Review

Pandaria

Pandamonium

With kung fu pandas and battling pets, World Of Warcraft: Mists Of Pandaria preaches to the converted.

By Samantha Nelson • October 22, 2012

World Of Warcraft was originally the story of the endless war between the Horde and the Alliance, its world painted red in the blood of orcs and humans, elves and undead. While the conflicts have continued, the game’s last three expansions have moved away from that theme as the factions have united against greater threats, like a demon lord in Burning Crusade and the mad dragon Deathwing in Catacylsm. But there is no big villain in Mists Of Pandaria and that puts the game’s central conflict back in focus while making it seem more awful and senseless than ever.

The Pandarens have long been a fan favorite, and Blizzard has devoted an entire new continent to the beer-, food-, and martial arts-loving panda-people. It’s a beautifully realized world, especially in comparison to the desolate and alien landscapes of Northrend and the Outland. Drawing heavily on ancient Chinese culture and myth, the zones are filled with temples and lush countryside where dragons soar through the sky. Affable natives are happy to tell you stories about their past in exchange for a little help. It’s no surprise that the Horde and Alliance both covet this new frontier and are hellbent on taking it.

Pandaria

The plot offers some heavy stuff, but it’s hard to take things to seriously given the characters involved. The Horde resorts to arming some poo-flinging monkey men while the Alliance works with a whole race of beings who seem to be cousins of The Creature From The Black Lagoon. While one early dungeon has you wandering a ruined temple and putting down possessed priests, another has you fighting giant rabbits with lethal carrot breath and groan-inspiring “alementals” made from a mad brewer’s experiments.

Blizzard purposefully keeps things light with some brilliant and highly entertaining quests, including one where you investigate a scouting mission by taking on the roles of the different characters, which involves some weird romance and some time playing a shooter instead of a role-playing game. Boosting your character’s powers to the newly raised cap—the pinnacle now stands at level 90—is a long journey, and if you want better kit, you’ll still be compelled to kill the same enemies repeatedly until one of them drops whatever item you’re looking for.

Pandaria

But the developers appear to have learned a lot in the past eight years about keeping things entertaining, whether you’re shooting down gyrocopters with fireworks or leading an attack from the back of a dragon. Pandaria feels more like a single-player RPG than ever, driven by story and personal interactions. Scenarios designed for smaller parties and a revamped Raid Finder make it easier to play the game on your terms if you don’t feel like dealing with other people’s schedules.

Where Cataclysm redid the entire game world from level 1 to 60, Pandaria is decidedly focused on the endgame. Its new battlegrounds, most of its dungeons, and a host of daily quests open only when you reach level 90. It makes the game a harder sell for new players or even people who just want their own Pandaren monk. The dumbed-down talent system makes this feel like even more of a slog, replacing the bit of incremental progress you got each level with much sparser new abilities where the choice largely boils down to whether you prefer killing monsters or other players.

The Pandaren starting area isn’t much of a selling point. It’s lovely to look at and has some fun quests—like one in which you’re turned into a frog and have to avoid being eaten by cranes—but it lacks the creativity of the goblin starting zone introduced in Cataclysm. And the finale is moronic. The biggest treat here is the opportunity to play as a monk. The new class is highly enjoyable, whether you’re pounding people with flurries of punches or getting your enemies so drunk that they hit themselves.

Pandaria

Further service is given to the game’s obsessive collectors. Vanity pets—creatures that do nothing but follow you around and look cool—have long sold for thousands of gold in the game’s economy (and sometimes real money). Now these status symbols serve something of a purpose in a Pokémon-style side game that catch a huge variety of new creatures and field them in mini-monster battles. Players can fill out their team of beasts with everything from chickens to flaming skulls, and Blizzard has given this menagerie a shockingly large and intricate range of abilities. It could easily be its own game, but as it is, it’s a great distraction and palate cleanser.

Blizzard has promised some ambitious developments to come as it puts the war back in Warcraft. But mostly this expansion proves that the company is still able to maintain quality while iterating on the formula that keeps its numbers high and competition down. Where Cataclysm was a perfect time for new or returning players to get into the game, Pandaria is more like a shot in the arm for dedicated fans.

World Of Warcraft: Mists Of Pandaria
Developer: Blizzard Entertainment
Publisher: Blizzard Entertainment
Platforms: Mac, PC
Price: $40
Rating: T

Share this with your friends and enemies

Write a scintillating comment

  • Staggering Stew Bum

    This game looks unbearable.

    • Electric Dragon

       Sounds like it pandas to the existing fans.

      • HobbesMkii

        With subscription down, this expansion represents World of Warcraft’s attempt to hold off its grizzly demise.

        • DjangoZ

          I doubt that Ailuropoda Melanoleuca delivers pizzas at this time of night.

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

       Oh, baby, you know a pun thread always gets me me going. I’m feeling a real connection here. Something really special. So, tell me, what’s ursine?

      • Staggering Stew Bum

        My sign is Bearies.

        But don’t kind yourself @paraclete_pizza:disqus , we’re polar opposites.

        • Electric Dragon

           This really is a kodiak moment.

