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AusGamers World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria Preview
Post by Khel @ 02:11pm 25/10/11 | Comments
Check out AusGamers' in-depth analysis of Blizzard's recent World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandarian announcement. Big thanks to Khel for putting it together...

AusGamers is out at this year’s BlizzCon, and while we’re certainly privy to all the information being thrown about, on the ground, the BlizzCon virtual ticket has still allowed our very own senior community member, Khel, to chime in with his expert thoughts on the recently unveiled World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria.

So, rather than double up on information he actually knows more about, the man gave his consent for us to featureise his thoughts on all the major announcements regarding the next WoW expansion, all of which you can see below.

War is breaking out for real between the Alliance and the Horde. That should please some people here because I've seen bitching about how there’s not enough war between the two factions when the title of the game is Warcraft. There’s no big bad main villain for this expansion though, the big bad villain is war itself as the Alliance and Horde go at it.

Pandaria is the newly announced continent, it looks very Chinese, Kung-Fu Panda themed, but a bit more serious (well, as serious as pandas can get I suppose). It has five new zones, and each zone is bigger than the Twilight Highlands (some are significantly bigger). Also, there’s a new starting zone for Pandaren characters called "The Wandering Isle" which is on the back of a giant turtle which you can even see the head of and ripples of water as it moves through the ocean.

Obviously then Pandarians are the new playable race. As a first for World of Warcraft they start out neutral, and when you get to level 10 you choose which faction you want to join. This is a permanent decision, so it’s important you make your allegiance choice wisely. The level cap has also been raised to Level 90 for the new expansion.

Beyond the new realm, race and class, there are also a host of new modes added to the experience, such as PVE Scenarios. These are basically like staged experiences; short instances for variable sized groups -- some small and some large. This sounds more like they run like public quests do in other games. The example they gave was the Battle of Goldshire where stage one is killing Kobolds that are invading Goldshire, then stage two is rescuing children from the Kobolds, and then the last stage is killing a Kobold boss. They're also described as "PVE Battlegrounds". It reminds me a bit of the Flashpoints from Knights of the Old Republic actually. There’re no role requirements for them either. It’s not a tank/healer/DPS type thing, you can go in as whatever spec you want and since there’s no role requirements, queues for them should be really quick.

Challenge Mode Dungeons are special versions of the dungeons that have a time-trial requirement on them (think Baron runs in vanilla WoW in Stratholme). Gear levels are normalised when you go in as well, so you won’t be able to outgear them for an unfair advantage. You earn Bronze, Silver and Gold medals depending how good you do, and there’s a whole tier of gear you can earn that is entirely unique but has no stats (but can be used to transmogrify your current gear with that look). It'll also have Leaderboards, serving as a means to more WoW bragging rights.

There’s also a Pet Battle system that lets you level up and fight battles with your vanity pets, which honestly sounds like Pokemon, and deliberately so. Nearly all the vanity pets currently in the game will work with the system. There’s also going to be wild pets out in the world that you can capture through battle (see, Pokemon). Wild pets have randomised stats, and have different requirements for when they can be found (might only be found at night, or only when its raining, or even at a certain time of year). Pets can learn up to six abilities as they level up, but can only use three abilities at a time in a battle, so each pet will have different builds. You can now name pets, and you can also get items for them, and even gem those items. It sounds like they're going pretty in-depth with the system.

Aside from battling wild pets out in the world, you can also participate in PvP Pet Battles. There will also be different pet Masters around the world, and you can travel the world and fight these Masters to learn their abilities. Combat is turn-based as well, adding to the Pokemon analogy. Blizzard know it too, they're being very tongue in cheek about it in their screenshots, looks like a lot of fun. Can't wait to kick some ass with my Mini Diablo :P

Finally on the Pet front, there’s all-new Pet UI, and a pet journal which tracks all the wild pets you've found, all your pets you've been training, and your battle teams you've made. You can even level up pets and then trade them with other people, or sell them on the Auction House. Pets are also going be account wide.

They (Blizzard) want to get people back out into the world more, and are talking about bringing the outdoor raid bosses back (the example they gave was the dragons that used to spawn around the world). There will also be nine new dungeons with the expansion, and six of these will be spread across Pandaria, one of which is a brewery. Awesome.

A few classic dungeons have also had make-overs, including Heroic Scholomance and Scarlet Monastery. Hells yeah! Scholomance has an entirely new layout and has been completely redone, Scarlet Monastery has been turned into two wings with all new bosses, making for a compelling reason to revisit both. There’re also three new raids as the first tier of raiding with three difficulty levels: Raid Finder, Normal and Heroic.

