Saturday, January 5

How do you feel with Mists of Pandaria so far?

I decided to try out MoP when contrary to a lot of doomsayers, I didn't hear as much grumbling about how 'bad' MoP was. In fact I heard people at least ranking it above Cata, even WoTLK and just below or on-par with TBC. That seemed like a good sign and decided I'll give WoW another go.

I'm pretty happy with that decision, even though I'm starting to get into the timesucking addiction problem I had with WoW before.

Mostly, I think Blizz actually really got what needed to be done, and did it well. And all those features that people felt were going to be bad in the long run, make sense or actually work really well.

Below is a summary of what I think after a week's playing on my old lvl 85 characters and a new Monk character.

The Chinese style aesthetic
A refreshing change. Visually so much different from the destructive and skull-based artwork we got since WotLK. Colorful, and wonderfully fluid. It's kinda like what a Kung Fu Panda MMO would look like, and that's not bad.

Maybe because I actually am Chinese (not mainland China though, Singaporean), so I'm biased. But it's a classic idea of the ancient China ideal and I'm thoroughly enjoying it. Even the freaking cloud textures look so much nicer! And the first time you spot one of those new serpentine dragon mounts and watch them move, you'll just stand there admiring them.

I think the graphic artists really got galvanized into a new breath of life by being given a completely different aesthetic and culture to work with, and it shows. Ditto for the soundtrack composers with the orchestral Chinese music.

The previous expansion was about destruction, and it makes so much sense this one is about rebuilding and growth. Overall the world is just so energetic, colorful, and just plain beautiful. I could just stand and look at the world and just enjoy it for what it is.

The new creatures are also colorful and striking. I love the Mogu as the main antagonists, although I do find the MoP version of Murlocs and another bug race a little too similar in the trend of the expacs.

I know people were like wtf when they were released, but honestly they've existed in the lore longer than sentient-race Worgens, so I wouldn't try using lore to not justify their existence, since we had Chen Stormstout in WC3.

Their presence midst all the more traditionally western fantasy races is I admit, a little weird. I zoomed in on my female Pandaren seated in a Goblin Trike and I realized without any other identifiable figure in the back, you wouldn't really guess it was WoW.

That said, I like them. They're from an island away from the major continents, makes sense they're just going to be so different from the other races. The starting zone is beautiful, introduces the Chinese culture and aesthetic pretty well, and the characters you meet are fun and yes, cute (although Vermin are freaking terrifying because they remind me of the twisted bunny creature from a Twilight Zone movie). The giant turtle is amazing to behold.

They have the best facial expressions, and after playing female Pandaren, I really wish they ported some of their fluid animations onto female Dwarves for a non-skinny female character.

Lore-wise, nice to play a truly blameless race. The faction choice is interesting, and actually, the part where you have to 'prove yourself' to either sides' faction leaders help highlight why the relative faction heads are jackasses.

I've been leveling one, although only after the initial mad rush of the first few weeks so I didn't find my starting zone too crowded. I think they're really the most frenetic yet fun-loving classes Blizz has ever made.

I've been playing as a Brewmaster, the tanking class. I don't feel like a tank class, which is amazing. I feel like a kung fu master just like the Monk is suppose to be. I'm more like the guy going "Get away from my buddies!" while reeling around drunk. Your abilities fit the theme so well. Why are the mobs angry at me? Because I'm hurling kegs of beer! Oh, and also because I'm breathing fire on them! And I haven't even reached the higher levels where I can summon a freaking Ox statue or giant white tiger (although I've gotten the talent to summon a really pleasant looking bubble that hovers over my head).

The funny thing is they remind me a lot of my TBC bear tanking days because BrM tanks depend a lot on avoidance and their Stagger mechanic, without the added benefit of any high armor levels. Maybe that's why I feel nostalgic of playing them, like playing an old-fashioned bear tank but being able to see my gear!

I didn't think it was possible, but Blizz manage to fit an almost action adventure game playstyle to the Monks, to the point I've been seriously considering hooking up a gamepad while tanking just to see if it would work.

I haven't really tried it out yet in PvP, as I'm a bit low leveled and don't have full access to my kit. And to be honest, at lvl 30, I'm already a little overwhelmed with the wealth of things I can and have to keep track of as it is while tanking, and I've yet to really dive into the PvP aspect of Monks. So far to me, I think their biggest weakness is definitely going to be against any range. Unlike Rogues who can stealth up to targets, or a Warrior with their longer distance Charges and Leaps, a Monk can really be caught out in the open.

The animations, at least for Pandaren so far (not sure about other races) are fluid and awesome. I sometimes just roll everywhere from a large height or something just to see how well the transition is. The problem I find though, is because I'm concentrating on managing my Chi and Energy and CDs, that I can't just appreciate the animations from a more relaxed perspective; they kinda get lost in the frenetic pace of everything which is a real pity.

Apparently at high levels, the skill difference between a good and bad Brewmaster tank is pretty big due to managing all these buttons, similar to the Feral Cat rotation/JOHN-FUCKING-MADDEN! system, so it's not a low skill cap class if you want to fulfill your role well.

If you're coming back to WoW, I highly suggest trying out rolling a Monk. They're just the most fun I've had in a class in a long while.

Talent tree being dumbed down
I think it was an appropriate response to simply the new speed that leveling has taken. A pity because that defeats the purpose of Cata, but acknowledges that putting a point every level loses its significance after a while.

For one thing, the new talents are significant. Several grant new abilities entirely and permanently change existing abilities. There's significant differences between talents that modify the same ability, and you really have to take a moment to think what fits your style of play best.

The thing is the speed that you progress, you're given new abilities baseline faster than you can think as it is. Diverting more energy into learning your new skills feels a lot more important than messing with a talent that increases x for y%.

Glyphs too were improved. The minor ones now fulfill the 'fun' aspect better, while the major ones no longer just be % increases to damage and such. Several are like talents, complete changes to existing abilities or even giving you new ones, so it's great that the glyph system feels a lot more robust.

How specs have changed really depends on your class. For Druid, you now have four specs because Feral Kitty and Feral Bear are different now. Overall I think the idea is bigger difference between spec choices, but they maintained and actually give more player choice through the drastic effects the Talent trees and glyphs can do now.

Pet Battles
It's there if you want it or not. And I gotta be honest, Blizzard actually put more work into this than I thought they would. The various creature types, their unique passives, quite a large number of unique movesets etc.

And they basically managed to port over Pokemon's 3 on 3 battle dynamics in some form as well, there's quite an emphasis on team support abilities over just having 3 super strong pets going 1 on 1 constantly (although you could probably go far just doing that). They also managed to port over Pokemon's EV stats idea, good gawd.

Overall, better than it sounds, and a great in-game minigame. It's another collect-a-thon thing for the obsessives.

MoP has surprised me in the best ways. It's drawn me back (terrible for me personally, I'm easily addicted) and engaged me in new ways. There's a lot more 'new' in this expac than before, and having a new class also helps me appreciate the new Cata classic zones as I level (I try to refrain from powerleveling through the LFG even tho as a tank spec it's really easy).

I'm actually excited about new content for once in a long time. I'm excited with how Blizz can change their design direction for the better, and I'm impressed with what they have achieved within the constraints of an 8 year old game.

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