Sunday, April 29, 2012

World of Warcraft Mists of Pandaria Beta Part 2: Level 85 and Beyond!

Back in Part One I tried out the Pandaren starting area and bemoaned the fact that the Mists of Pandaria beta wouldn't allow me to import a level 85 character into the world to test the larger level 85-90 content. Well all that has changed since the last time I logged in! I was able to choose a pre-made level 85 Pandaren monk and begin questing in the brand new continent of Pandaria. (Which, to be fair, is still not very misty).

If none of that made sense, then I've probably already lost you. But, if you're picking up what I'm putting down, then join me after the jump for my next bouncy panda foray into the wider world of Warcraft!

I can now finally access the continent map and see all the major questing areas. You begin in the Jade Forest without any real explanation, although a quest does urge you to go back to Stormwind (via portal) to receive the orders and story reason to come back to the Jade Forest. If that seems a little backwards it's because it is - this is very much still a beta and we're going to encounter some rather crippling glitches. But we'll get to those.

You're pre-made character arrives with bags full of loot and both ground and flying mounts. That said, I wasn't able to fly in Pandaria (even though I have the skill) so I haven't done any sort of flyover exploration yet. In fact I've barely travelled along that little sticking out wang part of the Jade Forest.

Something awesome though - we may still not have the Pandaren ground mount, but the beta substitutes in the rare Raven Lord instead. Despite my frequent runs through Sethekk Halls this is probably the only time I'm going to get to ride one of these:

You'll note I've created another dangerously sexy female panda. Because the Cakecake name was already taken I named her the unimaginative and nonsensical Piecake. Must have been hungry.

You immediately get to choose your monk specialization which you can see below. I chose the DPS spec because I fear responsibility. And I like the idea of jabbing people:

And then I'm faced with the fact that I have all the skills and special abilities of a level 85 monk but no idea where to position them on my action bar or how to use them. Luckily it's relatively intuitive. (Although I'm sure more experienced players would cry foul that I'm doing it all wrong). 

Last time I was a little underwhelmed at what the monk could accomplish, but in these latter stages it's far more impressive and a lot more fun. You have a much larger arsenal of jabs and kicks, including a great flying spinning kick which has a reasonably wide area effect:

You also have a few ranged options which include shooting a fireball to get your enemy's attention, or an awesome green force-lightning affect which will piss off every animal in the forest. A tiger is sleeping? Not any more. FORCE LIGHTNINGZ! UNLIMITED POWAH! I also killed a lot of porcupines. 

But the absolute best new ability is Touch of Death. If an enemy has equal or less health than you, you can touch his forbidden pressure point and INSTANTLY kill them. Seriously, they just go completely black and drop to the ground. It has a minute or so cooldown but it's a great way to end a tedious battle or get additional members of a mob off your back. Or to feel like a god when confronted by a porcupine. It feels good to blink something out of existence by ramming a finger in it.

Oh right... I'm not supposed to be running around spin-kicking tigers and porcupines yet. I'm supposed to go to the Alliance capital Stormwind to find out why I'm supposed to be here.

First order of business is to revisit King Varian Wrynn. If you recall my adventure last time you'll realise that I think that Wrynn is some sort of closet Furry with a panda fetish and a masochistic streak so I approached this mission briefing rather carefully.

I don't remember everything he said, but look at this guy and try to tell me that this whole situation isn't confronting.

His lion belt buckle has been burned into my panda's memory.

Anyway, I think that an Alliance ship may have crashed on Pandaria and no one's heard back from them so Wrynn has to send a small team of fuzzy, bouncy commandos into the east (I'm assuming Pandaria's gotta' be east, right?) to find the survivors and figure out what's going on. 

I head down to Stormwind harbour where my transport -  a light aircraft - is waiting for me but the pilot jumps in and the plane promptly fades out of existence, leaving nothing but a momentarily hovering interaction icon. I waited around for a while, along with a few other confused level 85 pandas but it appears that my journey is glitched. Luckily my hearthstone is still set to the shores of the Jade Forest so I go back to where I started and continue my quests.

I'm disappointed to report that the early quests are still along the lines of "kill x of this" and "find y of these". There's not a lot of innovation or variation to begin with, but the environmental design is impressive and I still managed to have fun. Unlike the starting area, I enjoyed myself more knowing that this was going to be a larger journey with greater character progression and I do look forward to levelling my main warrior character when the game is actually released. It feels like the real adventure starts here and I am intrigued to see what lurks in the Jade Forest and beyond.

I got to fight some badass sea cows near a wrecked ship while wearing a diving helmet!:

And there are still plenty of those bastard monkeys running riot through the villages.

In fact, if you look up you will discover that the trees are thick with them:

It was in this monkey-tormented village that my adventure came to a premature end. There's a quest where you have to free six fish-man prisoners from bamboo cages:

The cages, however, are glitched and interacting with them causes me to disconnect with the game. Every single time. After some degree of perseverance and a growing group of equally disgruntled beta testers, I had to give up, with no further quest being offered to me at this time. I could continue to explore the general environment I suppose, but had another idea instead...

 The first Myths of Pandaria dungeon has also been released - The Jade Temple. I queued for a group and in I went, expecting chaos and merriment.

What I mostly got was more frustration. The first boss, a fish-guy standing in the centre of a series of broken stone rings in the water was also glitched and would regenerate at the end of the battle:

Our tank claimed that this would not happen if we all stayed on the inner ring, closest to him, but that's not an easy task in the heat of battle. Touching the water surrounding him will cause a massive loss of health and he spawns plenty of water elementals that you have to defeat first. When you do finally begin wailing on the boss he spits a rotating spray of water like a sprinkler, and you are required to keep running around the narrow inner ring to avoid it, jumping over gaps in the stone as you go. It was too much for our team and we wiped a few times before everybody disbanded disheartened.

So at this stage there's little else I can do! I imagine that some of these issues will be patched shortly and then I may be able to progress and post a part three. Oh but there is one other thing...

Although the Pokemonesque pet battle system doesn't appear to be fully operational yet (unless I'm doing it wrong) you can get a sneak peek at the interface. Here it is with Jacob the Test Seagull:

The left menu shows a list of all the available pets - including many that are brand new, and the pets that do have abilities (not all of them do yet) seem to have 2-6 of them. They have also been given a type, e.g. "elemental" or "beast" and some of them have slots for stats.

And that's all I have to report! More to come if they fix things!

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