      • HobbesMkii

        Gaaah! I spent a good five minutes trying to come up with an ursine pun and couldn’t get it. It annoys me that the collective ability of the Internet surpasses my own.

        • Ack_Ack

          Another bear pun would have unleashed pandamonium on the message boards.  Don’t be embearassed.  Just paws and reflect – I’m sure you’ll come up with something.

        • Moonside_Malcontent

          Yeah, don’t strain yourself.  There’s no sense in “Russian”; “bear” essentials make for the best puns.

      • Raging Bear

        I guess mine must be Taurus.

        At least, after I was through with that last group of campers, the one who could still talk said something like “that bear really taurus up.”

    • Raging Bear

      I never can keep my bearings in an MMORPG.

    • Monkeylint

      Fur sure.

    • Bad Horse

      I suspect it will be polarizing.

    • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp David Dalrymple

      Pandas are from the raccoon family. Racist?

      • Electric Dragon

        Red pandas are from the superfamily Musteloidea (raccoons, skunks and weasels). Giant Pandas are from the family Ursidae (bears).

    • The_Horse_Chestnut

      As soon as I heard the new expansion would be Pandaria, I thought:
      Farktos, I don’t karhu they are, I wasn’t bjørn yesterday, I am highly dubuious of the whole premise, as I find it very irksame. oso I don’t think I will resubscribe. Instead I will go to the Bär, have a beer.

      Ok, some of those were better than others.

  • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

    So, apparently the Pandaren were initially designed as a Japanese-style culture, but the sizable Chinese WOW community was like, WTF, THEY ARE PANDAS. WHY WOULD THEY BE JAPANESE YOU RACIST IDIOTS? And the rest is, as they say, history. Fictional furry history.

    • HobbesMkii

      Right? Because why would giant, talking, anthropomorphic pandas in a world comprised of elves, orcs, wizards, and dragons have a culture derived from Japan rather than China? It’s completely unrealistic. 

      • DrKumAndGo

        Are your serious? Do you know what Orientalism is? Taking a symbol of a culture then appropriating it into the culture of their hated enemies is, at best, a tremendously ignorant thing to do.

        • Ack_Ack

          Doesn’t Orientalism also involve dividing cultures into groups of friends and enemies?  Your point is slightly valid, but still extremely stupid in the context of this article.  Panda samurai’s would be cool.

        • HobbesMkii

          I think the difference between Orientalism and dressing a panda as a samurai is that Orientalism is art purporting to report how people in the “Orient” actually live, and the origin of the Pandaren is literally a Blizzard employee named Samwise creating an April Fool’s Joke for (again) a video game in which things that have never and will never exist struggle in a world that’s defining characteristic is the craft of war.

          My real question is who is the tremendously ignorant person? The person who (again, as a joke, in his job as artist for a company that produces fictional worlds) draws a panda in culturally Japanese clothing, or the person who looks at said culturally Japanese fictional panda and goes, “Hey, yeah, pandas must be Japanese or Japanese culture must be found in China” ?

        • George_Liquor

          Huh. I always thought orientalism was when you go wandering a forest with a map & compass, acting like you know where you’re going.

        • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KHRM2IZU2SMZPXYAY5B7S3CPSA yahoo-KHRM2IZU2SMZPXYAY5B7S3CPSA

          Who’s to say a panda couldn’t be in Japan on vacation?

        • DjangoZ

          After living in Thailand for 2 years, I now loathe the Chinese and Japanese equally.

      • http://profile.yahoo.com/3W2WZOQW6X6BGV2R2GPZCIEPFU wally

        Oh lord, this old chestnut.  “You’re crying over racial/cultural ignorance?  It’s just fantasy/science-fiction/etc., get over it already!”

        • HobbesMkii

          Oh, I don’t debate the racial/cultural ignorance in World of Warcraft at all. There are some really awful creations in there that are, at best, as bad as Jar Jar Binks in Star Wars (although, possibly slightly less annoying). I do dispute the idea that this is actual ignorance rather than one man’s aesthetic choice to synthesize cultures for his fictional panda culture.

        • http://profile.yahoo.com/3W2WZOQW6X6BGV2R2GPZCIEPFU wally

           @HobbesMkii:disqus  This is what you might be unaware of: the general assumption, that the various cultures that are thought to fall under the umbrella-term ‘Asian’ are alike enough to be interchangeable, is incredibly pervasive, to the point of invisibility.  Most Americans make little or no distinction of point of origin for even nation-specific cultural objects, such as sushi & dim-sum, , kung-fu & karate, anime & manga – even language.  And China and Japan are conflated together so often it’s ridiculous – you could hardly get more different than, say, the cuisine and cinema of the two, yet ‘Asian’ is the term people use to describe them. 

          More to the point: it is the lack of recognition of cultural specificity – the lumping together and thinking that’s okay – that is lazy and, yes, racist, but it’s so common that few people even notice, and often are dismissive when it’s brought to their attention.  To think that it’s an aesthetic choice rather than a product of ignorance is giving a lot more credit than may be called for.

