World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria
Has it finally past it’s sell by date?
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After finding out that yet another expansion for World of Warcraft was being released, I decided to come out of retirement and throw myself into Pandaria in hope of rekindling a love for the game I once had. In an age where MMORPG’s are now mostly free to play, the relatively expensive World Of Warcraft seems to be struggling; with people claiming its time has passed, graphics are outdated and the old ideas of doing 1000 quests for one level bores us. Blizzard however, has decided to throw in another random island out of nowhere and give people even more quests to do!
After what seemed like an eternity (about 40 hours gameplay) I finally gained the five levels on offer. My character is now level 90, and I can honestly say that I hated almost every minute of it. Numerous times my flatmates would walk into my room and ask me how I was finding the game, my responses ranged from ‘I would rather be at my lectures’ to ‘I remember a time when games used to be fun’. The most infuriating part of World of Warcraft is that even though I feel like the game literally destroys my soul, I still have the urge to stay up until 2am trying to improve my gear and prove that I didn’t waste all that time for nothing.
Even though I have played the game since I was 14, I had never been active when an expansion had been released. I therefore had no idea what to expect: all I knew was I wanted to be one of the first to hit level 90, to be better than everyone else! It’s fair to say that dream failed miserably. Even though I consider myself quite a ‘hardcore’ gamer, I am nothing compared to the people who inhabit Pandaria, they take hardcore to a whole new level!
Before I analyse the game play in MoP I want to look at the idea behind the expansion. Pandas. Pandas who are experts in Kung Fu. Not the most original or cool idea Blizzard has ever had. Whatever happened to the days of Blood Elves and Werewolves? Personally I feel like Blizzard are confused about their target audience: on one hand you have quests which involve exorcising pandas to rid them of evil spirits, and on the other you’re fighting giant rabbit/rats who attack you with big carrots? The other new addition to the game are battling critters you can capture, train and show off as your new pets. Sound familiar? I understand that Blizzard feel like they had to do something to revitalise the game, what with 3 million subscribers quitting in the last two years, but why do they think dancing pandas and fighting cockroaches are going to solve this problem?
One thing which I do like about the game is Blizzard’s attempt to make quests more interesting. The first quest you get given when you begin Pandaria is the rescue of the King’s son, who you find out in a cinematic, has been shipwrecked on an unknown island. This planted a seed of joy as I thought ‘Maybe all the quests in this Panda infested land will be this interesting!’ They weren’t...It was a cruel, cruel joke played by Blizzard. The quests are what they always were: ‘Kill 10 wolves that are disrupting the town’ or ‘Collect 10 pieces of cloth’ etc. However Blizzard have tweaked the game slightly so instead of just running around killing wolves, you get on a cannon and shoot them from a far, providing a feeling that not all the quests are the same.
The biggest problem with World of Warcraft at this current time, which the ‘Monk’ class amplifies, is the problem that classes are losing their individuality. Don’t get me wrong, every class has different spells, but there all designed to do the same thing. All classes now (even those who have no magical ability) can heal themselves, create some sort of magical shield, or regenerate their health when below 35%. In an effort to balance the classes out they have simply made them very similar. Admittedly, the game does seem a lot more balanced, but in achieving this it has made the game boring. I would also argue that if you compared the Burning Crusade to Mist of Pandaria, the game itself has got far too easy. With a built in quest guide you don’t even need to read the quest information, you simply press M and walk towards the highlighted area. In no way am I saying that levelling in World of Warcraft used to be hard, but I found it more challenging.
Pandaria itself is actually a very vibrant landscape; each zone is different, with a variety of mobs to challenge. The new talent tree is - in my view - an improvement on the former tree, no longer is there a set tree to follow, instead its more personal preference. The addition of Vanishing Powder also means you no longer have to run all the way to your trainer to replace one talent point. Also new to the game is ‘Cross Realm areas’ which allow people from a number of different realms to join together and quest in the same area. It seems that Blizzard has realised their world is dying, and has combined realms to try and salvage a sense of community. In theory it’s a good idea: it’s always better when we’re together, but in practice it means high level players enjoy killing low levellers ‘because they can’. It seems Blizzard didn’t take in mind that gamers are ruthless and care very little for ruining others gamers experience.
It’s very easy to list everything Blizzard has done wrong, but a lot harder to actually think of ways to change the game for the better. I would rather have fewer quests, with a more detailed storyline. In doing this it would get rid of grinding and instead make it seem much more like a ‘role-playing game’. I also disagree with the idea of countless expansions, as I feel they are designed to keep the ‘hardcore’ gamers interested, but they don’t draw newcomers in. Trying to entice someone who has never played World of Warcraft is very tricky; with the level-cap so high it seems like a huge mountain to climb. It’s easy to see that Blizzard are trying to fix this problem by offering benefits to joining the game if you’re ‘recruited by a friend’, however what with World of Warcraft’s reputation, and a 10 year head start, it’s going to take a lot more than triple experience to get people to buy the game.
I think the best way to describe Mists of Pandaria to someone who has never played the game would be to think of the television series ‘Lost’, and how the first season was amazing, but slowly deteriorated for the longer it dragged on, and by season 7 the only people left watching were the devotees, and very few people could be bothered to start from the beginning to catch up. I feel like I am being very harsh on the Pandas, and there are improvements over Cataclysm, but at the end of the day it is not a game I ever ‘want’ to return to. I use the word want, because even though I have no desire to play the game again, for some reason I’m sure I will return to Azeroth for the next expansion, in the vein hope that I will enjoy levelling to 95.