They're also focusing on adding a lot more content and a lot more stuff to do at max level because they are aware that players burned through the content in Cataclysm too fast and didn't have much to do at max level. They're also working on making quests a lot less linear, and giving you choices of different ways to complete quests.

There’s a new game-wide Monk class. They have three specs, a Brewmaster spec which is a tank spec (they liken it to a drunken master), a Mistweaver spec which is a healer (they want it to be more of a fighting healer though), and a Windwalker which is Melee DPS. There are also tonnes of animations for the monk class, and every spec has different stance they stand in. They even have different idle animations.

However Monks have no auto-attack. You have to hit buttons to do everything, and you use Chi Energy for your basic attacks, which then builds up Light Force and Dark Force which are used for finishers. They talked about wanting a Street Fighter feel to the class, and some of the animations actually do reflect this as well.

Every other race in the game can now be a Monk class barring Worgens and Goblins

Gameplay Changes

Achievements will be shared amongst all characters on the same account. Not all Achievements, but the ones that are harder to get, and Raid Achievements and the like. There’s also going to be new Achievements that require multiple characters on your account to complete the requirements to earn.

Hunter minimum range is gone, and hunter melee weapons are gone.

The Ranged slot is gone for all other classes, and relics are gone. Rogues and Warriors throw their melee weapons when they need to do ranged attacks now, and wands become main hand weapons.

Warlocks have a unique resource for each different spec. Affliction keeps soul shards, Demonology has Demonic Fury that builds up when you use different abilities, and when you hit max Demonic Fury is when you metamorphisise (it’s no longer a cooldown). Destruction builds up Infernal Embers as they cast and when they hit max they catch on fire and can throw out huge conflag nukes.

Shaman buff totems are gone, totems are now all about active utility. There’re new totems such as an Earthgrab totem that roots things, and a Repulsion totem that repels people away from the Shaman.

Druids now have four distinct specs, Feral is now pure melee DPS, and there’s a Guardian spec which is the tank spec. All druids can still go cat or bear though.

You now learn new spells and abilities in the field as you level up, no need to go back to the trainer.

Battlegrounds and Arena

There’s a number of ideas for new Battlegrounds. One is a “Payload” style map where you have to escort mine carts out of a diamond mine and get it to your base to earn resources with multiple different tracks you can send it down, etc.

Another map is a "Murderball" style map where you need to hold a ball (or holy relic or whatever) and you earn points while you're holding it, and if you can hold it in specific zones you earn even more points, but the ball hurts whoever is holding it and kills them over time.

The last battleground idea is a DOTA style map, but they gave no real details though.

Finally, a new arena is located in Uldum and is based on the layout of the Nagrand arena.

New Talent System

Talents are completely different. The old talent system is essentially gone. Specs and talents are now two different things. So at level 10 you still choose your spec as you currently do and, say you're a Paladin and you choose Prot as your spec at level 10, each 10 levels after that you’ll automatically get a Prot related ability added to your character because you chose that spec. So abilities you would have otherwise got from the talent tree (whether they're passive abilities, active abilities, or procs), you just automatically get now as part of your spec. Talents are now about customising your character, and are more about fun, cool little extras rather than abilities that are core to your spec.

There are no talent points anymore, and there are no talent ranks. Every 15 levels you get a talent and you get a choice of between three different talents. Once you've chosen one talent from that tier, that’s it. So you hit level 15 and choose one talent from tier one, then you hit level 30 and choose one talent from tier two, etc. It kind of reminds me of the way Diablo III does its talent/skills system. You'll also be able to change your talents on-the-fly to suit different situations as easily as you can change glyphs.

There’re three categories of abilities now, and there are Core abilities that belong to each class (for example, every Warrior learns Heroic Strike). Then there’s spec abilities, which are either active, passive or proc abilities specific to each spec that you'll get automatically as you level up after you've chosen a spec. Then there’s talents, and every spec of that class can choose from the same pool of talents.

You choose a talent every 15 levels, you have a choice between three different talents each 15 levels, and each talent will be an "apples to apples" comparison. For example there will be no having to choose between DPS talents or survivability talents, each choice will be between three different DPS talents, or three different survivability talents, or three different mobility talents. There’s no bad choices, it’s about choosing the ones that suit your play style.