        • HobbesMkii

           @yahoo-3W2WZOQW6X6BGV2R2GPZCIEPFU:disqus I want you to know I’m not unsympathetic to that point, and I certainly appreciate that there is a significant difference between Japanese and Chinese culture (as well as any other Asian culture). But I hesitate to accuse a person creating creatures in a fantasy world of outright or even casual racism unless there’s a lot of evidence for it.

          Fantasy is extremely well-known for its eclecticism–to give you an example from Skyrim, the culture is clearly very Norse-inspired, yet the enemy being confronted in the main plot of the game are quite clearly closer to the classic Slavic/English dragons of later medieval literature. The dragons of Norse sagas are largely wingless and snake-like. Little complaint was heard. That Bethesda introduced vampires, a mostly Balkan creature, in a subsequent DLC was also not seen as culturally insensitive (or, at least, not enough to warrant a previous comment on this website). Somewhat ironically, the closest equivalent in Norse culture to vampires are draugr, who are already featured heavily in the base game.

          Now, that’s not to say that fantasy/sci-fi doesn’t often indulge in lazy stereotyping and sometimes outright racism towards real-life cultures in its portrayals of fictional ones. The Gungans I cited earlier are an extremely distasteful portrayal of Caribbean cultures (specifically Jamaica). I’d argue a lot of the Lord of the Rings features heavy duty stereotyping of different parts of British society (others have suggested more overt implications towards race in LotR, but I’m not sure there’s enough evidence to support those readings for myself).

          In this case, I think, we simply cannot know whether this was a bit of careless conflation of Japanese and Chinese cultures, or whether it was a conscious choice by the creator because he has both an appreciation for pandas and for samurai. Certainly, the proximity (and yet extreme distance) between pandas and samurai seems to support your interpretation, but without further indication that that was the case, I hesitate to indict this as being clearly racism/cultural insensitivity.

      • NarcolepticPanda

        Are you saying that talking, anthropomorphic pandas don’t exist?! That they’re not realistic?! That they’re not the BEST?!?!?!

        Motherfucker, I beg to differ.

      • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp David Dalrymple

        I think that careless use of stereotypes can be harmful, regardless of the creator’s intentions. (If I may risk an extreme analogy, the distinction between murder and manslaughter is of little interest to the victim’s family.) We shouldn’t ask whether Blizzard are blameworthy; we should ask whether the work is harmful. (Let’s put aside the issue that any work is bound to offend someone, and the question of whether “offending” someone is necessarily a bad thing.) 

    • Xtracurlyfries

      RIght, because making an entire race based on a stereotype of another culture is only racist if you get the race wrong. This feels like jumping the shark to me.

      I hear in the next expansion you get to play as a race of uneducated, gun-loving, obese eaglemen who get their powers from eating burgers and fries.

      Also, “getting your enemies so drunk that they hit themselves.” Ah yes, because we all know there’s some critical amount of alcohol that one can imbibe that will make you self-injure. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve walked into a bar late at night and everyone is just punching themselves.

      • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

         While I agree that the whole thing is problematic and probably racist, I would say submitting Chinese characters to Chinese stereotypes is at least a finer grain of racism than lumping “all those exotic Orientals” together under one stereotypical umbrella.

        If they made that race of bald eaglemen, but they all wore ponchos and sombreros and were shiftless and lazy, you’d have a better analog of how the Japanese Pandaren thing probably read. Even after course-correction, it’s still horribly racist/stereotypical, but before course-correction, it’s just ignorant to the point of total baffling incomprehensibility.

        • Xtracurlyfries

          You’re probably right about that.

          I still keep thinking this is a joke. I couldn’t believe that: (a) Blizzard would take a joke character and make it the basis of the new expansion; and (b) that the fanbase would actually get excited about it.  I think this is about the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen in gaming.

        • TheZeppo

          @Xtracurlyfries:disqus I never really had any issue with it, but I guess I didn’t find the brewmaster in Warcraft 3 to be as much of a joke as most people seemed to think he was.

        • The Guilty Party

          I dunno. The whole ‘this is the vaguely asian themed area/continent/planet/race/whatever’ has a long tradition, often in games made by Japanese people. (And before you say that the Japanese look down on the other Asian cultures or whatever, their pastiches throw in Japanese elements as much as all the other ones).

          I mean, you tend to get gross pastiches of European history, mythology and culture in games too. Vikings and Crusaders and Robin Hood all jumbled together.

          The point being, video game designers are lazy, derivative and repetitive more than specifically racist, I’d say.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

           I mention downthread that this is the result of creative laziness rather than any actual race-hatred, but that relying on racist tropes out of laziness doesn’t make them less racist. Maybe it’s not overtly evil, it’s just stupid, but those two things are more often than not functionally equivalent.

          The argument that the Japanese do it too smacks of the Arab Trader fallacy. Just because someone else is lazy or racist doesn’t excuse anyone else, even if that someone else is of a different face/ethnicity than me. Also, you’ll have to point out these ‘pan-Asian’ culture games from Japan, rather than vaguely identify them as a valid thing, as in my experience Japanese games and anime generally make a point of distinguishing between Japanese and Chinese culture.

