Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Ask not why we fight, but what is worth fighting for

So, yesterday the newest expansion for online game World of Warcraft was released. Those who know me will know I've been a WoW player for 4-5 years now on and off and that before this was released WoW had begun to bore me and i was playing nothing but Guild Wars 2. Apart from one or two most other people i know have decided against buying this expansion or even playing WoW anymore and to be honest, after playing it I'm very glad i did!

A couple of the reasons I've heard are because of the new race being introduced, the Pandaren. They're pretty much big fluffy peace loving pandas who live on an isle that has been shrouded in mists for thousands of years and has been undisturbed by the other races (until now of course). A lot of players (and now non players) think the new race is ridiculous and a last ditch effort by Blizzard to make some dosh (which for all we know may be true, but surely the idea of companies making video games is to rake in the moolah?). The idea for the Pandaren came from the mind of Sam "Samwise" Dider the art director at Blizzard and the Panda theme can be seen through much of his artwork, the Pandaren were announced to be the last race added to Warcraft 3 a good few years back as an April Fool joke which disappointed a lot of people. They did however manage to add the character of Chen Stormstout, a Pandaren brewmaster to the expansion for Warcraft 3 (the frozen throne) and ever since little things have popped up throughout the Warcraft universe linked back to the Pandaren. It seems that because the Pandaren were introduced as a joke to begin with, people don't want to take this new race too seriously. I currently play two Pandarens myself and i've gotta say, they're a ton of fun!

Not sure if its just because "I'm a girl" but i love them. They're adorable, they're honorable, funny and have a beautiful home world, also they can be either Alliance OR Horde, when you create your character at the start you don't have to choose a faction, this happens when you make a choice during your "starter story" as the Alliance and the Horde are both after the continent of Pandaira and the help of the Pandaren who live there. 

Don't forget there's also the new class of "monk" playable by every race other than Worgen or Goblin (mainly for story related reasons) i won't go into too much detail as I'm still getting used to playing a monk myself. They can be used as Tank, DPS or a Healer (and they're much cooler than druids!) They use energy and use certain attacks to generate Chi which is then used for more powerful attacks, they are close combat fighters (first I've ever played that have lasted more than five levels!) and are generally rather kick ass. Quite a few abilities are fist attacks aided by simple weapons used every so often (at a low level it's mainly to generate chi). The result is some nice looking, yet simple battle mechanics and effects, making a Monk quite a fun class to play. 

Next up for criticism was the Pokemon Pet battle system. This pretty much is like adding a Pokemon battling system into the game and again I LOVE IT! Pokemon in an awesome game but I've been a bit slack on the last game or two as it's gotten a bit repetitive, but this? Not only am i questing, doing dungeons, getting gear etc I'm also battling and collecting wild creatures! There's even trainer battles! No one around to battle? You can just click "find battle" and you'll be matched up with someone of similar level also looking for a battle. FANTASTIC. This is one of the main reasons i was excited about the upcoming expansion. Also, you know what? Not sure you wanna buy Mists of Pandaria but you want to try out these new features? That's fine, you actually don't need the expansion to play as the Pandaren OR to use the Pet Battle system (this resulted in being up for the moment it all kicked in and staying up for another four hours chasing low level critters to battle).

"So what's the point in buying the expansion if i can already get these two awesome features without even having to buy said expansion?" you may ask. For a start, the XP bar. Those of you who reached level 85 not long into the monstrosity that was the Cataclysm expansion will have long forgotten what this fabled XP bar looks like, but with MoP you can have it back and climb your way to level 90. "Only five levels?" you say? "that's not much extra game play" You'd be surprised how much they can fit into those last five levels with a lot of story content thrown in and six new dungeons (which I'll get round to next), four "remade" dungeons, the new challenge mode, scenarios and new gear to be had!

So. The new dungeons, i haven't yet had a chance to play all of the new dungeons so i can't comment too much on this but i do want to mention what has already become my favorite dungeon. The "Stormstout Brewery". This dungeon seems to embody what most of the MoP dungeons are about, fun AND fear, nothing like panicking seeing a whole bunch of apes who look like they're ready to tear you and your team mates apart, then falling apart with laughter as they burst into a large dance number. Having to fight a giant rabbit/rat who has a deadly "carrot breath" attack and in a final boss battle you get to float around in bubbles. This, in my opinion captures the spirit of Pandaria and the Pandaren perfectly and is a welcome change from the doom and gloom of cataclysm.  

Sure there are downsides. To be honest, what game doesn't have them? All this peace and "fun" in a game called World of WARcraft might not be to some peoples taste, which is fair enough but there are a few other niggles. The fact that this is subscription game for me personally (and a few others I'd imagine) is the main issue, £8.99 a month for a game you've already paid for? When does that get fun? Although this ticks me off, i still pay it because i enjoy playing the game and Blizzard do on occasion tend to deliver and we get new patches and content in-between expansions. However now that Guild Wars 2 is about I'm sure many are less willing to part with their cash when GW2 is a subscription free game (and a pretty damn awesome one at that) personally I'm playing both (who needs a life really?) and I couldn't be more glad about GW2s sub free status as there's no way i could afford both! 

Another issue is that this is the fourth expansion now, is it time for a whole new game altogether? Or should Blizzard just let WoW fizzle out and try something new? Everything has to have an end point right? Just when will the end of World of Warcraft come about?

So, if you haven't checked it out and you like what you see, i suggest you take a look at the WoW site and sign yourself up for a free trial (i believe you can play up until level 20 for free now, so you can check out the Pandaren beginning story line for yourselves). If you read this being skeptic about the new expansion and i've somehow managed to change your mind, fantastic, come into the mists! If not, well, I'll see you in Guild Wars 2 I'd imagine!

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