Some things that used to be talents in the old system are now core abilities, for example all priests now have Circle of Healing.

Below is an example of the new Talent screen, maybe a visual aid will make it a bit easier to understand (because its wildly different than what is currently in the game). The different tiers of talents run horizontally now, instead of vertically, and you can pick one talent from each tier (and only ever one from each tier).

Death Knight's have corpse explosion again as a first tier talent. If something dies with your diseases on it, you can then blow the corpse up. Liche Borne, Anti-magic shield, and Bone shield are the three survivability talents you choose between at tier two. DK's can force choke people at a tier three talent (it’s called asphyxiate, but it’s basically force choke). Runic Empowerment is now a talent choice, if you like it you can choose it, otherwise you can go in different directions. Top level DK tier is all about crowd control, they have an AE death grip. They can also do the Remorseless Winter ability like Lich King did.

First tier of druid talents is mobility talents, one of them lets the druid blink in a random direction. Abilities can automatically activate cat form, you don't need to be in the right form to cast them. Second tier of druid talents is healing related talents. Nature's Swiftness is now a talent in this tier. Third tier is crowd control talents, it includes Typhoon, and includes a more powerful version of Fairie Fire, and a Mass entangle ability. Fourth tier has abilities that change depending what form you're in. Feral Charge is now a talent in this tier but acts differently for different forms. There’s an incarnation talent which super charges your form (turns you into tree as resto, or turns you into a super moonkin or super cat). Next tier is mostly bear themed, has Demoralising roar, a stun, and a spell to pull enemies in to you. Top level tier of druid talents lets you be good at stuff outside your spec and enforces the idea of the druid being true hybrid, ie you can end up being a decent healer even if you're bear spec, if you take the right talent.

First hunter tier is about different types of ammunition. You can have Frozen Arrows, Arcane Arrows or Venom Tipped Arrows now. Second tier is a crowd control tier and has Silencing Shot and Wyvern Sting and Intimidation. Third tier changes how your disengage works, you can buff movement speed or avoidance or heal yourself after disengage. The next tier is survivability and has a "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Chimera" talent (awesome name). Next tier is about managing your resources; there’re talents to get focus back, and talents to end your cooldowns. The top level tier is all about traps. Flash freeze removes cooldown on your freezing trap. The Black Ice talent increases the effect of your ice trap. Or you can get a Transmorph trap which essentially polymorphs things that hit it.

Frost for Mages is no longer as much about utility, it’s about DPS , and the utility comes through the talents. First tier is about frost stuff, Ring of Frost is in there, as well as Cone of Cold (that freezes people), and a new ability called Frostjaw that silences and freezes a target. Next tier is survivability, it has an improved invisibility, Cauterize and Cold Snap. Level 45 tier is about movement, it has Presence of Mind. Scorch is now a talent here, and Arcane Flows lets you cast the next two spells while moving. Next tier is about escape and control, it has Mana shield (which does a knockback when destroyed), Blazing speed, and Ice Barrier. Next tier is about improving polymorph. There’s a talent to make the target not heal when they're polymorphed, Heavy Polymorph does a stun to the target, and Double Polymorph lets you polymorph two things at once. The top tier is crowd control related, Blastwave and Dragon's Breath are talents at the top tier, along with Slow.

Top tier of Paladins is about movement. It’s about increasing movement speed through different abilities. Second tier is a crowd control tier, they have a stun called Fist of Justice on a very short cooldown, as well as some snares from other talents. Next tier is survival talents. There’s an auto-shield when you get low health, or an active ability to make you take less damage. Next tier is healing related, you can reduce Flash of Light cost, you can take a talent that gives you a chance not to use Holy power in your heals, or you can take a talent that lets you shield people like a disc priest does. Next tier is about utility. You can cleanse snares off yourself, or make your party immune to crowd control, among other stuff. Top tier is about burst and cooldowns. Holy Avenger makes your abilities not cost holy power with your Guardian of Ancient Kings out. Sanctified Wrath lets you use your abilities more often, and there’s another talent I missed to give you more Holy Power.