          Aside: I’ve been watching Samurai Jack through for the first time lately, and it seems like that show is all about the lazy stereotyping. It’s widely lauded, certainly not overtly racist, but it’s still a bit disappointing how trope-laden and lazy it is. It’s a visually inventive show, but it seems like that’s the extent of its inventiveness, and the rest seems to consist of hoary narrative tropes featuring tired ethnic stereotypes.

        • The Guilty Party

          Ok, but when you’re making some fantasy world based in part on real world cultures, is your racism or lack thereof just a matter of granularity?

          Making a culture of Pandas based on just Chinese tradition: mostly not racist. Chinese+Japanese… more racist? What about Chinese+Thai? Vietnamese+Thai? What if it’s Cambodian+Vietnamese+Thai? India+Japan? If it’s nations that have similar cultures, is that more okay than if it’s nations that are more obviously different? Is it less okay?

          I guess I’m saying that claiming racism because they draw from multiple sources from a region of the world seems arbitrary and hard to defend.

          I’d say it comes much more from the details of the implementation. What’s the tone of the presentation? Is it full of ‘all these foreigners are funny!’ even though you’re ostensibly a character who was born and raised there? What are the inhabitants presented as? Are they stereotypes with a layer of polygons on top? Or is it a world that can stand on its own, with its own rationale for, I don’t know, honor-bound samurai-eqsue warriors? Or did they just throw that in because they thought it looked cool?

        • The Guilty Party

          Note that I’m not particularly defending WoW here. I haven’t played the new expansion, so I have no idea if the Pandaren are crazy racist or if it’s a clever, heartfelt homage to an ancient culture or if it’s just developers throwing in every ‘that’s kind of asian, right?’ idea they came across. Just making a general point.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

           The fact that they arbitrarily lumped together Chinese and Japanese culture rather than, say, Chinese and Eastern-Russian culture, indicates that they’re lumping based on race lines than on a geographic “region of the world.” It makes it seem like less an inventive amalgam of East-Asian culture and a lazy amalgam of the most blatant orientalist tropes.

          The lines of distinction they are using aren’t cultural or regional, they are racial, which, whether it’s due to malice (unlikely) or laziness and lack of creativity (very likely), is, by definition, racism.

        • The Guilty Party

          Ok, but if I make a culture based on a mash of Norway/Sweden/Finland, were those regional or racial or cultural-history associations that I made? How do you tell?

          You’ve made good points, I’m not saying you’re entirely wrong. And you might be completely right in this particular case. I just think it’s too easy to say ‘oh, you took from two cultures that have people that look sorta similar, you racist!’

        • Mike_From_Chicago

          Short answer: there’s nothing at stake in the misrepresentation of Europeans, because Europeans ultimately have the power to define their own existence in the Western world. When Europeans misrepresent other cultures, they deprive those cultures of the opportunity for self-definition. (To prove my point, I’m conflating Europeans and Americans into the single notion of ‘western culture, just cas I can.)

          Longer answer: we have these debates because, as we embrace globalization, questions of who has the power of representation (usually related to control of the economy) become complicated. Also, as many people point out, this kind of cultural misrepresentation (panda samurai) is fairly harmless and benign and speaks more of intellectual laziness than malice (though I’m guessing the buck-toothed chinaman of the 20s and 30s was considered cute and harmless by its creators as well). In 2012 it’s hard to argue that China or Japan is lacking representation in American society, or that our representations of Asian culture are necessarily filtered through the lens of western orientalism (though in practice they may be).

          Point being, while the whole thing smacks of orientalism, so does any western representation of Asian culture. So we have this debate to sort out amongst ourselves whether or that orientalism actually matters on a grand scale.

      • Veryoriginalusername

         How on earth is it racist to base a race of fictional pandas on ancient china? What negative stereotypes are being promoted in the game?

        I hear the next expansion will also draw inspiration from real world cultures and their mythologies

        ALSO, They are walking, talking, kung-fu fighting panda’s, they have magic beer, how unrealistic.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

          A stereotype doesn’t have to be negative to be racist. The ‘positive’ stereotypes that people of East-Asian descent are good at math, or that men of African descent are well-endowed sexually, are both racist, false, and harmful.

          I don’t think this expansion is going to incite any hate crimes against people of East-Asian descent, but I do think inventing a race of panda-people sporting fu-manchu moustaches and wearing rice-picker hats is at the very least creatively super-lazy and at the most perpetuating, Disney-style, a kind of stupid caricature.

        • Mike_From_Chicago

          I like your line of thought, Girard, though I don’t 100% agree with your conclusions. I think it’s problematic using one of the national symbols of China as the inhabitant of a pan-Asian fantasy world, in that it speaks to a certain degree of exoticism that many of us are uncomfortable with. The question, though, once you’ve acknowledged the icky implications, is whether the exoticism matters.

          I understand the desire to exist in a thought-structure that is free of lazy stereotypes, especially when people still defend hurtful stereotypes on the grounds that ‘they’re stereotypes because they’re true.’ (Just heard that last week. Shoot me in the fucking head.)

