You know, a lot of people were complaining that Mists of Pandaria would turn out to be the silly, kid-friendly version of World of Warcraft. After the weird moral gray zone that Wrath of the Lich King turned into, and Cataclysm‘s constant struggle against Lovecraftian terrors, it’s weird to fire up the game and do maybe twenty quests in a row that involve helping anthropomorphic panda bears chase pests away from their farm.
It’s probably worthwhile. You can’t go too much darker than Cataclysm without serious problems, after all, and its last weak hurrah involved the detonation of a nuclear bomb on a populated city. Better to run off to panda-land and keep things relatively lighthearted for a while.
The good news is that after the relatively unexciting bits of Cataclysm, which resorted near its end to the wholesale reuse of assets, it’s easy to see where the development time went on Mists. The continent is enormous, colorful, varied, and above all else, well-written, containing a huge number of new creatures and well-written characters. It’s been a joy just questing through it, uncovering it slowly as I go.
It’s slow, though. The enemies are much more challenging than they were in Cataclysm‘s endgame, and the rewards from questing don’t quite bring you up to par right away. You’re likely to have some problems unless you’re very familiar with your class, and I’m seeing a lot of skeletons scattered around each zone that attest to that fact.
I’m also a bit worried about the endgame, which rapidly degenerates into a nested series of daily quest hubs that grind reputations with various factions, which are then required so you can begin grinding reputation with a new faction. The WoW game at the level cap is fairly well-worn territory at this point, but after they got it more or less right in tier 10 – spend JP, get loot, use it to accomplish the more difficult goals – this seems arbitrarily grindy.
Until I get to that point, then, which may be a while, it’s good to be able to have fun with World of Warcraft again.