Blizzard Entertainment today announced a brand new expansion for its mammoth MMO World of Warcraft. Chris Metzen, Senior VP at Blizzard announced World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria on stage today at BlizzCon, Blizzard’s annual event. The expansion will bring players to the continent of Pandaria and pushes the war between the Horde and the Alliance into the spotlight.
The expansion is going to focus more on the idea of “war” between the Horde and the Alliance. The expansion also introduces a new Monk class and reintroduces the Panderan race, which you may remember from Warcraft III. Not only are they the newest playable race, but the level cap has also been raised to 90, new talents have been added, “Challenge Mode” for dungeons and a “Pet Battle” system. Long story short, a lot of really awesome stuff.
The panel immediately afterwards gave us some really good insight on what we can expect in the new expansion.
The new continent will house five zones for character from level 85 to the new level cap of 90. There will also be a new starter zone for Pandaren characters set on the back of a turtle. We were shown a fly-through of a few of the zones.
Jade Forest, for example, will be the entrance zone for level 85 players, with the Horde and Alliance pitted on either side of the map. It’s filled with lush rainforests and stone spires. This is where players will meet the Hozu and Jinyu races. The Alliance will meet and try to befriend the Hozu, a monkey-humanoid race, while the Horde will try to align with Jinyu, a fish-like humanoid race reminiscent of Koi (But not at all like Murlocks. Sorry). This naturally pits the two new races on opposing sides and causes conflict throughout the land.
Valley of the Four Winds, another zone to the south of the continent, is split into two parts. The north is primarily Pandaren Farmland and the south is a coastal jungle. Each is its own quest hub, and they can be completed in whichever order you choose. The Valley also houses the Stormstout Brewery, one of the new dungeons. This is also where players will meet the Mantids, a sentient insect race who will play a central role in much of Pandaria’s story arc.
The new playable race will have their own starter zone on the back of a massive, animated turtle. While racial abilities tend to change a lot before an expansion launch, they were showcased anyway. Pandaren will get double the statistical benefit from food buffs, double the rested experience bonus, and a boost to the cooking skill. They’ll also take 50% less fall damage and can target an enemy and force them to sleep for three seconds.
Pandaren are excluded from being Warlock, Druid, Deathknight and Paladin classes. Everything else is fair game, though.
The Monk class, new to Mists of Pandaren, is available to all races except the Worgen and Gobins. The Monk has three specialization choices; Brewmaster — a Tank path, Mistweaver — a healer path, and Winderwalker — which is about Melee damage. The Monk is not a hero class, and uses Martial-arts-style animations across all specializations.
The monk can equip staves and fist weapons, as well as one-handed axes, maces and swords. Mistweaver Monks can also equip off-hand items. They’ll wear leather armor and will likely be competing with Druids for gear.
They use a brand new Resource system. A Chi bar, which functions like Energy for Rogues, is spent on Jab and Roll abilities. Jab replaces the auto-attack completely, and generates Light and Dark Force points. These are spent on all other abilities.
Talents are being entirely redone. You still choose a specialization at level 10 and are granted a an ability, but there are no longer talent trees. Instead, every few levels you’ll be granted another specialization ability — the kind of skills that were considered very valuable for a spec. There is some overlap for specializations with these skills.
Then, every fifteen levels you’ll get a talent point that can be spent on one of three talents. Each talent “tier” has a focus in mind, such as movement and escape abilities, crowd control or healing. Many of these alter or grant new iconic abilities. Hunters, for example, will be gaining ammo-types in their first tree and brand new traps later on.
The goal is to make each talent feel like a game-changer. Priests will, for example, be able to swap health percentages with a friendly target with one of the talents. Warlocks will be able to summon a second pet, and Mages will be able to polymorph a second target.
It’s certainly interesting and will impose some interesting choices on players. Luckily, talents can be changed out of combat with no cost or need to visit a trainer.
PvE Scenarios are kind of like PvE Battlegrounds. They’re short instances for a few players, with the specific number varying depending on the Scenario. They have multiple stages, like killing creatures first, then escorting friendly units, then fighting a boss. Some may use PvP mechanics (like capturing and defending an area) in a safer and less confronting PvE setting. They could be used to entirely replace group quests. You’ll be able to queue up for them as you can with the Dungeon Finder currently. There are no role requirements, so queues will be short. Players will earn Valor Points for completing these.
