Game Preview: Blizzard has just held its anticipated Mists of Pandaria preview and Atomic was invited – and it's looking very polished indeed. Plus: Screenshot gallery!
In many ways Cataclysm was a troublesome expansion for Blizzard. By undertaking such a total rebuilding of the world the developers limited their ability to produce new content, particularly at end game level. When that was combined with new zones that heavily utilised cinematics and strongly narrative quest lines (Uldum and Harrison Jones, I’m looking at you), the result was a quietly grumbling community. Players complained of a lack of options at level cap for those not interested in heroics and tiered raiding. But Blizzard has repeatedly stated that it has learned lessons through community feedback and its own experiences and has promised gameplay options for gamers of all stripes.
What will we find in Mists of Pandaria then? While the inclusion of the Pandaren might seem too cute and fluffy to some, the inter-faction conflict that’s been brewing between the Alliance and Horde will be the main focus of the expansion and its follow-up patches. Players will have been aware for some time that the developers have been moving towards greater conflict between the two factions. Chris Metzen, VP of Creative Development revealed that the war itself will be the focus of the latest expansion, in lieu of major villain, and described Mists of Pandaria as “the spiritual successor to classic World of Warcraft”. Although the shipped game will feature a more open adventure and exploration vibe, a villain of sorts will appear throughout the later patches, which will culminate in a battle called The Siege of Orgrimmar. Metzen said “We’re leveraging all our main characters in one way or another...It will feel fairly tragic, but it will feel fairly heroic when all is said and done”. So, it sounds like a certain Warchief is going down.
Shipwreck on a mysterious isle
Although it has existed since before the Sundering Pandaria has been obscured by magical mists and its inhabitants unable to see out to the rest of the world. Travellers from beyond inevitably lost their way before being shunted back out to the Great Sea. Now, in the aftermath of the Cataclysm the mists have dissolved and both the Alliance and Horde naval fleets discover the new land while skirmishing. Destroying each other’s fleet, Horde and Alliance arrive in Pandaria as shipwreck survivors, bringing their war with them, and generally causing trouble. Although the Jade Forrest initially seems idyllic it soon becomes apparent that Pandara in the form of the Sha - embodiments of negative emotion. At least one of the Sha will appear as a boss in the first new dungeon, The Temple of the Jade Serpent.
The Pandaren; brewing, farming, butt kicking
Great brewers, farmers and the spiritual powerhouses of Pandaria, the Pandaren have a long history as the shepherds of the other races on the Isle and keeping the peace. Controversial though they are for some players the environments and design for the Pandaren race and the Isle as a whole is of an incredibly high standard. All the new zones have a beautiful Chinese-inspired aesthetic and it’s safe to say that the system requirements for the next expansion will increase. Also, playing through the level 1-10 zone for Pandaren it’s clear that this portion of the game is pretty much ready to ship.
Metzen also revealed that the Pandaren have been on the cards as a playable race since before the release of The Burning Crusade when they were under consideration as the new Alliance race although that place was eventually taken by Draenei. It’s also been confirmed that Chen Stormstout will be making an appearance and players will be able to get involved with Stormstout quest lines.
We’ve also finally met the female toons for Pandaren and they are cute! One day Blizzard will design the girls first. One day! But if you’re a fan of the female Dwarf design then it’s fair to say to say you’ll like the female Pandaren – there’s a little junk in the trunk and not a single snarly Chihuahua face to be seen, which was a problem for the female Worgen form. Check out the gallery to see screenshots and concept art.