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World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria Beta Test – First Impression

April 1st, 2012 by Wilfrid

Hooray!  Blizzard has sent me a beta invite for the testing of their upcoming expansion Mists of Pandaria.  Not that it was a huge surprise, really.  Because I have signed up for their annual pass deal and I know, eventually I will get an invite.  Still, it is good to get a rather early invite as I have been a loyal subscriber since its 2004 launch (OK, my payment lapsed for a couple of months because my credit card has expired but they really should have follow-up).  One of the first 200,000 lucky ones, I am.

“Oh my, guess what I saw when I first logged into the beta test server.  So many pandas!  I think I am getting panda phobia!  Note: Each panda you see in this picture represents one online player.”

I enjoy beta testing.  The last one I did was for the upcoming Diablo III.  I get to see an evolving product, based on testers’ feedback.  That gives me more insight on Blizzard’s design strategy (like how they value UI friendliness in Diablo III looking at the tweaks they do).  If you do get a WoW beta invite, here are some friendly reminders to make your journey more rewarding:

  • Beta means that it is an unfinished product, although Blizzard does reveal beta at its finest quality.  You get to see its beauty at its rawer form.  But you also get to see some rough edges.
  • The server is going to lag like crazy, regardless of your network performance.  It could be frustrating.  Hey, look at the bright side.  How often do you get to see hundreds of online players crowded in one place?  Nightmare no doubt.  But you would cherish this insane moment looking back.

“So I created a female pandaren.  Character customization seems to give me 14 face options.  Unlike the male pandaren, there is no customization option for the female face shape.  Just different color patches. Is it because we are at the beta stage?”

Female Pandaren

I don’t think I would try out the 85-90 high level zones in this beta testing.  Because I want to save the experience for my 10 characters.  Moreover, I don’t want to be sick of it by the time Mists is released.  What I do not mind is to try out the new pandaren starting area a couple of times since at most, I would only experience it once when this expansion is live.

The new pandaren race – silly as some may say – is down right adorable, especially the female pandaren.  I must say though, the female race looks a bit plastic to me, almost like a robot in her god forbid cuteness.  Maybe just a matter of getting used to.  Also, I observe that not all customization features are opened as of now.  The male version’s face customization varies the shape of the face.  The female version seems to vary the color pattern only.  I am not sure if it will be the case for the live version.

You can have a black and white pandaren that looks more like a panda.  Or you can have an orange version that in Cynthia’s words, looks more like a fox.  Female orange pandaren comes with a big orange tail too.  Alternatively, if you wish, you could have a hybrid look.  Black and white face with an orange body and in the case of a female pandaren, a fat orange tail instead of a tiny stub.

Female pandaren, in my opinion, is a bit short and plump.  I think I may roll a male pandaren when the time comes to save me some money to do a sex change later.

“Stop humping that scroll you silly pandas!  How are we supposed to click it when there are so many pandas crowded at it?!  Note: The trick is to pan the camera as show and keep spamming right click on the top right corner of the scroll.  You will get it eventually.  Also, if too many pandas are standing on top of the quest giver, press SHIFT-V and interact with the NPC’s green name plate instead.”

New Monk Class

It has been a while since Blizzard releases a new class for World of Warcraft.  So I rolled a monk class.  This new class is quite possibly what I look forward to most when Mists is live.

Some online reviewers describe the new monk class plays like an arcade game, combo-like button meshing and all.  I was a bit weary when I first heard about.  After experienced 11 levels of playing a monk, it is not as dramatic.

True, there is no more auto attack.  It plays like a rogue and shares the same energy pool concept, except that the combo points are not with the enemy but upon the monk herself.  This new resource called Chi can be accumulated up to 4 points.  Chi does not dissipate over time, unless you log out.  Some abilities generate Chi while others consume it.  For example, at level 1, you can consume 40 energy, perform a Clobber, and whack your target with your weapon (in my case, a staff).  Clobber generates one Chi.  You can also consume a Chi and whack your target with your hand – Tiger Palm – while you regenerate energy.  Tiger Palm deals more damage when the target is above 50% health.  So common sense would tell you to whack your enemy with your palm at the beginning of the encounter.  Perhaps even unload your Tiger Palm at that early stage when you have excess Chi.

