Pandas in the Mist

No game expansion is ever perfect, but some are way less perfect than others. I’ve been trying to figure out exactly why I am so fed up with Warlords of Draenor after just three months, and why I was so engaged in Mists up to the bitter end. Both expansions had their problems, both had some very nifty innovations. I suspect if it were possible to list all of the hundreds of thousands of features of both expansions and compare the lists, we would find only a small percentage are different in any meaningful way. I wish I could do such a dispassionate study, because I think it would be fascinating (yeah, I know I’m a geek), but since it really is not feasible, I am stuck with listing the features that matter to me and doing a subjective analysis.

Rather than list all the things wrong with WoD, I thought it might be more useful to list the things that kept me interested in Mists. This turned out to be a harder exercise than I thought it would be. But here’s what I came up with:

1.  Pandas. Before Mists went live, there was a lot of criticism of Blizz for going all squishy and cutesy and anime. I was pretty doubtful myself, but somehow it all worked for me once I got into it. I am not into WoW lore at all, but I found the entire Pandaria story line both cohesive and intriguing. I thought the pseudo-Eastern philosophy bits worked well. I thought the story flowed well as a follow-on to Cataclysm. I liked the Pandaren. I found them to be fierce, funny, loyal, sneaky, spiritual, worldly, principled, and flawed all at once. Very human, in other words.

2.  Pandaria. The landscape graphics were breathtaking, I thought. That quest in Kun-Lai Summit where you took the balloon ride up to Zouchin Village just blew me away with its beauty. The beaches and endless blue water in Krasarang never lost their ability to draw me in, and make me close my eyes, take a long slow breath, and smile. Valley of the Four Winds reminded me of the Midwest farmland where I grew up, and it just felt right every time I went there. Which was often, once I had my own little farm-house. Every zone in Pandaria had something special for me in terms of ambience or scenery or both.

3.  Raids, instances, and scenarios. I did a lot of random heroics in Mists, through the dungeon finder and as part of guild groups. They were interesting, balanced well for the intended gear level, and awarded valor points. I was less a fan of scenarios, but I did a lot of them because they were a quick and fun way — once again — to pick up valor points. As for raids, even though my guild team was extremely slow in clearing them, they were all very logical progressions in terms of expected gear and skill levels. (Although I will admit I was at the point of screaming every time I saw the entrance to Heart of Fear because it felt like we spent months in there. I dubbed it Bugistan.)

4.  Alts. Partly due to the reasonable difficulty progression for instances, partly due to class balance especially while leveling and gearing up, partly due to the useful rewards you could get from valor points, leveling and gearing alts was fun in Mists. I love my hunters and will never main any other class, but I really enjoyed gearing up and raiding once in a while with my Mistweaver and my Destro Lock. Heck, I even did it a few times on my mage.

5.  Pandas (the ones you can create). Having a new race and class to play with was kind of exciting. It gave me a good reason to roll a new character and explore the fun I could have with it. In fact, my choosing a Panda Monk is one reason I got so engaged with Pandaria, I think.

6.  Professions. You had to work at them to level them, especially certain ones like JC and LW. But most of them were very reliable gold makers once you got them leveled. Even the gathering professions were profitable if you didn’t put too high a value on your time, and some nights I found it very relaxing just to fly around and pick herbs or mine ore or skin critters, maybe along with some friendly guild chat going on. Mindless, stress-reducing, and there was all that beautiful scenery to look at.

7.  Dailies and weeklies. I will admit I hated them during that period when everyone was fighting for faction rep, but now that they are gone I kind of miss them. Timeless Isle quickly lost its attraction for me, but I faithfully ground out dailies and weeklies on it on all my alts up to the end of Mists. Why? Currencies that actually led to useful gear or other goals, for one thing. For another, it was something relaxing to do if you didn’t have anything else on your agenda. And it was a way to practice skills on alts you might not play very often.