          BUT, I do think the fantasy argument has some validity in this situation. You could argue that blizzard is so far up its own ass with WoW that this particular character, however exoticized, becomes meaningless in a larger context. (note: this argument does not apply to those fucking trolls.)

      • http://twitter.com/saintstryfe Saint Stryfe

        We have those all ready in Warcraft – they’re called Dwarves. Not Eagles, I grant you, but uneducated gun-loving obese… yeah, Dwarves. 

    • http://twitter.com/tapirman Kyle O’Reilly

      Having a Japanese Panda is like making George Washington wear a sombrero.

      • http://www.avclub.com/users/merve,96925/ Merve

        You mean kinda awesome?

        All US Presidents should wear sombreros.

        • The Guilty Party

          Me gusta!

      • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp David Dalrymple

        You need the latino vote if you want to carry Florida.

    • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp David Dalrymple

      Playing WoW always made me feel a little dirty. The Troll race was beyond my threshold of good taste, and I hated the homophobic chatter every time I went to the auction house [the mods tried their best, but they're not perfect]. After that bleeped out video from Blizzcon last year, I was super-pissed, especially by the community’s knee-jerk defense. The official apology was actually quite good; it seemed sincere. Then, days later, they announced those fucking pandas. That’s when I realized that Blizzard were simply clueless. They were going to keep making these same mistakes over and over again.

      • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

         Holy shit, I just watched some videos of those trolls. That’s ridiculous.

      • http://twitter.com/saintstryfe Saint Stryfe

        Trolls are from the game’s south pacific… how should fantasy trolls sound anyway? And that video was stupid, but in the end, the stupid was showing it, not having it. The guy who was actually saying the homophobic things was lead singer of a Metal band. It’s not exactly shocking he’d say something inappropriate. And if the Pandarian aren’t a love-letter to Asian cultures, especially China, then I don’t know what it is. Anything wrong with Asian cultures are easily shuffled off into the expansion’s “bad guys” -the mogu. The good stuff is all because of Pandas. 

    • http://twitter.com/saintstryfe Saint Stryfe

      Samwise, the Blizz designer who developed the Pandarian from a sketch after a drunken night, just put the Panda in Samurai armor because it looked cool. When pointed out that that’d be like putting John Bull in a white-and-black striped shirt and a beret, he changed it up to more traditional Chinese clothing.

      • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

         Blizzard is certainly all about looking “cool” (for certain values of “cool” that resonate most with teenage boys) above anything else – they’re like the Joe Madureira of game companies in that respect. But that mentality tends to produce work like this which is at its best blisteringly stupid, and at its worst possibly racist. It’s not really a spectrum where there’s a good place to be.

  • http://twitter.com/tapirman Kyle O’Reilly

    I played WoW vanilla way back in 2007 and while no expansion pack has ever been able to lure me back into the game’s 14.99-a-month embrace, the bright colors, and interesting environments of this expansion do seem like they’d be more fun than previous dark expansions.

    What I really want to know though is are these the same people who have been playing WoW since I played way back when or are these new adopters?  I feel like WoW is such a staggering game to get into these days it is truly only designed for people who have already played it and maxed out characters already. How is a new consumer supposed to finish Burning Crusade, Lich king, Cataclysm and more before approaching this.

    Acti-Blizz is still rolling in the money though.

    • Dikachu

      I don’t get into MMOs unless I get in at the ground level (i.e. the initial launch or beta).  Otherwise I feel like I’ve missed out on too much.  Even if I rocket to the max level quickly (which they pretty much guarantee now), it’s like catching the third movie in a trilogy and trying to be satisfied with the prologue “our story so far” shit.

      • Asinus

        I started playing WoW a month or two before WotL came out. I still don’t really know what Burning Crusade was about. But, really, I don’t see any lure back– the story of WotL was really good– Arthas, in my opinion, was THE villain of the game. I quite before Cataclysm came out and watching the intro video didn’t have any draw for me. Also, when I think of what I miss about the game, it’s the flow of my main character’s rotation that I practiced and worked on for hours. Now that they’ve nerfed the game into an entirely different game from my perspective, I don’t see any draw. Once in a while I think I miss it, but what I miss is my build from Wrath and the Wrath story arc. So… well… Deathwing? I don’t know who that is. Panda people? no appeal. Dumbed down system? Gee… 

    • TheZeppo

      It’s some of both. I’ve been around since vanilla, but probably most of the people who play now picked up the game in Wrath of the Lich King.

      Also, the leveling experience isn’t as daunting as it seems. Haven’t leveled a character from scratch in a while, but I think 1-85 takes about 50 or so hours depending on how much rested experience you accumulate, and 85-90 is another 20-30. So it’s still long, yeah, but nothing that couldn’t be done with moderate playtime over the course of a couple of weeks.

      • http://twitter.com/chudleycannons David

        Sorry, but 80 hours over two weeks? That’s literally a full-time job. Also, you’re assuming that the players know all the strategies/where to go/aren’t walking in to an mmo for the first time/follow set paths for leveling up and don’t end up spending large amounts of time wandering around and not really finding the right stuff to do (which was what I ended up doing when I first played an MMO – I was more interested in visiting The Daily Planet and Arkham Asylum than trying to figure out where the appropriate level quests I was supposed to be doing).

