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World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria for OS X review

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Genre: MMORPG
Format: Digital download and DVD
Developer: Blizzard
Mac Publisher: Blizzard
System Requirements: OS X 10.7, Intel Core 2 Duo processor, NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT or ATI Radeon HD 2600 graphics card, 2 GB of RAM, 25 GB hard drive space, 1024 x 768 minimum display resolution, Broadband Internet connection.
Network Feature: Yes
Processor Compatibility: Intel
Price: $39.99
ESRB Rating: Teen
Availability: Out now
Demo: World of Warcraft Starter Edition

 

World of Warcraft’s Mists of Pandaria expansion brings the war between the Horde and Alliance to the once tranquil shores of Pandaria. Discover what happens when your negative emotions become the Sha and take on physical form. Make new friends and enemies as you explore the secrets of the ancient Mogu Empire, and find out what they’re planning with the Zandalari trolls. All of this and more once you arrive on Pandaria, a land hidden by mists for 10,000 years.

Mists of Pandaria - Arriving at Pandaria

Making their debut in Mists of Pandaria is the Pandaren race, humanoid pandas who practice a unique form of unarmed combat. I admit that at first glance I was dubious as to what they could bring to the story of World of Warcraft; would our adventures in Pandaria be an entertaining vacation from the pressures of saving the world and nothing more? While Pandarens can be easy-going beer-loving farmers, they can also be fierce fighters who have trained long and hard to fight against their many foes. The more I learn about them, the more I realize that beneath their cute exterior lies a very serious culture which has a lot to teach us about Azeroth’s past and future.

Mists of Pandaria - Alliance Pandaren

The Pandarens bring with them the secrets of the monk class—which can be a tank, melee dps, or healer—and is one of the most interesting classes I’ve seen in any game. The brewmaster (or tanking specialization) throws kegs of beer at your foe and then sets them on fire. The mistweaver (or healing specialization) can turn a monk’s punches into healing with a serpent statue for support. The windwalker (or melee dps specialization) is a master at unarmed combat.

The monk class is a lot of fun, and the energy/mana/chi system gives a fast-paced feel. Almost as if Blizzard took the rogue’s combo point system and made it better, especially since chi stays with the monk and not the target. I almost always have a button to push, and yet I’m not overwhelmed with skills that can make a class a chore to play. Overall the monk is a well-balanced and fun class.

In addition to Pandarens, there are many other races who live on Pandaria. Blizzard did a good job interweaving their stories into the story of Pandaria as a whole. Every race has their part in Pandaria’s history, and none of them feel extraneous or out-of-place.

Mists of Pandaria - Mogu Statues

The biggest threat to the Pandarens in the past and present are the Mogu, who ruled over all of Pandaria with an iron fist. They have since returned, and so have their old allies, the Zandalari trolls, in an attempt to establish a new Mogu empire…or perhaps something worse.

Other threats include the Mantid, an insect-like species who periodically swarm over the Great Wall and must be defeated before all of Pandaria is overrun. The Saurok, a reptilian-like species created by the Mogu, now lurk as bandits and thieves. Yaungol, a relative of the Tauren, seek a home of their own and fight anyone in their way.

The few friendly races on Pandaria are the Hozen, a monkey-like species who have allied with the Horde, and the Jinyu, a fish-like species who have allied with the Alliance. You need their help to get a foothold on Pandaria, which leads to an epic Horde/Hozen vs. Alliance/Jinyu battle with catastrophic results.

 

The Sha have been on Pandaria for thousands of years, starting when Y’shaarj, a seven-headed Old God, was killed by a Titan. Y’shaarj cursed Pandaria with its dying breath, and ever since then negative emotions take the form of Sha. The arrival of the Horde and Alliance have awakened the Shas of Anger, Despair, Doubt, Fear, Hatred, and Violence after being dormant for thousands of years.

