My paladin from the original instance group, the one I raced ahead with. Well he is done racing ahead for now, at least when it comes to levels.
I started him into Pandaria pretty much as soon as it became clear that the instance group was going to come back to World of Warcraft. In my first post about that the week after BlizzCon I noted that he was already level 87 and that I would be substituting another character into the group to replace him.
So, basically, I went from 85 to 90 in about a week and a half. And while that sounds very quick, I did play a lot of WoW during that time. There is no War Thunder post this week because I skipped that. I barely did anything in EVE Online except move to Curse. I did not even work on alts in WoW once I got Alioto to 80 so he could join the instance group. I was unusually focused on playing through Mists of Pandaria. I jumped right into it… which is almost literally how you start there. And I had a full ration of blue bar which, thanks to always logging out in town or at an inn, lasted nearly to the end. I did not “feel normal” until I was at half way through level 89.
I did consume quite a bit of content along the way. I finished out the quests for the story line in the Jade Forest, the Valley of the Four Winds, and the Krasarang Wilds, ending up well into the Kun-Lai Summit story line, out by the Chow Farmstead, before my experience bar disappeared. In addition, I also ran four of the dungeons as part of normal mode Dungeon Finder groups. I hit the Stormstout Brewery, the Temple of the Jade Serpent, the Mogu’Shan Palace, and the Shadow-pan Monastery one time each.
So what was it like?
It was nice. The quest lines are very much in the Cataclysm 80-85 mode, where there is an over-arcing story to the zone. There are a lot more cut scenes and, unlike in Cataclysm, where every zone had its own story, the stories merge between the zones in Pandaria. And the stories are engaging, the characters are amusing, and beer figures prominently. If you do not like achievements popping up though, Pandaria won’t make you any happier. In addition to the normal achievements for completing zone quest lines, there are progress pop-ups that tell you that you have finished a given segment of the story line. Instead of a raw quest completion count, they track those segments for the zone achievement, and you cannot turn them off.
The overland zones are still very solo oriented. There is still phasing. I am concerned at how our group will do with the overland content. But running around by myself was fun. The quests are more varied than the old days. You still end up killing 10 of this and 10 of that, but there is a mix of other non-FedEx style quests. And the Valley of the Four Winds is practically The Shire if you enjoy domestic chores and the like. And, I tell you true, there is a woman out there that will demand that you attend to her giant melons. She is quite insistent.
Also, I killed a giant bug and, thanks to phasing, it’s dead corpse is still sitting in the zone. I find it oddly satisfying to see it still there after the battle.
The instances were also fun enough. I came in as DPS via Dungeon Finder, the mode was the usual random group “run, run, run” mode, but there seemed to be a variety of different boss encounters. I look forward to actually being able to appreciate them when the instance group gets there and goes through them at a slow to moderate pace.
Pandaria is also very pretty, perhaps the pretties place in Azeroth. And the Valley of the Four Winds isn’t just Shire-like in its quests, it is also a beautiful and lush green valley. Just replace pandas with hobbits, sink a few hobbit holes, and you are set.
I was interested to see that my gear wasn’t instantly obsolete the moment I jumped into the expansion. In fact, the gear I had from trying to get into the Fall of Theramore that preceded Pandaria remained better than green drops until Kun-Lai Summit, though I did pick up some nice instance blues that were clearly a step up. Meanwhile, the numbers in Pandaria seem out of hand. It is like dealing with ISK in EVE Online, you start to wonder if you counted too many zeroes. Of course, I just came from playing in the 1-60 experience, so suddenly seeing myself do 15K DPS might just be comparison shock. Still, I see why they are thinking about doing the item squish as part of the gear revamp for Warlords of Draenor.
Overall I am having fun. My initial aversion to panda cuteness went away pretty quickly. I still plan to move forward and finish the story line, collecting gold rather than experience along the way. And there are all sorts of other aspects to the Mists of Pandaria expansion I have yet to explore.
That said, if you had any thought about this expansion moving the game back towards World of Warcraft of 2006, you will be disappointed. Overland is very solo oriented, phasing is still a thing (though it isn’t used as much as I thought it might be, every battle doesn’t go away after you finish your bit), achievements are still a very big thing, pop-culture references abound including playing with nearly every martial arts movie trope that ever was, and I do not know enough about Chinese culture to be able to draw the line between treating it with respect and being culturally insensitive. I haven’t seen any serious outrage over the expansion, but I have no idea how it played in China either. (And we’ve been okay with trolls talking about voodoo and sounding like they are from Jamaica for 9 years, so maybe that ship has sailed.)
So I will carry on, though I will probably spend some more time with alts going forward. I have that other druid in the midst of Burning Crusade content, which is where one of the unofficial guild alt groups is currently questing, not to mention half a dozen other characters at various states of development on that server alone.
And, as a wrap up, a few screen shots from along the path to 90.