The patent for the name Mists of Pandaria leaked to the internet well over a month ago. Since that time, fans and press went into a flurry of speculation over what this could mean. Try as they might, Blizzard could not convince us that the name had any other implications than the next expansion for World of Warcraft.
At BlizzCon 2011 this weekend, the company confirmed what so many had already expected. Some time next year, Blizzard will launch the fourth expansion to their ultimate MMORPG. World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria continues in the creative and drastically evolving spirit that Cataclysm had with a host of new features.
Increased Level Cap: Players will be able to progress their characters up to the maximum of level 90. At least one new spell will be introduced from the previous cap of 85 to the new one, but developers don’t want to crowd an already full spell book with new abilities.
New Zones: The island of Pandaria was secluded in a shroud of fog for thousands of years before battling Horde and Alliance naval ships stumbled upon it. The new map houses 5 massive new zones for leveling and questing alike.
New Race: The Pandaren are masters of martial arts and drinking. I love these guys. Starting at level 1, new Pandarens will meet and interact with members of the Horde and Alliance, culminating with the harsh reality of choosing a side at level 10. Once you have forged your allegiance, there is no turning back.
New Class: The all new Monk class utilizes fists and feet to unleash lethal combinations and fuel mystic powers of defense and healing. The new class has three roles to chose from: tank, healing or damage. All three roles are performed in melee. Monks are available to all Horde and Alliance races with the exception of Goblins and Worgens.
New Talent System: Just when you thought Blizzard couldn’t re-work your talent trees any more than they did from Wrath of the Lich King to Cataclysm, watch out, here comes Mists of Pandaria. You won’t even recognize your class tree this time around. Specializations are still the same but classes now have one tree with a new tier unlocking every 15 levels. Each tier will contain three talents for you to chose from. Developers are trying to finally deal the death blow to cookie cutter builds while opening up a new world of playstyle customization for players.
New PvE Challenges: Mists of Pandaria introduces two new ways for players to progress their characters. Scenarios are instanced events for three to 25 players that take less time than dungeons and offer a change of pace from traditional instance encounters. Challenge mode dungeons are the next installment, where players enter a familiar dungeon, but must fight against the clock to clear the zone. Upon entering the dungeon, all players will have their stats normalized to a preset level so no matter what gear you come in with, the difficulty is the same for everyone.
New Companion Pet Battles: In Mists of Pandaria players can now take out their favorite pets and battle them in new PvE and PvP encounters. Whip out your Lil’ XT and Mr. Wiggles, customize them, level them up and show them off to any would-be challengers.
Sure, that sounds like a lot, but that doesn’t even include the new raids, open world bosses, 5-man dungeons, re-tuned classic dungeons, raid finder, new Arena map and possibly new Battlegrounds. Many initial reactions to the new expansion are focused on the Pandarens themselves, without even looking at the big picture.
Blizzard is taking bold steps towards giving players options previously unavailable to them. So many complaints from players who reach the maximum level are based around too much time spent in a capital city running around in circles. Mists of Pandaria aims to get players back out into the world, offering up Valor points for daily quests, as well as new paths to gear customization and character optimization.
World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria will be available some time in 2012.