Mists of Pandaria - Sha of Anger

If the Sha were just something you could kill, they wouldn’t be very much of a problem. Unfortunately if a person has strong negative emotions and a Sha appears, they can take over that person entirely. It’s what happened when the Sha of Fear corrupted Grand Empress Shek’zeer of the Mantid and why you can defeat her in the Terrace of Endless Spring. The Sha of Hatred overwhelmed Taran Zhu, leader of the Shado-Pan, and you had to fight him to remove its negative influence. The other Shas can be found throughout Pandaria, and their influence can’t be ignored.

Out of all of the many and varied enemies in World of Warcraft’s history, I find the Sha to be the scariest and most deadly. You can only win a temporary reprieve when you defeat a Sha because they can never truly be destroyed. As long as you experience negative emotions in Pandaria, the Sha will be there waiting to take advantage of your weakness. It’s a constant war that can never be won and, if you think about it, it’s probably the only enemy that we aren’t able to defeat by stabbing it enough times with a sword.

For a long time players have requested that something be done with companion pets, and Blizzard has responded with Pet Battles. Pet Battles are absolutely amazing and have an incredible amount of depth and strategy.

Mists of Pandaria - Pet Battle

You can have up to three pets on your team, and there are ten pet families, each of which has a different bonus. Beast pets do 25% extra damage when they have less than 50% health, and Humanoid pets recover 5% of max health with every successful attack. In addition, each skill type is strong against one pet family and weak against another. For example, Elemental damage skills are more effective against Mechanical pets and are less effective against Critter pets. Each pet has three skill slots and you have two skills to choose from for each slot.

Some abilities also change the weather that affects both your pets and the opponents for good and bad. For example, Moonlight increases the healing all pets receive by 25% and Magic abilities deal 10% additional damage. Other abilities apply a status debuff to one pet only, such as Frost Nova that chills the target. Lil’ K.T. can then use Howling Blast and the enemy team will take additional damage.

There are hundreds of pets to collect. There are pets you can capture in pet battles with wild pets, drops from raid bosses, achievements, world drops, the TCG card game, and professions. There are also different pet qualities: poor, common, uncommon, and rare. The higher quality means the pets have more health, move faster in battle, and do more damage. If you have a favorite pet but the quality is low then you can use a magical stone to increase its rarity so you don’t have to spend the time finding a rare version out in the wild.

As you level your pets there are quests that pit you against successively difficult bosses that open up daily quests for even more rewards. Of course, the best opponents are other real people, and you can easily test your team against theirs. You’re automatically put against other people with a team of the same level as yours so you can see who is the best.

What all of this means is that Pet Battles are a ton of fun. Putting together teams with skills that work well together and which are strong against the pets your opponent will likely use is part of the strategy. Using the right skills and switching to the right pet to counter what your opponent is doing make each battle unique.

Mists of Pandaria - Celestial Dragons

There is so much more to the Mists of Pandaria expansion to World of Warcraft that I haven’t covered:

  • All of the different ways to get gear and being able to get Valor Points from daily quests in addition to dungeons and raids.
  • Being able to upgrade the quality of PvE and PvP weapons and armor with Justice, Valor, Honor, and Conquest points.
  • Scenarios that you can complete with three people of any class and the new PvP battlegrounds.
  • Being able to work towards getting a legendary weapon from Wrathion, one of the last remaining Black Dragons.
  • Cross-realm zones that, while needing some refinement, have added life to previously barren zones.
  • The new talent and glyph systems which give people a choice as to how to personalize their character while reducing the chances of picking the wrong talents.
  • Growing crops on your own farm and cooking specializations with a variety of food buffs.
  • The escalation of the Horde vs. Alliance conflict in the recent 5.1 patch with the arrival of the fleets in Krasarang Wilds.

The bottom line is if you left during Cataclysm, now is the perfect time to return. If you’ve never played World of Warcraft, now’s the perfect time to download the Starter Edition and play for free. There’s so much to do and explore, and Pandaria is simply fascinating. It is indeed a treasure that has many more secrets to reveal, and I can’t wait to see what happens in Patch 5.2 and beyond. It’ll be fantastic.

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