Since its release in 2004, World of Warcraft has stolen lives, spawned marriages, sated curious adventurers, raked in cash and changed the face of online gaming forever. It’s with no small amount of impatience that millions of gamers the world over anticipate new expansions for the game and Blizzard Entertainment has just blown the lid off the latest at BlizzCon 2011. It’s called Mists of Pandaria and finds its roots in an old practical joke.
The big news? A new race. A new class. A new zone.
New Race: Pandarens
During the bleak days that preceded the sundering of the world, when demons flooded onto Azeroth and threw the entirety of the mortal realm into jeopardy, the last Emperor of the pandaren discovered a way to protect his land from the devastation. His deal with fate shrouded his land within an impenetrable mist for ten thousand years, but the nature of his transaction has left Pandaria haunted ever since….
As far back as 2005, when a gaming magazine first glimpsed concept art for the first WoW expansion, The Burning Crusade, it’s been pondered and rumoured that the Pandarens, first introduced in Warcraft 3, would join the ranks of races playable in Azeroth. But with the release of each expansion new races were introduced (Blood Elf, Draenei, Worgen and Goblin), but never the elusive Pandarens.
Those who’ve followed the history of the Warcraft franchise might remember that the Pandarens were once announced as a new race for Warcraft 3, complete with convincing artwork, screenshots and written lore—but the hoax was quickly revealed to be nothing more than an elaborate April Fools Day joke by Blizzard. It’s with some sly humour then that Blizzard finally lets fans play as the sometimes goofy, often cuddly race.
Of particular interest to players is the ability for Pandaren characters to choose sides once they hit level 10. Instead of being locked into either Alliance or Horde from the get-go, Pandarens are a neutral race that exists outside of the long-waged war between the two factions. Upon completing the beginning area, players will be forced to choose which side they will fight for, the first time that World of Warcraft will feature a race common to both factions. Of course, if they have any taste at all, they’ll choose Horde. Previously, Goblins, a neutral race in the lore, sided with the Horde and the Worgen, another neutral race, sided with the Alliance.
Classes available to Pandarens are:
The New Class: Monk
Monks are masters of bare-handed combat, choosing to draw their weapons only for devastating finishing moves. Monk healers bring harmony and balance to every group, healing even the most grievous of injuries with ancient remedies and focused spiritual arts. And few can hope to out-last the unquenchable prowess of the Monk Brewmaster, whose empowering beverages and unpredictable combat style allow them to absorb incredible amounts of punishment.
Along with the Pandarens comes a (fitting) new class: the Monk. Available to all races, this new class (the first since the Death Knight in 2008’s Wrath of the Witch King expansion) promises to shake things up a bit and give veteran players an excuse to check out not only the expansion content, but perhaps power their way through the old content that was revamped heavily in 2010’s Cataclysm expansion (if Goblins and Worgen characters weren’t enough of an impetus.) And, well, one of their talent trees is “Brewmaster,” more or less forcing me to re-roll a character to follow that path. I mean, drinking beer to become a better tank? Sign me up.
Though details are scant on the new class right now, it appears that Blizzard is positioning the Monk to be a versatile class, able to tank, heal or DPS, depending on the player’s play style and chosen talent tree.
The New Zone: Pandaria
Shrouded in fog since the world was sundered more than ten thousand years ago, the ancient realm of Pandaria has remained unspoiled by war. Its lush forests and cloud-ringed mountains are home to a complex ecosystem of indigenous races and exotic creatures. It is the homeland of the enigmatic Pandaren, a race that celebrates life to the fullest even while under siege by an ancient menace.
The new continent reveals itself to a broken world just as the Alliance and Horde are spiraling ever closer to a war that will consume all of Azeroth. Will the mists of Pandaria part to reveal the world’s salvation? Or will the battle to control this rich and breathtaking new land push the two mighty factions over the brink of war and into total annihilation? The answers await within Pandaria’s mysterious shores!
It doesn’t take a genius to connect this new zone to the new race. Inspired heavily by Chinese art and mythology, Pandaria and the several zones that make up the bulk of the expansion are absolutely gorgeous. It’s my opinion that the core strength of World of Warcraft is a lush, vibrant and interesting world that’s an absolute joy to explore and Blizzard continues to prove why it’s the best in the business. It’s already easy to imagine getting lost in these new colourful playgrounds.
This only scratches the surface of the what Mists of Pandaria has to offer. More details, including screen shots, concept art and, really, everything you could possibly want to know about the expansion (minus talent trees) is available on the official World of Warcraft website.
So, are you a current player who’s excited for Mists of Pandaria? Or a lapsed player who’s considering returning for the expansion? What do you think about this reveal?