The World of Warcraft core game launched in 2004, based in the universe established by Blizzard’s hugely popular Warcraft strategy series. Did the developer ever expect it to become the monstrosity it did, smashing the Guinness World Record for Most Subscribers and still holding the title of most-subscribed MMO in the world even now?
Well, Blizzard clearly have some sort of deal with the devil regarding WoW’s immense success, but that’s besides the point – there’s been a lot of hard work inbetween. In The Burning Crusade, widely regarded as the best expansion to date, they added two new races and bumped the level cap to 70. The Lich King followed suit, raising the cap to 80 and added another continent alongside the game’s first Hero Class – The Death Knight, which started at level 55, thereby retarding the entire concept of levelling for a lot of people. Then came Cataclysm, by far the most drastic expansion, completely changing the core Eastern Kingdoms and Kalimdor, introducing previously neutral goblins and formerly monstrous Worgen as playable races, laying the groundwork within the class system for the changes that would eventually dawn with Mists of Pandaria. Veteran characters aren’t playing in the same world they were five years ago. Hell, Pandaren might have more of a place in the world than Draenei in terms of lore, but they look ridiculous. But whether the changes to the point of the game being unrecognisable are good or not is a different article. What I really want to dig into today is whether or not Blizzard, in their infinite business wisdom, have just expanded themselves into a corner.
From a story point of view the climb from 85 to 90 feels pretty final, like an elaborate epilogue to Cataclysm – as though the Pandaren are just bopping the Alliance/Horde respectively on the head with a stick like Rafiki from the Lion King telling them all they need to get over themselves and work together. It’s great to enjoy a bit of peace and colour while you work to put right all the stuff on Pandaria that your faction has messed up but you get the feeling that Blizzard can’t really go much further than this, as fun as it is. To introduce some new terror in another expansion would be succumbing to the Illidan/Arthas/Deathwing formula – they’ve made it very hard to lead on from this expansion unless they introduce some big horrible bad guy in the end-game content, which has yet to be revealed (Or even hinted at). How many more times can they remodel the talents system before people just get fed up with the constant changes? The content becomes inconsistent and that’s what’s going to lose the game subscribers.
The new dungeons (Temple of the Jade Serpent, Stormstout Brewery, Mogu’shan Palace, Shado-pan Monastery, Siege of Niuzao Temple, Gate of the Setting Sun) are uniquely designed but for the most part feel tacked on to the rest of the game, random, isolated bubbles of set pieces, that don’t feel as if they have quite the same replay incentive as the more classic ones. They haven’t managed to outdo their initial genius yet, and trying to compensate for it with large, pretty dungeons with vaguely amusing enemies feels a little hollow.
The Monk, on the other hand, feels like the most fully realised expansion content Blizzard have released since The Burning Crusade. A capable healer, DPS, and tank (sometimes all at once), replete with charm and playability – I have a few end-game characters but I’ve had more fun in actually playing the Monk from 1-40 than I have with Paladin, Warrior, or Druid. Every potential spec is balanced and just fun to play, which again seems to be the focus of this expansion. Balancing your physical energy and chi works exceptionally well compared to some of the other resources, it’s just going to be a problem when they inevitably start tweaking it. For now, though, the Monk is a great addition, and we should all be thankful they didn’t decide to make it into another Hero class as was originally suggested.
It’s not worth concluding this review series until Blizzard have had a chance to patch it to its conclusion, so until they’ve defined the content a little more, IGC won’t be revisiting Pandaria. But the tentative conclusion for now is that this expansion is great fun, and as long as you’re not expecting any hardcore raiding content yet, you’ll get a lot of kicks out of it. But it’s not developed enough to come to a complete conclusion, and only time will tell if Blizzard can take World of Warcraft any further without just making it ridiculous.
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.