World of Warcraft's
eighth anniversary arrives after a rough year for the franchise. Cataclysm
, the expansion that redesigned much of the old world and trumpeted the return of archvillain Deathwing, also saw subscriber numbers drop from their highest point, reached during the Wrath of the Lich King
years. Players expressed discontent over the empty zones and the lack of anything to do save run endless heroic dungeons or chain battlegrounds.
It's said that humans often prepare to fight the next war by devising tactics to deal with the last war, and World of Warcraft
's newest expansion, Mists of Pandaria
, is definitely a reaction to player complaints about the previous one. The past year saw the game transition from one with two separate, segregated endgames to a game with a great deal more variety for players who've reached max level. Whether you loved or hated Cataclysm
, you can't deny that the past year has seen more change than the entire expansion dedicated to changing the game ever provided.Alternatives
After eight years, the World of Warcraft
talent system originally derived from the Diablo II
trees was completely removed and replaced. Instead of redesigning the world
, the new expansion redesigned the game
to a great degree; it adjusted how the combat table worked, introduced the Monk class, and changed how almost every single class played (certain classes like Warlocks were heavily redesigned, and Druids now have four possible specializations).
Before the Raid Finder, less than 10% of WoW's subscribers ever saw Illidan, Kil'Jaeden, Arthas, and other big names raid bosses when they were relevant.
The introduction of the Raid Finder during the waning days of Cataclysm
also changed how some people saw raiding content. It was the first sign of an increased emphasis on accessibility that would become the hallmark of the new expansion; players who didn't have the time to dedicate to a scheduled raiding experience could still get to see the fights. Previously, less than 10% of the people subscribed to
the game ever saw Illidan, Kil'Jaeden, Arthas, and other big names, at least not while they were relevant. The Raid Finder meant that you could be a sometimes-player and still say you'd seen the Deathwing fight.
When Mists of Pandaria
itself arrived, it brought several further developments in accessibility. Scenarios, essentially an adaption of the public questing found in other MMOs, made use of the already-existing looking-for-group interface to allow three players to run content designed to be harder than soloing but less rigid than dungeons. No tanks or healers are necessary for scenarios, greatly reducing queue times and allowing fresh level 90s to have immediate access to Valor Points for purchasing gear. It's also fair to say that the lessons of Cataclysm's
difficult launch heroics was learned, as running a heroic dungeon at level 90 is a far friendlier experience.
These are the games you play while playing the gameWorld of Warcraft
also added its first full-fledged minigame this year. While previous years saw quests that approached minigame status (such as the Plants vs. Zombies
-inspired Peacebloom vs. Ghouls
), this time around the Pet Battle system debuted to tremendous player interest. Before this year, the many non-combat pets players could collect were merely cosmetic, vanity items to have out while standing around in Orgrimmar or Stormwind. But now, those pets can be leveled up, used to battle other players, and collected via combat with wild critters. Players can devote hours to basically playing Pokemon
. So far, it's been a tremendous hit.
Also added this expansion was a radical change in how daily questing works. There are still factions, as there have been in every game, but some of them (the Tillers and the Anglers) effectively make fishing and farming into minigames of their own not unlike Animal Crossing
. With the greatly expanded daily quests, scenarios, dungeons, pet battles, raid finder, and the addition of Challenge Mode
dungeons, your ability to customize your gameplay is probably heftier than it has been in the entire history of World of Warcraft.
If you wish to focus your character entirely on excelling in five-man dungeons, you can do so; the gear is all normalized in these dungeons, so they reward smart play rather than gear.
PvP saw the fewest changes. New battlegrounds were presented, but there was no new kind
of PvP, but rather the maintenance of Arenas and Battlegrounds. The soon to be implemented Patch 5.1 promises a return to a focus on world PvP with its introduction of new Horde and Alliance world PvP hubs in the Krasarang Wilds, however.