Mists of memory

What was your favorite expansion in WoW? Mine — and I know lots of people will disagree with me on this — was Mists of Pandaria. Looking back, it was the expansion where everything seemed to mesh in a seamless game experience.

Start with the story line. I am someone who is generally completely uninterested in the lore of this game, but I was intrigued by the whole Pandaren story, and honestly the pop culture pseudo-Eastern philosophy touches enhanced the experience for me. I rolled a panda monk, and I remember being delighted when the initial quest line revealed the nature of the starting island. I am an Alliance player through and through, but I liked the idea that Pandaren could choose their faction path upon leaving the island. I became very intrigued with the whole Wrathion enigma, and I am sorry we have not seen him since — I found him to be a compelling character.

I enjoyed — and still do — the racial “personality” of the Pandaren. It seems that Blizz really put a lot of effort into giving them a depth and complexity beyond anything I had experienced with other races in the game. Many of my characters are Night Elves, but honestly I never really gave much thought to them as a distinct people in Azeroth, for some reason they just have never made much of an impression on me beyond having a certain cosmetic look that I like.  But Pandaren are wonderful — individuals can be good or treacherous, fiercely loyal or despicably traitorous, wise or vapid. They are fierce fighters and make great soldiers, but they also love the hearth and make equally great innkeepers. They like good food and good beer and sharing it with any weary traveler.

I thought the monk class introduced in Mists was one of the most innovative Blizz has ever come up with. Each of the specs had unique and intriguing mechanics that were not just variations of every other class. My Panda monk was a mistweaver, and I really enjoyed the healing play style that was completely different from any other in the game at the time. She was also powerful enough in her damage dealing that I leveled as a MW and never had a problem. Legion’s Demon Hunters and the hunter Survival spec, in my opinion, pale in comparison to the creativity we saw with the monk class.

Starting the expansion, I remember being just blown away by the graphics. I found Pandaria to be breathtakingly beautiful. Every zone had one or more areas of surpassing wonder, and I still visit them when I need a break from the grind that has been WoD and Legion. I still enjoy swooping and soaring over the amazing beaches of Krasarang Wilds, and the windswept vistas of Kun-Lai Summit are balm to my soul. I have a particular fondness for Zouchin Village — something about the colors, the setting, the ambient sounds always makes me think of one of those glorious days in early spring, when you can smell the earth as it warms and see the first signs of new growth even though the air still has a slight taste of winter chill in it. If I ever quit this game, I will take each of my characters to Zouchin Village and let them end their existence there.

Certainly there were down sides to Mists, but in retrospect they were pretty tame. I thought the quest lines were coherent and connected with each other nicely. With the exception of Heart of Fear (I called it “Bugistan”), I liked the raids. I enjoyed scenarios. I loved that you could actually earn gear, not just roll the dice for it. I did not especially like the long rep grind that served as a gate to other aspects of the game, but in retrospect that was a piece of cake compared to Legion’s approach of making every character have to raid or run Mythic instances in order to advance any aspect of their end game play. I even kind of enjoyed the chase after the legendary cloak (except fo the PvP requirements), so much so that I got it on all but one of my alts.

Speaking of alts, I thought Mists was perfect for alt play. There was incentive to level them, because that is when you got flying for each, and I thought that was a fun reward for reaching level 90. There was also ample opportunity to actually play your alts, without the pressure of having to run instances or raids in order to do so. There were dailies, scenarios, and eventually there was Timeless Isle, where you could run dailies in 30 minutes or so — enough time to get some proficiency with your alts, but not so onerous as to feel like a grind (except for the frog killing zone, that is). You could max out alt professions with a single grind for faction rep, and then you could actually *gasp!* get some good out of your professions by crafting items or gathering mats for decent profit in the auction house. And you did not have to gear them all up to raid level gear in order to enjoy them.

I liked a lot of other miscellaneous things about Mists. I thought the Noodle Cart was fun and different, and I really liked being able to provide my raid group with noodles. (I think we could have predicted problems with Nomi, given what a little smart ass he was in Mists: “Who are you supposed to be?”) I actually liked getting individual rep with the Tillers in Valley of the Four Winds, and all of my alts became Besties with every Tiller, spending hours zooming around looking for dirt piles containing the treasures so dear to each of their hearts. I think much of this particular attraction for me was the reward of adding enhancements to Sunsong Ranch, a place I still like to spend a night in once in a while. It is the closest we have ever come — or sadly are likely to — to player housing in this game.