        • Aurora Boreanaz

          The hour estimate and “two weeks” is off, yeah.  But the biggest thing Blizz improved upon in the 1-60 leveling experience was having small quest hubs across the map, with each hub having a chain of complementary quests to complete before moving on to the next hub.  (For example…one wants you to kill bandits, one wants you to bring back bandit bandanas, one wants you to blow up boxes of bananas the bandits borrowed from Brill, etc.)

        • TheZeppo

          I have a loose definition of “a couple” that my girlfriend bitches me out for constantly. Point being, if you play an hour or two a day on average you’re looking at an outside shot of maybe two months. They increase the levels every expansion but reduce the amount of experience required to level, so it’s not quite as daunting as it might seem.

          As to where you want to level next is concerned, there are a couple of borderline foolproof systems in place to funnel you into the level-appropriate zones. Quite a bit more intuitive than it used to be.

        • The_Juggernaut_Bitch

           Uh, most people who play MMOs play like 3, 4 hours a day.  So, sure, you don’t rocket to the top in two weeks… but if it takes you a month, or two, is that really a bad thing?  A well-designed MMO is about the journey, not the destination.  Not sure if WoW is such a game, as I’ve never played it but, there it is.

    • http://twitter.com/samanthanelson1 Samantha Nelson

      I’ve been in it since vanilla too and so have most of the friends I play with, though many of my other friends have long since fled.

    • http://twitter.com/Evad_Dalrymp David Dalrymple

      I finally hopped on the bandwagon when Cataclysm came out, and most of the players I met were too young to have been playing the game from launch.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KHRM2IZU2SMZPXYAY5B7S3CPSA yahoo-KHRM2IZU2SMZPXYAY5B7S3CPSA

      I can’t see how they’re attracting new customers because the cost to join is insane. You have to buy all the previous expansions on top of that $14.99, so we’re talking maybe another $60-100 depending on what deals you can get. How could they possibly be getting that many new adopters at that price? 

      • http://twitter.com/saintstryfe Saint Stryfe

        because you don’t need those other expansions until you get to relevant content: level 80+. It should take a new player who is learning everything probably a month or two at least to get to 80, and that’s with some support.

      • TheZeppo

        They keep bundling the previous expansions together for $5 or $10 apiece, so you get current from scratch for, like, $60.

  • Dikachu

    I’m glad I wasn’t the only one who thought this panda theme was retarded… christ, are they targeting grade schoolers now?

    Also, there’s nothing even remotely tough about pandas… they’re a living (though not for long) example of how evolution often produces spectactular dead ends.  When a species loses interest in sex, they WANT to die.  If they weren’t cute, no one would give a shit.

    • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

      “Also, there’s nothing even remotely tough about pandas… ”
      I have video proof that refutes your thesis.

    • NarcolepticPanda

      EXCUSE ME???

      I’ll have you know I’m skilled in martial arts, adorable, and full of sex drive (except when I fall asleep midway…).

      THIS ENTIRE THREAD GREATLY OFFENDS ME.

  • doyourealize

    While WoW seems like something that would be right up my alley, I’ve never even been remotely tempted to pick it up. I have a few friends that play, and it seems like once you’re into it, your whole video game world become WoW, with no room for anything else. It’s subscription fee makes you feel like you have to keep playing, and there’s so much to do that you simply don’t have time to explore new games. That might seem like praise, but I’d rather have spent a short time in Bastion, Binding of Isaac, Limbo, Portal 2, Dead Space 2, Super Meat Boy, Mark of the Ninja, No More Heroes, Flower, Super Street Fighter 4, SpaceChem, etc., as well a long time in FFXIII, FFXIII-2, Dark Souls, Assassin’s Creed 2, 3D Dot Game Heroes, Arkham Asylum, Arkham City, Morrowind, Demon’s Souls, and more, than all that combined time in one game, no matter how deep.

    It’s too bad, because I’m drawn to it, and I enjoyed the first Guild Wars, which seem somewhat similar, but WoW is one game I’ll never play.

    • DjangoZ

      I played it back when it first came out. I made level 30 after about 3 months of play. It definitely took over my life, to the point I was actually concerned about myself. But then, thank goodness, it started getting really boring. The last 5 levels were just going through the motions.

      It’s a heck of a ride and the exploring is alot of fun, but the variety of gameplay is pretty limited. I’m not interested in doing the same quest over and over and over to see my level tick up slowly.

      • doyourealize

        I had a similar experience with FFXI. The first weekend I had it, I played it for something like 20 hours, but then just could never get back into it. At that point, the whole idea was new to me though and for some reason I was embarrassed to join up with other players (an affliction I still have in games I am unfamiliar with – for some reason, I don’t won’t people I’ll never meet to make fun of how much I suck), and never really experienced that part of it. That’s probably a good thing, though.