Once your enemy drops below 35%, you can perform a Blackout Kick that has a 3 second cool down.  Blackout Kick consumes 2 Chi and it refunds 1 Chi if the target is dead by your kick.  So in effect, it would consume 1 Chi if you kick properly.  The so-called combo move is really how you wish to optimize your abilities based on the target’s health.  You cannot spam Clobber because that consumes energy.  You cannot spam Tiger Palm because that consumes Chi.  And you cannot spam Blackout Kick because not only does it consume Chi, it has a cool down.  With a potential to specialize into tank, melee damage, and heal, the new monk class sounds interesting.

All you need to do is pray that you don’t lag.  Because there is no auto-attack to save you.

“The artwork of the new pandaren starting area is colorful and beautiful.”

The Pandaria Artwork and Quests

While I am not overly excited by the oriental theme (strange eh given my background?), the artwork is colorful and beautiful.  A lot of work must have poured into the new starting area.  The oriental music background sounds good too. Unlike the Cataclysm new races’ starting areas, in this upcoming expansion, Blizzard has minimized phasing technology so much so that it does not matter at which stage of the quest line you are at, you can always see your friends.

Truth be told, I am not against phasing technology.  The downside is that the world around you seems a lot emptier than it really is.  Players at a different stage of the quest don’t necessarily see each other’s presence.  Till today, I still think that the goblin’s starting area is the best, out of all.  Tight storytelling, full of colors and insane humor.  Questing in the new pandaren starting area appeared to be a bit bland, initially.

“OK, I need three carrots and three turnips.  Where shall I begin?”

The quests in pandaren staring area can generally be broken down into a few types.

  1. Help someone to kill some unpleasant enemies.
  2. Help someone to collect some useful items.
  3. Take someone to somewhere.
  4. Go somewhere with someone.
  5. Defeat a mini boss.

#1 and #2 often go hand-in-hand.  So in Mists, you can almost predict what your next quests are going to be.  To be honest, I yawned (staying up till wee hours trying to defeat server lag didn’t help).  But I got through them nonetheless.

“What is this creature following my panda?!”

Maybe I am getting too old for this expansion.  Mists seems to have a playful undertone to the entire setup, unlike the previous expansions.  You wake some creatures up.  Play with some creatures.  As a pandaren, you start off as a neutral race.  You get to interact with two pandaren NPCs that are supposed to help you decide if you wish to join the Horde or the Alliance at the end of your journey as an initiate.  Later in your starting area, you get to interact with traditional Horde and Alliance races as well.  I wish Blizzard could work more quests into this part of the journey, to give players a better sense of which fraction their way of life is to be.  As of now, it feels a bit too shallow.

In retrospect, I really enjoyed the blood elf and draenei starting areas.  The quests take you to around level 20 and reward you with some good blue quality items.  For pandaren starting area, provided that everything stays the same as beta, you will get to level 11, and wear a set of white inferior items.

I am quite a sad panda.

“When you roll a panda, you start on top of a giant turtle who has a Chinese name.”

Closing Thoughts

I must admit that I am not overwhelmed with the new race’s starting area.  Maybe because I was not playing with my friends and the server lag was understandingly horrible (no complain on the latter).  The new female pandaren artwork is a bit too cute and plump to my taste.  The overall artwork though, is beautiful.  The quests are still linear, not much innovation I have seen except the one you have to stand on top of a log to dual with other NPC monks.  The entire journey, coupled with the server lag, took me 5 hours to complete.  That includes reading the quest text.  By then I have chosen which side I am on.  When this is live, I would not expect anyone to spend more than 3 to 4 hours on this starting area, which is kind of short.

The new monk class though, sounds promising.  Now, I wish we have tri-spec instead of dual-spec.

“My life is for Horde!  Hellscream took me in with open arms, not without a very scary and lengthy speech (or wall of text).  When will Blizzard give us more voice acting?”




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