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Mists of Pandaria: Seeing through the Fog of Warcraft (Part 2)

/ May 25th, 2013 1 Comment

Gorgeous View in The Jade Forest

Ours is not to reason why.

Mists of PandariaWhile it’s no secret that World of Warcraft has been losing subscriptions, the real question would be to ask why? What is it about Mists of Pandaria and WoW in general that changed so drastically? A game so large and encompassing has thousands of things for the player base to love or hate which makes it a tough job to sift through it all. Let’s take a look at a few chunks of the bigger picture.

Discovery.

Asking anyone that’s played WoW to reminisce about the first time they realized just how large and grandiose the world is will net all sorts of anecdotes, and inevitable comparisons to how the game feels boxed-in and small ever since free roaming flight was enabled game-wide in the Cataclysm expansion. Players that were forced to roam around the countryside on non-flying mounts had mountains shielding untold wonders just beyond the horizon, and looking out across the seas brought about a true sense of the vast, great unknown. The ability to fly around seemingly freed players from invisible chains, only to place them inside a larger cage. Players find the edge of the world much faster flying around looking down instead of up from the ground. Structures are short when seen from the sky, and the new continent follows the same old formula of hills and valleys. Forcing players to stay on the ground in Pandaria until max level, or indefinitly on the Isle of Thunder, is just a weak attempt at regaining this concept.

Exploration.

The same holds true for dungeons and raid settings. The old models, some pulled directly from Warcraft 3, set the tone of aesthetics for building designs in WoW. While it’s cheap to reuse the same structures in different places, another reason is that when a player was led via quest lines to an exciting setpiece pivotal to the lore it felt that much more exciting. A door that a player worked to unlock is now open, granting access to a new puzzle full of wicked enemies and loot. Blackrock Depths and the Sunken Temple were infamous for the amount of time required to complete, and even players that had been through those places hundreds of times were not immune to finding themselves lost in the mazes. The old runs had more of a sense of purpose, rather than only being a means to an end of getting loot as found in current content.

A Series of Tubes.

A few expansions later and the labyrinths have all but been removed in favor of what amounts to non-branching tunnels with bosses strung along the way. Most players would agree that the Archaeology profession is an extremely poor replacement to this serious lack of exploration. While most vanilla players would rather dismiss lengthy quest chains that used to be a requirement to get into certain dungeons and raids, they can’t ignore the feeling of accomplishment the first time they set foot in a place they’d worked so hard to unlock. All Blizzard had to do to keep the lore intact was allow players to send copies of the keys to their alts, but this never happened. The lore was gutted and keys were removed due to overwhelming complaints on the WoW forums, not by newer players, but players that did not want to go through the same chains once again on their alternate characters. Players that do decide to valiantly slog through quest lines now in MoP have nothing to look forward to other than unlocking new chains of repeatable daily quests. Couple this with the Looking for Group and Looking for Raid features and MoP has ended up with a player base where 90% can’t tell you where the entrance is to any given dungeon.

Lore.

MoP’s lore can be argued both ways. On one hand, the latest continent is rich with new enemies, new ways of life, new struggles, and new achievements. On the other hand, it’s also rich with the same placeholder enemies, the same ways of life shown from a different point of view, the same kind of struggles, and the same boring achievements equivalent to each preceeding expansion. The difference is that in an expansion like Wrath of the Lich King players finally got to come face to face with a dreaded enemy dating all the way back to Warcraft 3, while in MoP the big boss enemies seem slipshod and cobbled together just to get the job done. Arthas’ downfall began before WoW ever hit the shelves, and NPCs across the world of Azeroth have lived in constant fear of him and his undead army. Cataclysm had Deathwing, which many players felt to be a placeholder boss, but all that MoP seems to have is a throwaway Thunder King that isn’t even worth mentioning.

A Common Goal.

Lei Shen, when finally revealed on the Isle of Thunder that was patched in later, is an extreme let down. For all the lore, stories, and murals depicting the monster throughout Pandaria, when finally seen he looks like any other mogu enemy or boss seen up to that point. Even though there are complaints at how supposedly difficult the fight is, any player that’s been around for an expansion or two has had no problem in defeating Lei Shen, some even on the first attempt. What happens upon defeat? He falls dead like any other crappy raid boss up to that point and there isn’t so much as a cutscene or NPC script. Players take their loot and port out with no sense of accomplishment.

It’s hard to top the final scenes of Arthas’ defeat, but in MoP it’s like Blizzard has just given up and cranked out mediocrity, something that needs to be fixed if they want to stop losing subscriptions.

Ben Conrad

Ben Conrad

Associate Contributor at Gaming Illustrated
Ben is a newcomer to Gaming Illustrated, covering hot topics in the world of gaming.
Ben Conrad

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  • Stephanie Eyerly

    As a WoW player I feel the game has been dumbed down especially the beginning quests when you first start out. Unless you are going to create all panda characters where you are challenged the beginning quest lines have been dumbed down. Now. I like WoW and am on a mini sabbatical from it but it makes it more interesting for me when I do my sabbaticals.

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