Mists of Pandaria is the fourth expansion pack for World of Warcraft. While it plays all the familiar notes that you expect from WoW expansions by now, it does introduce perhaps more unique systems that any expansion before it.
These are features which I assume will require Mists of Pandaria to play. Details will become clearer as 5.0 gets closer.
The continent of Pandaria will serve as the questing area for characters level 85-90 (the new level cap). Things are bit different this time, with seven zones compared to Cataclysm's five. Furthermore, questing will be less linear and more hub-like, giving you the option to pick a cluster of questing in the order you like. The goal is to keep the leveling experience from getting stale too quickly when it comes time to level alts.
Also, the story will be more modular as opposed to the overarching plots found in Wrath and Cata. The initial boxed experience will be its own self-contained story that will end on something of a cliff-hanger for the story introduced in the next content patch. The content patches will each introduce their own story in turn, and there's going to be a lack of a major villain that plagues the players from launch.
Pandaren are the newest race to be added to WoW, and will be starting on the Wandering Isle until around level ten or so. They are also the first neutral race to be added to the game: at the end of your starting experience you will be forced to pick between Alliance or Horde. So both sides will have access to Panderan.
- Gourmand: +15 Cooking Skill
- Bouncy: Reduces fall damage by 50%
- Epicurean: Doubles the stat gains from Well Fed.
- Quaking Palm: Puts an enemy to sleep for three seconds.
- Inner Peace: Rested experience lasts twice as long.
Pandaren can be everything except Death Knights, Druids, Paladins, and Warlocks.
Pandaren ride dragon turtles, and non-Panderan must gain Exalted to ride them just like any other racial mount. I don't think there's any difference in these mounts as far as Alliance Pandaren or Horde Pandaren goes.
The 11th class to be added to WoW is the Monk. Monks are a melee class that utilizes two resources. The first is energy, which is 100 points that regenerate at a decent rate at all times. It's very similar, if not identical, to what rogues use. The second is Chi, which is points that are built up as a monk uses various skills. Chi is similar to Holy Power, but different in that it is used to pay costs instead of something you build up for an increased effect. For example, a skill that requires Chi will not improve if you have three Chi as opposed to one. Furthermore, you don't lose all your Chi when using a skill that requires it. Also, monks that spec for healing use mana instead of energy.
Monks can specialize in all three roles. Windwalker is the melee specialization, optimizing damage output. Brewmaster is the tanking spec, using various brews to increase defenses. Finally, Mistweaver is the healing spec, granting the monk more tools to heal allies.
Monks are available to every race except Goblins and Worgen.
Challenge Mode is a new feature that will come into play with endgame dungeons. It's basically going to be a compromise between the easy-peasy heroics of Wrath and the player-grinders of Cata. How it works now is that heroics are basically the de facto thing you'll be doing at 90, and there isn't going to be much of a "gearing up" period just to enter heroics. For those that want a challenge, you do the Challenge Mode. This is essentially Time Attack for dungeons, and you are awarded medals based on how fast the group does it. The medals in turn award various cosmetic gear that is used purely for transmogrification. The catch to Challenge Mode is that gear doesn't matter: the game has some kind of system in place to reduce your stats to a certain point. How this exactly works isn't entirely known, but devs have said that the game will intelligently soften your stats (ie it won't reduce your hit rating until other stats have been reduced first).
Scenarios are smaller chunks of instanced content that serve purposes that are more difficult to manage via dungeons. The first is to offer group content that doesn't demand a strict Tank/Healer/Damage setup. Ideally, you can all be damage dealers and succeed. Second, it allows for less linear, objective-based gameplay. Instead of going from Boss 1 to Boss 2 and so on, you have to bounce around the area completing objectives. Think public quests from Warhammer Online or rifts from, well, Rift. That's the general idea, only it's all instanced. This also gives Blizzard a change to do a bit more with lore stuff (as if anyone still gives a shit).
Scenarios allow for groups of three, and will utilize the LFG system. As far as I can tell, it doesn't award Valor in a way similar to Heroics, and I'm not sure if any scenarios are linked to reputation gains.
Pets and mounts are getting a much-needed UI revamp. Besides that, mounts are the same as always with the exception of mounts now being available account wide (numerous exceptions, however).
