Each year, MMO, RTS and fantasy fans alike flock to the Anaheim Convention Center to attend one of the biggest events in modern gaming: Blizzcon. Year in and year out, major announcements abound. With numerous new Blizzard games nearing release in the coming year and others hinted at in rumors, it's no surprise that this year's event has started off with a bang.
Arguably the biggest announcement to come out of the event so far is that of the new World Of Warcraft expansion, Mists Of Pandaria. Having been rumored ever since Blizzard trademarked the title, gamers have finally received their first look at not only the new continent of Pandaria, but also the newest race and class additions, the Pandaren and Monk respectively.
With the announcement that Blizzard's new expansion would only include a single new race, the initial reaction was one of confusion for most gamers as they speculated about which faction the Pandaren would belong to. In a World Of Warcraft first, this new race will stand as the game's first neutral race, a concept that players have expressed interest in for years.
Upon reaching level 10, players will be faced with a difficult (or in some cases, simple) decision: They will be given the opportunity to choose which of the two factions they wish to join and fight for. This is a move that will no doubt excite many gamers as they will no longer be limited to a certain faction just because they prefer the race at hand. By making this monumental choice, new Pandaren players will be contributing to the deep lore surrounding the land of Pandaria and the actions of the Horde and Alliance within it.
Blizzard also gave players insight into the racial abilities that the Pandaren will have access to. It's no surprise that the Pandaren are a portly bunch. As such, gamers who decide to roll with a Pandaren will gain an additional 15 points to go towards their cooking skill as well as a 100% increase to the effectiveness of consumables. In addition to their love of food, the Pandaren's round and bouncy nature also reduces the damage they take from falls by half.
While these racial abilities are sure to have their uses, the other two Pandaren racials are the ones that will no doubt gain the most attention. The first of which is a passive skill which doubles the duration of the player's rested experience bonus. This means that players will have twice the time to benefit from the doubled experience it provides. The other racial, Quaking Palm, allows the Pandaren to strike out at an enemy, pinching a nerve and putting them to sleep for 4 seconds, giving a long enough window to execute another move or escape.
In terms of class choices, the Pandaren are able to take on the role of Hunter, Mage, Priest, Rogue, Shaman, Warrior or the newest addition to the game, Monk. For players who are interested in taking on the role of Monk without becoming a Pandaren though, the class will be available to almost every race with the exception of Goblins and Worgen.
Like the Pandaren, Monks will mark another first for Blizzard. That first is the absence of auto-attack. While it may initially seem like an odd omission, the lack of an auto-attack contributes to the kung-fu centric combat exhibited by the Monk. This is because the Monk's combat focuses on stringing together combos while managing three different resources: Chi energy and light and dark force.
Chi acts in a way similar to the energy used by Rogues in that it is used to execute the Monk's base moves and quickly recharges after use. Some of these moves, like Jab, award the player with light and dark force which can then be used to initiate stronger moves like an area of effect spinning kick or a finishing punch. By removing the ability to auto-attack, the combat becomes far more visceral as players are forced to string together combos and think on their toes as they use the three resources at their disposal.
For those wondering about the Monk's utility within a group situation, Blizzard has aimed to open the class up to a number of different play styles. The Monk can fill any spot from tank, to healer, to melee DPS. Most interesting though, is that Blizzard went on to explain that the Monk, when specced as a healer, will have a large focus on melee. While they did not elaborate on this, the idea of dashing around the battlefield with the roll ability in order to execute complex kung-fu combos while still healing nearby teammates is a tantalizing one. Only time will tell what this means though.
Finally, taking a closer look at its finer points, the Monk bases its abilities off of the agility and intelligence stats, making leather armor their standard. For those who have been yearning for a class that's just as comfortable fighting with their fists as they are with a weapon, than the Monk may just be that class, primarily making use of fist weapons and staves.
While some players will no doubt be turned off by some of Blizzard's controversial choices like including a neutral race or removing auto-attack for the Monk, there is still a lot to be excited about. With many gamers criticizing Blizzard for not making any significant changes in World Of Warcraft, it's refreshing to see a new race and class that help to push the envelope
With another whole day left of Blizzcon, there are sure to be more surprises on the way. From World Of Warcraft and Diablo 3 to StarCraft 2 and the possibility of news regarding Blizzard's rumored next MMO, Titan, it's impossible to know what to expect.
What are your thoughts on the inclusion of a neutral race? What would you like to see included in the Monk class?
World Of Warcraft: Mists Of Pandaria will release on the PC and Mac, although no release date has been announced as of yet.