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5 reasons you should love Mists of Pandaria

Anne Stickney

BlizzCon's over, so let's recap. We get playable Pandaren, neutral characters that can choose either Alliance or Horde at the end of the starting experience. On top of that, we get the monk class that plenty of people have been excited about seeing implemented in game. And then we get entirely revamped talent trees that aren't trees at all -- they are a completely gutted and entirely new system for people to play with. Plus, we get something to do with all those pets we've collected over the last several years.

Yet a lot of what I've been reading here and there has been a general reaction of "That's it?" rather than excitement, and it seems a little odd to me. After trying to puzzle out why exactly it was odd to me that people would feel this way, I decided it really didn't have anything to do with them; it had plenty to do with me. Out of all the posts I write, you guys seem to love the tinfoil hat theories the best -- and the way I create those posts is due to the way that I look at stories and situations.

That said, there is a reason you guys should be excited about this expansion. Actually, there are several of them, but I'm only going to hit five of them. And I'm going to blow your mind with what is the biggest reason you should absolutely love what's coming up in World of Warcraft.

5. Pandaria

Most players that have been around since The Burning Crusade can recall what they felt when they first stepped through the Dark Portal. It was something akin to butterflies in the stomach, fear, and utter excitement. Where we were going was someplace new, we knew that much -- but we had no idea what to expect when we took those first few steps. Pandaria represents an Azeroth we have never, ever seen before. It is a wholly new concept, with all-new, vividly different terrain.

Cataclysm gave us a lot of new vistas with Deathwing's transformation of the world -- but at the end of the day, it was still Azeroth. Pandaria, on the other hand, presents us with someplace so completely foreign that we have no idea what to expect. And we still don't. The starting zone is a wandering island on the back of a turtle. Is that what Pandaria looks like? Nope! There were shots here and there of the different areas of the new continent, and it looks absolutely gorgeous. But there are also parts of that continent that we haven't seen yet.

4. Pandaren

Remember when the Draenei were announced as the second race for The Burning Crusade, and everyone scratched their heads and said, "What is that? Space goats? You're giving us space goats, really?" What did we get out of that experience? We got a race of alien creatures that we'd never seen before, with a story that ended up being so ultimately compelling that we were (and still are) annoyed that their story was not explored further.

Here, we have a race that was previously a tongue-in-cheek joke. Now they are not. Pandaren have been fleshed out a little here and there in the RPG books -- I've covered that before in Know Your Lore. We do know, however, that not everything in those RPG books is considered canon; they may have an entirely different history than what the RPG source books spelled out.

Beyond that, you should see the level of detail on these guys. The facial expressions are absolutely enchanting, the body movements are well constructed and fluid, and the models themselves are utterly polished. There are not any female Pandaren yet -- but that's OK. That'll come with time. If they're anywhere near the level of detail of the male Pandaren, it's going to be fantastic.

3. New talent system

Remember once upon a time when you didn't have to think about where to put your talents, you just looked up the best spec online, plunked the points in and called it a day? Guess what? That's utterly boring. There is nothing engaging about that process whatsoever, unless the website with the cookie-cutter build also happens to have an entertaining article or two to look at while you are plunking in points.

The new system is drastically different than anything we've seen before. Choosing between talent perks is going to take thought. Are some specs going to be better than others? Maybe. We won't know until we see it all finalized.

Is it different and new? Absolutely. Why would Blizzard want to give us the same old thing, when we aren't happy with the same old thing? The old talent trees were clonky, unwieldy, and they just didn't work in a fluid and fun fashion. That's what playing a game is supposed to be about -- fun. If it's not fun, why play it, right?

2. New lore

Maybe this isn't as high on everyone's priority list as it is mine. Some people care about the story; others don't. But the core of World of Warcraft has always been the heart at the center of the stories that play out as you're wandering around the world. People have been saying for quite some time that they would like to see the world move on from addressing old topics that happened back in the earlier Warcraft games. This is exactly that. We aren't addressing anything old. There isn't a Lich King or Illidan or Kael'thas to wonder about, and the Aspects haven't even been mentioned.

