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Trying Mists of Pandaria After Six Months Away

I recently picked up Mists of Pandaria to while away the remaining hours before RIFT’s Storm Legion expansion. To be perfectly honest, I’m pretty surprised to be writing this right now since I didn’t think I’d be trying it at all. Word of mouth means more than marketing or silly Panda decisions after all, it seems, so after too many trials and tribulations, I finally got the game installed and ready to go.

Technical Difficulties

Getting the game going again was a lot more difficult than I expected. I spent two days stuck on “Updating Setup Files.” This has never been an issue in the past, so I chalked it up to the digital download not agreeing with my system. I even went so far as to install my WotLK disc only to get the same hang up an hour in. As I later discovered, AVG had disabled the Windows Secondary Logon service, so when I got that turned on, everything was honky dory. Blizzard really has streamlined the download-play process and deserve a nod. Good job, little monsters.

Unfortunately, I’ve experienced numerous crashes and bugs since then. The MoP DX11 update doesn’t agree with nVidia’s latest drivers, so I was forced to downgrade to DX9 to play for more than an hour. For some reason, I can no longer hit ESC to bring up the menu, too, so there’s that.

Pet Battles

It’s amazing how much has changed in the last six months. I was lucky enough to have a couple of friends still playing who could help me get back into things. Pet Battles were one of the first things I wanted to try out. As it happens, I totally forgot some of the cool pets I had, and I was able to bypass the starter pet completely and begin things right with my Onyx Whelpling (Nine out of ten adventurers agree, dragons are cooler than birds).

People weren’t kidding when they said this thing is like Pokemon. It’s a carbon copy, right down to having to visit a special NPC to have your pets healed. On one hand, I love this since I was a big fan of the Game Boy games. On the other, it seems really odd that the player doesn’t have any way to heal their pet when they regen thousands of health each second.

I don’t know if I will be putting a whole lot of time into this system up front. It’s neat but it also feels like having to re-level all over again and it seems a bit grindy for the month I’m planning on staying. Still, I hit level 4 with my dragon-friend and will surely play around with it more.

Narration

I’m a big fan of the cinematics this time around. Not the trailers really but the in-game scenes. It’s better done than any expansion to come before it and is really about time; MMOs are notoriously bad for their narrative elements, WoW being high up on that list. It’s also neat how much more voice over is included in this expansion. You can really tell that Blizzard is trying to answer the new emphasis on story that’s come about since Cataclysm.

Pandaria

Ah, the stories continent of kung-fu pandas. I’ll be honest, I think the Pandaren race is the single stupidest addition to ever come to WoW. It’s a joke beyond jokes and reeks of desperation akin to a teenager with a flipped collar hoping to stand out from the crowd. It works but not in a good way. Anyways, that said, WoW is a pretty silly game in general and has a whole lot in common with a cartoon. Accepting Pandas in that context really isn’t that hard. Moreover, I think they’re really more of a vehicle for the Asian themed continent. So I’ll take them and do my best to keep them in my peripheral vision an no more.

The game itself is pretty in timeless way that only WoW has been able to pull off. The polygon count is low in comparison to other games but it really doesn’t hurt the experience since the engine is so good at blending it all together.

The gameplay is what’s bothering me. I’ve halfway to 86 and I’m still not comfortable with it. It just feels incredibly simple. Now, my Death Knight was never that hard to play but it seems much less involved than ever before. I open combat with a sequence like this: 1, 2, 2, 3, 3, 4. Every time… unless one of those twos becomes an Alt+2 for AoE.

What’s worse, though, is that spell effects are so out of control and mobs so prone to come in packs that’s it’s hard to tell what I’m even targeting unless it’s three times my own size. It makes combat feel horribly detached an unimpactful. Oh, I’m dying? I wonder why. No way to tell with so many colors exploding everywhere, may as well spam my heal.

I’m going to try to turn down my spell effects but that shouldn’t be necessary. The game simply shouldn’t let you turn things up so high that it destroys the experience. I don’t know if I’m spoiled by new games or just getting used to things again. Maybe it’s both. We’ll see over the month, I guess!

The other problem is that the quests just don’t feel worth reading. After playing SWTOR, and GW2, and RIFT where exposition is more than 250 characters, seeing that half-paragraph explanation just makes me want to skip it and hope the game tells its story by playing through it. I feel like I’ll miss something doing that, though, and it makes me a bit uncomfortable.

Even though I’ve only played for a handful of hours, I’m feeling like this return is very hit or miss. I am reserving judgment until it’s fair to hand it out and am keeping an open mind. Will report back when I’ve had more time with it!

1 comment

  1. Telwyn

    I was a big fan of Blizzard’s storytelling until they started making videos out of the story. I wanted to just play my character in the world. The session play style (from LoTRO) of playing as another character isn’t for me, just as I disliked the increasing number of ‘vehicle’ quests that took control of my character away from me.

    I’m not allergic to the panda, though I can see your point on how very ‘commercial’ they feel. I also think the gameplay has gotten steadily worse since the end of Wrath. I really dislike what they’ve done with the talent system and Boomkins in general. Play on most characters is mainly waiting for buttons to ‘light up’ for you to press.

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