Mists was when I really came into my own as a Survival hunter. I spent hours practicing in front of the target dummies, I played with lots of rotations and talent builds. I learned how to configure and use Weakauras. I finally mastered the iconic hunter “turn around jump shot” by repeatedly running along the front of the Shrine, first practicing the “reverse disengage” mechanic — run, turn around and jump and DE and turn around again before landing — then adding in a Concussive Shot after the jump but before the disengage. I regret that this skill has deteriorated since then, but for a while I was pretty damn good at it. Survival was fantastic fun to play back then, possibly the zenith of hunter play in WoW. It makes me sad to compare it to BM play now in Legion.

So, yeah, I think Mists is the best expansion Blizz has given us. Unlike WoD and Legion, it seemed “finished”, like a well-designed final product, not like a drawing-board concept constantly being adjusted. I know a lot of people were frustrated that it dragged on for so long, but I was never bored with it, not even in the waning months. It was an expansion where I felt like all my goals were attainable, where I felt like I could set my own play parameters and have fun, whether it was in advancing my main or practicing with an alt or making some gold or just admiring the artwork. It seemed like an individual game back then, not like an assembly line.

Enough reminiscence. Time for a holiday weekend, with Zouchin Village spring weather.

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.

9 Responses to Mists of memory

  1. Marathal says:

    I actually liked Cata. Yes, they had the “welfare epics”. But the system with being able to wear a tabard while running a dungeon, not only gave you incentive to do so, you also did it with a purpose. Certainly the dungeon level initially for heroic seemed steep. But for many who started in Wrath, we never knew the experience of hitting them with quest and dungeon blue gear. There was a great deal of content. And looking back I would put that up there as my top choice. Followed by Wrath, Pandaria, Draenor, and Legion. Who knows, in 10 years, I may look back and think Legion was great.

    • Fiannor says:

      “Who knows, in 10 years, I may look back and think Legion was great.” So true, hindsight is not always 20/20, often it is more like rose-colored glasses.

    • I actually liked Cata too, I really loved the raids and the Firelands questing area was one of the best they’ve ever done in my opinion. Also I really love Worgen ;D

  2. I thought Pandaria was pretty cool too. The idea that we, alliance and horde, are messing things up more than fixing them is a strong thought.
    And it was beautiful! There were also “safe” areas where you could gallop about — one of my odd but fond memories is having my level 30 Mage leveling up pets and getting XP. I think that there should always be a nagrand or tanaris or four winds zone where you can see really far and run in a straight line: both WoD and Legion has pathways packed up and down with no relief.

    • Fiannor says:

      Yes, having a safe area, as you say, to just run around is fun sometimes. One of the annoying things Blizz did with their “immersion” idiocy in WoD ands also in Legion is that roads are no longer safe for travel. You can be attacked just as easily galloping down a road as you can cutting cross country. Which means when you are ground-bound, you WILL be attacked over and over again, even if your goal is just to get to a quest zone. This gets very old very fast.

  3. MoP. Hands down.
    1) SV, BM both functioned well, entertaining game play, diverse toolset that was applicable in variety of situations and encounters. Could run both with expertise by the end of the expansion (on top of 3 additional fully geared endgame alts)
    2) Tames, rare tracking to special ability tames. Just all around provided utility and pizzazz and buffs. I think the best days of useful tames.
    3) Gorgeous storylines that should one not hit the mark, another will. The investment and consequences of your actions in various zones. The exploitation of the shrine zone, strip mining hit me in the feel bags.
    4) Legendary. The evolution, sequential upgrading, individual challenges (yes I raged at one that cost me like 3k in repairs) but it felt epic, and thhen the final form animation
    5) Zandalari Warscouts and Warbringers, that dropped the rep tokens and mounts. My interaction with them went through a full evolution, from barely picking off a warscout (by the skin of my teeth) to hrs flying around swooping in and destroying thhem for tokens and mounts (when better geared)
    6) Oondasta and the sea of skeletons experience.
    7) Guild groups of world boss tours, sha of anger, galleon, oondasta, nalak.
    8) Achieves and mounts, still love the celestial dragon mount which I got on xmas day on a lark.
    9) AIE Craft Fair. Contributed many mats, helped train ppl, and learned jewelcrafting from scratch, which through the careful tutelage of a friend, earned me millions in gold, before the WoD golden showers.
    10) Fishing. Nat Pagle. Cooking, noodle cart, Nomi, was just so rewarding and had significant utility. Made you feel like you really did something useful that garnered you a real benefit.
    11) Pushing to 9/14 mythic (before it was mythic) SoO.
    11) Heirloomathon – as a part of aie on earthen ring, I organized top raiders throughout the guild to get together for 4 hrs the weekend before Blizzcon and WoD Dropping, and had all the toons in the guild who applied get in line to be carried through a Garrosh kill. Squires and Knights of AIE. We recorded and presented video on strat to coordinate. We live streamed it, live tweeted it, and killed garry 11 times for a total of 114 heirlooms garnered for guildies who’d never fought garry or outside of LFR.
    12) The depth, intricacies, rabbit holes (literal and figurative) scope, and evolution of story with development of world interaction was just top notch in my opinion.

