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Has the beta changed your mind about Pandaria?

Anne Stickney

I can't really deny that I've been excited about and looking forward to Mists since I first heard the announcement for it. To me, the idea of a new continent to explore reminded me of the days trekking around Outland, and I've missed that feeling. Sure, Wrath of the Lich King was great, but it was Northrend -- it didn't really have that alien feel of landscape I'd never seen before, even though some areas were pretty breathtaking. But for a little while there, I felt like I was in the minority.

The reaction to the Mists of Pandaria announcement was mixed, which had me fairly confused. Much of the gripe seemed to be coming from the fact that pandaren were going to become a playable race. I found this a little odd, especially given that a Know Your Lore I'd written a little over a year before had plenty of people pondering the idea of pandaren in game with delight -- maybe not as playable, but it certainly seemed like people wanted to see them. So ... what gives?

Elfi's World wrote an excellent post earlier this week in which she discussed her initial reaction to Mists of Pandaria and why she was less than excited about it. Like many others, she wasn't certain whether or not she'd ever be able to take Pandaria or its inhabitants seriously, nor was she certain where the heck Blizzard was going with World of Warcraft. However, after spending some time in the beta, Elfi's pleased to note that she's enjoying herself and it doesn't seem as though Blizzard has jumped the shark, so to speak.

The reticence to the announcement is, I suppose, a little understandable given what we're dealing with. The Burning Crusade dealt with several of the major villains of Warcraft III. Wrath of the Lich King had us address the one villain that was left over. Cataclysm involved a villain who by and large was never really in the Warcraft games at all; his major appearances were all in novels that players may or may not have ever read. Sure, he was a character in Warcraft II, but the focus in Warcraft II was more clearly on the humans and the orcs rather than Deathwing's plans, in terms of the story.

With Pandaria, we have a continent and an entire civilization that we've barely heard about in vague references and stories. Chen was a playable character in a bonus campaign in Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne, and he was a pretty cool ally to have around. But Chen's origins weren't really spoken of, and the island of Pandaria wasn't really something players learned anything about.

And that makes it a much harder concept to wrap one's head around in the long run. It's difficult to imagine something we've never seen, and it's even more difficult to take that concept seriously when we've seen so little of it. Yes, talking panda men sound a little ridiculous when you think about it -- but so do giant talking cows and space goats, and they both turned out pretty OK.

I was glad to see that Elfi liked the beta so far, barring the obvious struggles of trying to level with hundreds of thousands of other beta testers. But I'm curious if Elfi's alone, or if others have played the beta, seen Pandaria, gotten a chance to wander around and experience the scenery, atmosphere, and quests, and had their minds changed as well. Don't think about the bugs -- the game isn't finished yet. Just think about what you've seen and who you've spoken to. What do you think of Mists? Is it shaping up to be something you'll enjoy?

It's open warfare between Alliance and Horde in Mists of Pandaria, World of Warcraft's next expansion. Jump into five new levels with new talents and class mechanics, try the new monk class, and create a pandaren character to ally with either Horde or Alliance. Look for expansion basics in our Mists FAQ, or dig into our spring press event coverage for more details!

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