I didn’t seriously get into World of Warcraft until Cataclysm. I played previously, but it wasn’t until I returned to check out the carnage caused by Deathwing that I wound up sticking around. As a result, Mists of Pandaria is the first expansion I have been able to fully experience over the course of its lifetime.
On August 2, 2011, MMO Champion posted a trademark filed by Blizzard for the name Mists of Pandaria as it applies to computer games. Speculation ran wild (card game, book, even the name of Titan), but the most logical of observers indicated this was probably the name of the next expansion, and at Blizzcon on October 21, 2011 they were proven correct. We were welcomed to Pandaria with glimpses of the Jade Forest and a sampling of the amazing soundtrack and the promise of the Pandaren race and Monk class. We had yet to slay Deathwing, but we knew that we would be traveling to a new continent (one seemingly revealed by the destruction he caused) for the next few years.
Mists of Pandaria proves just how weird expansions are. We spent eight years fighting assorted world-threatening viilains, from Kil’jaeden to Arthas to Deathwing, only to be taking a temporary reprieve by visiting Panda-land. Yet that temporary reprieve would last over two years. It was also way darker than we could have imagined, as we got to witness firsthand the destruction of the Jade Forest and Vale of Eternal Blossoms. Two years is a long time for an act to be considered temporary. We have spent the last two years visiting halfhill and the shrines on a regular basis. It is the reason so many people were glad to head to the Blasted Lands to begin killing orcs; even though it provided little content, it was a much needed change of scenery.
Blizzard told an amazing story over these last two years (well, really, one year, since all of Mists of Pandaria was released between September 2012 and September 2013). The story flowed from patch to patch, as the story being told was one of Garrosh’s rise as a maniacal overlord, interwoven with the struggle to stop the Mogu and to free Pandaria of the Sha they had been struggling to control for 10,000 years. Nothing felt haphazard, and even the requisite troll patch fit nicely as the Zandalari alliance with the Mogu resulted in the return of the Thunder King. Blizzard was able to weave these threads into an amazing final raid, which featured two council bosses of former quest-givers, the long-awaited final Sha, one final Troll dinosaur, and several familiar orcish faces. The Garrosh fight, despite taking place underneath Orgrimmar, still managed to call back to Pandaria as well. All told, Mists of Pandaria was a magnificent example of tight storytelling.
While the story was good enough to allay most people’s fears that the expansion would be silly, other concerns arose. Blizzard delivered an excessive amount of content at Mists of Pandaria’s launch, with an uncapped number of daily quests, pet battles, the farm, and scenarios among the more anticipated features. There was so much to do at Mists launch, that many players called this an alt-unfriendly expansion. To a degree, they were right because of the removal on the daily quest cap, and because so many powerful items and armor were locked behind reputations that depended on daily quests, the point at which a player would feel compelled to stop for the day or week and switch characters was not until most of the content had been completed.
Without being able to hit the 25 daily quest limit and then being forced to stop (and then switch characters, effectively as a way around Blizzard’s limit), players simply played until they could not play anymore. Players, such as raiders who felt compelled to earn all the highest level gear as soon as possible and altoholics who would attempt to do all the same grinds on multiple characters, were hit hardest by the decision. The ultimate result has been an extreme reduction in the number of daily quests that will be available in Warlords of Draenor.
But the irony is that Blizzard was going to need all that content. The altoholics were frustrated, but they were stuck thinking short-term. When the patch 5.4 content drought would arrive and prove to last a full year, rerunning content on alts was a great way to counter that. Perhaps the characters were four patches behind, but that also meant they had four patches to work through and keep them busy. The content was not as relevant as it once was, but it was available as something to do while waiting for Patch 6.0.2. The Pandaren admission of ‘slow down’ was not just a word of advice to the player base for how to consume content, it was also cautioning players against finishing everything and then being stuck with absolutely nothing to do during the inevitable drought. Ultimately, whether you earned your legendary cloak the day patch 5.4 hit, or the day before patch 6.0.2 went live, you have your Legend of Pandaria title, and no one knows the difference.
Mists of Pandaria also brought with it flex raiding, which has altered raiding going forward. Raids in the final tier of Mists of Pandaria effectively had six difficulties due to the 10 and 25-man modes applied to normal and heroic difficulties, as well as Flex and Raid Finder. At least LFR only had one size. Flex raiding not only allowed players to raid with an ever changing group-size, but it also will allow Blizzard to develop for only four difficulties going forward, with systems in place to handle scaling at every difficulty except Mythic.
Mists of Pandaria entered the public consciousness on 8/2/11, and it is finally obsolete today, 11/13/14, as Warlords of Draenor launches and we no longer have any reason to remain in Pandaria. I am tempted to say it was Blizzard’s best expansion so far, but I lack the full perspective on prior expansions to accurately compare. Regardless, it was a great expansion with an amazing story and exciting content, and I will fondly remember my time in Pandaria.
Now that said, on to Draenor!
MOAR KHADGARS!!! http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/15255175401
Blizzard set up a promo for Warlords in Times Square. RANGED BURN THE AXE!!! https://twitter.com/Warcraft/status/532633108323905536
Looking for Group is a documentary about the history of World of Warcraft and its fans. If Blasted Lands is too full, go watch it now! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xyPzTywUBsQ