World of Warcraft : Mists of Pandaria Beta Review - Pandaria Starting Zones
Mists of Pandaria is the greatly anticipated next expansion to the MMO titan World of Warcraft. It raises the level cap and adds an expansion continent called Pandaria much in the same way Wrath of the Lich King added Northrend. Mists of Pandaria also adds the Pandaren (Panda) race and the new Monk class. The monk class has 3 specs available the Brewmaster (Tank), Mistwalker (Healer), and Windwalker (Melee DPS). It also introduces a Pet Battle system similar to Pokemon.
For purposes of this review I picked a Pandaren Monk and went through the questline of the Pandaren starting zones. I would like to begin by addressing some of the rumors about Mists of Pandaria. Due to the huge popularity of the Annual Pass Blizzard has been forced to let players in to the beta in waves rather than all at once due to the well over 1 Million Annual Pass subscribers which Blizzard has publicly stated was well beyond their expectations for the program. This access in waves has led to some angst among players due to some confusion as to how the invites are being selected and the apprent randomness in the way they were sent out. As of today there have been at least 800,000 invites sent out for MoP.
This has led to complaints regarding the beta being laggy however there are 2 main factors contributing to lag in the beta.
1) It should be kept in mind there are 4 beta servers and 800,000 people wanting to play so server crowding is an issue and when you first login the starting area is heavily populated with pandas standing or milling around which any WoW player will tell you when you have a high concentration of players in a single zone or worse a small area it generates a fair amount of lag even on the live WoW servers say during a Stormwind or Org raid on the faction leader.
2) When you create a character on the beta the default settings for graphics etc. are high settings by default so players may want to check those settings to ensure they are appropriate for their system. The beta does not seem to accurately default to the recommended settings for your system hardware intially so new beta players should check this first so they can have a more enjoyable beta experience.
Once you take these 2 things into account and ensure your graphics settings are correct and move out of the intial spawn area with tons of people in it the lag on the beta settles down and it plays almost as well as smoothly as regular WoW. Once blizzard opens up some additional beta servers to handle the load the server overcrowding issue should be resolved.
The overall design and graphics and music even in the early beta are wonderful and there is a smooth progression in gameplay from zone to zone as your Monk develops their skills and goes through the trials set for them. The Blizzard art dept should get some serious kudos for the quality of their work in MoP so far it looks fantastic. During the course of leveling through the Panda starting zones I only saw a few instances of graphical glitches in the game and the animations so far look good.
Even with the large amount of players in the beta I only encountered a few instances like this one where tons of Pandas all try to click the little scroll item to complete the quest and of course they don't bother to move but stand ontop of the quest item.
The game does add a few interesting reaction based areas that are often dubbed "Super Mario Levels" There are at least 3 areas where the player cannot just run blindly through and not pay attention to the quest and NPC instructions otherwise they will suffer the consequences and in 2 cases outright die.
Listen to the NPC or you will DIE! The Shrine of Inner Light is one area where failing to heed NPC instructions will get you killed and requires a bit of platforming skills or at least basic raid awareness to move out of fire as you make your way to the spirit of fire. The passage was littered with Panda skeletons of those who failed the test.
After leading the fire spirit back to the central shrine you go off in search of the water spirit in a fantastic bamboo forest which I have to say I really enjoyed playing through. It's here you engage in a series of quests to sharpen your monk character's skills and face off against monks and will likely get turned into a frog and chased by cranes that want to eat you. At this point you should have the roll skill which works similar to rocket boots in that it allows your character to shoot forward and is great for travel and will likely prove useful in getting into or out of combat. Oh yeah and Panda's take less fall damage because they're "Bouncy" not kidding it's a racial passive and works similar to feral druid kitty form.
And lastly there is the balance pole you have to make your way to the center and face off against monks to ring the bell and not get knocked off. If you fall you hit the enchanted pool and get turned into a frog and there are hungry cranes around looking for a meal. You can intentionally get off a pole by rotating your char/camera.
More to come in the second half on the MoP Beta Pandaria Starting Zones.