Departing the Mists

When Mists of Pandaria was announced at Blizzcon 2011, it was like this Planet of the Apes moment. I remember seeing the fat panda drop from the sky and thinking, “You finally really did it. You maniacs! You blew it up!” Suffice it to say I was not impressed with Pandas. Given that Cataclysm was not a great follow-up to Wrath of the Lich King, I was not too optimistic for World of Warcraft’s future. Boy was I wrong.

Despite the fact that Mists of Pandaria ended up being the longest expansion on record clocking in at an incredible 777 days, and despite the fact that Siege of Orgrimmar consumed a whopping 396 of those days, I still think it was some of Blizzard’s finest work. A quick side note here, just like I did in this post, I’m calculating days based on the release of the x.0 patch for each expansion. No matter how you choose to slice it, this was the longest expansion in the game’s history.

Even though it lasted many months longer that it needed, and even though I took a long pause in the middle patches, I think this was WoW’s second best expansion ranking just behind Wrath of the Lich King. In fact, here’s how I rank the four expansions.

  1. Wrath of the Lich King
  2. Mists of Pandaria
  3. The Burning Crusade
  4. Cataclysm

Yes, I thought Mists was that good, but that doesn’t mean I liked everything about it.

The deluge of dailies that washed over us as soon as we hit level 90 was a bit overwhelming, and led to a lot of burnout. The goal was to give us variety and stuff that we could pick and choose. The problem was we chose to do everything on everyday. The dailies were tied to reputation progression, were a source of elder charms and valor. My week often ended with me shouting, “Yay! I’m valor capped. And Boo! I’m valor capped.” By the time patch 5.1 came out, I’d had my fill of dailies and found it difficult to marshal myself to do all of the new dailies.

Blizzard had the good sense to course correct, and when the Timeless Isle was introduced we had stuff to do everyday, but they weren’t dailies per se. The end-game hubs like the Isle of Thunder and Timeless Isle were things I really liked. I think the Timeless Isle offered a nice variety of things to do, and I expect to see more of that format in Warlords. I know it’s hard to say good things about the Timeless Isle since we’ve had it for more than a year, but I thought it was quite good.

The story of Mists of Pandaria was excellent and exceeded my expectations. It flowed nicely from Cataclysm and segues perfectly into Warlords. It was much darker than I expected given the light hearted nature of the Pandaren. The story played out in almost all aspects of the expansion from the leveling zones, quest hubs and raids.

Raiding, which is my primary focus was a real mixed bag this time around. This had more to with the fact that my initial raid team was somewhat dysfunctional, and raid nights were not always fun. We limped our way through the first tier and then imploded in Throne of Thunder. This is where I partially blame Blizzard for making a ridiculously hard boss in Horridon as the second boss of the instance; something that was not repeated in Siege of Orgrimmar.

Siege of Orgrimmar was great. I know it lasted way to long, but people ran it right up until the end. The Garrosh Herilooms were a wonderful perk leading into Warlords. I also got to run a fair bit of this in heroic (now Mythic). My only regret is that I didn’t clear the Tier in Mythic, stopping my progression on Thok.

The Legendary quest line was another outstanding feature that I really enjoyed. I liked the fact that anyone who was willing to put in the time could get a legendary cloak. You didn’t have to be in a high-end guild, clear heroic raids, or have elite friends. The hardest part was the PvP (if you hate PvP), and having to suffer through the LFR runs.

Speaking of LFR, I hated it with a passion. I hated it so much that I refused to use it to gear up alts and pursue additional cloaks. For my alts., I chose to grind out Burdens of Eternity on the Timeless Isle and then run flex or normal raids to further gear up.

Flex by the way, was probably my favorite feature of this expansion, and I think it will change the way we approach raiding in Warlords of Draenor, and for the better. The amount of organizational and social angst that this gets rid of cannot be understated.

The last thing I want comment on is that I loved the zones, and was ecstatic that we were back in a new continent away from the rest of Azeroth. The zones were all beautiful, and other than the fact they destroyed the Vale, I liked them all. By the way, I think the zones in Warlords are even better. Well maybe not quite as nice as the Jade Forest, but pretty darn close.

I thought Mists was a great expansion and a vast improvement over Cataclysm. I don’t know if any expansion will better than Wrath, but I have special feelings towards Wrath, not because of it’s content, but it because of my overall experience both in and out of the game during that period.

Goodbye Pandaria and see you in Draenor.

2 comments

  1. I did feel there was too much to do. Dailies turned me off. Reputation grinds, I didn’t finish them. I leveled too many alts and did not get to enjoy the zones.

    The bugs are my favorite new race. I love their voices and the story. I did not raid this expansion.

    LFR was a turn off with all the fail groups. Proving grounds will fix that. I just can’t wait to level in new zones and farm more mounts.

    Looking forward to the next expansion but I am leaving Pandaria with too many things left undone.

  2. The abundance of dailies wasn’t as much of an issue as the necessity to complete them to progress in the story. I personally rank Mists higher than Wrath in a lot of departments, but I’ll fully admit I’m biased because this was the first expansion my internet constraints didn’t prohibit raiding.

    There are other reasons. The first is because Mists was working with completely new content, but made it feel like a seamless part of the world and had the perfect amount of juxtaposition which made the dark parts feel that much darker.
    The second is that Wrath was a perfect storm. WoW had gained enough traction to be recognised, but was still a novelty. The Litch King was where Warcraft ended and I’ve rarely seen a story crafted with more care than in Warcraft III., so it was only natural that the continuation had to be equally epic. Wrath also introduced the most amount of new things and experimentation mid-expansion, from haircuts to siege weapons to LFG.

    Either way, Wrath is still objectively better than Mists, but Mists definitely comes in second place and it’s really gratifying to hear someone else’s reflection mirror my own in some respects. I’ve been surrounded by people whining about how the Pandaren ruined everything.

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