Soon after its launch in 2004, Blizzard Entertainment's nascent MMO effort "World of Warcraft" took the world by storm. Challenging MMO mainstays like "Everquest," the game offered an expertly crafted mix of accessibility and gameplay depth. Blizzard not only introduced a large portion of the world to now commonplace concepts such as "tanking", "healing" and "DPS" roles, they fleshed out a universe that had previously revolved around the relatively simple concept of orcs versus humans. The Warcraft MMO world offered players a complex narrative full of interesting races, each with their own motivations and unique history.
The small town of Goldshire is one of the earliest questing locations in the game.
"World of Warcraft" is also notable for Blizzard's artistic craftmanship, from the sumptuous CG openings for each race, to subtle environmental details that stress Blizzard's devotion to art design over dry technical wizardry. Since 2004, WoW's popularity has continually snowballed, and millions of players have logged untold hours glued to their screens playing through three expansions worth of content. "Mists of Panderia," released on September 25, had hordes of gamers waiting in line and in login queues, anticipating Blizzard's next wave of content and gameplay changes.
Screenshot #1: A pandaren female, the new trans-faction race released with "Mists of Pandaria."
Mists of Panderia's namesake Pandaria is an isolated island located south of Kalimdor and the Eastern Kingdoms, encompassing numerous regions such as the "Jade Forest" , "Vale of Eternal Blossoms" and "Kun-Lai Summit" among others. The Panderans, a race of anthropomorphised panda bears, remain neutral in the re-ignited Horde/Alliance conflict brought about by the events of the "Cataclysm" expansion. As a neutral faction, both Horde and Alliance players may create Panderan characters if they choose to. Panderia also plays host to several races of NPCs such as the Jinyu, Hozen (resembling monkeys) and the Virmen, the Mogu and the Sha (beings comprised of the darker energies of Panderia).
Screenshot #2: The Jade Forest, a quest zone in Eastern Pandaria.
Screenshot #3: Shen-zin Su, a giant sea turtle who carries the Pandaren from place to place.
Panderia also brings the introduction of several new dungeons, including the "Stormstout Brewery", "Temple of the Jade Serpent" and "Shando-Pan Monastery". In addition, the expansion introduces changes to the classic "Scarlet Monastery" and "Scholomance" dungeons, providing fans with plenty of interesting new encounters to struggle through. A new "Challenge Mode" is available that tasks a group to clear a dungeon in the shortest amount of time, ultimately awarding one of three possible medals and subsequent item rewards. The equipment of each group member is auto-adjusted to allow a fair ranking.
SS #4: A boss fight in Stormstout Brewery, one of the new 5-man dungeons released with Pandaria.
Besides offering a new playable race, Mists also introduces a new player class, the Monk. The Monk class utilizes an energy pool to execute basic ablities, which subsequently build up the Monk's "Chi" level, allowing the execution of more advanced moves and abilities. The Monk Talent Specialization tree consists of the "Brewmaster" tree, which involves consuming various spirits to mitigate damage, as well as granting the Monk the ability to reduce stress on a group's designated healer by transitioning enemy burst damage hits into more manageable damage over time. The "Windwalker" tree augments the Monk's Martial abilities, turning him/her into a flurry of black and white destruction, while the "Mistweaver" tree allows the Monk to perform area-of-effect healing through the use of statues.
Screenshot #5: A pandaren monk in The Jade Forest.
Coinciding with the release of their latest expansion, Blizzard released a major gameplay patch introducing a newly designed Talent allocation system. Each tier of every Talent Specialization tree for each class now contains freely toggleable abilities, a system which operates in a similar manner to the ability Rune system from Diablo 3. This new talent tree is intended to allow for greater flexibility within each class role, enabling players to adjust their talent allocation for the situation at hand.
Screenshot #6: Pandaren fighting in Nayeli Lagoon, a new area added with "Mists of Pandaria."
So far, each WoW expansion has introduced players to engrossing quests in varied regions, supported by subtly updated gameplay mechanics. "Mists of Panderia" is no exception.
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