First tier of priest talents is about control. Psychic Scream is a talent here, along with two new ones. There’s Void Tendrils that root everything in an area, and a little shadowfiend you can summon that psychic screams continually on different targets. Next tier is mobility, Body and Soul is in here, Phantasm is in here, and a new talent that speeds you up when you levitate. Next tier is about damage and healing. Archangel is in here, along with a version of clearcasting, along with a new ability called Divine Start, which shoots out from the priest and does damage, then comes back to the priest and does more damage. Next tier is about staying alive, Desperate Prayer is in here, along with a talent called Final Prayer that heals you if you drop too low automatically. Next tier is about power, Power Infusion is in here along with Serendipity (combined with Mind Melt for shadow). Top tier has an ability that is sort of like a paladin's Beacon, another ability called Void Shift that swaps your health with that of your target (awesome!), and Vampiric Dominance which is a hugely improved Vampiric Embrace, a very powerful version.

First rogue tier is about greater mobility in stealth, along with a talent that makes your abilities free while stealthed. Level 30 tier is about control and survivability. It has Deadly Throw in it (with a movement speed debuff), Combat Readiness, and a Nerve Strike which decreases the damage the enemy deals. Next tier is about staying alive, there’s a new poison Leeching Poison which heals you, along with Recuperate. Next tier has Shadowstep, and Preparation, plus Burst of Speed, a sprint on no cooldown that costs energy. Level 75 has Deadly Brew, along with a Paralyzing Poison, and an ability called Dirty Tricks where your dots won’t break your gouge or stuns. The top tier is Shadow Dance, Killing Spree and Vendetta, Vendetta lets you attack from 30 yards away when you've marked a target.

First tier of Shaman talents has a talent that adds a root to your Frost Shock, it has an Earthgrab totem, and the repulsion totem. Next tier is about survival, it has Nature's Guardian, a Stone Bulwark totem which is a totem that shields the Shaman, and Astral Shift which phases you out so you take less damage. Next tier is mobility. Every shaman has instant ghost wolf, but there’s a talent which makes you immune to the snares. Then there’s a Windwalk Totem and a Tranquil Mind totem (makes you immune to interrupts and silence). Next tier is the healing tier, there’s a Healing Tide totem (like Tranquility for a shaman). Level 75 is about burst damage, Elemental Mastery is a self blood lust. Nature's Swiftness is an activated ability to give you a fast spell. Level 90 is about doing crazy things with your totems. Elemental Harmony lets you take multiple totems of the same kind out. Totemic Restoration lets you end the cooldown of your totems quicker if you replace or destroy your totem. Totemic Projection lets you relocate your totems to a specified location.

First tier of Warlock talents is about getting some health back. Dark Regeneration is an active ability to get health back, Soul Leech lets your Shadowbolt heal you, and Harvest of Life is an AoE drain life. Next tier is crowd control, you can get AoE fear, and AoE stun, or an improvement to death coil. Next tier is about survivability, you can get damage back when hurt, Soul Link is in this tier, and Sacrificial Pact is sacrificing a pet to make you immune to damage. Level 60 tier is about healing or avoiding damage again, you can make a bloodstone to heal yourself, you can put a Nether ward up to reduce damage. Next tier is about your pet. You can replace your demon with a more powerful version of the demon, or you can instantly summon a second demon and have two pets out at once, or you can sacrifice your pet to increase your damage and health. Top tier lets you cast while moving, or makes your nukes do splash damage.

First tier of Warriors are about charge. Charge can now be used in any stance or in combat, by any warrior. Talents decrease the cooldown on charge, or lets you charge twice before incurring cooldown, or puts a root at the end of the charge. Next tier is survival, Enraged Regeneration is in here, Second Wind is in here (combined with Blood Craze), and a talent that lets you use Victory Rush at any time. Level 45 tier is crowd control; there’s a stun, an AoE snare, or automatically apply hamstring when your rend ticks. Level 60 is about silencing casters, Gag Order is in there, or there’s a talent that increases your damage if you interrupt a spell, and there’s Disrupting Shout which is an AoE interrupt. Next tier is about burst and resource management. You can get three free heroic strikes or cleaves, Death Wish is in here, and Bull Rush is a new talent that enrages you when you charge or intervene. Top tier has Bladestorm and Shockwave, and the third talent is the Avatar ability from Warcraft 3, it increases your damage dealt, makes you immune to movement impairing effects and stuns, and increases your rage regen.

And that’s it. At least for now. We’d really like to thank Khel for not only knowing exactly what he’s talking about, but for having the ability to note it all down on the fly. There’s honestly know way we could have had such an in-depth preview of 5.0 without his efforts.

