Listening to the Instance Podcast this week, I was struck by how delighted with the game all three of them were. None of them are currently at level cap and by virtue are still levelling. This got me thinking, "What is it about Mists of Pandaria that is creating the happy vibe?"
I am currently unable to find out a single reason, so here is my list of possible suspects:
- Important - It is not Cataclysm.
- Scenery - Pandaria is absolutely stunning.
- Technology - Blizzard have improved the engine, this resulted in a more vibrant picture quality, and improved the efficiency and framerate for the high end users, but caused issues for the low end and Mac users, with excessive heat being generated in some machines and poor performance.
- Location - MoP is on one continent. Blizzard accepted that this was one of the biggest failings of Cataclysm and have rectified the situation by creating a new continent, just like every other expansion except Cataclysm.
- Cinematics - Sensible usage of cutscenes. Uldum and the Harrison Jones questline was the pinnacle of excessive usage. Everytime you completed a quest Harrison would swing into action, many of these scenes could not be stopped, and ultimately spoiled a decent storyline.
- Objectives - Fighting with the opposite faction. This not just a PvP thing, there is plenty chances to kill Horde and Alliance NPC's. I will never tire of killing a mountain of Orcs.
- Questing - Quests have been streamlined again, and this time they have got it down to a fine art. The main type of quests will always be "kill 10 rats" or "collect 12 hens teeth", but these are interspersed with the situational quests using a new cog system and speech bubbles which makes identifying the correct place to go to so much easier. (People complained originally about map markings showing people where to go, in WotLK at a time when everybody was installing addons like quest helper).
- Scenario - The storyline is flowing, without running the zone on rails. New quest hubs are appearing as small ! exclamation marks on the map. These allow you to follow the option storylines without requiring the lead in quest - "Speak to Colonel Sanders at the Chicken Coop" or "Deliver this note to Queen Liz at Buck House".
- Choices - Options, Options, Options. At endgame we are now given choices including mini games, scenarios, hundreds of dailies, challenge modes, LFR, LFD, normal and heroic raids and dungeons. You can cap your Valor points in a variety of ways, raise your reputation without burning out by shotgunning instances.
- Entertainment - The fun seems to be back into the game, and Blizzard has re-found the sense of humour that was missing from Cataclysm.
- New Class and Race - The Monk class and Pandaran race are great additions. Although I have not finished the Monk starter zone, (is this a Pandaran starter zone? because it feels like a monk zone) I have heard the storyline is excellent and leaves you with the tantalising choice of Horde or Alliance.
- Multi-Mob Looting - AoE Looting when levelling is an absolute godsend - so no excuses for not picking the loot of those dead beasts, somebody may want to skin them. I know this was not a Blizzard original idea, but they saw the quality of life improvement and implemented.
- Shared Quest Kills - When a Skull appears on the map, it normally indicates a mini boss. If you assist with the kill you will awarded quest completion. The only exception is when you need to summon the boss or need to talk to them, either way it saves on the griefing that was a familiar part of questing.
- Pet Battles - The general consensus is that this is a great addition to the game, and there are certainly enough column inches written about this mini game. I have yet to dabble, mostly because that would be one distraction too many.
- World Bosses - Tough as old boots and apparently taking some co-ordination to get the required number of people. I have not seen one yet but look forward to trying and dying some time soon.
- Challenge Mode - This is a niche function, which has been described as PvP Raiding, due to the league tables that are available. This is not about gear but based on planning and execution.
- Scenarios - This is one addition to WoW that is currently not setting the players hearts racing. They are currently taking longer than 5 man Heroics, which makes them inefficient and not behaving as predicted by Ghostcrawler (Complete a scenario in your Lunch) bite sized offerings. This will of course get easier with gear upgrades.
- Glyphs and Talent Trees - The simplification of Talent Trees means that everybody can now pick a customisation to fit in with their playstyle without gimping their performances (no wrong choices - although the theorycrafters are already proving this is an incorrect assumption. Glyphs are now for the cosmetic changes, like turning yourself into a Stag and changing the Hunter's Mark to a Cross hair.
- Rare Elites (Pandaren Champions) - When was the last time that people actively short out Rare spawns, unless it was for mounts and hunters pets? The new Rare Elites are tough little troupers with interesting loot. These are best running into when prepared, rather than in the middle of fighting several mobs, they hit hard and you need to move and use your cooldowns wisely.
- Shared Pets and Mounts - For the altoholics amongst us this is a welcome addition. For those of us with RNG issues the ability to get the right mount on the right character is simply brilliant.
- Shared Achievements - Perhaps this is not as well received as I was expecting. There are still a few things that need to be addressed, but sharing Honor Kills is a big bonus for me.
- Ground Questing - Questing with the aid of flight is cheating and it spoils the effect of working your way into a crowded area and then clearing the area for stray mobs before taking on the mini boss. Exploring by flying in the near vicinity of an area, does not counting as exploring. Only Cata had flight form available from the start, and we know how that argument goes.
- Improvements to Professions - There have been a number of improvements in the professions, some of these I have detailed previously like , Fishing without a pole, Archaeology 6 fragments at a digsite, Discovery system for learning new recipes (existed previously in different forms like Alchemy and Inscription), Cooking complexity increased.
- Casual Friendly - The player base is allegedly getting older and the game is changing to meet those requirements of shorter activities, with more things that can be squeezed into 30 minute slots.
- Easy Heroics - 5 Man dungeons are no longer the way to gain reputation or the main way to gain Justice and Valor. These are quick time sinks to have a laugh and kill a few bosses, interspersed with a few dailies. Less pressure and a way of gaining entry level raiding gear for normal raids and LFR.
- Looking For Raid - This is will be the first full expansion with LFR involved. LFR suffered with few problems with people unable to follow basic raid instructions, and idiots who deliberately wiped raids by attacking non active mobs. The loot distribution system as been modified and the jury is still out on this functionality.
This expansion is shaping up to be the best expansion ever even though we are still in the honeymoon period. The reason is not any single one of the 26 reasons above, but somehow it transcends that, and it is far greater than the sum of the parts.