Pandas, Dailies, and Pet Battles Oh My!

November 7, 2012 - 3:10 am No Comments

pandas, dailies, and pet battles

You didn’t think I’d miss the launch of the latest, greatest WoW expansion did’ya? Sure, I’ve been off playing games like The Secret World, Vanguard, and Guild Wars 2, but Warcraft is the olde standby, the warm bed we always return to when we seek comfort and familiarity. With the launch of the new expansion, Mists of Pandaria, I’ve jumped back in full steam.

The result is a very mixed feeling about the game and the future of its status in my stable of MMOGs. Pandas (bleh), dailies (bleh), and pet battles (yay) aside, the expansion offers an absolute ton of content, all mostly gated behind some sort of grind, alongside massive changes to character talents, advancement, and achievements. As with any changes as deep as an expansion brings, there are the good and the bad. Read through the cut for my favorite and least favorite new features.

Favorites

Pet Battles – the cool factor of pet battles wears off fairly quickly as it becomes just another level grind (that you have to do three at a time), but the fun factor remains as long as you keep the dosage of pet battles under control. Running around the world trying to collect all the pets is an addictive activity – trying to capture all rare quality is just icing on top. It is a lot like Pokemon, as expected, so if you don’t like Pokemon you won’t like pet battling, but it is a fun distraction when you need a break from the downer features that came with MoP.

New Talent System – since everyone pretty much followed the latest cookie cutter “best DPS/Tank/HPS” build to be found on the Internet anyway, Blizzard decided to just save us all a little time. Now, you select a new talent from a list of three every 15 levels; these talents are generally very well balanced and usually provide some sort of gimmick or utility ability, with a handful of performance increasing talents towards the top of the level grind. Essentially, you can pick the talents that fit your play style rather than having to select “mandatory talents” to remain viable in raids and dungeons.

Account-wide Accomplishments – finally, after all these years, Blizzard has given the altoholics among us some meat. Mounts and pets are all (mostly) now Battle.net account wide – only faction-specific mounts are restricted, but apply to all characters of the same faction. Even better, this is linked across your Battle.net account – so if you have multiple WoW subscriptions you’ll have the same stable on them all. Achievements are now shared across the account with some caveats. Most achievements rewarding titles, mounts, and pets are shared, especially things like World Events, however you can still filter it down to see which particular character has what. Global achievements are colored blue and any progress made to them on any character applies. So you can still get individual achievements, you just get the benefits of accomplishing them account wide. It’s an absolute boon to those of us who just can’t stop rolling new toons.

Scenarios and Challenge Mode – these two features are incredible new features for small guilds and groups of friends. Scenarios are 3-man instances that tell a story about Pandaria. While some of them require coordination, they do not necessarily require the holy trinity to complete. It makes them great fun and a nice reprieve from ordinary dungeons and raiding. Challenge mode is the next difficulty level for dungeons. Normal and Heroic dungeons are, by design, maddeningly easy. Challenge mode creates what feels like a 5-man raid environment for a small, coordinated team to accomplish. There’s even leaderboard tracking. These dungeons are no joke and you can spend quite a bit of time smashing your face into mechanics, but so far I’ve not heard from anyone that they are overly difficult. Both scenario and challenge modes add yet more content to the game, really targeted towards the more casual crowd.

Disliked

Dailies – to be clear, I don’t dislike dailies for what they are: simple quests to gain faction and gold. What I don’t like is that there is so much content in the game gated to reputation gains from dailies. All that valor you collect in dungeons is worthless if you don’t also grind dailies every day in order to gain revered status with a half dozen factions , because the valor-purchased gear is spread out over several factions at revered to buy. So not only do you need to grind dungeons over and over, you have to do dailies over and over. Where does this give the casual player time to pet battle and hunt achievements? The official forums are, of course, filled with QQing both ways. Blizzard has announced a new valor upgrade system is coming as an alternative to the daily faction grind; hopefully it comes soon.

Raid Difficulty Scaling – I have not done any “normal” raiding as of yet, but I have already heard the horror stories from friends – it’s Cataclysm all over again. More raid strategies that allow for absolutely zero margin of error. It’s smash your face on the mechanics over and over until you luck out by nobody making the slightest mistake. This turned me off from raiding in Cataclysm and ultimately led me to quit the game. It’s just not fun. There must be a level of challenge that allows a mistake or two to be made and not wipe the raid. What about LFR? Well, LFR is at the opposite end of the spectrum – it’s too easy. I would really like to see “normal-mode” as a fun mode with a little forgiveness for errors. One or two mistakes, ok. Three, eh, gonna be tough. Four oopsies, no, time to start over. Heroics, hey those can be unforgiving monsters requiring professional gamers and overgeared alts, but normals, come on, give the more casual raiding guilds a chance. Here’s what I’d like to see:

LFR = faceroll for pugs. We’ve got that covered.

Normal = make a couple mistakes, still survive.

Heroics = no mistakes; A+ game and no sick kids allowed.

I think the difficulty level of normal dungeons as they were when Cataclysm launched and now again in Pandaria really drives the smaller, less hardcore guilds to drink and ultimately causes too many guilds to collapse due to non-progress. It would just be much nicer if the normal raids were more about having fun and less about studying YouTube videos and shutting off the world around you.

Overall Impression

I think Mists of Pandaria is a fantastic expansion for the most part. There’s a ton to do and Blizzard’s ongoing efforts to make the player – and not the character – the important thing in the game is great. The new dungeons are a lot of fun, the challenge mode versions are like mini 5-man raids, and the scenarios are absolutely awesome for small guilds (more on scenarios is coming soon). As you can see, there really is more to like than dislike from the expansion from a casual perspective. Dailies, dungeons, pet battles, achievements, faction grinds… simply tons to do. If you aren’t a hardcore player who gobbles up content trying to be first, MoP is a stand-out expansion.

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