The next step is to hope that none of this is at all a joke. Pandas, Pokemon and a crapload of major class changes does lead us to think something here isn’t quite right, especially given the Pandarian genesis itself was an April Fool’s joke. However, if it’s not, then it looks like there’s some rich, original new content to play through and, if it is, it’ll be one of the most impressive pranks ever played on the games industry ever. Either way, there’re good times ahead.
Read more about World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria on the game page - we've got the latest news, screenshots, videos, and more!

Latest Comments
Posted 03:55pm 25/10/11
Interesting stuff, one would have to wonder (wow player back in the day) if those 'pets' specified would include the ones hunters already have. Pretty certain I spent a f***load of time getting those spirit beasts back in the day, if any pet is fit for battle then those guys are!
Steve Farrelly
Posted 04:12pm 25/10/11
Raazel, says it in the preview, but yes, almost all current pets people have accrued are useable in the Pet Battle
Posted 04:41pm 25/10/11
I think Raazel, by pets they mean your non-combat ones. So your standard hunter pets (including spirit beats) won't change in purpose.
Posted 04:59pm 25/10/11
If everything in this preview holds true, it might just bring me back into WoW

I've been waiting for the Pandarians for a while, and a Pokemon style pet system sounds like hella fun. Actually, just the fact this xpac is focusing on the war between Alliance and Horde is enough for me to grab it.
Posted 05:01pm 25/10/11
One can only hope this remains in the retail.

Posted 05:39pm 25/10/11
Agree with fuzzy, it may bring me back too.

WoW's been lacking in s*** to do that's amusing and fun outside of raiding or questing, so nice to see they're learning.
Posted 09:13pm 25/10/11
Yeah, this is actually sounding like a really good expansion, the more I heard about it, the more excited I was getting.

Pretty certain I spent a f***load of time getting those spirit beasts back in the day, if any pet is fit for battle then those guys are!

Its non-combat pets mostly I think Raazel, but there is something cool for hunter pets as well, you're going to be able to assign any role (tanking, dps or support) to any pet as a hunter. So you wont be, for example, locked into using a turtle pet to tank and a spider pet to pvp and a cat to dps, you can use whatever pet you like the look of and make it fill whatever role you want.
Posted 10:13pm 25/10/11
The new talent system should actually prove interesting. One of the things that annoyed me in cata was the complete lack of customisation in the talent trees. Aside from a few points, you talent tree was pretty much set in stone.

Shorter dungeons should be handy as well, for people like myself who just couldn't be arsed spending 1+ hours running a dungeon. Combined with the changes in 4.0-4.3 with tank threat and CC aggro (or lack thereof) it should make running PUG heroics a whole lot less painful.
Posted 10:20pm 25/10/11
I might subscribe to the year thing and get Diablo 3, and then see what this expansion is about. Reckon it will come start of 2012 to combat SWTOR?
Posted 10:39pm 25/10/11
D3 or the expansion Eorl?

I signed up for the 12 month subscription, sort of regret it since I've pre-ordered BF3 and Skyrim.
Posted 11:21pm 25/10/11
I don't think the expansion will be out at the start of 2012, but maybe by mid-year. The big final patch where you fight Deathwing hasn't landed yet but is (probably) due to come out in the next month or so, then there'll be another patch after that for the event that leads up to Mists of Pandaria, then the expansion.

They said at Blizzcon that they're trying to get expansions out every 18 months instead of every 2 years, so that would put it at about mid year next year. Diablo 3 is pegged for early 2012 though
Posted 11:22pm 25/10/11
I want a Tyrael statue that came in the goodie bag. Seriously someone sell me theirs.
Posted 11:32pm 25/10/11
This actually peeks my interest a little bit.

I can't deny that when I first played this game I absolutely loved it. The way you could quest and get completely drawn into the game. The thrill of exploring a new zone . The excitement of my first PVP in WSG was awesome. I even remember finding the entrance to WSG in the barrens by chance.

Ah the memories. Hopefully they can completely re-design the world and bring back the excitement of exploring new lands. I know the expansions offered new lands but it never felt the same as the original. No doubt this expansion looks good but I honestly think they need to completely re-do the game engine and start over. I wouldn't even care if the mechanics were the same with a new engine. I just want them to take advantage of the graphics available now. That's what is holding this game back from continuing on as the best game ever.
Posted 11:44pm 25/10/11
I just want a damn Pokemon MMO. Only thing I have at the moment is Digimon Online. I dunno, I will probably not subscribe, it will just turn into me jumping online, doing some quests, then sitting in one of the major cities being bored. I think I am well and truly over WoW.
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