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BlizzCon 2011: Hands on with Mists of Pandaria

Joe Perez

I'm sure that you've already heard the news of the next World of Warcraft expansion: Mists of Pandaria. As an added treat to the reveal of the next expansion, those in attendance at BlizzCon have the opportunity to sit down and spend some time with the new race and the new starting zone. I was fortunate enough to get a chance to play through what was available and to get to know the new Pandaran race just a little bit. We also got to spend some time with the new class, the monk. Join us after the break for more information.

Things get a little bouncy!

The Pandarans are a race at peace with the world, and the starting zone really tries to show just that. There are rolling hills and ponds all around. Flowers and creatures everywhere you look. The architecture of the the Pandaran race is heavily influenced by classic Asian architecture. Pagodas, sweeping roofs with clay tiles, bridges that flow with the hills and the surrounding area.

What might be most impressive of all of this is that it takes place on the back of an ancient sea turtle by the name of Shen-Zin Su. The Pandaran race has lived on the back of the great sea creature and has been ferried around the warm safe waters of the south seas for a very long time. Even at the time of writing this, the zone feels very natural to the story and to the race as a whole. Much as Gilneas and Kenzan served not only to frame the new races of Cataclysm but to propel their story and really fit with the lore and feel of the races.

Right now, quests are what you would expect to see for a starting zone, except that as of right now the starting quests serve much like a training sequence from a kung-fu movie. You start by obtaining your weapon and learning how to use it, and then you must interact with the teachings of the masters who have left their wisdom for the new students that enter the world. Players battled other students in sparring matches to test their skills and even must escort and protect other members of their people from the various natural hazards. The quests already seem very well put together and certainly are starting to tell the story not only of the Pandaran history, but also how they came to interact with the world around them.

Classes, racials and the new monk class

At the time of writing, the playable Pandaran classes were monk, mage, shaman, priest, rogue, hunter and warrior. So those of you looking forward to seeing your warrior turn into a giant panda, you may just get your chance. The spotlight, of course, was on the new monk class. Here's what we know so far.

First, there is no auto-attack for the monk. The flavor text for this states that the monk must focus on channeling energy between each strike, and so they do not have an auto-attack. The monk class seems to be one that will favor twitch gameplay and combo moves. The monk class also has a new resource bar called chi. As an UI element, it is currently a golden bar that sits in the middle of your screen that has both light and dark orbs that fill in with your actions. This was not explained through the game at this time, but it seemed that it could be consumed to deal more damage on attacks, regenerating both over time and at the end of a combo. This won't be like an arcade fighting game, but it certainly seemed to reward players for quick actions.

There was also a stance bar for the class. Players started in the tiger stance, which allows you to deal strikes of justice to your enemies. No other stances were made available at this time, but there's a lot of potential to allow the monk versatility in a group environment. What other stances or abilities these stances will make available or have an effect on -- well, we didn't quite get enough time to find out.

Racials at this time are quite humorous and seemed to fit the lore of the Pandaran people. First was one called Bouncy. Like rogues and feral druids, it reduces falling damage when jumping from heights. I was able to jump from the second story of a pagoda without taking any damage at all. The other was called Tiger Strike, a blow that the character could use to put the target to sleep for a short period of time. The other racials include the ability for Pandarans to extend the length of their rested experience bonus and to gain double benefit from well-fed food buffs. I don't suspect that these will remain, and I have a feeling that these racials exist more to help players speed through the new zones.

Overall, the new class is incredibly fun to play and very different from other melee classes in how it feels, even at a lower level. Pandaran lands as of right now are beautiful and teeming with life and vegetation that is just amazing. It already feels like it has the same visual polish that the other zones in Cataclysm have right now. The quests were fun and engaging.

I'm looking forward to getting to spend more time with the Pandaran race and the new monk class. As always, keep in mind this information is based on what we've seen today and is subject to change at any time.

The news is out -- we'll be playing Mists of Pandaria! Find out what's in store with an all-new talent system, peek over our shoulder at our Pandaren hands-on, and get ready to battle your companion pets against others. It's all here right at WoW Insider!

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