World of Warcraft‘s latest expansion, Mists of Pandaria, moves closer to the release of the first major PvE and raid content patch of the expansion, 5.2. This patch, Rise of the Thunder King, is similar to the Sunwell patch in that it provides a new island, the Isle of the Thunder King, with a new quest hub and a gating system. Fans of the Sunsong Ranch will be pleased to see that Blizzard is expanding the feature. This patch brings a lot of new content across the board and some very welcome and desired updates to the progression system to reduce grinding and increase fun.
This new raid comes with an entire new zone with quests–the Isle of the Thunder King–similar to the Isle of Quel’Danas in Burning Crusade. Like that older island, the Isle of the Thunder King will develop and provide more quests as the realm does more of the dailies. Players sick of the constant player versus player content of the patch 5.1 dailies and players wanting more both have something to be happy about with this new zone. Each day, players will get to choose whether they want to pick PvP quests with PvP rewards or PvE quests with PvE rewards. As usual for PvP quests, the player can finish the quests by merely killing designated NPCs of the opposing faction, but choosing the PvP quests will flag the player for PvP on normal realms.
In a surprising and unprecedented move, Blizzard will not be converting valor points into justice points and justice points into gold when patch 5.2 hits. Blizzard said in the official announcement that downgrading the points just felt mean with the Mists of Pandaria progression system. In addition with the accompanying discounts of 50% and 25% to 5.0 valor rewards and 5.1 rewards respectively, the lack of a point downgrade should help returning players and players with many alts catch up and stay caught up with progression.
One of the most controversial aspects of the new patch is the slight increase in incentives to 25-man raiding. Blizzard is introducing a new item level tier of raid gear: Thunderforged. This new tier is not unique to 25-man raids, but it will drop somewhat more often in that difficulty. According to Blizzard’s official statement on the forums about it, 25-man guilds should have a slightly higher item level after several weeks of raiding. While there is a great deal of support for this measure because it is such a small difference, there are also elements of the community that do not see it as a big enough incentive to 25-man guilds and others that would prefer to sit back and let 25-man raiding die a slow death.
In another significant move as a response to the fan outcry over Mists of Pandaria’s reputation grinding, Blizzard is making heroics and scenarios give some reputation each day for a faction of the player’s choice and adding a way for Sunsong Ranch farmers to use their farm to get rep with other factions via a new “work orders” function in addition to the new option to take over ownership of the farm directly. The first heroic each day will give a 750 reputation bonus to the faction of the player’s choice, chosen via a selection in the dungeon finder. Scenarios will give 325 reputation under the same circumstances. Raid finder will provide the same reputation as heroics, but will require a certain threshold of boss kills to prevent reputation runs. While not as powerful a method to level reputations as the old tabard system, this new feature combined with the Sunsong Ranch work orders should help mitigate the daily grind that has characterized Mists of Pandaria endgame.
As for other miscellaneous updates, the legendary quest chain with Wrathion will be continuing, providing a legendary meta gem for this most recent stage, and the “Green Fire” Warlock quest chain originally planned for patch 5.1 will finally get implemented as well. With the previous patch’s focus on PvP, 5.2 has relatively little in the way of class balance changes for PvP, though Mistweaver monks and Discipline priests do have some very enticing buffs coming.
Patch 5.2 follows with Blizzard’s recent standard of making sure each major patch has something for everyone. Blizzard continues to refine and adjust the gameplay experience to respond to player demands and to apply better principles of game design.