Holy crap on a cracker, can you believe that MOP has been out for a year already? It seemed to fly by for me with real-life trolling me during yet-another out of state move, a 4-month hiatus and another year of not raiding anything but LFR. But hey, you do what you can do with what you got, amirite?
So yeah.. one year. It feels like everything and nothing has happened all at once! Over the course of the last 12 months, I’ve leveled a ton of alts, switched to four different servers, defected to the opposing faction, took a break and came back in time to see the expansion culminate in the Siege of Orgimmar. I’ve done entirely too many dailies, ground out some of the most horrendous rep grinds since Timbermaw, maxed out every profession but Engineering and gave up on Fishing within 10 minutes of casting my first line. I’ve tamed Ghostcrawler on my Orc Hunter that I no longer play, collected full transmog sets on my Warrior who is stuck on a server I don’t use and spent valor points on gear that I replaced the same day. In other words, it’s been business as usual.
When Blizzard first announced that Mists of Pandaria was going to be the next WoW expansion, my already dwindling interest in the game hit rock bottom. Cataclysm was the first expansion that I didn’t do too much raiding and my girlfriend and I began logging in less and less. I actually quit playing right before Dragon Soul released and didn’t come back until about a month before MOP.
Pandas? A new Monk class? Blegh, lame. I snubbed my nose and my girlfriend (who has been playing longer than I have) and I both chuckled as we started to watch the opening cinematic, male Humanoid carving a spear to take on generic Orc in lush forest.. and then we bought it the day it released. It was as if Blizzard had some magical pony powers in their cinematics that made you want to play their games.
Every cinematic to date, from the original WoW CGI showing the female Night Elf Druid shapeshift in to a cat in the middle of Ashenvale or Illidan’s infamous “You are not prepared!” speech, give me nerdy, WoW-obsessed goosebumps and MAKE me want to keep playing the game.
Neither one of us were really in to the Pandaren lore, the Monk class or any of that new-age hippy hooplah. You know, until we played it. Pandaria has some of the best environments and has, by far, the most lore-rich quest chains of any WoW-era. From the return of Chen Stormstout, assisting the Shadopan, opening the gate to the Vale of Eternal Blossoms and eventually watching it crumble under the might of Garrosh Hellscream make this expansion stand out on its own. Although nothing is ever perfect.
In their attempt to “gate” progression, Blizzard brought back the painful rep-grinds of the Vanilla-era with the agonizingly slow-going Golden Lotus faction, not only blocking further reputation gains with the Shadowpan and August Celestials until reaching revered status with GL, but requiring higher reputations in order to purchase better gear with your valor points. This wasn’t *too* bad on one character, but if you’re an alt-whore like myself, it became impossible to tend to my Halfhill farm, do the Golden Lotus, Klaxxi, Shadowpan and August Celestial dailies between running my one random heroic and scenario for valor points without it seeming like a full-time job that I somehow agreed to pay for to go in to work.
This issue was eventually pacified with the addition of commendations, allowing any character of revered status or higher to purchase a token that would increase the rep gained by any of your other characters. It did not, however, deter Blizzard from releasing more and more factions to champion, do the usual daily grind and get burnt out on.
As soon as you started to feel that sigh of relief (smell the fresh Four Winds air, son!) Blizzard punches you in the genitals with more rep grinds and more dailies. Shadopan Onslaught? Kirin Tor Offensive? Southern Barrens mineral grinding like it’s fucking MINECRAFT? We put dailies in yo’ dailies! Check it! Enjoy! Ugh.
Blizzard has, indeed, confirmed that Siege of Orgimmar is the final raid of this expansion, and with that in mind I suppose we can pretty much assume that we won’t be seeing much of anything new at all. This recent content patch released the Timeless Isle which is basically a floating loot pinata and early Christmas gift for your alts. It’s a fun time sink at first, but you can easily do all there is to do within a matter of days. Thankfully there is only one reputation to grind out, but holy shit is it painful. Literally. Those Yaungol Ordo hurt. I hate them.
So in an odd turn of events, they’ve removed the part of the game I loathed in the beginning (the dailies and massive rep grinds) and replaced it with a fucking horn-of-plenty island that practically pisses purple.. and you run out of things to do. I guess we really *do* need that balance of time sink and reward, but not one extreme or the other.
Changing gears for a sec, I wanted to take this time to go over my experience with MOP. This post is already longer than I had anticipated, but it’s about to become a whole new wall of text. You’ve been warned.
I started my time in Mists of Pandaria as a Troll Moonkin, leveling aside my girlfriend’s Undead Holy Priest and our friend’s Undead Shadowpriest. We were all 87 the next day (I think) and we all decided that we wanted to play something different. My girlfriend wanted to level a Rogue, so I rolled a Blood Elf Ret Pally to play alongside her. We leveled from 1 to 90 in about 3 weeks, hit the heroic and reputation grind wall at 90, both loathed the overall lack of DPS we could do (both specs were broken as fuck at that point) and immediately wanted to do something else.
