Okay, so, we’ve had Mists of Pandaria for almost a week and I feel like I should say how I’m generally feeling about it. Naturally, the fact I’ve been playing rather than writing means I’m enjoying myself; but there are a couple of niggles that have been irritating me, as well as some parts that really have been epic.
This is just a quick rundown, though – nothing heavy.
It’s hard to decide how I feel about this. Trying to do it in one sitting made this grind brutal and by the conclusion, I never wanted to see another quest again – I really didn’t. Having said that, though, you’re not supposed to do it in one sitting; not even remotely. There wasn’t enough levelling content in Cataclysm and it felt like there was too much in Pandaria. Despite that, I still spent far less time hitting the big ding than I did in WotLK, where I felt the pacing was perfect.
I think my problem is the smaller number of levels. If we assume that there is the same amount of levelling content in Pandaria as there was in Northrend (and, honestly, I think that’s about right), it’s harder to feel that your character is developing as quickly when you only have five levels to get through. By the time you’d done with Howling Fjord or Borean Tundra, you’d gotten to 72/73 and could choose your next destination. At the conclusion of Jade Forest you’re only 86 and have to hit the Valley of Four Winds.
It simply “feels” slower and more painful when there are less levels.
That said, the questing is (in places) really well done. I’ve come across preciously few bugs, and things like Savior of Stoneplow or the Klaxxi Paragon releasing is epic; I think I want a bromance with Korven the Prime. While I hated the grind during my mammoth session, and still worry about the length of time required for alt-levelling, I reckon this is about the right volume of levelling content and it’s of a very high quality.
It’s hard to be very friendly about this at all. If you’re doing the grinds for the Cloud Serpent or Tiller’s, I feel you’re going to enjoy yourself. There’s nothing to really grind, you can do them at your own pace, and the variety makes for a more enjoyable questing experience as well as netting you those oh-so-precious Motes of Harmony. Unfortunately, Ghostcrawler’s decision to put Valor upgrades, some of them BiS no less, onto reputation quartermasters is so unbelievably stupid, it’s just hard to see past it.
Who thought that was a good idea?
It was promised prior to launch that reputations were supposed to be there more for their own sake, and that’s why the dungeon reputation tabards were removed. Those who enjoyed working on reputations could do so as fiercely or as leisurely as they liked, without feeling like any of it was mandatory. Enter Greg Street, and several of them become mandatory while the complete devaluation of Justice Points happens simultaneously.
Don’t get me wrong, the daily quests are fun and there are multiple rewards including Valor, cooking tokens, Charms of Fortune and reputation. But the decision to make them mandatory for raiders due to Valor rewards was idiotic.
A whole heap of work has gone into streamlining professions and this, to me, is almost a complete success. I wasn’t necessarily in favour of streamlining to this extent, but the magic of the system is easy to see when you think about it; most of the fun is to be had at the cap now, rather than a painful slog to get there, and this makes professions almost content in and of themselves.
Essentially, there’s one material required (ghost iron ore in my case) that will help you reach the cap, while other materials such as Spirits of Harmony or Kypparite ore are required to get the shinier of the plans/patterns that reputation vendors hold. What this does is ensures you can get to the profession cap easily for your performance bonuses, but there’s still gameplay value for those that like the completionist aspect of professions.
Having originally been against the Spirit of Harmony idea, I’ve grown to be very fond of it. You can earn them by doing practically anything in Pandaria including dungeons, questing and general exploration, while you can then grow your professions into what you want them to be over time. The key is that this is YOUR choice. My only complaint, and it’s a small one, is that the drop rate of Motes is maybe a wee smidgen on the low side. That, however, is so small a gripe, it’s barely one at all.
Lastly, I was horribly worried that I’d need to level my priest to grab flying before she’d become a decent ore farmer and that worry didn’t materialize, either. The Jade Forest has ore in plentiful supply and a couple of circles around the southern section see my bags nice and full and ready to rock.
Basically, the “play” in professions has been moved to the cap and they’ve done a great job with them. All thumbs up from me.
The pet battle system is done wonderfully. The UI is seamless with the game world, PvP is easy to get involved in, levelling up your pets is fun and engaging and the battle system itself is fluid, easy to grok and challenging to master. Certain pets are powerful solo from what I can see, while combinations work wonderfully together against certain types of pet and often have clear, definitive weaknesses.
A full review of this will happen eventually from me I’m sure but, suffice it to say, I think it’s fantastic so far. If you haven’t tried it, go try it.
At the moment, I’m still not sure whether I’m in love with the idea of scenarios or the scenarios themselves; I think my uncertainty hints at the latter. There’s so much potential here that Blizzard could end up doing wonderful things with them but, for the moment, they’re just a bit… Anticlimactic. They’re disconnected from the world at large in most cases and don’t seem to fit as part of the game we’re playing.
We knew the difficulty wasn’t meant to be tuned highly, so no surprises there, but I’d prefer a more rounded approach to scenarios that rewards good play. Having said that, their implementation has been near flawless to this point and I’ve suffered from no bugs, difficulties or worries when I’ve done them.
I think my big worry is maybe the replay value but we’ll see about that as time moves on. When push comes to shove, this is our first look (and thus Blizzard’s first attempt) and I think they’ll improve as time moves on.
There are too few levelling dungeons that allow you to prepare for heroic dungeons. On the other hand…
Heroic dungeons require too little preparation and, by and large, aren’t tuned anywhere near well enough. This is a real shame because, actually, a lot of them are wonderful set-pieces on their own merit, and a huge swathe of the bosses have fun and enjoyable mechanics that have clearly seen some imagination poured in.
They’re just… Not punishing enough. I’m not asking for a repeat of Cataclysm where the slightest error cost you your life, but some of the mechanics may as well not be there considering how lowly their damage is tuned. Perhaps this is a personal gripe, but when trash generally ends up more challenging than some of the bosses it’s protecting, I think that’s a bit of a worry.
I know challenge modes (which I haven’t tried yet) are supposed to be where the rough five-man content is found nowadays, but tanking the five-man heroics in non-tanking quest gear and only being threatened when my healer starts deepsing is just too much. They really need tuning up a bit.
That’s my quick and dirty run-down of Mists of Pandaria as things stand and, I must say, I’m pleasantly surprised with how good a job Blizzard have done. The easy heroic dungeons and stupid system for Valor rewards aside, MoP feels more polished and complete at launch than Cataclysm did for its entire life cycle. When you toss in that bit of Blizzard magic in the form of yaks or Gizmo and Socks, you get an expansion that’s been a blast to play so far.
How have you guys been finding it?