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Mists of Pandaria Beta: Of replays and linearity

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One of the most common complaints surrounding Cataclysm is the extremely linear nature of questing, both in the 1-to-60 experience and from 80 to 85. For levels 1 to 60, this linear nature almost works for me, largely because presumably new players heading through this content would like to do so as efficiently as possible. With a multitude of zones to choose from, the replay experience with Cataclysm isn't too bad -- particularly because it's really not that hard to level from 1 to 60 at the moment. And that's especially nice for new players trying to get the hang of the game.

However, when you hit level 80, there is one distinct path to follow to level 85, and each zone in that path has been carefully laid out. Quests are divided into hubs, and each hub must be completed in order to move on to the next. If you're taking an alt through these areas, you must replay through the same set of hubs and the same set of quests. If you're replaying several alts, this gets incredibly tiresome incredibly quickly.

Thankfully, we're about to say goodbye to that leveling model. Let's look at Mists, shall we? No spoilers, I promise!


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Mists of Pandaria is divided up into several monstrous zones and several smaller ones -- but don't let the smaller zones fool you. While Jade Forest is one gigantic leveling experience and the place where new players will start out, these smaller zones are far more fluid as far as your leveling choices go. In the case of the Valley of the Four Winds, it's almost a sister zone for the Krasarang Wilds to the south. Quest chains will lead you to both areas; it's up to you to choose your path. There are a massive number of quest chains between the two, but here's the catch: You don't have to stick around and finish everything.

Yep, you heard me. While it is useful that you finish the main chain from a story perspective, there is certainly nothing stopping you from moving on once you hit level 87. All of those other chains floating out there undiscovered? Well, you can leave those and come back at level 90; you can finish them on the spot, if you're a crazy completionist like me; or you can just leave them undiscovered and let your alt play through a slightly different set of circumstances. If you're not too keen on storyline and you just want to move as quickly as possible, you can certainly do that.

And things only get less linear as you travel north to Kun Lai Summit. Kun Lai also features a massive number of quest chains, each with their own little pocket of story. There is one section that you will definitely want to complete as you move into Townlong Steppes, but the rest of the zone includes sections and places that don't really need to be completed to move on. The severe linearity we saw in Cataclysm has been replaced with a hybrid of story linearity and free-form questing that really, really works. The replay value is back, and in a major way.

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Speaking of replay value -- if you're in the Mists of Pandaria beta, at level 89 and furtively waiting for Blizzard to open new content, you may want to try something a little different. Go copy another level 85 character over, either from your main account or by making a premade character, and play through the zones again. Why? Because in beta, quests by and large are still in the process of being tweaked, which means that all those quests you played through the first time may have changed, been adjusted, or been removed and replaced with different quests altogether.

I discovered this earlier this week after hitting level 89 on my first copy on the beta. After finishing everything I could, I decided to go play another copy of my rogue -- this time, a copy that has the Fangs of the Father completed -- and was surprised to see that a lot of the Horde content in the early parts of Jade Forest have been changed entirely. But it's not just Horde content that's been changed; quests all over the map have been tweaked and adjusted, up to and including the pivotal moment in the zone.

This is pretty typical for beta content, to be perfectly honest. I remember playing through chains in the beta for The Burning Crusade that didn't make it to release. If you're new to betas, one thing you always need to remember is that everything changes as time goes on, and nothing's really solidified until release day. Heading back and replaying that content you've already done is totally worth the time spent doing so.

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!

Filed under: Mists of Pandaria

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