  • TheZeppo

    Eh, unless you’re really into achievement grinding, once you’re a few weeks into it there’s a lot more breathing room to go play other games. I’m not really into consoles, but there are a handful of other PC games I play, especially toward the middle and end of each raid tier.

  • Boko_Fittleworth

    For a long time I’ve noticed there’s this odd tendency in a lot of people to engage in “ancient inflation” when talking about China. For example, referring to sixteenth / seventeenth century Chinese novels as ancient, when that label would never be applied to something (e.g., Shakespeare’s stuff) in the equivalent period in the West. It seems to be tied into the idea that China has to be this exotic otherworldy place. This honestly isn’t meant as jab at this article (for all I know, the Pandaria setting, which I haven’t played, may truly be drawing on really old stuff) but was just something that popped back into my head.

    • HobbesMkii

      I think that’s probably because most Westerners stop learning about China at the Three Kingdoms period (if they even get past the Warring States period) and just focus on them as they relate to European expansion (the establishment of the trading ports, the Boxer Rebellion, etc.) and then pick them back up at Mao. I honestly couldn’t tell you whether there even was a China between 300AD and 1912, that’s how lousy my East Asian history is.

      Plus, all the cultural stuff gets referred to by dynasty names, and they just sound ancient that way. No one on Antiques Roadshow ever goes “Yeah, this vase is about 150 years old.” They go, “Oh, that’s a Qing Dynasty vase” and it sounds frightfully expensive and rare.

      • Moonside_Malcontent

         One thing that’s important to remember is that since China before the Qing dynasty tended to focus its efforts on internal glorification and regional hegemony more than global expansion (a la the West) it’s easy to conclude that there “wasn’t much happening” before the late 18th century.  And so in a fairly Eurocentric history curriculum it’s easy to overlook China’s importance prior to that point.  This is especially true when one is a history teacher at a public school with 50 poorly-served students in your class learning from a curriculum mangled by school boards that “don’t need our kids learnin’ bout the commonism.”

        Also I had to laugh about the Antiques Roadshow comment.  I once heard on one of those shows a piece of Chinese woodworking described as “post-Qing dynastic work.”  Sooo… any time since 1911?

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=579674289 Morgan Filbert

        Not sure if you’re interested Hobbes, but we read this for a college course and I found it fascinating.

        http://www.amazon.com/1587-Year-No-Significance-Dynasty/dp/0300028849

        We used it in a course called “Political Decision Making Through History” which was basically an RPG that we played for class. We assumed the roles of historical figures and had to argue our/their points. We could also assassinate each other (if historically appropriate), declare war, etc…

        Plus the Professors encouraged back room deals and plotting.

  • Brainstrain

    Palate cleanser is a great way to describe bet pattles. A lot of people in my Guild ignored Pandaria for the first few weeks, just focusing on the pets. That was a bit creepy to me.

    And I definitely agree that the new talent system is inferior, although a step in the right direction. Blizz is actively fighting against the “cookie cutter” builds which have always dominated – meaning one smart guy figures out the best distribution of points, and every single other person in their class and spec uses it. It’s not fun or interesting. But the system boils down to 1 point every 15 levels. It makes leveling feels completely arbitrary now, as opposed to before, when it was only mostly arbitrary.

    The end-game is VERY heavy on daily quests as well. And WoW’s daily quests have always been terrible, so. Somewhat disastrous. You’ll grind the least interesting daily hub for two weeks before unlocking two fairly fun daily hubs. It’s…far from ideal.

    • Veryoriginalusername

       Oh yeah fuck the new daily quests right up the ass. I get that reputation was too trivial when you could just put on a tabard and run a few heroics. But starting at neutral and knowing you need what a few hundred daily’s done to reach exalted ugh.

  • Aurora Boreanaz

    I played WoW from two months after release through Cataclysm, with a few 1-2 month breaks here and there.  Cata did greatly improve the 1-60 leveling experience, but having to slog through BC and WotLK again from 60-80 was a lot to deal with.  My wife and I both quit for good about two months after Cata was released, realizing we’d both just gotten tired of most of the game after 4-5 years of it.

    MoP has just sounded totally ridiculous from the first announcement.  Okay, I get that Blizzard had Pandaren back in the RTS days, but after the success of the Kung Fu Panda movies, this just seemed like a transparent cash-in.

    And from a lore standpoint (not that WoW has ever really been solid on lore), I still find it annoying that we have three expansions based on dangerous threats to the world of Azeroth, and the pandas fucking hung out on their own continent, ignoring everything that was going on until now.  I’m sure there’s some BS “magic hid the continent” explanation to cover for it, but it’s stupid and lazy.  (At least all of the previously introduced playable races had either an existing presence or a reasonable reason for their absence.)

    • TheZeppo

      The “BS ‘magic hid the continent’” explanation is that the pandaren island was shrouded by mists, such that the Pandaren didn’t really know what was going on outside of their land and people outside weren’t aware it existed. C’est la vie.

      It has, however, been quite a bit of fun. It’s the best leveling experience — 85 to 90, that is — I’ve had since the original 1-60 in terms of discovery, exploration, and just fun storylines. (Not that 1-60 was great, but when you’re first introduced to the game, it makes the world seem vast and fully realized.)