Challenge Mode for Dungeons
Challenge mode dungeons will normalize your gear, putting all party-members on an even level. Challenge modes are purely about, well, the challenge. They task you to complete a dungeon in under a certain amount of time. Bronze, Silver or Gold medals are awarded based on how quickly you complete the dungeon, and guild and realm high-scores are displayed on a leaderboard. Doing Challenge Modes awards you cosmetic gear for Transmogrification and Valor Points.
Pet Battle System
Blizzard is making the Pokemon MMO Nintendo fans have been dying for. All those cosmetic pets you have are finally gaining a function! With the Pet Battle System you can collect, level and fight with your pets. It’s accessible to everyone regardless of level and will work with almost every pet, with many new pets forthcoming.
Some of those new pets are “wild pets”. They’re found out in the open and can be caught if you fight and defeat them them with your pets (Sound familiar?). Certain pets will spawn based on conditions like rain, time of day, location, season etc… The Pet Journal, which will replace the current pet interface, will help you figure out which pets can be found where and when. Wild pets have somewhat randomized stats, so finding that perfect pet may become a neurotic pastime (for me).
Pets will become tradable, which means highly trained, high-level pets can theoretically be sold for a lot on the Auction House. Account-wide pets, as in being able to access your pets regardless of your character, are being worked on as a part of this system.
Blizzard is currently looking at letting pets have six abilities, unlocked over 25 levels. Your pet will only be able to “equip” three abilities at a time, though. Leveling your pet will also earn it some stats. You level your pets by fighting other pets.
Combat is turn-based (hmm, I could swear all of this rings a bell) and you can form a team of three pets. Your pets can also equip items, and can be taught special abilities by “Masters” scattered all over the world.
Dungeons and Raids
Mists of Pandaria will feature Nine new dungeons, six of which are on the Pandaria continent. Blizzard is also giving the classic dungeons of Scholomance and Scarlet Monastery the Heroic treatment, revamping them and making them suitable for play at level 90. Scarlet Monastery will be split into two wings rather than four.
Blizzard is also planning for have three raids at launch, featuring the Mogu (the original inhabitants of Pandaria) and Mantid races. Mists will also mark the (hopefully) triumphant return of world raid bosses.
Blizzard announced three PvP Battlegrounds are in development for Mists of Pandaria. Stranglethorn Diamond Mines is a “Payload” map. Players will escort mine carts from a central point into depots. Players can determine which track the resources travel along and must protect the carts from enemy players (or assault carts themselves). The first team to reach a certain number of points wins.
A murderball map is also in development, in which a single player attempts to hold an object (which deals increasing damage to them) for as long as they can. The closer to the center of the map they are, the more points will be gained as the player holds the object. The map will be very simple, with the focus being more on the combat.
Blizzard also mentioned a DotA-style Battleground. Hopefully we’ll learn more about that soon.
And a new Arena map is planned, this time located in Uldum. It’s called Tol’vir Proving Grounds and is very simple in layout, and very similar to the Nagrand Arena map.
Weapon and Class Changes
All classes are having their secondary weapons removed. Hunters can no longer use melee items, and all other classes are losing their ranged weapon slots. Hunters also no longer have a minimum range for their weapons. Rogues and Warriors will throw their melee weapons to do their ranged attacks, and casters can use wands in their main-hand.
Warlocks are getting a unique resource for every spec. Soul Shards are being used for Affliction, though the function of the shards may change. Demonology Warlocks gets Demonic Fury as their new resource. Maxing Demonic Fury turns the Warlock into a demon. Destruction gets Infernal Embers. The more heat built up from casting fire spells, the more powerful Conflagrate will get.
Shaman buff totems are gone. Utility totems are in! Some new utility totems announced include the Earthgrab totem (which roots nearby enemies), Repulsion totem (which repels enemies) and the Bulwark totem (which absorbs damage).
Druids now get four specs. Balance and Restoration won’t change in function too much, but Feral is now cat-focused. The new Guardian spec is now for bearform tanking. There will still be a little overlap between Feral and Guardian specs. All druids will still be able to go Cat and Bear form.
All classes will automatically learn their new spells in the field immediately when they level up.