Now, that patch 5.3 had some time to settle in and with certain talks about 5.4, I think we can say that the expansion probably is getting close to the finish line. Everyone expects the Garrosh raid to most likely be the finale for Mist of Pandaria in terms of content. If that’s the case, then we can use this time to look back at the expansion and see the positive/negative elements….from my point of view, of course.
- Large continent with tons of quests, lore and flavor. You have to love the sheer size of the new continent. Some areas were done exceptionally well such as the Jade Forest and Valley of the Four Winds. The entire place adds a great deal of depth into the game and there’s lots of opportunities to explore and discover items, rares, treasures and whatnot.
- A huge number of things to do once you hit level 90. Once you hit 90, you cannot say that you have nothing to do. There’s always something you can turn your attention to whether it’s dailies, LFR, scenarios, pet battles, farmville, rares, PVP, etc. Seriously, I doubt there’s ever been a time in World of Warcraft’s history where you had this many opportunities to accomplish something within the game.
- Varieties of ways to obtain epic loot. The game has done a decent job of providing ways for people to get loot including Heroics, Scenarios, Heroic Scenarios, LFR, raids, honor/conquest points, dailies (from valor), defeating rare mobs, rerolls, world bosses and crafting. You really get to choose the path you want to take in terms of gearing yourself and can focus on your play style.
- Lots of corrections to LFR, including the recent bad luck streak rolls, the improved loot chances for older raids and loot specialization. Most of all the got rid of the ninja looters.
- Plenty of raid bosses, including (thus far) 4 new world raid bosses. If I’m not mistaken, there are currently 37 raid bosses, with one specifically targeting heroic raiders. If you just did LFR, you still could fight against 36 bosses total on just one toon. Not including normals and heroics, but that’s a lot of fights.
- Pandaren cooking! I love how they revamped cooking into something incredibly useful. It’s great how they made leveling so much easier and gave cooking all these buffs so that it’s worth putting the effort into this profession.
- Easier methods to level up professions in Pandaria (if you never bothered beforehand). They have done a lot to make leveling professions like blacksmithing, mining, herbalism, etc. less of a chore if you had focused exclusively on leveling. I think it’s great because hopefully it’ll encourage more people to take up professions and contribute to the economy.
- Pet Battles – This possibly is one of the best features by far added into the game. It’s fun and simple with some cuteness added into the equation. Just today I started working it again and caught myself an undead squirrel. I just loved the animation on the poor little thing’s face! You could tell the people who made this part of the game enjoyed themselves. But that’s why I think it’s such a great addition.
- Lootable pets from older raid bosses – Along with pet battles, you now have an extra incentive to do old raids since you can potentially find a mini pet from certain bosses.
- More soloable older raids – Eliminating the raid party requirement and tuning down the older raids have given new life to older content. Add the incentive of transmog and you’re allowing people to experience older parts of the game on their own, sometimes even challenging themselves.
- Voidbinders for upgrading items – Despite the high cost originally, the idea behind Voidbinders is great. Let’s say you found an awesome weapon that is the best you’ll probably get. Now, you can make it kick even more ass by adding a few more ilvls. It’s just another thing to help those with extra valor or those that need a small boost because they’ve had poor luck in finding a solid replacement for their current items.
- Base resilience for everyone, thus narrowing the gap for new PVPers – I know certain members of this crowd will always moan over this aspect. But it’s something that was absolutely necessary. I think when Blizzard introduced PVP gear, they made a huge mistake in creating something that was completely off balance. I mean, I recall seeing this alliance Death Knight in Ogrimmar who just killed everyone near the auction house. She survived because she had top PVP gear. No one could scratch her, even when everyone ganged up. This scenario made absolutely no sense and illustrated the problem in having a ridiculous, arbitrary stat in the game. So this recent change gets my vote as a huge positive.
- Numerous ways to earn gold – I heard originally gold in vanilla was a real commodity. The advent of dailies solved part of this issue. And with the number of dailies and no cap in this expansion, gold is pretty much easily obtainable. In fact, you could do a combination of dailies, LFR and what not and easily hit a few thousand gold every week, even if you don’t do everything all at once.
- Farmville – A very interesting and cool aspect added to the game. And it’s not specific to your profession nor anything. You can just use your farm to grow anything, whether it’s hording all the materials for just one guy with a single profession or spreading it equally so that every toon with their own profession can get all the mats they need for the day.
- The Brawlers Guild (haven’t done this yet). I will say that this probably is a positive since it offers hard core players to really challenge themselves. It’s not for everyone but I do think it has an audience.
- Legendary quests for everyone – I think it’s great that they opened up the notion of legendaries so that everyone can obtain them. I haven’t gotten to the second half yet but I do enjoy the idea that you have that option.
- Challenge mode heroics – Again like the Brawlers Guild, I haven’t done them. But again this is something that is good for hardcore players and a way for them to test their mettle. While not everything should be viewed one way, it’s good that you have this segment so that these people can demonstrate how uber they are.