      There have definitely been some missteps in the level cap content (HEY GUYS WE REMOVED THE DAILY CAP SO YOU CAN DO 4,562 DAILIES EVERY DAY), but for the most part it’s probably been the best expansion since BC. I was definitely on the brink after Cata, having raided or PvPed at a relatively competitive level for the past seven or so years, because the game seemed excruciatingly stale, but this expac bought at least another year or two for me.

      So far as a Kung Fu Panda cash-in, I dunno, it probably played a role in corporate marketing discussions, but playable Pandaren are something fans have been asking Blizz about for years. The implementation of the race and continent has been adult enough that most of the people I know who were complaining incessantly about it being marketed kids have shut the fuck up.

      • Aurora Boreanaz

        Okay, fine.  If you say that Pandaria is more “adult” content than kid-friendly, I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt since I haven’t played and have no intention to.

        But I consider myself a fan of the Warcraft series and have several friends who were even bigger fans (I loved WC1, but I suck at RTSes, so couldn’t manage WC2 and WC3), and none of us were excited about the pandas.  90% of the people I played WoW with left after Cata and didn’t return for MoP.

        And you basically confirmed my “BS magic” argument with the mists.  Since there were Pandaren around in Warcraft III, that means somebody should have known about them…especially considering how many “explorers” there are in the quest lines in other areas.  The dragons that embody magic never bothered to mention the island full of magic pandas until now?  And Deathwing, the giant dragon constantly flying around the world burninating regions at random, also never noticed Pandaria because they were a bit foggy?  None of the giant cataclysmic earthquakes and volcanic eruptions affected them because they had a bit of fog?  They’re like the Bugblatter Bears of Traal – if you can’t see them, they can’t see you?

        • TheZeppo

          Chen Stormstout, the Pandaren in Warcraft 3, is from a different island — the starting zone now for that race — that isn’t shrouded by the mists, but is a giant turtle that moves, as gargantuan sea turtles are wont to do, thus making it hard for anyone to actually find it or venture from it.

          Also, I think they retconned the lore into saying that the reason the mists broke for Pandaria proper was Deathwing’s Cataclysm, but everyone was so focused on that whole disaster that they didn’t notice the new island.

          Meh. Could be worse. Blood Elf Paladins, need I say more?

          I can’t blame you at all for not wanting to come back. Cataclysm was almost definitely WoW’s worst expansion, and it killed the game for a lot of people.

        • http://www.gildedgreen.com/ Girard

           An island full of furries is WoW’s locus for “adult” content? This can’t possibly end well.

        • Brainstrain

          The vast majority of WoW’s plot points could be summarized as “BS magic”.  This is not new. Metzen is extremely creative, but he’s not a writer. Remember that time we “restored” the World Tree, and then Thrall got kidnapped and we forgot about it and then nothing happened anyway? There’s nothing resembling internal consistency which Mists is disrupting. WoW is ridiculous. The only thing new in Mists is that the first two leveling zones are fairly light-hearted. Then we jump straight back into the genocide.

        • http://twitter.com/saintstryfe Saint Stryfe

          well they explained that Pandaran are generally a  home-body people. They don’t explore much. Before the Mists shrouded Pandaria, some intrepid explorers however did leave to explore – they become the few Pandaran we see in story, like Chen Stormstout, and they are the Pandaran who eventually join the Horde and Alliance in the game as player characters. People in the WCU knew Pandaran existed, but they were rare. In story we learn that people like King Mangi of Ironforge and Rexxar, Savior of the Horde have both had dealings with Chen long before WoW’s proper storyline.

      • Veryoriginalusername

         In some ways Mists of Pandaria is way darker than previous xpacs. Both the Horde and the Alliance are violent invaders, who force their conflict on a neutral peace loving  people, indoctrinate natives (Monkeys and fishmen) to fight their war for them, and unleash ancient terribly evil emoticons on the continent.

  • Nightmane

    It strikes me as odd that this review says that Pandaria has helped WoW retain its user base, considering most of the people I’ve played with have quit in the last year, and are certainly not interested in shelling out $60 to play Pokemon.

    And, to answer someone else’s question…the primary body of players now are not Vanilla players.  They’re WOTLK and later, and most of them are under 25.

    • http://twitter.com/saintstryfe Saint Stryfe

      Well, Cataclysm actually had the Game’s biggest drop in subscribers – nearly 1/6 the game’s players quit. Now, I think it’s inflated a lot – both Wrath and Cata had a lot of problems launching in China due to a pissing match between different Chinese government agencies, and Mists didn’t have that significant hurdle. And Mists gives a whole new function to the game, even for players who did not pay for the expansion. The patch added Wrath content into the basic game, so you can get to level 80 without an expansion, and also opened up all races and class combos (save DKs to anyone who doesn’t have a level 55, and monks). You don’t need Cata to make a Goblin, and you don’t need Mists to make a Pandaran. And Pet Battles, which have kept several people I know in the game, are free too. 

  • NarcolepticPanda

    Black and white power!

    *attacks humans with bamboo*