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What is Mists of Pandaria?

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You can hardly load up a WoW site without getting barraged by panda news. That information seems obvious -- after all, we're all sitting around drooling for the new expansion. But if you're the kind of player who prefers staying spoiler-free, then the substantive news about Mists of Pandaria versus the minutiae can seem overwhelming. So let's kick back on our armchair in the clouds and take a good, high-level look at the new expansion.

First things first. Mists of Pandaria is the fourth expansion to World of Warcraft. We've already had The Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King, and Cataclysm. This is the (very, very) basic story so far: In The Burning Crusade, the Horde and Alliance went off to Outland to bring down the machinations of a handful of elves and demons. While they were gone, though, the Lich King rose back up and attacked. Once the Lich King was defeated, a big, bad dragon woke up and wrecked shop on Azeroth. In Mists of Pandaria, the Horde and Alliance have dealt with external threats and are now turning their eyes to one another.

Some basic changes include an increased level cap, a new race, and a new class. You'll now be able to level all the way to 90. An increased level cap brings two big benefits to players. First, you'll have a direct reason to play through new quests and stories (besides just gear). Collecting levels motivates you to go talk to those NPCs and chase those MacGuffins. Second, the level change gives the developers a chance to ease you into power changes. They can tinker with numbers, alter powers, grant new spells -- and it feels a little more natural, because you grow into it.

The new class is the monk. These spiritual warriors use a dual resource system to power their abilities. The flavor of the monk is considerably different from the current classes. Using Asian-themed motifs throughout and stocked with a healthy helping of tongue-in-cheek game references, the monk features plenty of beer, bounce, and dragon references.

The new race is the pandaren. An otherwise peaceful race of panda people, they become drawn into the conflict between the Horde and Alliance and find themselves choosing sides. Some players criticize the pandaren as being too cute and fluffy, but I really recommend you wait and make up your own mind. I thought they were silly, too, until I got to spend some time in their world. The animations and story are amazing.

Your talents are radically changing. Instead of a point-based system, you'll now choose a new talent occasionally. Most of these talents are new abilities or changes to your core mechanics. Instead of gaming minute, incremental stat changes, you'll be vastly altering your gameplay through these choices. The system's still in flux, so there's not much point in too much detail, but think of it this way: You won't need to worry about 1% haste vs. 1% crit in MoP. You'll choose new powers, not new stats.

Of course, no expansion would be complete without new instances to explore. Just make sure that you take the time to check out the five things you need to know about the Temple of the Jade Serpent and the Stormstout Brewery.

Plenty of little things are changing and being added to the game, as well. Make sure you check out: Mists of Pandaria is a pretty big expansion. But if you're just now getting caught up on all the news, these are the big things for you to think about right now. It looks like it's going to be an amazing new game. And to answer the obvious question: No, we don't know when it will land yet.

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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