WoW Wednesday: Mists of Pandaria First Impressions
by Meredith Watson, OnRPG WoW Specialist
Recently, I got my WoW Mists of Pandaria beta invite. While I have been in a lot of betas, I haven't ever been in a WoW beta. To paraphrase Jesse Cox of OMFG, some betas are like demos, others are stress tests but WoW betas are true betas. It is a true beta in the sense that things don't work, there are many bugs, lag, crashes and the phasing is sketchy at best.
The first thing a returning player will notice is the new character creation screen. While it is very fluid now it does seem to emphasise how few choices there really are for character customisation. Blizzard has taken a page from other MMO's books and now shows the starting character in a high end armour set for its class. As always, the starting character will be in the usual rags when it enters the game world for the first time.
Because I have played monks in other games and thoroughly enjoyed them, I was very excited when Blizzard announced WoW was getting its own version of a monk. Naturally, the first thing I do when I log into the beta is make a night elf monk. One reason for making a night elf versus a panda is that the pandas aren't actually complete yet. The females currently only have one hair style and one ear style. They are definitely cute but not for me. I prefer my monks to be more ninja like rather than roly poly and sweet.
I levelled the monk to ten so that I could pick my specialisation. Up until this point, I had three skills and a roll. The roll is fun and surely meant for dodging out of the way but at these low levels I am just using it for movement speed. The monk uses two resources: chi and energy. If you played a rogue you will be familiar with how energy works. Chi is gained by using certain abilities and spent by using others in a continuous cycle throughout the fight. I do think as time moves on the monk will become an important and viable class as it can fill the holy trinity of roles: Tank, healer, and DPS.
It was a little disheartening at level ten to not get that first talent point to spend. In classic WoW and subsequent expansions one of the things a levelling character could look forward to was spending a talent point every couple of levels.
After being a bit disappointed with the baby monk, I decided to try a level 85 template monk. This is a great way to see the new content but it won't be an accurate representation of every player's experience. When one makes a template character it comes equipped with full heroic dungeon gear. The player has the ability to enchant and gem all of the gear with maxed out jewel crafting and enchanting. Many players will be better geared than a template character while some will only have quest gear, crafted, or others may only have PvP gear when Mists of Pandaria goes live. Is the first zone optimised for every type of player or will some struggle while some faceroll through?
My purpose in creating the 85 monk was to look at and choose the “new talents”. Again, I was quite disappointed. I find the new talents far too simplified. I understand the intent of condensing the talents so the player isn't penalised for their choices but my thought is that Blizzard has removed an enjoyable part of the levelling and customisation experience. The long wait for a new talent won't affect level capped characters drastically when the expansion goes live as they will get to choose most of them in one go but for me it may deter my desire to level a new character. I like the little rewards, such as talent points, to drive me forward. Blizzard used to do that so well.
The beta isn't all big sweeping changes though. There are little things that make one ponder. For example wands no longer have their own slot. They are now a main hand weapon. Wands have really only ever been stat sticks or something to use if out of mana. So the demotion/promotion of the wand, while not game changing, is moderately interesting. Another small change is the buff interface. I have never liked the consolidated buff icon. I want to see all my buffs, especially when raiding or in a dungeon, so consolidated buffs is a feature I've always turned off. However, in Mists of Pandaria the buff box, on mouse over, now indicates by stat which short term buff you have while long term buffs remain outside the box. It doesn't appear to always work at this time though.
Mounts and companions now have their own tab on the hot bar. It seems to be very bugged at present. Currently the pet battle system has been removed but rumour has it that it is soon to be reintroduced.
After creating a level 85 template character, the character is dropped into the starting area of Jade Forest. However, there is a quest for both Alliance and horde in Stormwind and Orgrimmar respectively that lead the character to the Jade Forest through a series of scripted events and cut scenes. I so wanted it to be epic. It wasn't. There was no real sense of urgency or impending doom. I remember watching the The Burning Crusade trailer over and over just to hear Illidian Stormrage say “You are not prepared”. That was epic. A ride in a junky gnome engineered plane is not.
From what I have discovered thus far, Mists of Pandaria is just more WoW. This is neither a good thing nor a bad thing. It is just more of the same. If you are looking for something new and exciting you won't find it here but you will find the same solid and entertaining game that it has always been.