8.  Time commitment. I never felt like I HAD to log in on every alt every day. Once a week, certainly, and maybe a quick daily cooldown login if I were crafting something for sale or use. But even at the height of the reputation dailies, I never felt like I didn’t have lots of time for the fun stuff. I played no more than I do now, but in Mists I felt like I had tons of time to explore the game in whatever way appealed to me at the moment, and still complete any “tasks” I had set for myself.

9.  Flying. There. I said it. Much of the enjoyment I got out of Mists was due in no small part to the fact that I did not have to fight annoying mobs just to get somewhere to do whatever I was interested in that evening. I could take in vast panoramic views of what I think is still the most beautiful scenery in the game. I could easily and quickly join a meandering group of guildies if they were hunting rares. It was a terrific motivation for leveling alts, even ones I rarely played. It gave me immense pleasure, and it allowed me to be truly “immersed” — to use a phrase currently popular with Blizz devs —  in Pandaria.

I am not saying I was not critical of many facets of Mists, I certainly ranted about lots of things. Ranting is sort of what I do. But I think each of the factors I listed above added up in a way that made the whole greater than the sum. Together, they made the expansion seamless in its story line, its characters, its game experience. They added up to fun for me. If I were to list the main things that make Draenor not fun for me, it would likely consist of adding “not” to everything I just wrote.

Therein lies the difference.

About Fiannor
I have a day job but escape by playing WoW. I love playing a hunter, and my Lake Wobegonian goal is to become "above average" at it.

2 Responses to Pandas in the Mist

  1. Earachis says:

    I think all of your concerns are completely valid.

    Whilst I personally found the WOD leveling experience very compelling and some of the best work they’ve done on that front they have botched up the end game rather badly for me. I haven’t been a hardcore raider since the Wrath days but I did enjoy LFR once it was introduced. Or at least I did until they “fixed” it in WOD.

    Whilst at the end of the day WoW is essentially a game entirely revolving around chasing carrots on a stick, in MOP and previous expansions I always found a compelling reason to do just that. I think that is where WOD has failed so badly, with the removal of valor, the changes to professions and LFR gearing etc there just doesn’t seem to be a motivating factor to do a lot of these things.

    In MOP my game consisted of gathering resources, maxing professions (I had all of them across my alts) getting all my characters up to the level to do LFR and then maxing my gear in that content by getting all tier pieces & best in slot etc. Not for some greater goal of gearing to do Normal or Heroic but just for my own personal version of progression. There always seemed to be something to aim for and something worth trying for. In WOD I just seem to have lost that feeling. Professions were ruined and the 3 piece limitation made gearing alts pointless and LFR has been dumbed down to the point of it being a boring chore. Garrisons made gathering pointless and when you level alts (I have 6 level 100s all with level 3 garrisons) they become an epic chore that you not only don’t look forward to but actually begin to resent.

    Like you I feel it’s time for Blizzard to maybe just cut their losses and move onto the next expansion. The funny thing is I suspect this is exactly what they are doing. The lack of content in 6.1 and the talk of Farahlon being cancelled and possibly no third raid tier signals that they themselves realise they are backing a losing horse here. Time will tell.

    • Fiannor says:

      @Earachis your comment made me smile, because our experiences seem very close. I too thought the leveling process in WoD was extremely engaging, possibly the most fun of any expansion in terms of initial leveling experience. It seemed much less so by the time I got to my 4th alt, no surprise there, that is to be expected. The difference between this xpac and Mists, though, is that in Mists I was motivated to keep leveling my alts even after the newness wore off. Yes, leveling them in Mists became a grind after awhile, but at the end of the process I could have some fun with them, max out their professions (I did all of them also), gear them up, raid with them a bit, make some gold, etc. Heck, I even got the legendary cloak on most of them, and I did the green fire quest on my lock! For all the reasons you point out, there is zero incentive to level alts in WoD, there is really nothing to aim for.

      I hope you are right that Blizz may actually be in the process of moving on past this disaster as quickly as possible.