Blizzard released a lot of new info about World of Warcraft's next expansion today. But does it all mean? We walk you through all the changes, tell you what we think of them from our hands-on time with Mists of Pandaria, and break down what they mean for every aspect of the game: from questing to casual gameplay to release date.
At BlizzCon, Chris Metzen told the crowd that the enemy in Mists of Pandaria is "war itself," referring to the fact that there's no huge monster threatening to destroy the world in this expansion. He elaborated on that thought when talking with press at a closed-doors event held at Blizzard last week, telling us that MoP is really about getting back to WoW's original theme: "the call to adventure." Metzen and the team want the focus to be back on the world and discovering the new cultures and threats that are indigenous to these new, unexplored parts of Azeroth. It's a more subtle call than "OMG A GIANT FIRE DRAGON WANTS TO KILL EVERYTHING YOU'VE EVER LOVED" and one that Blizzard hopes will resonate with the nostalgic and the hopeful.
But it's hardly a time of peace for Azeroth. As Blizzard revealed at BlizzCon a few months back, the Horde and Alliance will bring war to the zen-filled land of Pandaria, and Metzen explained further to us that both sides will go "to the brink" and have to look at what they've destroyed. He described it as a near-apocalypse scenario that both sides will have to step back from and do some soul-searching.
That's the end of the MoP storyline, and that whole story will wrap up inside of the game's launch content. Blizzard's mixing it up with MoP by having a full storyline in the "boxed content," which will lead players into the next story, told in the post-launch updates. That story revolves around assaulting Orgrimmar to take down Garrosh Hellscream and replace him with a new Warlord of the Horde. It sounds awesome (Vol'jin for the win!), and you can read our earlier post to get all the juicy details straight from Metzen's mouth.
The world of Pandaria
Pandaria, the new continent being added to Azeroth in the expansion, is broken up into seven zones (not including the 1-10 Pandaren content, which takes place on a giant floating turtle). Here's what we saw in each of them.
- The Jade Forest: Level-85 Horde and Alliance playes will both land here in this lush jungle and make their way to the Temple of the Jade Serpent, with the help of the jinyu fish-people (Alliance) or the hozen (a species of juvenile monkey-people the Horde will arm with machine guns and rocket launchers). Once there, they'll make a huge war like total jerks and cause the Sha--an ancient evil the pandaren emperor trapped years ago--to erupt out of the gorgeous temple and ruin everything. Way to go, guys.
- Valley of the Four Winds: If the Jade Forest is the pandaren in war, this is the pandaren in peace. Rolling green hills, lush pandaren farmland filled with gigantic vegetables. The local Tiller faction hosts a farmer's market that will offer always-changing daily quests.
- Kun-Lai Summit: The tallest mountain in all of Azeroth tops this zone on the northern tip of the island, and houses the Shado-Pan, a sketchy group that "houses Pandaria's darkest secrets." The Yaungol, another group descended from the Tauren, have been pushed off the mountain and now fight for a new homeland in the plains below.
- Townlong Steppes: A tremendous wall locks in the mantid, a ravenous, all-consuming insect species that threatens to consume the entire island.
- Krasarang Wilds: Similar to Stranglethorn Vale, this is a dense jungle along the coast with a chain of islands. Also like STV, this jungle is infested with an ancient race that's pissed off they don't rule everything anymore. The Moghuu aren't trolls, though--they're more like a cross between Draenei and Worgen, which is absolutely terrifying because they'll be all over the island, trying to kill and enslave you.
- Dread Wastes: The mantid homeland, now overrun by the Sha of Fear (thanks again for waking that guy up at the Temple of the Jade Serpent btw), has been corrupted into a horrifying wasteland of swamps and scorched earth. You'll have to fight your way into the lair of the mantid queen to take out the source of corruption.
- Vale of Eternal Blossoms: This is the heart of Pandaria, and where most players will be hanging out during downtime. Each faction has a temple to hang out in, complete with giant statues of warrior Moghuu--and everything is contested area, so expect PvP to reign. This lush valley will also host rotating daily quests for level 90s to defend against the many threats facing this seat of power.
The females were fully animated in the build we got to play, and have cute little bushy tails that the images below don't show.