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Posted by Raine Hutchens on Sep 24, 2012

Mists of Pandaria Takes WoW Back To Its Beginnings

Tonight at midnight the fourth expansion for the gaming phenomenon known as World of Warcraft will release. Mists of Pandaria, as it’s been titled, will take players to a brand new part of Azeroth not seen before. We’ll meet the Pandaren, a race of humanoid pandas who for years have enjoyed peace and prosperity. That is, until now.

The story in Mists of Pandaria reaches back in the lore that showed itself before Warcraft became an MMO. Back in Warcraft 3 there was a Pandaren Brewmaster which marked the first entrance of the race into the game. Thinking back on this, the designers wanted to take the game back a bit story-wise and offer something new, yet not so new to the players.

According to Lead Software Engineer Darren Williams, the new expansion puts focus on exploration and having fun – something that the previous two expansions nearly cut out altogether. “The conflict of this expansion is brought by the players, the two factions: Horde and Alliance,” Williams said in an interview with Eurogamer. “They land on this land and immediately want to claim it for themselves. The player is embroiled in this. The player is almost neutral from this aspect, but you discover this conflict between Horde and Alliance. And that brings about this negative energy that’s been buried in the ground, the Shard, and they manifest negative emotions. You bring evil to the continent.”

This approach to the expansion’s storyline mimics the original story of the Orcs invading Azeroth. That’s how World of Warcraft began. These creatures invaded a land they sought to claim as their own and negativity followed. The day that happened began a war that’s lasted for seven years. I like that idea to be honest. Introducing a new class, such is what they’re doing with the Monk, is one thing. Allowing players to embrace a new race is a totally different challenge. There needs to be a better sense of story with this sort of introduction. The Pandaren have been living peacefully for years, and all of a sudden their world is torn apart by these savages who invade their land. We’re seeing the Dark Portal open all over again, only this time it’s with a bunch of new faces. I think the developers have done right by this.

Blizzard has added tons of new features that will show up in the expansion. Players will see pet battles, new land to explore, a new level cap, and one of the biggest gameplay-driving factors: scenarios. Scenarios are a new type of content where you enter an instance with three players and unlike normal dungeons where you have a tank, healer, and DPS, you can go in regardless of role. Each scenario is quick and provides a unique experience.

The scenarios will tie in with the new content, and Blizzard is aiming for Mists of Pandaria to be an expansion that will last players for a nice chunk of time to come. Towards the end of the interview Williams, along with Scott Mercer, hints that Mists won’t be the last expansion the MMO will see. There will be hints of what’s to come within the expansion itself, and players who are itching to learn about story and lore are sure to uncover them.

Midnight tonight marks a new beacon in the future of the World of Warcraft. Will Mists of Pandaria save the MMO from losing subscribers like it has in the past few years? Right now we don’t really know, and neither do the developers. One thing that’s certain is that Blizzard has been working to bring something new to the game, and now is the moment of truth to see if their hard work has paid off or not.

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