Pets, however, are getting a huge new feature in the way of battles. To be blunt: this is Pokemon Lite. You form a team of three pets, roam around zones looking for wild critters on your minimap, and fight them. If they get low on HP, you can chuck traps in order to capture them. You can have like 400 pets now, and up to three copies of a single pet (an individual pet will have differing stats from a member of the same species). When I say Pokemon, I mean it: pets have types (families), level up, learn new skills, can now be named, and you can battle players in 3v3 matches. There's a slew of achievements, daily quests, and new pets to grab. There's even something akin to Gym Leaders in the game. While not quite
as deep as Pokemon, it is still quite impressive for what is basically a mini-game.
Note that the older system still works, and you are free to just have pets idle at your side.
The Tillers are a faction/minigame that involves farming. At first glance this may cause a reaction of "Aw shit, not Farmville
." However, this group of activities is closer to Harvest Moon than anything else. You help a Panderan who has inherited his family's farm. He's a city-slicker, however, and the farm has fallen into a state of disrepair.
Farming consists of the planting and caring of crops, which will grow into various vegetables. The yield of each harvest is dependent on a variety of factors. Your veggies can be used to buy more seeds, as gifts for people, and there's a rare chance for a minipet. At a certain reputation level with the Tillers, you can also purchase seeds of the various Panderia herbs. The whole process takes several days, but there's an introductory quest which skips the waiting part. I don't think there's any compulsion to log in every day besides maximizing your output. From what I have read, crops won't rot or die if you don't log in to babysit them. You just won't have as many veggies since your farm has to wait on you to progress to the next steps.
About that gift-giving thing, there's a new friendship system in MoP. It's basically reputation for individuals are opposed to groups. A large part of the Tillers story is gaining the approval of the Tillers union. You'll have to court the members and gain their votes. This involves finding the gifts they like and doing various dailies. There's also a little room you get that will slowly fill with useful objects like an oven for cooking. Not quite
player housing, but probably the closet we've gotten to it.
General game changes that pretty much apply to everyone regardless of whether or not you bought the expansion. This is less out of generosity and more out of practically: you can't have a bunch of the playerbase using one talent system and the rest using another.
Talents have been radically changed even beyond the kind of stuff we've seen in the past. Developers are calling it Talents 2.0, and it's a drastic shift in how things work.
Let's get basic: there are now three systems with which you use to customize your character. These are specialization, talents, and glyphs.
The first is your specialization, which works similar to Cataclysm but has been dramatically expanded upon. You now receive significantly more unique skills and passives by selecting a specialization, and you will learn more by leveling up. Specializations effectively replace the talent trees of the old system, and you may notice that a lot of older "base" skills are missing. Druids, for example, no longer get lifebloom, regrowth, nor nourish by default. Those skills are now only available to druids that pick the Restoration Specialization.
Talents still exist, but are hardly recognizable. At level 15, and every 15 levels afterwards, you unlock a new tier in your talents. Each tier has three choices, and you make one choice within each tier. Tiers generally have the same "theme" (for example, Druid Tier 2 is focused on healing), and the main differences is preferences. Do you want a lengthy cooldown, or a more frequent one? Perhaps you don't want another skill at all and opt for a passive. By the time your character hits 90, your character will have six tiers total. Talents are the same for a class regardless of spec. A Feral Druid does not have different talents than a Balance Druid.
Glyphs are probably the least changed of the three. Prime Glyphs, however, have been removed (most of the glyphs in this category have been simply baked into the class or relevant class spec) and Major Glyphs now have more dramatic effects. There are also more Minor Glyphs, but they remain as largely cosmetic or quality-of-life changes. An example of a Major Glyph would be the ability to heal in Moonkin Form or Rebirth bringing back dead players with more HP. Minor glyphs are things like changing the look of my aquatic form or being able to mind control critters with one of my spells.
Stats are changing again for MoP. It won't be as huge as it has been in past expansions, but there are changes nonetheless.
