Mists of Pandaria: Everything you need to know

Josh Augustine at

Dungeons

Nine total new dungeons are being added: 6 entirely new ones in Pandaria with heroic and normal modes and 3 new heroics based on remakes of classic dungeons Scarley Monastery and Scholomance.

I got to play through the first two bosses of Temple of the Jade Serpent, a level 85 dungeon ready for you the second you step foot onto Pandaria--and they were tough! The first fight places you in a big room with a large pool of water and intricate stone pathways going through it. Wise Mari, a magical priest of some kind stands in the middle, completely protected while summoning large water elementals that take a beating and shatter into a corrosive pool and little water glob minions that hunt you down.

It's a challenge to take down these minions without dying and once you take out 5 of them, it's time for the real fight. Wise Mari starts spewing out a wall of water from her face and spins slowly around. Your team has to hop on the stone platforms in the water, constantly circling while attacking to stay in front of the wave of death chasing you. It took us about 10-15 circles to take down her health bar, and I had more than a few embarassing jumps into the damaging pool beneath us.

It was a fun fight that mirrored the difficulty of early Cataclysm dungeons, but instead of requiring you to constantly CC enemies, you're required you to pay attention to your environment and move to avoid hazards. The second boss, a lone pandaren monk in a dojo filled with dead pandaren required the same level of reaction skills when she periodically summoned four waves of fire, water, air, and (I think) earth from herself heading in different directions. She also threw forever-burning blue fire on the ground that slowly narrowed the fighting area and acted as a DPS gate.

The other level 85 dungeon, The Stormstout Brewery, looks totally ridiculous. A group of hozen (those immature monkeys the Horde aligned with) have taken it over, gotten totally drunk, and gone crazy. Knife fights and chandelier-hanging ensue as you fight your way through to free the brewery and score some epic booze. Some highlights we saw during our fly-through were jumping on rolling beer kegs and running on them to ride them around smashing hozen and a giant distorted bunny that ambushes you and spews out carrot-breath in a disgustingly orange spray.

I don't care what kind of beer you're making, you do not want these guys running around the brewery.

Drunken brewmasters and Scenarios

Pandaren are best when they're drunk, which is why you'll find Brewmasters tucked all over Pandaria, who only show up from time to time. Whenever you find one, you can complete a scenario—one of the new gameplay types that are basically mini-instances, based on chunks of the open world, that can be run in small groups without a need for a specific lineup of tank, healer, DPS—to earn reputation with them. The scenario we saw, Lightning Lager, was only available while it was nighttime and raining in a certain area. First you had to repel invaders on the brewery camp, then push your way threw their lines to a temple at the bottom of the hill where a giant boss stood ready for a good bashing.

The developers have five scenarios "close to completion" at this point, and will add more before launch. The goal is to let them develop areas further than they could with regular questing, and allow you to queue up to find groups for the content--as opposed to open-world group quests, which they found most players just skipped because they couldn't find a group for them.

Pet battles

We didn't learn a whole lot of new things about pet battles, but we did get to see one in action. It was a very early version, but it looked a lot like a Final Fantasy game (Blizzard even ran the Final Fantasy music in the video as a joke), with a player and his three pets standing on each side of the screen, with one pet pushed towards the middle as the active combatant. On each turn, you can use one of the active pet's three abilities or swap to a different pet. It also looked like you had two general abilities that you could use once per game, but the video didn't show them in action.

You'll be able to name your pets, each will have 6 possible abilities that you can unlock and pick 3 from for each fight. Pets have four stats: health, attack, defense, and movement, which acts like an initiative roll, deciding who attacks first. Pets are leveled individually and you unlock pet slots by earning achievements in pet battles.

Blizzard reiterated their desire for Pet Battle to be extremely casual. No record of your losses will be kept, only a running total of your victories. You will not see other players' names or be able to chat at all during pet battles--the developers said that it "will feel more like a relatively intelligent AI than PvP."

Relative intelligence didn't save this Hozun!

Challenges

Don't fret, hardcore WoWers! I've got some good news for you too. Challenges are coming along really well. If you recall, Challenges are designed to be "competitive PVE content"—dungeons with ramped up difficulty and time limits and leaderboards. A new UI pane lists every dungeon challenge available to you and the highest medal you've earned in it, and a countdown timer on screen warns you how long you have to beat the dungeon before you drop down to the next tier of medal (gold, silver, or bronze).

Earning bronze in every dungeon will net you an achievement (and is something even relatively unskilled players should be able to do, according to the devs), but getting silver and gold will be much harder. In return for the challenge, silver will earn you an exclusive set of Pandaria-themed gear that doesn't have stats but can be used for transmogrification. The rogue armor set they showed had a flowing gold dragon draped across its shoulders and the devs told us that the armor has a special effect that lets the dragon breath fire every time you score a critical hit while wearing it.

The best of the best that cap out with all gold medals will earn an exclusive flying mount that looks like one of the famous Chinese guardian lion statues with a moghu head on it.