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Mists of Pandaria Retrospective Part 1: Quests, Story and Features

/ Dec 9th, 2013 No Comments

With the announcement of World of Warcraft’s next expansion—Warlords of Draenor—and the accompanying news that Mists of Pandaria will not receive any additional patch content, the Mists of Pandaria era is officially at its end. Therefore, the time is now ripe to look back at this most recent expansion and start making some final observations on what worked and what did not. In this first part of our Mists of Pandaria retrospective, we will try to give the final word on the quests, story, and features.

Quests and Story

Any discussion of Mists of Pandaria’s quests cannot really get off the ground without first addressing the elephant in the room: dailies. Perhaps this expansion’s most enduring legacy in the minds of many players will likely be the overuse of daily quests, commonly known as “dailies.” While such quests have been around since Burning Crusade, Blizzard really pushed them more strongly than ever before in Mists, much to the game’s detriment. Anyone interested in reputation rewards or valor point gear would have to grind out dailies. They made the situation even worse by gating several of the reputations behind Golden Lotus reputation. In the interest of fairness, Blizzard did attempt to keep some variation to the dailies, but a player could easily still end up doing the same set of a quests a dozen times on one character alone, and the content was only mildly compelling to begin with. Blizzard eventually realized its mistake and take steps to address the problem, but for many the damage was already done.
 

Mists of Pandaria

Mists of Pandaria

The patch 5.1 quests were far more successful with players. The main reason for this was almost certainly the strong story, some of the best in-game story content that Blizzard has produced for World of Warcraft since the Wrathgate storyline in Wrath of the Lich King. In fact, largely thanks to that quest chain, Mists of Pandaria has had one of the most—if not the most—well-developed in-game stories in the series. Each zone had its own story while also driving the main conflict forward. The expansion has a coherent, focused narrative that carries through all-the-way to the end. Key NPCs got to have time in the limelight and develop the story while still integrating the players into the conflict.

The main problem with the main narrative comes from how Blizzard split it between the two factions. Without having some experience with both factions’ content, players end up with an incomplete and far less satisfying view of the story. Also, the leveling quests sadly never reach the inspired level of some of the Cataclysm greats such as “Welcome to the Machine” or “The Day Deathwing Came.” For the most part, they are respectable, but not memorable. At their worst, the quests give players hozen making poop jokes and the grummles acting like uncomfortable and perhaps slightly racist caricatures. Leveling quests are something almost every player will experience, and they are an early opportunity to grab the players, so Blizzard really needs to make sure they are delivering the top-notch quality that will get players talking and laughing.

Features

Perhaps more so than any expansion thus far, Mists of Pandaria has played-around with the features of the game, adding in and tweaking many. The Battle Pets, Brawlers’ Guild, Proving Grounds, flex raiding, Timeless Isle-style content, scenarios, then heroic scenarios etc…. were all introduced here. LFR went into full-gear after the preview of it in Dragon Soul, talents were revamped, and 25 mans got thunder/warforged gear to add incentive. As we said in some of our earliest articles on Mists of Pandaria, it felt like Blizzard had a bunch of new ideas. In fact, they may have had too many. There is something schizophrenic about all the new features. Trying and testing out new ideas is healthy and good, but each one needs proper attention and development. Ironically, the most controversial of the new features—pet battles—is the one most fully-realized and developed, almost to the point of feeling like an entirely new game. Proving Grounds and the Brawlers’ Guild are not as abortive as the all-but-forgotten integrated chat system, but they lack depth and integration. Perhaps Blizzard just thought they would keep tossing out ideas until the players found something they would latch onto, like they apparently have with Timeless Isle and the 5.1 quests.

Conclusion

One of the major—and totally understandable—complaints about the Warlords of Draenor reveal is that it seemed light on big shiny new features. After the big stream of features and experimentation in Mists of Pandaria, maybe the game could use a break from the big content changes. Every brainstorming meeting needs an editing session after to pick out the best ideas and expand on them. Mists of Pandaria’s quests, story, and cavalcade of features certainly have their share of missteps and meandering, but it seems like Blizzard found some new footing and direction, even if only at the end.

In part two of our Mists of Pandaria retrospective, we will take a look at the instances—raids, dungeons, scenarios, and battlegrounds/arena.
 

Ethan Smith

Ethan Smith

A perpetual over-thinker, Ethan Smith spends all of his free time playing video games like an English professor reads books, writing a secret novel, and trying to actually finish a game of Medieval II: Total War.
Ethan Smith

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