In my WoW tenure, I’ve always mained a Demonology Warlock and a Moonkin, so I fell back on my comfort zone and leveled an Undead Warlock with her as she wanted to try out the new Monk class. Once again, we were 90 within a few weeks, got tired of farming heroics, doing dailies and watching everyone praise the derp machine in LFR.. so we leveled another set of alts, and another and another. We all eventually got so bored of the never-ending rep grinds that we all quit. All of us. At least until a few weeks before SOO released.
When we all decided to come back and witness Garrosh spill loot from his colon, we noticed that something was missing. Our player base. The server we played on had gone from a normal/medium population realm to a low-pop non-existant one. If we were going to play, we wanted to play with the option of raiding or PVP’ing with other people.
I pitched the idea of swapping realms and moving one of our Horde toons to Illidan-US as it’s the highest population Horde realm in the US. I moved my Troll Shadowpriest over, we found us a guild and started to do what we do best.. level alts. I ran LFR weekly on the Shadowpriest but had the most fun leveling alts. Illidan is a PVP realm but we never saw anyone to play with — kill — well in to our 30’s.
We all decided to roll Alliance instead, with the thought process of “more Horde = more targets“. This actually worked out exactly how we wanted it to, taking our small army of Dwarven Rogues in to Hillsbrad to play with the Hordies. This actually worked out exactly how we wanted it.. until 85. Once a few of us reached MOP-era zones, it was a never-ending ganking spree courtesy of the Horde welcome wagon. The griefing got so bad that we all decided that we were going to keep our Alliance characters, but move to another realm that was more Alli-friendly.
We made some alts on some more Alli-friendly servers, some PVE and some PVP, testing the waters. We eventually landed on our new home and caught up just in time for SOO. Woo.
Right now I’m sitting on 8 90’s, maining my Night Elf Moonkin. I have a Rogue, Warlock, Mage, Paladin, Death Knight, Warrior & Priest at 90 sitting around waiting for something to do. Probably the next expansion. Before the new expansion releases, I’ll definitely have my Monk, Shaman and Hunter up to 90 as well. It’s what I enjoy doing.
Overall, MOP offered a ton of great opportunities to get lost in the rich lore, some amazing areas to explore and quest in, brought back world raid bosses, successfully introduced a new race with the Pandaren and class in the Monk, went gung-ho with story-driven scenarios for 3-man groups, and made raiding even more accessible with LFR and the new Flex Raid system. Where I think Blizzard completely dropped the ball was in the dungeons.
It’s been one year since MOP released and not a single dungeon has been added. You originally had 4 dungeons to pick from and 5 more opening up as heroic-only at 90, but now two of those can be run on normal mode at level 88. Still, of the 5 “new” dungeons at 90, 3 of them are re-done versions of classic Vanilla-era dungeons. This brings the grand total of brand new dungeons over the course of a year to a frighteningly dismal 6. Even with the potential of adding new SOO-style dungeons like they did with ICC in Wrath or Dragon Soul in Cataclysm, they did absolutely nothing but add 3 scenarios.
Dungeons are my favorite part of WoW when I level. Don’t get me wrong, the people I get stuck with from some of the newer servers or Brazilian servers can be downright mind boggling — Balance Druid tanking in cat form, Hunter in a cloth robe or Ret pally with a shield? Every. Single. Dungeon. — but when I’m running with friends, I definitely prefer the dungeon experience over trying to keep everyone on the same quests.
The lack of variety this time around, coupled with the overall piss-poor amount of XP gained, just made everyone want to suffer through the quest grind as fast as possible on their alts. Dungeons give us the option of bypassing content we’ve already experienced time and time again in favor of grinding out XP, getting better with our classes and upgrading our loot.. and that option was just not viable in this expansion.
I also felt that while the Sha is menacing and Garrosh needed to be stopped, there was nothing world-ending and catastrophic about Mists. Vanilla WoW had the gates of AQ and Kel’Thuzad in Naxx. TBC had Illidan. Wrath had Arthas. Cataclysm rocked Azeroth like a hurricane forever with Deathwing.. and Mists had this island float along, full of pandas like “sup?”, and the Alli and Horde battled over who would get to drill it for resources first. That’s it. There is a hidden danger in Pandaria, this we know, but nothing has ever seemed like “OH SHIT WE’RE GONNA DIE IF WE DON’T STOP (insert antagonist here)!!“. I missed that.
So yeah. A year has gone by. I won’t say that I didn’t have fun, as I definitely have my fair share of great memories with great people, but I didn’t really feel gripped by any form of fear for the fate of the world. The story was great in Pandaria, and that says a lot for any RPG. Blizzard also did a great job with class balancing. I know some classes like Shadow Priest and Moonkin were toward the bottom of the DPS charts for the entire expansion, but there wasn’t such a significant gap like previous expansions.
I’m hoping that with Blizzcon comes new announcements for the next WoW expansion and it has something to do with Outlands. I loved Outlands, loved the dungeons and absolutely LOVED the raids and would kill to revisit them. It was such an amazing expansion that Blizzard has since pushed aside for the newer and exploded-er (?) Azeroth and Pandaria.
Still, in the end, I enjoyed the lore and quests and stuff, but loathed the ridiculous rep grinds, dailies, lack of dungeons and the overall lack of alt-friendliness until recently.