Blizzard unveils new Mists of Pandaria World of Warcraft expansion pack

Editor’s Note: The following article is reprinted from GamePro.com. For more gaming news, visit GamePro’s news page.

World of Warcraft: Cataclysm changed the face of WoW as we knew it. And unfortunately, in ways not just in-game. For the first time in its history, the world’s most popular MMO lost traction and subscriptions, as hundreds of thousands of players quickly bored of the novelty of an updated version of the old game, and its somewhat limited new zones.

So what has Blizzard got lined up for the next expansion? Well, as has been rumored for months since the company registered Mists of Pandaria as a trademark, the new Mists of Pandaria expansion will feature a playable race of Pandas called the Pandaren. They have been a peripheral part of the World of Warcraft lore for years, but have become more of a humor meme than a serious, ass-kicking race, thanks to them being a part of an elaborate World of Warcraft April Fool’s joke a few years ago, and novelty in-game pet item.

We’ll have to see how all this translates into a new expansion, which is promised to concentrate far more on the Horde versus Alliance conflict, and move away from the now-traditional giant-baddie-invading-Azeroth that has been the standard in the last three expansions.

That in of itself is a refreshing move, since players who’ve fallen out of favor with the game recently have criticized the feeling of following a familiar path of new threat, series of raids that lead up to a final confrontation with that new threat, the defeat of that new threat and your character becoming a hero. And then the new expansion starting that process over with you going back to running around doing mundane fetch-quest and digging through poop for seeds, despite the fact that only a few months ago, you were the hardcore-est, bad-ass mofo in Azeroth.

Once again, the level cap is being raised. This time another five levels to a mighty 90. And there will be many more new zones—and indeed an entire new continent to explore than there was in Cataclysm. Which is a good thing, because many players blew through that expansion’s content in next to no time.

There’s also a new class. This time it’s a Monk, which will add an interesting mix of healing and melee skills. That’s definitely an exciting new addition to the game, though the thought of having to level up a character all the way to 90 through old content does feel a little daunting.

New kinds of PVE content have been promised, with Challenge Dungeons and PVE Scenarios being mooted to add some new dimensions to the gameplay. So far, there has been not much said about PvP stuff, but I’m sure that’s coming soon. As a keen PvP player, I’m really hoping there is more additions to the game than just a few more Battlegrounds, and hopefully a refreshed Arena System, which really has become a minor competitive part of the game because many players don’t find it particularly fun.

One of the more interesting novelty items is a pet battle system, similar to Pokemon, which sounds like it might be quite entertaining. We’ve seen early pet-type mechanics with combative remote-controlled cars and Tonks that were acquired through in-game events and as Christmas presents, and that was actually fun, if somewhat limited. So it’ll be very interesting to see what the devs do with those mechanics.

And, of course, the Pandaren will be a playable race, which will be a cause for great celebration for those into big cuddly human-like creatures. Personally, I’m really not sure about that. It just feels gimmicky and very out of place, but hopefully we’ll see the devs taking what has been more of a cute, novelty item and moving it away from feeling like a cheap kung-fu panda comedy item, and giving it a bit more edge, so they feel more like a bad-ass addition to the World of Warcraft, and less of something to go “awwwww” over.

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