The Fourth WoW Expansion is Kung Fu Panda

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This weekend at Blizzcon in Anaheim, Blizzard revealed the fourth World of Warcraft expansion; and it finally adds the Pandaran race. What started as a Christmas card drawing, became an April Fool’s joke in Warcraft III and then an actual neutral hero in the War III expansion; the Pandas have been a fan favorite in Warcraft for years and something people have wanted in WoW since launch. Blizzard was rumored to be planning the Pandas as a playable race in Burning Crusade before China protested, and this was partially confirmed at Blizzcon when they showed a Panda character model they made back in 2005.

Mists of Pandaria will introduce the continent of Pandaria, increase the level cap to 90, add the Pandarans for both Alliance and Horde, a Monk class, new PVE Scenarios, dungeon time trials in the Challenge Mode, bring Pokemon to WoW with a Pet Battle System, and completely change the game’s Talent system.

As the Pandaran Brewmaster in Warcraft III was a neutral hero, the Pandas will start out neutral in WoW. At level 10, they’ll have to make the permanent choice of joining the Horde or Alliance. In addition to the new Monk class they can be Warriors, Rogues (Panda Ninjas!), Priests, Mages, Shaman, and Hunters. The graphics and animation on the Pandarans are particularly impressive with Blizzard stating that they have ten times the amount of skeletal bones in their face than existing characters. Longtime players will be happy to hear that they are currently working on updated character models for the other races to match the quality on the Pandas; although no ETA was given for when they’ll be complete.

The Monk class has been something else that people have wanted to see since WoW was released as it’s almost a staple in the fantasy RPG genre. D&D had Monks, and I played both a Human and Iksar Monk in the original EverQuest. There will be no auto attack for this class in order to preserve the action-based combat feel for the martial arts, and their three specs will allow them to fill tank, healer, and melee DPS roles. In addition to the Pandarans, every race except the two introduced in Cataclysm can be Monks.

PVE Scenarios will likely bring back the old group quests to WoW. They will be structured PVE quests that you can queue up for and do with other players, which they compared to PVE Battlegrounds. The new Challenge Mode for Dungeons will be a time trial that will grant special appearance-only armor to the best players. There will be leaderboards and everything to really show off who’s the best, and to keep things fair when you enter a Challenge Mode Dungeon your gear will be normalized down to a set Gear Score that Blizzard will set for that Dungeon. That sounds seriously awesome and addicting.

The Pet Battle System will allow you to level up and fight with your companion pets. They say that nearly all existing pets will work in the system, which is pretty much an exact copy of Pokemon. There will also be new pets to find, as well as very rare pets that may only show up in a certain area under certain conditions such as the season or weather.

This is all in addition to the expected additions of new dungeons, raids, battlegrounds, and arenas. Overall it’s a very impressive expansion that may help wash some of the bad taste of Cataclysm from the mouths of burned-out players.