World of Warcraft Mists of Pandaria Closed Beta Impressions (Level 85)

I’ve been playing World of Warcraft for more than 7 years. I was playing in the first beta, pre-vanilla, back when Lineage 2 was the place to be, and global chat was filled with the wonder of what World of Warcraft might become. 

Most people thought that it’d be a failure. Blizzard had never attempted anything like it before, and their audience was composed mostly of RTS and action-grind players – WoW supported neither, and it seems to many at the time that it wouldn’t make it through the first year.

Those people were wrong. World of Warcraft has outlived every expectation ever placed upon it, and until recently, it lived up to mine, too. But Mists of Pandaria isn’t the same as The Burning Crusade, or Wrath of the Lich King, or Cataclysm – in those expansions, I always felt as though the developers were trying to bring to life a world in such a way that the largest amount of people could enjoy it – and so far as my opinion goes, I believe that they have been a success.

Mists of Pandaria is different; not obviously, and not in a way that you’d notice upon first glance, but it feels like they left out the love this time. And I’m not talking about my beta client crashing every 4 seconds, or disconnecting from the servers every 8 seconds – though, truth be told, that close to the experience I had while I was playing – no, I’m talking about the fabric of the world and the characters within it.

There is no longer any effort made to maintain the suspension of disbelief – a mandatory element of creating a game world, I might add – and the result is an often unbelievable experience that, if nothing else, shows that the developers behind World of Warcraft no longer care about the quality of the product they’re designing.

A good example of this occurred within a few minutes of beginning my grind from 85 to 90; I completed the first quest offered to me, and was rewarded with a Scavenger Club – a green, one-handed mace with an item level of 372 and maximum damage of 3,528 – that easily replaced the epic dagger in its place. 

Standard, right? Right. Replacing your epic gear with green gear is a staple part of any World of Warcraft expansion, as well it should be. I don’t have a problem with it. I do, however, have a problem with this club, this monstrously powerful club, that could, quite literally destroy any enemy in Azeroth with one simple tap on the skull, being a fucking stick with a nail in the end. No, seriously. Take a look for yourself:

This moment, right here, was the moment in which, after 7 long years, I gave up hope for the future of World of Warcraft. For what it worth, I’ve always supported WoW against the masses of troll hate it received for going carebear. But, understanding that Blizzard need to cater to their largest audience and not their most loyal, I see why they made the switch to casual and I forgive them for it. 

Going casual didn’t decrease the quality of the worlds they were designing, or the characters within them, or the music behind them – but giving me a stick in place of a shiny dagger infused with the power of epic and awesome, and making that stick considerably more powerful – I’m sorry, but enough is enough. This is an insulting reflection of what the developers behind WoW today think of their audience – that cheap, rehashed content is enough, and striving to maintain the same level of quality in World of Warcraft as they have in other products is no longer required – and not consistent with previous content expansions.

Not a bad rant that, so far as rants go. It been a while since I last succumed to a little Blizz-Bashing, and I’ve got to say, it feels good. Better, now that I know they deserve it. I’m sure if I spoke to the guys and gals working on MoP that they’d tell me I was full of crap – that WoW has always been this way and it never going to change – or perhaps they’d tell me that their target audience won’t notice that they’ve given up on their game so long as they continue to add new areas with new quests and new items and new dungeons with a new race and a new class that basically the same as the other classes… sadly, I won’t be visiting them, and I won’t be having that conversation, so I guess all we can go on is the product that they deliver, and so far as I’ve experienced in the short, largely interrupted time that I’ve had with it, my firm belief is that things have changed, for the worse, and I’ve a feeling that they’ll be following this new trend in the future.

Does that mean you won’t like MoP is you’re currently an active WoW player? Maybe. My first impressions logging in were lackluster at best – the world looked similar to others I’d experienced before, and the changes to the talent system felt uncomfortable (though, it should be said that they impacted the gameplay experience very little). Perhaps, if you’re like me, and you only really get back into WoW for a couple of weeks to bash out the latest content and get back to playing StarCraft 2, then unlike BC, and WotLK, and Cata, you may feel that this time you’ve been cheated. 

And, for the most part, you have. Then again, this is the beta – perhaps Blizz have plans to change a lot of what we’ve seen in the beta come release, but I wouldn’t hold my breath.

Assuming I can stomach more gameplay, I’ll get a full preview of out to you as soon as possible. This is just my first impressions, so don’t take the experience as my be-all-and-end-all opinion of World of Warcraft, but so far as first impressions go, this one a doozy. On the bright side – Diablo 3 was awesome. Also, this:

About MMO Games