    The rep grinds, /shrug. Better them and their diverse paths than funneled gameplay into x, y, and z. Divergent paths returned to the main path as much as possible and a sad reduction of rewarding rabbit holes

    • Fiannor says:

      Oooh, I had completely forgotten about some of the things you mention — the ad hoc guild groups flying around for world boss tours was great fun. And for professions, I, too, learned JC from scratch, switching my then-main from two gathering professions to JC and mining. The combo of JC on my main and engineering on my monk (Sky Golems and belt buckles) earned me a ton of gold. Our guild, too, organized a weekly carry for non-raiding guildies to get their heirloom from Garrosh. It felt good doing it, in the same way it felt good to set up a noodle cart for your teammates or hand out flasks to everyone or set out a Jeeves or a scrap bot for people to use.

      Hunters back then had so many tools. I loved being the “utility’ player in raids, loved doing all the little raid chores no one else really wanted — taking care of the engineer in the Garrosh fight, doing belt duty for Siegecrafter, stepping into dream worlds and voids whenever needed. In fact, one of my best moments as a hunter came when our rather unreliable off tank was a no show for Mogu’shan Vaults, and I successfully off-tanked the first boss with my turtle pet. It was glorious. (And of course we never let that off tank forget he could be replaced by a turtle…)

      I share your pain at the “strip mining” of the Vale, it hit me hard, too, and I rarely go back there now, except to make quick use of the shrine’s portals, because I can’t bear looking at it. Before the destruction, I remember the first time I completed the quest line that led me though the gate with all the Pandarens streaming home, and it felt — no other word for it — triumphant. I really felt like I was coming home after a long difficult journey. It was a memorable experience of a type that has not since been repeated in the game.

      Gotta agree with you on the rep grinds. I did complain about them at the time, but as you say at least they offered divergent paths to game goals rather than the coal chute system we have had in WoD and Legion.

      • “I loved being the “utility’ player in raids, loved doing all the little raid chores no one else really wanted”

        THIS EXACTLY! I was the special ops guy. What? There’s a really annoying, frustrating, difficult, and nuanced role that someone has to play? Send in Thuggs. The first taste of this was Tortos in the troll raid. We were stuck on that wall for a month, me on turtle kicking duty, and if you recall, that was some of the most challenging role I think I’ve ever faced in a boss fight, such were the vagaries of RNG, crap falling from the ceiling, other shells popping you up into the air etc. Garry Engineer duty and Siegecrafter belt as you mention were two of my favorites. I really enjoyed the prisons and entire fight for Sha of whatever in SoO (that heroic, now mythic fight was SOOOO fun. Then there was tower duty for Galakas or Galakados or whatever the dragon after Sha was. Then key timed misdirects during the opening the boxes fight!

        While I had no special role in Thok, the first time my team was able to do the static don’t phase change him and burn him down was friggin cool.

        ooOooo the bird fight with “nest teams” that got to fly around.

        That utility, that capability, that flexibility of having a toolkit that will allow you to engage nearly any situation. Sure it wasn’t all perfect answers to the problem, but it gave you options, far less than you have now.

        /sigh /snuggle-in-to-the-nolstagia

  4. I’m not sure if it was 100% my favorite — there were some things I didn’t care for, mainly the Siege storyline and the healer balance (disc > all) but I did enjoy Mists a great deal. The scenery was gorgeous, I loved the hozen, jinyu, and Klaxxi, and the Sha and celestials storylines were really interesting to me. The cloak quest with all of its lore was worthwhile and fun enough that I did it several times (five I think). I also really enjoyed how the Horde vs Alliance beach dailies were done, slowly unlocking the story as you went. Scenarios were great, especially for my DPS characters, a way to get a little reward and have fun with friends.