Last week I received my invitation to the beta testing of World of Warcraft's up coming release, Mists of Pandaria. Like many, I was excited to dive into the new world and see what Blizzard was going to throw my way. In a couple of words: Blizard did well, but didn't go far enough - at least so far.
When I logged on and was given the choice, I wanted to play as much of the new content as possible, so I made a Pandaren monk, which has been a good change and presented some new ways of approaching the game. The monk has three talent trees: DPS, tank, and healer. My first love in WoW is healing, so I went with the Mistweaver - that is, the healing tree.
As for healing, it's a pretty automated process this time. At my level, there is only one healing spell - which is neither a healing over time, nor a big healing spell - this one is channeled. I can either give a quick hit to a player or channel for a bit on that tank (or which ever player has aggro).
On a quick side note, Rangefire Chasm has received a facelift which is simply stunning. The new mobs, bosses, and quests are too much fun.
I remember when Burning Crusade arrived on the scene and how much I loved the Blood Elf starting zone. The depth of narrative and scope of quests were wonderful - and all encompassing. We were there until close to level 20. When Cataclysm was released, many of the "vanilla" starting zones received a make-over as well, which served to tie in much of what had changed since "vanilla's" release so many years ago.
In all honesty, it seems that Blizzard dropped the ball a bit on the opening zones for the Pandaren. The zone is fun and simply beautiful to look at - but the area is brief. While it serves its purpose, providing some story, it fails a bit there, too.
We learn that Pandaria itself resides on the back of Shen-zin Su, a giant sea turtle (I guess someone at Blizzard rather enjoys reading Terry Pratchet's "Disc World" books). The outside forces of Azeroth find their way to Pandaria and crash their ships into Shen-zin Su's shell. It is up to you to help remove the "splinter" from his shell and help him heal. At this time there is full interaction between the Pandaren and both sides of Alliance and Horde. Once Shen-zin Su is safe, it is at level 12 or so when you decide which faction you wish to fight for. Then you are summoned to either Storm Wind or Orgimmar to serve.
I went with the Horde and met with Garrosh Hellscream, who showed me around. Sadly, there is a quick instance quest where the player has to prove him or herself worthy to Hellscream, but the instance was, and still is, down.
Some nifty changes I have found with the monks though - such as the use of energy with chi, similar to a Death Knight's runes. A Pandaren has, at my level at least, two stances: one for DPS and one for healing. When the stance changes, so does the energy to mana use. As with the warrior, each stance provides different abilities, either increasing damage or focus of mind.
Lastly, rolling never gets old or boring. Like the Mage's blink, Pandaren can slip away with a roll. So far, all around Azeroth, I have been running into loads of somersaulting pandas.
Are you getting more excited for the release of Mists of Pandaria?
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Mists of Pandaria is set for release in 2012.
[UPDATE] I am currently in the process of copying over Sedagive, my Death Knight, so that I will be able to provide insights into the new zones and dungeons. I should have something up later this week.
[UPDATE II] Something I forgot to mention in the initial reaction is a beautiful change in graphics. If you recall, I believe it was with a patch update during WoTLK, Blizzard gave our spirits the ability to move faster, which was both warranted and necessary. With MoP, when running back to a corpse, the world is in a bright monochrome. Rather than the darker color as it has been, this addition gives things a bit more of an eerie, deathly feel to it. With that said, when you get your copy of the game, I recommend that you die right away just for this experience.