Sunday, 30 June 2013

Mists of Pandaria

   When Cataclysm was first announced (before I knew anything about any of the lore) I thought it looked awesome. A great big black dragon with metal welded to his scales, Azeroth being torn asunder, it was amazing. But it turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. Sure, redesigning 1-60 was amazing, that fact really shouldn't be overlooked, and because of it I ended up making several new characters instead of just my two (the second highest at that point was 52), but the end-game content as far as your level 85 was concerned was a little empty. But that's okay - Blizzard have heard our complaints, they understand them, and I doubt it'll happen again. If it does, it won't be for the same reasons, at any rate.
   Then MoP was announced. I heard about it in a thread before anything was on MMO-Champion, and I desperately hoped it was just a joke. Then, a few days later, it was announced officiall. I was so disappointed. That was, in part, because I heard about it before the initial announcement (it was like figuring out a Christmas present - if I guess what it is before Christmas, I don't want it anymore. I like surprises), but it was also because it looked so stupid. There was nothing I could do to stop the expansion from coming out, of course, or to change its content, so I just sat there miserably reading about it. Eventually I warmed up to it, bought the expansion (as I was going to regardless, since I wasn't finished with the game yet, and I'm still not) and actually loved it. It's turned out to be, as far as I'm concerned, one of the best expansions ever.

   Mists of Pandaria has a very obvious Asian theme to it. It can't be denied (at least by us in the West - I've certainly never been to Asia). I have an interest in things like that, and a particular love for the music. But that's not why I think MoP was so good.
   Think back to factions. In Vanilla...well I never experienced Vanilla, but from what remains of the factions they were mostly a grind. In the Burning Crusade, they were a bit richer, what with The Sha'tari Skyguard and the Netherwing - who doesn't love mounts? They were a grind, too, but there were enough dailies and substantial rewards to really make them worth-while.
   Wrath of the Lich King was the first to introduce useful tabards. In my mind, tabards are there to show your representation. Wearing a tabard once exalted was a nice way to say "look what I've done" but Wrath changed that. You ran around in the tabards of the faction you were championing, as if spreading the word to the faction's enemies that you were killing for them, and that the NPCs' deaths meant a higher standing for you in that particular faction. It was a bit of an insult, really, to the NPC, further rubbing in the fact that they are worthless and nothing more than a means for promotion, and that they had enemies everywhere. I loved that. But when Cata came out, they almost entirely did away with dailies. There were dailies in Wrath - I remember doing them. But in Cata they did away with them in favour of the tabards. Yes, it made championing factions much easier, and there was no confusion as to what you had to do - all you had to do was run dungeons. But in the end, all the factions were were extra dungeon loot. Run dungeons X number of times and get a special prize from faction Y! And then, run them Z amount of times and get a special prize from faction V! The factions had no depth, and they were so poor in Cata that I never even noticed they were there. All I honestly remember are camels. Yes, the Molten Front did change that, and it was superbly enjoyable, but running it on more than one character was a painful thought.
   In MoP, they did away with tabards. Yes, I did wish I could gain rep when I did the odd dungeon, but I wasn't going to cry about it. The factions had loads of dailies, and the fact that each faction had such different dailies in such different places gave the factions each an identity, and that was great. A lot of people consider it a grind still, because they don't want to do dailies to get new gear, and I admit that yes, it's difficult to want to get exalted with the Golden Lotus on a second character, with or without the commendation, but Blizzard do keep reminding us that dailies are not the only way to gear your characters. And in the end they did sort of re-implement the dungeoning, but it works slighlty differently. Personally, I prefer it to Cata's method.

   There are treasures all over the place, from the blue items you find here and there occasionally, to the grey items that are guaranteed for each character, and reward you with the experience of a rare and an item that, though grey, is worth around 100 gold. This is one small thing they added that I honestly adore. In the old days, grey items meant they were worthless. Now they mean that, yeah, they're not useful at all, but they're worth a hefty sum. My personal favourite is the Ancient Pandaren Tea Pot in the Jade Forest, but that's just because I love teapots, and possibly because I'm English. It really does strike me that these small items are the treasures they're supposed to be, and makes exploring that much more fun - there aren't just mobs around the corner anymore, and when I play I really keep my eyes open a lot more than I did in any other expansion - I really take in the surroundings.

   The fact that they're not preserving things any more - at least it feels that way - is something else that I kind of love. What I mean by this is the Vale of Eternal Blossoms. It was one of the prettiest zones (my personal favourite being the Jade Forest), and it was doubtlessly planned this way from the start, but the fact that this zone - the zone that houses the 'capital' Pandaren cities of the Horde and Alliance, that is the quest hub for a major faction, and is also really beautiful - is being destroyed in 5.4 (and started in 5.3) is just amazing. I suppose you just never really expect a huge change to go through a zone that, in terms of the whole game, is relatively new. I thought it was bad enough when the Jade Statue in the Jade Forest became Sha-infested, but this really takes the custard cream.
   But, while I am upset about the loss of a pleasant zone, I am really pleased with how in control Blizzard seem to be. Yes, it's their game, of course they're in control, but what I mean is that they're not preserving things any more, they're not letting the fact that a zone is new hold them back. They're really going for it, and I think that's just awesome. Things are really happening.

    They've also made a lot of use out of phasing zones. Phasing zones really bothered me in Cata, because they affected too-large areas, and if I wanted to meet up with someone in a certain zone and I was further ahead in that zone than they were, then we couldn't see eachother. I think they perfected this a lot in MoP, and used it cleverly, like with Sunsong Ranch. Initially I thought the farm was so stupid, and people kept saying 'Farmville' which put me off more. But when it actually came down to it, Sunsong Ranch was pretty awesome. I loved building up my own farm, planting my own crops and stuff, plus the Valley was so cute, it was gorgeous but in a really simple way, and I particularly loved The Heartlands - all that terraced farmland was just gorgeous. I really enjoyed flying around hunting for dark soil (I'm the kind of person that also really enjoyed collecting Netherwing eggs. I loved spotting that purple smoke!), and I loved how, as you progressed through the faction, your farm really opened up too, to the point that you had loads of plots, loads of animals, and even a friend on your farm! Sure, I'm tired of the farm now, but I still love how secret and individual my farm is. No one but me can get there ^^ it's my own private hidey hole!

   There are numerous other things I've loved about MoP, but I'm going to leave it all now. To sum up, I've learned never to judge an expansion (or anything else, really) by my first impression, because they're often wrong. It's the same reason I never ever read book blurbs. They're awful. I read the blurbs of several of my favourite books after reading them, and I knew that, if I'd read that first, I wouldn't have bought them. Cata looked amazing to begin with, and turned out poorly. MoP looked so stupid, but it turned out to be my favourite. Yes, my favourite. Wrath wins as far as nostalgia goes, but MoP is the best expansion in terms of content (my kind of content, at any rate!).

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks so much for commenting! I read all comments, and they are fully moderated, so spamming here is pointless, since it won't be accepted.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...