In the first part of my Mists of Pandaria review, I mentioned the new look the wandering island brought to the wartorn fantasy world of Azeroth, but believe me, it deserves some deeper exploration. Pandaria’s gorgeous aesthetics are easily one of the biggest pulls of this expansion. It’s classic Asian mythology with a colourful Blizzard twist, and if it makes one thing obvious yet again, it’s how much hard work has been poured into the game world. WoW is never going to be at a point where it can compete with other MMOs in terms of technical graphics, but in terms of world design, Pandaria tops the more recent expansions with ease. The focus has shifted from cartoony wastelands and shifting, volatile landscapes to hill-dotted vistas laden heavily with exotic plants and wildlife – if you’re one of the original Warcraft races, you’re going to feel like an invader for much of your time in the new continent. This is what makes the journey to the new level cap so enjoyable, if much less urgent than your average Azerothian is used to. Some might say this is an attempt to reel in a younger audience and backtrack on the elitist reputation the endgame has, but most of the time it just feels fun. The same goes for the new dungeons. They’re strictly 5-man affairs, so there aren’t any gigantic raids waiting for completion. This is probably a reflection on the overarching theme of the expansion, for the very first time, there isn’t an Illidan or an Arthas or a Deathwing to down once you’ve capped 90 and geared up. In a sappy turn of events, the main enemy in Mists of Pandaria is war itself, and while there are hardcore MMO’ers that may complain about this lack of a real goal, it opens up some incredible possibilities. Blizzard will be able to expand the endgame nonstop without one big boss to build up to, potentially giving players a constant stream of new dungeons and raids to keep them busy until the next expansion. So far, the new dungeons don’t bring any new challenges to the field. It’s easy enough to wade into the earlier ones without any thought to tactics or gearing, but the heroics as usual provide harder creatures and better loot for the more seasoned adventurers. Again, the endgame has been made much more accessible to the casual players, without completely excluding the hardcore. It summarises the entire Mists of Pandaria experience to say it’s a fun wander through an extremely pretty world, as the dungeons are more narrative based than ever before, and mostly revolve around cleaning up the mess the Alliance and Horde have brought to the once peaceful island. The new dungeons might be very straight forward but the narratives are enjoyable, the bosses keep you on your toes, and the difficulty ramps up enough in Heroic mode to keep your need for punishment sated. The Monk handles itself well in PvP, and is probably the most straightforward class to get to grips with, sitting just behind Warrior on the accessibility scale. The staple Roll skill lets you get in and out of trouble quickly, and Monks possess several lockdown skills you can use to keep enemy players quiet while you calmly and collectedly punch their face in. The talent reshuffle prior to the Pandaria release has made this kind of movement and attack balanced with all of the other classes though, so it doesn’t get to a point where the Monk outclasses any of the other PvP staples. It’s a refreshing change and might shake the stagnating PvP up – keep your eyes on those faction-hopping Pandarens though! The new class proves itself versatile in every situation, and once the level 90 population has a few more of them, they could very well become the new Paladin in terms of dungeon application. They’re as efficient at mending damage as they are at dealing it in both PvP and PvE, although this won’t be fully tested until some new raids are released with challenges tailored to what the Monk brings to the table. There’s a lot of room for development from here on out, and it’s up to Blizzard to deliver. In essence, if you didn’t like World of Warcraft before, you’re not going to like it now. The new zones give the already huge game much needed breath of fresh air, and after everything my Blood Elf Paladin has gone through in the past, I think he (and all the other fictional characters) definitely finds this change of scenery pleasant. If you love World of Warcraft, then this is basically just more to love, but there aren’t any new reasons to love it for. It’s more of the same, and if that works for you, then you’re going to love this expansion. Next time, a detailed walkthrough of what the Monk can do, breakdowns of the new dungeons, and a brief look at how World of Warcraft got to where it is today.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.