Cia Jackson talks about the new WoW expansion. Does it devalue the Warcraft brand by bringing kung-fu pandas to the Azeroth or does it make the whole experience better?

Blizzard released its fifth World of Warcraft expansion last month and the Pandaren are kung-fu-fighting all over Azeroth. Mists of Pandaria has caused a greater stir amongst WoW players than previous expansions and is dividing opinions beyond the classic “Alliance vs. Horde” debates. Is it more than a glorified Kung-Fu Panda game?
I’ll be honest, it took me several attempts before I swallowed my pride and rolled a Pandaren Monk. Like many other players, I was thrilled at the concept of a new class. The Death Knights introduced in Wrath of the Lich King – while fun to stomp around with – failed to fill the gap that the Monks have so successfully jabbed their way into. The class is extremely versatile, allowing players to choose to level as tank, healer or DPS; whilst the Energy and Chi points powering abilities are simple yet efficient- and certainly more interesting than watching a rapidly depleting mana bar!

I was less thrilled by the Pandaren. Although they have a beautifully designed starting zone with great quests and well-written lore; they’re simply cute bears with appalling fake-Asian accents. In terms of ridiculousness, they could easily rival the walking Happy Meal, Tauren. The only redeeming feature is their ability to select to side with the Horde or the Alliance.
This expansion also sees yet another change to the various class talent trees: their eradication. After choosing a specialisation at level 10, players must then select an associated benefit from a choice of three offered every few levels. Although it has been said that this is to prevent players from bickering in raids over the “proper” trees, this solution is more likely to lead to cookie cutter characters due to its limited nature. Blizzard has essentially dumbed down a system that wasn’t overly complex to begin with, removing some wonderful abilities gained from cross-specialisation and any real sense of customisation from the game in the process.
Ultimately, Mists of Pandaria is not a bad expansion; however it is certainly not the best. Pokémon-style pet battles may be a fun diversion; they don’t quite mask the oversimplification and removal of class features. Like many existing players, I’ll keep my subscription: I have a panda to grind to level 90!

[Cia Jackson]

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