Thursday, October 4, 2012

Level 90 & Pandaria First Impressions

Mornara and Kuanchichi hit level 90 last night. I'm sure we could have reached max level faster, but between work having annual reviews due two days after MoP launched and generally taking our time it was last night when we got there.

I have been having a fabulous time romping about. I'm really enjoying the story and art of Pandaria. The zones are beautiful and each has it's own feel. Honestly, the zones remind me more of Wrath than Cata. The Cata zones and story lines weren't bad, but they were nowhere near as awesome as the art and story of Wrath. Cata was also very strictly on rails.

We've also been taking a rather meandering path through the zones. We don't have any of the zone achieves for quest completion or exploration yet. Instead we've been following where the interesting bits of the story take us. It's made things a lot more interesting to have choices about where to go. The only exception is Jade Forest. The first third of Jade Forest is very tightly scripted. The interaction of the story between Horde and Alliance is tightly coupled, which makes for a great story. However there were a couple of quests I'd have preferred to have skipped.

There are several general quality of questing improvements that have appeared in Pandaria. These have helped make the quests even better than they already were.

One major improvement that I really like is the increased amount of voice acting. Several of the quest NPCs have their own voices and emotes and actually talk to you as part of the quest. This really helped make the section of Jade Forest that was on rails a lot more pleasant. In general, this also gives the world a more life-like feel. Not every orc has the same voice and emotes.

There are also a lot more cut scenes. Fortunately these cut scenes are actually quite well done. I still get mad when I think how a lot of the cut scenes in Uldum made your character act in ways that, for me, were totally out of character. (Morn is NOT going to cower just because some annoying hitler-wannabe goblin is pointing a rocket launcher at her. She is going to pop CDs, take the hit, and then come out swinging.) But the cut scenes so far in Pandaria just show you what is happening. You can choose how your character reacts to the events, the cutscene just gave you the event or some backstory with a really pretty view.

Phasing is also used to great effect. With all the events that happen there is a lot of phasing and There are several very well executed cut scenes that let phasing be put in without the cumbersome need to exit the area. I'm also quite impressed by the individual phase that every single character gets for their farm. It's your very own little section of Pandaria.

The drop rate and spawn rate of crafting materials is through the roof. Morn and Kuan are both fully maxxed on both their primary professions and First Aid. Ikoli and Viljo are maxxed on a primary profession each. Telt and Eeyan are well on their way with their crafting professions, too.

In general I am a lot more pleased with Pandaria than I'd expected after the dumb way that the Theramore scenario was introduced.

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