An Overview of Changes Coming With Mists of Pandaria, Part 1

In just a few short weeks, the latest and much-anticipated update for WoW will release and Mists of Pandaria will become the latest addition to the 8+ year reign of WoW in massive multiplayers online.  With the beta for Mists winding down, most of the coming upgrades and changes are pretty well set.

Lore, Zones, Races and Classes

To start with, let’s look at the broad-brush changes coming to WoW when MoP releases.  Azeroth will see the addition of an entire new continent, which includes five new zones plus a new starting area.  It will also see a new playable race and several new NPC races as well as a new playable class.

In game Lore, Pandaria was shrouded in mists and hidden from the world for 10,000 years during the sundering.  It remained undiscovered until very recently when a naval battle between the Alliance and the Horde near the end of events in the Cataclysm brought the war to Pandaria’s shores.  On the map, the new continent lies south of the Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor.  The cultures and theme of Pandaria is largely Oriental, taken from our own Asian cultures.

Zones on Pandaria include the Jade Forest, Valley of the Four Winds, Vale of Eternal Blossoms, Townlong Steppes, and the Dread Wastes.  Plus the new starting area of Wandering Isle.

The new playable race, the Pandaren, will be introduced as a humanoid giant panda (ala Kung Fu Panda, the movie).  A new class available to most races will also come with Mists, the Monk.  As with other MMOs that include a fighting monk style, the Monk in Pandaria is a specialist in unarmed combat that can both tank and DPS.  Only Goblins and Worgen cannot be Monks.

Non-player races introduced with Mists will include the Jinyu (similar to Murlocks / Naga), Hozu (monkey-like), Verming (a Kobold relation), Mantids, Mogu (original race to Pandaria), and the Sha (a spirit manifestation of negative energy).

Major Game Changes

Several major game changes to mechanics and play are coming with Mists of Pandaria as well.  Pets, the battle system (and stats), and Challenge Modes are the biggest of the overall game changes coming.  Class-specific changes are also going to happen and we’ll look at those in a moment.

The most immediate change for most players of WoW will be the addition of pets.  These come with their own play mode, stats system, economy, and more.  To nutshell it, pets will become the norm for most players and will be kept in a “Journal” similar to how mounts and so forth are stored.  Pets can be drawn into battle with other players pets or wild pets in a turn-based fighting system that allows you to swap out for other pets in your inventory (using up a turn), help your pets grow in strength and abilities through experience leveling, and more.

Pets can get to level 25 and gain skills at specific level intervals.  A total of 10 pet classes have been added and players can recruit new pets through purchase, trade, or by capturing and training wild pets.  As the pets in a player’s inventory (Journal) gain experience, more pet slots are added.

The battle system is seeing a major overhaul by changing only one thing: splitting avoidance and blocking into separate rolls.  What this means is that in combat, when attacked, you will have a roll to avoid the attack altogether and, if that fails, a roll to see how much of the attack is blocked or mitigated.  Exact numbers involved are determined by class, stats, gear, etc., but this fundamental change means that hits can actually happen more often.  This affects both players and NPCs, of course, and it changes some of the mechanics for player classes as well.

Finally, Challenge Modes are options for dungeons/instances that give higher rewards for faster completion of goals.  These rewards vary, but are given as one of three “shields” that are added to the bonuses for completion and that can be traded for gear, money, etc.

Wait.. Who’s the Big Bad Boss This Time?

One thing missing from the marketing and Lore for the Mists of Pandaria is a big, bad, deadly, world-ending, chaos-driven boss that must be stopped.  There is no titan in the end-game to be defeated in order to save Azeroth from certain doom.  This might seem like a huge oversight on Blizzard’s part, but it’s actually a fairly unique bit of storytelling that’s unusual in the MMO genre.

In earlier releases, there were end-game baddies to face like Illidan or Kil’jaeden, but not in Mists.  Instead, the world-destroying entity is the denizens of Azeroth themselves.  You, your friends, everyone who inhabits WoW is the bad guy now.

No, this doesn’t mean Paladins will become Death Knights and the Alliance will start wearing red.  It means that the people of Azeroth will have to realize that they are their own worst enemies.

Pandaria is a land that has been relatively peaceful for the past 10 millennium.  Now that the world-sundering, all-encompassing war between the Horde and the Alliance has come to Pandaria’s shores, though, that peace is ending.  The races of Pandaria are not factioned with either side of the conflict and are inherently neutral until recruited by one side or the other.  Pandaren players will get to choose sides when they complete the introductory quests.

Of course, this doesn’t mean there won’t be bosses to face in the new instances and dungeons of Pandaria, but they’ll be smaller and less overwhelming than the “final boss” entries from earlier updates.  It also means that the game will take on a whole new facet.  Like the real world, when war comes to the peaceful shores of Pandaria, it will bring bad things and little else.  This will fundamentally change the way the Lore of WoW is viewed by most players.

Coming in Part II

In our next part of this look at Mists of Pandaria, we’ll look at some class-specific changes coming, including major changes to the Warlock, Warriors, Paladins and Death Knights.   Stay tuned.

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