- Scenarios and recently heroic scenarios – Just new types of group content without the silly requirements of roles (although I heard healers are necessary for heroic scenarios). With faster queue times and reasonable rewards, scenarios offer just another way to get some quick loot while the heroic version once again offers hard core players the chance to push it to their limits.
- Loot rerolls – Now this was a godsend! I have been extremely fortunate to get the various items on my toons through this mechanism. The fact that you can occasionally get two items in a roll is just awesome.
- LFR Raid Style Progression – Patch 5.2 was a real test to see whether or not the LFR style raid progression would work. The problem was that traditionally raid progression had been particularly difficult for those who couldn’t keep up or started late. Fortunately, people still are using the pre-Throne of Thunder LFR raids to gear up and the queue times haven’t been as horrible. So there won’t be a necessity for a catch up style instance just to meet gear requirements.
Now, let me address the negative aspects.
- Dailies. Or more specifically unending dailies. If there’s one consistent gripe about Mist of Pandaria it’s that the game entirely is made up of dailies. Too much has been locked up behind dailies, including reputation, gear and other dailies. When you run out lesser charms, you end up returning to the dailies, although they’ve added more methods such as mobs and pet battles to acquire those charms. Still the monotony, the work-to-reward ratio and sheer number really made this system a massive failure.
- Talent tree removal – Of all the things done, this had to be one of the more anti-RPG moves done to the game. It made leveling seem even more meaningless. One nice thing about pre-Cataclysm leveling was looking forward to spending that one talent point you earned for that level. People complained about talent trees as either cookie cutter or far too restrictive. But it was a nice vehicle in giving the illusion that you were progressing somehow. And in some ways you were really customizing your character. The talent tree as it stands now only has a few uses and even today there are still cookie cutter builds. It felt like something cheap so that testing can be done in a far easier manner.
- Time management – There’s just too many things to do. It’s quite overwhelming really when you look at all the various things you can accomplish on a single toon. All of it is optional but there’s a lot that requires a huge amount of time investment. I think one of the major oversights in this expansion is asking how much time should players be given to do a certain number of activities. It feels as though no one bothered really investigating this idea nor setting a standard. This is something that I liked in Cataclysm’s patch 4.3 with the Hour of Twilight instances. The developers described them as something you could do over lunch break. The game at that time was far more manageable than it is now. Hopefully, Blizzard learns that you can’t spend every second in the game and that sometimes people want to split their time up in certain activities.
- Still no way to correct ninja pulling in LFR. They griefers continue! I doubt this will end but it’s something Blizzard drastically needs to address. It’s one of the main things poisoning LFR right now.
- Funnel vision. The game designers think too linear in the way they view how players will handle things. This is an internal problem in Blizzard and they need to do even more to make the experience open and dynamic.
- Leveling. This had been a huge issue in the funnel vision design. The fact that you would redo the path for each toon that you leveled really grated on many people. There wasn’t anyway to avoid the paths of questing and the quest themselves quickly became monotonous. I think they needed to do more to split up the quest hubs so that certain ones were optional. Most quests ended up being the same old same old without any real meaning. The average player will not take time to read the flavor texts so why inject that many useless quests into the game? Also, why create arbitrary walls in quests, especially those that can turn out buggy or just flat out lame? Sure, we have the 30% experience decrease for leveling at the moment, but that really doesn’t change the layout of the quests themselves.
- Too much visual BS in raids. I don’t mind mechanics but I mind situations where I just can’t see things because of horrible design. I appreciate the fact that the fights are more dynamic and complex but certain ones just went overboard. Again, Blizzard needs to establish standards in these situations to prevent burn out. And quite honestly, it doesn’t matter how complex a fight is; eventually people will just get burnt out over time so it’ll be too easy or lame.
- Effort-to-reward ratio is still skewed. It’s gotten better over time but I think people want to really see something for their effort. This is another aspect that Blizzard needs a standard formula.
- No flying in Pandaria until 90. Not even BoA flying. And the removal of automatic flight paths. Just overall inconvenience that serves no purpose outside of “hey, we really want you to see this world we created!” Well, we saw it once now we’re bored as shit. Stop funneling us through this narrow Disneyland Small World Ride. It’s not fun. It’s just tedious. Eventually, it won’t matter anyway so why try to put a stop to this?
Overall, I would say my biggest gripe is just the time management issue. I felt that this expansion I put just far more effort without really feeling much gratification. Usually, I just feel really exhausted and mentally burnt out after playing. And it’s so time consuming too. Not in a positive nor productive way neither. Along side that, my motivations for logging in is simply to continue to keep up. That’s not really a positive reason. I want to log on because I want to do something fun or accomplish something. Not be part of a rat race. The game talks about “slowing down” and developers describe the experience as “enjoying a fine wine.” I feel neither. It’s more like try to get every little nibble you can from an exploding cake before it hits the floor. Savoring the experience would be allowing me to log in once a week, play for a few hours and then leaving with a sense of accomplishment. Then I can muse over what I would want to accomplish the following week. I shouldn’t have to think just about tomorrow or the next second. That’s not savoring. That’s just wasteful time consumption.