “feel”, similar to how the icy continent of Northrend was largely ice but still distinctive.
2) The questing has, by and large, been pretty good. There’s not a lot more that can be done with kill/collect, and I think the players know that, so Blizzard have done a pretty good job of providing questing options via zones. I think a key component of this is how these quests are mixed in, however; other games such as Rift use kill/collect but don’t mix them up quite as well as Blizzard do.
3) The pandaren work. Again, purely a subjective view, but I don’t think they look anywhere near as out of place as some suggest. I think the continent suits them, I think their factions are diverse and meaningful, and I think they do what they say on the tin for the most part, without ever really coming across as disparagingly as they might have done. The pandaren were a minefield, and I think it’s been navigated.
4) I think the lore is honestly very good. The enslavement of the mogu, in particular, is the major story of this continent, and the way this ties in with the Sha has been done imaginatively and tightly. The Sha, as an entity of its own, risked irrelevance; and truth be told, defeating the Sha of Fear causes this. Yet the way the Mogu have developed into the Throne of Thunder has provided the right backdrop.
5) So far, the expansion has been blessedly free of bugs. Yes, there are still a few annoying ones that had to be worked through (and exist still) but, all in all, I don’t think many complaints can be made on this front. There are always going to be bugs in the game, particularly at the launch of an expansion, but Blizzard’s quality assurance people deserve a pat on the back for MoP.
6) Pet battles are a blast! For all the mockery about “Wowpokemon”, the feature itself has been a resounding success. Those who don’t care about pet battles never need to worry about it, but the addicting nature and depth of the original has been captured to a better degree than I thought it would be and I know of many who mocked the concept who now enjoy it. Well done.
7) The speed of content release is excellent. It’s been promised for a long time, and Blizzard have finally delivered on it. I would even potentially argue that it’s gone a little too fast, but that might a symptom of my own chequered approach to 5.2 and lack of preparation for it rather than a wider complaint that applies to everyone. All told, nobody can complain about the rate of content in MoP – it’s been first class.
8) Please, do the Brawler’s guild if you can; it’s totally worth it. That little bit of solo-PvE play is actually very rewarding and one of the biggest complaints (the queue) has actually turned out to be one of its biggest successes. Watching others do their battles, and the camaraderie that’s been built as a result, is more charming than I thought it would be. I still think the gold requirement to get started is a bit silly, but it’s worth it now.
9) The raiding options are vibrant again, a far cry from the dearth of content in Cataclysm. 28 bosses in two tiers is FAR closer to what’s expected from the players, and Blizzard haven’t disappointed on this front. The different feels between MSV, HoF, ToES and the ToT are all keenly felt, and the instances are all very distinctive amongst themselves, while all being tied to Pandaria itself.
10) Dungeoneering is back to how it should be, in my eyes. There’s now some leeway for better players to carry worse ones and nobody is held up while doing a bit of valor farming by punitive mechanics that almost instantly cause wipes. The speed of them also means that you can rattle through a few in pretty short order and spend an evening doing dungeons if that’s your wont.
So, that’s what I think has been good in MoP to this point. Let’s talk about the not so good…
1) PvP has been… Interesting. From the ridiculous early burst of warriors and hunters, to the strength of healers, to the absurd amount of control in the game, it’s been something of a mess. Nothing has been done to break up age-old compositions and, in some cases, the issues have been exasperated. All that said, the new battlegrounds are interesting and something a bit different, while 5.3 shows the new man at the helm is willing to mess with something as fundamental as resilience in order to make PvP more fun and inviting.
2) Scenarios have underwhelmed. The introduction of heroic scenarios in 5.3 imply that Blizzard don’t consider them the finished article, but they just haven’t caught fire in the way some people hoped they would. It’s hard to pinpoint why this is, but it’s potentially because it’s hard to shoehorn an epic encounter into a setting with no trinity, but also because the rewards for completing scenarios are very lacklustre. There’s still potential here, in my view, but the opening salvo didn’t really cut it.
3) Challenge modes haven’t gripped the imagination, either. As with scenarios, the idea is probably sound, but it’s hard to see past the fact that most players won’t put themselves through this type of content without rewards at the end. That’s fair enough, and is part of the design intent, but the other major flaw is just how powerful certain classes are in five-man content; it’s skewed some of the results, no question. The reason this is in the “bad” section, however, is because they’ve been pretty successful with some players, so they’re not a write off. Hard to see any development potential, though.
4) The class redesign hasn’t added any spice to the game as intended. The new talent system has a lot of supporters, but has it added anything legitimate to the gameplay? Not really. Behind all the bluster and commentary, there are still some talents that are obvious and some that are close to useless. All that effort, all that PR and all that convincing has left us with something of a damp squib at the end of it all.
As you can see, “the bad” list isn’t actually all that bad. It includes things that have failed (subjectively), but aren’t doomed to an eternity in Jabroni Drive because they have potential.
Alas, that leaves us with:
1) Dailies. How could I have started this section with anything else? We get that some form of repeatable content is probably necessary in the game these days, and we get that some folk like dailies. But making them mandatory, allied to kicking off with the double gate of the Golden Lotus, disillusioned a huge number of players because there was no way around the issue. Domination Point and the Isle of Thunder have been streets ahead of the initial batch, but that still doesn’t escape the fact that players who want their extra roll on raid encounters are stuck with dailies.
2) The difficulty of raiding is… Well, it’s all over the place. Heroic raiding has probably been as challenging as it could be, but the settings for normal raids and LFR have, painfully, continued from Cataclysm and compounded the ostracism casual guilds received as a result. Normal mode raiding should allow stronger players to carry weaker ones as they could in WotLK, but that’s simply not possible anymore and players are simply not afforded any mistakes. I think Blizzard need to take a long, hard look at the WotLK model, realise why that worked so well, and start moving back to it before casual raiding guilds just give up wholesale. Alas, LFR has compounded this problem rather than be the solution it’s often sold as.
And that’s it, off the top of my head. Almost every point on my list is up for debate, and I’m acutely aware that some people would have certain points at the completely other end of the scale.
But I’ve tried to be constructive, so let’s see if everyone else can do the same.
How have you found MoP?