A huge change is the ranged slot. It's gone from all classes, and this means changes to the corresponding items. Relics are just completely gone, as they were deemed uninteresting and basically had to be slapped on vendors since they were so narrow an item. Guns, bows, and crossbows will become two-handed weapons with stats to match, and wands will become main-hand items that also have appropriate stat increases. Hunters can still equip melee weapons, but there's little gameplay point in doing so. Hunters WON'T have a minimum range for ranged attacks now, so the lack of a melee weapon won't sting that much. Tanks all have the proper pulling tools these day, so ranged weapons won't hurt them.
Resistance has been removed from the game, as it is seen as an increasingly unnecessary that only serves a purpose in making players farm gear for gimmicky encounters. As a result, spell penetration is being removed from the game as well, or at least it's been converted into a new stat. PvP Power is a new stat that will increase damage dealt to other players. To compensate for this change, players take 30% less damage from other players by default. Furthermore, players will now have a natural amount of resilience to ease the pain of starting PvP without the proper gear.
Accuracy stats are being mixed up a bit. Hit and spell hit are now just one unified stat, and expertise will negate dodge and spell hit and THEN parry. Expertise will also use a system similar to hit as opposed to the X rating equal Y expertise which reduces Z parry/dodge/etc. The combat charts for avoidance are now normalized between melee and spells. Assuming you melee attack from behind, then the chance for spells and melee swings to not land are equal. Also, ranged attacks can be dodged.
Defense stats are getting a change as well. There's no longer just one combat roll: block chance is now determined after a roll is done to see if the monster hits/misses/is parried/is dodged. Block also has a diminishing returns threshold, so watch yourself.
Two more items of note: critical strikes are, at default, double the base damage, regardless of whether it is a melee, ranged, or spell attack. And finally, intellect will no longer increase mana pools. Classes that need the mana will generally have a passive in their spec that increases mana pool by 400% or so. Intellect was just becoming too killer of a stat for healers due to the increase of mana combining with "regen X% of mana" buffs, skills, and items.
MoP launches on September 25th, 2012. Like most expansions, there will be a patch prior to the launch that incorporates a lot of the major systems of the expansion. This is Patch 5.0, and the experience will likely be akin to a player who doesn't own MoP: quite a few goodies, but none of the major features.
Patch 5.0.4 will release on August 28th, 2012. It'll contain a lot of changes, but here is the gist:
- Talents, glyphs, and spec will be changed.
- Account-wide mounts, pets, and achievements will go into effect.
- Stat changes will occur.
- AoE looting!
- Battletag support
- Ranged slot will be gone. Ranged weapons will go into the main weapon slots, and relics will become gray items.
- The Theramore Scenario will become available at some point before MoP launches.
MoP comes in a variety of delicious flavors! Collect them all! (Don't actually do this)
Regular Edition (Purchasable as Physical or Digital)
- Includes, you know, the expansion!
- Save extra money for things such as gas and food!
- Maintain a shred of self-respect!
Digital Deluxe Edition
- The expansion! Yay!
- Imperial Quilen Mount: the first CE to feature a mount. It flies!
- Lucky Quilen Cub pet: the first non-dragon CE pet. It doesn't fly!
- Diablo 3 Banner Sigil and Accent: let friends know how much money you wasted in other games!
- Starcraft II Infested Orc and Night Elf Templar portraits: won't change the fact that you will forever languish in Bronze!
$59.99, your dignity
- Yep, the expansion is still included!
- Imperial Quilen Mount: as if you need more goddamn flying mounts.
- Lucky Quilen Cub pet: will undoubtedly be overpowered in pet battles!
- Diablo 3 Banner Sigil and Accent: give your G key a purpose.
- Starcraft II Infested Orc and Night Elf Templar portraits: let's face it, it's not like you have portraits worth showing off.
- A big fuck-off box: become repellent to more sensible members of your species!
- The Art of Mists of Pandaria: finally, an artbook for your fifth coffee table.
- Mists of Pandaria Mouse Pad: just in time, as the Cataclysm one was getting pretty worn.
- Behind the Scenes DVD/Blu-Ray Set: an hour of footage that you could have easily cobbled together from YouTube!
- Collector's Edition Soundtrack: featuring outdated physical media, which I guess is cool now because it's retro?
- Actual discs with which to install the expansion: you never know when you'll need to reinstall WoW and their downloader is acting up.
$79.99, the idea that, deep down, you are a good person