This is brand new stuff, guys. This is the new frontier. We are the big damn heroes who mopped up what the world threw at us from the past, and now we are moving into the future. With that future come new stories and lore -- and new obstacles to overcome. We aren't addressing the old storylines anymore because they've been taken care of. Remember when Warcraft III came out and how the story was fresh, and new, and interesting? We get to relive that feeling again. I don't know about you, but it excites me to think about what kind of new things we are going to see.

And the #1 reason you should love the new expansion:

1. The unknown

Yeah, you heard me right. Everyone is looking at what was announced and saying that it isn't thrilling or particularly exciting. Guys, you are calling the glass half empty here and turning away in disgust. This is where the tinfoil hat work that I do comes into play. I don't look at what I'm being told, half the time -- I look at what I'm not being told. And guess what? There is a ton of stuff here that we simply have not been told yet. Blizzard bombarded us with information about new talent systems. It let us play through the starting zone of the new race. It told us about the pet battle system. But what didn't Blizzard tell us?

For example, let's look at the monk class. First off -- guys, this class is a blast to play. There is no auto-attack. Every time you push a button, your character does something. You don't get to sit there and do nothing while your character idly whacks away at something; you are engaging with the world. It's unique, new and utterly different -- and that's what makes it fun! But beyond that, the monks themselves perform all kinds of fancy new moves. They have cool stances and moves that I've never seen before. They roll.

Now think about that for a minute. Every race can be a monk, except for Goblins and Worgen -- the two newest, freshest, most detailed character models and skeletons that have come out. What do you think is going to have to happen in order for your Gnome, Dwarf, Human, Night Elf, Draenei, Troll, Orc, Tauren, Forsaken, or Blood Elf to be able to perform those kinds of acrobatics?

You following me?

Let's look at previous expansions. In The Burning Crusade, the first expansion, the trailer made it emphatically clear that Illidan was the big boss of the expansion and we'd be killing him. Then we got Kil'jaeden added in at the end, which was pretty unexpected and cool. In Wrath of the Lich King, we knew from the second the expansion was announced who the big, bad guy was going to be. In Cataclysm, it was utterly clear who the final boss was going to be, because he's the one that caused the cataclysm in the first place.

When you are reading a book and the villain is known from the get-go, how fun is it to read that book? When you're playing a game, how fun is it to know who the final boss is going to be? Let's go back a step further and look at vanilla. We knew Onyxia was a bad guy; it was pointed out in questing. We knew Ragnaros and the Molten Core were coming into play. When they announced Blackwing Lair, everyone was frothing at the mouth with excitement, thinking they were going to wield an Ashbringer because there were hints thrown in implying that they might find it there.

When AQ-40 came into play, we were blindsided. What was this strange temple, who were the Aqir, what the heck was C'thun? We had no idea. We didn't know what we were in for. The lead-up event, the final payoff, all that lurking through the depths of Ahn'Qiraj and finally seeing what the heck that thing looked like -- that was where the excitement played in. It was the unknown that kept us guessing -- and guessing games are fun.

Do you know why we don't have a big, bad boss? Because Blizzard hasn't given us one yet. And it's not going to. Every previous expansion, we've known exactly what we were getting into from the moment we saw the trailer, and we knew what we were going to be doing every step of the way. Everything we played through in The Burning Crusade led up to Illidan's defeat. Everything in Wrath led us to the Lich King. We knew we were going there. There was no mystery, and there was no excitement.

If you take away the mystery, the fun ceases to exist. That's what's been missing with every expansion to date. That's why expansions get boring at the end, because we know it is coming to an end, and we know how it is going to end, and we are bored because we know it.

Do we know what's coming? No. Is the glass half empty? If you want to look at it that way. The way I'm looking at it is that it's a glass half full. What we have been presented with is what we have been missing for three expansions -- the sense of mystery and wonder that we had in classic WoW. That excitement that was prevalent with every step we forged through the new and entirely alien world of Azeroth, a world we hadn't seen before, a world where we had no idea what to expect. Guys, we are getting back the awe and wonder of those first days of World of Warcraft.

The glass Blizzard just gave us is half full. Given the sheer scope of information we just received, and the amount that it did tell us, whatever Blizzard's holding behind its back is going to knock our socks off when it finishes topping off that glass. We won't know what hit us.

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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