Last week the folks down at Blizzard Entertainment opened their home to the press to show off the progress they've made with Mists of Pandaria, the upcoming expansion to World of Warcraft. As they told us they were really geeked up to have us there, to finally get the chance to show off their baby. At the start of the day they ushered us into the Blizzard Theatre, and proceeded to unleash a tide of information so thorough it could only have been originally planned for BlizzCon. Once we had our heads properly exploded, we were then released to get a chance to play the game ourselves, and to talk to some of the Blizzard staff about what we can expect from MoP.
I mention the flood of information because it will explain the sheer amount of content I am going to unleash upon you today. There is too much here for a single article, so I have decided to break it up into several chunks. First I will go over the general overview and announcements that we received in the first briefing, then introduce you to the Female Pandaren, and finally share with you the content of the interviews I was able to experience during my time on the Blizzard campus. While this isn't everything there is to know about the expansion, it is enough to whet our appetites and get our mind juices aflowin'. And it's definitely enough to make me want to play this expansion so very, very much.
And just in case you need to be warned, there be spoilers ahead, and lots of 'em.
Mists of Pandaria is an expansion that could be called a spiritual successor to the original WoW. This might come as a great surprise to some, considering out initially left field the announcement seemed back in October. For those who have played the initial "brown box" as they call it, World of Warcraft was a game of adventure and exploration: There was no real linear storyline to guide you through Azeroth. You found the content yourselves, sometimes in the most unlikely of places. And where there was no content, you made it up on your own, role play style.
With Mists of Pandaria, Blizzard intends to return to this more open format of gameplay. With the previous expansions we had a strong linear progression leading us toward the inevitable battle with the big bad, be it a Lich King or a Corrupted Aspect. The general flavor of the month with MoP is "less linear." There will be no major villain in this expansion. Rather, war itself is the villain, and we -- the Alliance and the Horde -- are its chief agents, and will be for the next couple of years in the WoW universe. We land in paradise and bring with it our never ending struggle for faction supremacy, at great cost to not only the inhabitants of the continent of Pandaria but also the world at large.
That's not to say that there won't be villains to vanquish along the way. The new baddies we fight will arise through patch content, and as the story progresses, we will see that the war we thought to control is taking over our lives back at home. The final patch of this expansion will be entitled "The Siege of Orgrimmar," where both the Alliance and the Horde converge on the Orcish stronghold to wrest control from Garrosh Hellscream himself. So if you thought for a moment that this was just a light, and somewhat silly satellite expansion that wouldn't affect the original game world, you thought wrong.
No matter how zany this expansion might look from the outside, the developers actually feel that this is the perfect time to tell this particular story. There has been some very heavy content for the last couple of years, and as WoW progresses and explores the themes of war and its affect on humanity, there needs to be a calm before the storm -- a palate cleanser if you will. Before things get dark and broody again and the world is once again in dire peril.
The Pandarens themselves have been closely tied to the Warcraft universe even before WoW. Initially born out of the imagine of Samwise Didier, the race quickly became a favorite obsession for the WoW dev team, so much so that they included them in the Frozen Throne expansion to Warcraft III, and were even featured on a WoW April Fool's joke back in the day. That's not to say that the developers feel that the Pandarens are a joke -- far from it. In fact, they were one of the races that were on the short list for being included in The Burning Crusade expansion for the Alliance race. By their very nature the Pandarens are the perfect counterpoint to the boiling hatred that is churning within the factions of Azeroth, and they will have a very epic role to play in the events that transpire throughout this expansion. A throw away race this is not.