The Mists of Pandaria will open the doors to the mysterious lands of the pandaren, inviting the people of Azeroth to discover the wisdom and power of this mighty race while also exposing some of their darkest secrets. The World of Warcraft Preview panelists unveiled many of the new features, art, and gameplay changes that are coming with this next epic expansion.
Here are some of the highlights from the panel.
With each new expansion, the development team looks for opportunities to improve and expand upon the current game. Expansions open up new opportunities to drive the story of Azeroth further and to improve the player experience by combining new gameplay features with the most entertaining aspects from the game’s past.
What is it that the developers want to accomplish?
The continent of Pandaria’s unique Asian-inspired landscapes are spread across five new zones for players to explore, as well as a pandaren starting zone and central quest hub.
Story and Creatures
The Pandaren have a long and storied history but have been hidden behind the mists since the time of the Sundering. The discovery of this lost continent provides an opportunity for both the Alliance and Horde to meet interesting new creatures… and most likely kill them.
The Jade Forest: Level 85-86
Players will first enter Pandaria through the Jade Forest. This zone features lush rainforests and statuesque stone spires. The Alliance and Horde will ally themselves with the indigenous creatures to fight a war with lasting consequences to the Jade Forest, and possibly the rest of Pandaria as well.
Valley of the Four Winds: Level 86-87
Featuring lush farmland in the north and dense jungles along the coast to the south, the fertile Valley of the Four Winds is the breadbasket of Pandaria. Players will join Chen Stormstout to discover his family’s roots at the legendary Stormstout Brewery. Meanwhile, trouble is also brewing along the great wall that protects the Pandaren Empire from the mantid swarms to the west….
New Playable Race: Pandaren
Some of the native inhabitants of Pandaria, the pandaren, will be joining the Alliance and the Horde. Pandaren characters can be hunters, mages, monks, priests, rogues, shaman, and warriors.
Like the other races of Azeroth, the pandaren have their own unique racial bonuses:
Mists of Pandaria also introduces a new class, the monk. This class is deeply rooted in the martial arts and while they use weapons such as staves, fist weapons, one-handed axes, maces, swords, and more, their true strength lies in their hands and feet. This new class will feature unique animations, will shun the use of auto-attack, and will start at level one. They can take on one of three different roles:
The pandaren have paved the way for the following races to learn the ways of the monk: draenei, dwarf, gnome, human, night elf, blood elf, orc, tauren, troll, and undead.
Much like druids, monks will benefit from leather armor with agility or intellect, depending on their build, and will depend on Chi (energy) for class-specific moves such as Jab and Roll. Jab will generate either Light or Dark Force, which can be expended to perform other moves.
New Talent System
Mists of Pandaria will take classes to the next level by offering choices that are more meaningful, starting with more flexible builds and true specializations.
Players will be able to choose a specialization at level 10, giving them a new spec ability and opening up new options within that spec. As a character progresses, additional spec abilities will become available. Some of these may be existing talents, while others may be older core abilities that are more situational.
Example: Protection Paladin
Starting with Mists of Pandaria, players will no longer spend talent points. The current three-tree talent system will change into a slim single talent tree per class in which players will earn talents every 15 levels. Each talent opens up one of three different available options within the tree for further specialization within the chosen spec. By trimming down the talent trees, the development team intends to create a system in which there are no mandatory talents or cookie cutter specs. Talents will also be easily changed, much like glyphs.
*For additional information on the new Talent System design, see the World of Warcraft Talent Panel blog.
Scenarios will allow small groups of players to adventure together in short instances, with progressive objectives and a story arc. Scenarios are completely role-less, meaning tanks or healers aren’t necessary to succeed -- any class combinations can work. Queues will be fast! Smaller scenarios will play similar to group quests and will help players earn faction reputation, while larger scenarios will play out like epic PvE battlegrounds with major objectives and plenty of scripted events.
Dungeon Challenge Modes
Heroic Dungeons will become easier for pick-up-groups (PuGs) to take on, but that won’t leave players who are looking for a more difficult path out in the cold. Dungeon Challenge Modes will let those looking for a deeper challenge take on dungeon runs with specific goals (complete dungeon in X minutes) and reward players who accomplish these goals with Bronze, Silver, or Gold medals. Challengers will also find their gear scaled to equalize the difficulty of the encounter for all players, creating a level playing field. To the victor will go the spoils, in the form of uniquely designed statless gear that can be utilized with Transmogrification to further define the look of a character.
Pet Battle System
Another new exciting feature that will be introduced with Mists of Pandaria is the Pet Battle System. This system will work much like a Secondary profession and any player can participate. Players will be able utilize their current non-combat pets or capture new non-combat pets to level them and battle them against others.
Dungeons & Raids
The new expansion will introduce three new Raid dungeons and nine new dungeons with six of these being located within Pandaria. Scholomance and Scarlet Monastery will attain level-90 Heroic status, much like Shadowfang Keep and Deadmines, with Scarlet Monastery becoming two separate dungeons.
With the addition of the Raid Finder in patch 4.3 and the new Challenge modes, the intention is to open up multiple opportunities for max-level players to take part in a variety of progression options.
*See the Dungeons and Raids blog for more information after the panel.
With Mists of Pandaria, the focus will be shifting to creating more repeatable max-level content while providing incentives for all players, including those who take part in dungeons and raids. Quests on Pandaria will provide a less linear experience, with multiple quest hubs to choose from, but don’t count on flying until you reach max level.
The developers are also taking a hard look at factions and future faction reputation will be earned through gameplay, without the need to utilize a tabard to grind rep. Opportunities similar to the recent Molten Front quest dailies will provide rich max-level solo content in Pandaria.
Mists of Pandaria will be adding three new Battlegrounds and a new Arena to World of Warcraft.
The Tol’vir Proving Grounds will utilize the sweeping vistas of Uldum and the Tol’vir art style with a simple layout based on Nagrand Arena.
Account Wide Achievements
Achievements will now become available at the Battle.net account level. Many achievements will be shared among characters, including those for raiding and maxing out professions.
Major Class Changes
Here’s a brief look at some of the planned class changes:
Hunters: Hunter minimum range (including the dead zone) and melee weapon use will be removed.
Warlocks: This class will be gaining a unique resource for each spec type in their arsenal.
Shaman: Buff totems will be removed and all totems will become utility totems.
Druids: This class has always felt as if it had four specs, so now it will.
For All Classes:
We’ll be revealing more details over the course of the development of this exciting new expansion and we look forward to sharing this information with you in the months ahead.