Last week, Blizzard invited members of the press to come to a special reveal of information regarding the latest World of Warcraft expansion, Mists of Pandaria. That information hit the Internet in full force this morning, giving WoW fans the world over all of the details they have been craving about Blizzard’s new direction for their juggernaut MMORPG since the title was formally announced at BlizzCon back in October of 2011.
One of the biggest reveals was the model for the female Panderan, the new playable race offered in Pandaria. While we’d been offered a look at the race back at BlizzCon, the female model was conspicuously absent. Included in the media releases were several screenshots and pieces of concept art detailing the female look, and it’s pleasing to see that Blizzard has managed to avoid the sexual dimorphism that has plagued some of their other races.
You can check out her model, a plethora of screenshots, and information highlights after the break.
Unlike recent expansion packs which have focused on a main conflict or villain around which the entire storyline circulated, Mists will be split into essentially two plotlines. The first focuses on the actual land of Pandaria itself, an ancient and mystical nation that has been lost to time for several millennia. Players will travel to the new continent, discover the Panderan people, and unravel the mysteries of their longtime seclusion.
The second part of the expansion is built around the war between the Horde and Alliance. Unlike in the past, where the two factions have often been forced into an uneasy peace to deal with a larger threat, in Pandaria, your opposing faction is the major threat. This plotline will apparently conclude with the Horde capital of Orgirmmar going rogue, and tasking both factions with laying siege to it in an attempt to topple the current warchief, Garrosh Hellscream.
During the event, Blizzard claimed that they view this new expansion as a sort of “spiritual successor” to the classic style of World of Warcraft in that it will lack a central theme around which events unfold. Rather, the focus of the game will shift back to exploration, adventure, and discovery. Thematically, it should be a nice change of tone from the harried pace of the last few entries, where the apocalypse always seemed to be just around the corner.
Those who love murdering their fellow player will be delighted by some upgrades as well in the form of two new battleground modes. The first takes place in an ancient Pandaren temple, tasking teams to hold on to an artifact that slowly drains their strength in order to accrue points. The second takes place in a mine network below Stranglethorn Vale, and requires teams to battle for control of a series of minecarts in a mode reminiscent of Team Fortress 2’s Payload game type.
The new monk class was showcased with all three of its specializations detailed. Monks can tank by adopting the dodgy ways of the Brewmaster, heal their allies through a series of unique channeled spells (and sipping powerful teas) as a Mistweaver, and unleash punishment through the Street Fighter-styled Windwalker (complete with an homage to Ryu’s famous tatsumaki senpukyaku). The new version of the warlock, which is receiving a massive overhaul, was also on display, showing off new mechanics like fiery power and the ability to summon new demon types.
Mists will ship with 9 heroic dungeons aimed at level 90 characters, with 14 raid bosses spread across three raids in a manner similar to Cataclysm. A few of these dungeons were detailed, including a newly revamped heroic version of the classic WoW dungeon Scholomace, as well as the far more lighthearted Stormstout Brewery that features evil rabbits and beer alementals. Glad to see that Blizzard can’t resist a good pun.
The press event also brought details on a number of the new systems being implemented, such as the Pokémon-inspired pet battling system and a queuing system for small group quests for those without enough time to dedicate to a full dungeon run. Of interest for the hardcore was the new Challenge Mode system, wherein adept players can take on time attacks of dungeons using normalized gear in order to compete with their peers. Fast times in these challenges award medals which can give players access to visually distinct cosmetic item sets.
All in all, it looks like Pandaria is well on the way to recapture a sense of fun and adventure that some fans feel has been lost in recent years. While no release date was announced, lead designer Tom Chilton said that he is “excited to get players into the beta very soon,” but everyone who follows Blizzard games knows that ‘soon’ can be a relative term. Players who purchased the World of Wacraft Annual Pass will have guaranteed beta access.