Mists of Pandaria represents a dynamic change to how we look at reputation in World of Warcraft. While Cataclysm's reputations were all by and large flat dungeon grinds aided by the use of reputation tabards, reputation in Mists took a much different approach. In fact, it took many, many different approaches -- each reputation grind in Mists of Pandaria was slightly different from the next, with no two taking the exact same process to get to the end of the climb.
On the WoW Insider show, we've talked before about how this is likely a grand experiment on Blizzard's part -- one to see which aspects of grinding reputation players tend to take really well, and which could be happily left behind. I've reviewed quite a few of the reputation grinds in Pandaria myself over the course of the expansion, largely because I'm obsessed with filling all those green bars. But what about the big picture? What really worked with reputation grinding in Mists, and what deserves to be left in the dust?
A brief overview of early reputation
As mentioned, I've already done reviews for many of the reputation grinds in early Mists, so I won't be going into those in detail. Instead, we'll be looking at a short list of pros and cons for each of these early reputation grinds in turn -- taking care to note the highlights.
- Pros: Reputation earned multiple ways. Engaging ongoing story, with more story fed with each level of reputation gained. Completing a level of reputation offered not only more story, but additional spaces for harvesting crops. Cool final quest series upon reaching exalted.
- Cons: Slightly confusing process due to "best friends" system -- best friends never clearly defined and did nothing to speed the process of gaining reputation at all.
- Pros: Reputation earned both by daily quests and by farming Dread Amber Shards. No limit on the amount of shards that can be farmed per day. Reputation introduced while leveling through the Dread Wastes -- players already at honored before daily quest grind begins. Players are provided with unique buffs to help complete daily quests. Intriguing storyline upon completing reputation grind.
- Cons: While the ongoing story itself was good, the gaps between story once you started doing dailies were pretty substantial.
The Golden Lotus
- Pros: Engaging ongoing story fed throughout the course of the zone. Multiple daily locations in which to gain reputation. Cool crane mounts offered for purchase as rewards. Absolutely amazing final series of story quests to cap off gaining exalted reputation.
- Cons: Repetitive daily quests which only became more repetitive as the reputation grind went on. Little variation in order of daily quest hubs. Served as a lockout for two other reputations, gating any gear that could be had from the August Celestials and Shado-Pan. Crafting recipes locked behind reputation grind. Biggest con -- majority of the daily quests and hubs, as well as the ongoing story quests, have now been removed from the game for good.
- Pros: Multiple quest hubs that rotated with far more frequency than other rep grinds. NPCs provided to assist with quest completion. Transmog hat and tiger mounts to be purchased after gaining reputation. Amazing final quest with a free cloud serpent mount at the end of the grind.
- Cons: Locked behind Golden Lotus reputation. Zone quests for Kun-Lai, Townlong Steppes, Dread Wastes and Shado-Pan Monastery did little to boost reputation beforehand. Gear upgrades locked behind reputation grind.
The August Celestials
- Pros: Multiple quest hubs offered on a rotating basis. Intriguing ongoing story offered at the Cradle of Chi-Ji. Cloud serpent mount unlocked for purchase upon reaching exalted.
- Cons: No story reward upon reaching exalted. Profession recipes locked behind reputation grind. Incredibly slow reputation grind with no way to hasten the process. No real payoff to the storyline at the Cradle of Chi-Ji. Locked behind Golden Lotus reputation.
Order of the Cloud Serpent
- Pros: Engaging ongoing story in which you raise your cloud serpent from egg to fully grown. Variety of various daily quests to gain reputation, some profession-based. Free mount at the end of the reputation grind. Onyx Eggs available to hasten reputation grind, no limit on how many eggs you could turn in per day. Cool event once you reached exalted.
- Cons: Jewelcrafting mounts locked behind this reputation. Reputation is required to ride cloud serpents, and is not account-wide, meaning each character you have must grind out this reputation in order to ride account-bound cloud serpent mounts.
- Pros: Really cool and useful reputation rewards. Reputation is gathered via series of daily quests that all involve fishing. Reputation grind not really required -- no gear on reputation vendor, just a series of useful items, fun toys, and a mount.
- Cons: Very long grind with no way to really hasten the process -- nothing to farm or collect for multiple turn-ins. Given that the rewards aren't really necessary, this isn't too much of an issue.
5.1 and beyond
In patch 5.1, we were given a new series of reputation to complete -- the Dominance Offensive, or Operation: Shieldwall, depending on which faction you happen to be on.
Operation: Shieldwall / Dominance Offensive
- Pros: Incredibly engaging story content fed progressively throughout the reputation grind. Reaching exalted capped off the series of quests with an epic climax and a free mount, as well as unlocking an additional mount for purchase. Commendations dropped by mobs could be turned in for useful items, and optional PvP objectives offered useful buffs for players.
- Cons: Some quest hubs were far more difficult to complete than others, particularly for players that weren't in the best gear. This created problems for completing quests on alts.
Kirin Tor Offensive / Sunreaver Onslaught
- Pros: Multiple daily quest hubs that unlocked as the Isle of Thunder itself was unlocked. Solo scenarios scattered throughout the zone, offered as players unlocked each section of the Isle. Once the Isle was unlocked in full per server, these scenarios were then offered to players one after the other. Entertaining story fed through the scenario process.
- Cons: While there were a variety of daily hubs, those daily hubs had to be unlocked, making the first week or two of the grind a little repetitive.
- Pros: No daily quests to complete -- one weekly quest, and the rest of the reputation was gained in the Throne of Thunder raid. Reputation could be gained on any level of raid difficulty. Useful gear rewards unlocked as reputation increased. Players could obtain Shado-Pan Assault Insignias from the Troves of the Thunder King scenario, giving reputation a small boost.
- Cons: No daily quests to complete -- meaning the reputation gain itself was pretty slow. By the time players had unlocked all the gear on the reputation vendor, many had better gear from the raid itself.
- Pros: A single daily quest to gain reputation, with one more unlocked further down the line. Reputation is gained simply by killing mobs. No major gear upgrades on the reputation vendor, just fun toys, a pet, and a mount.
- Cons: It's a really, really, really long reputation grind, and I hope you like killing yaungol.
Reputation, dailies and the future
There are a few things that are solidly good about pretty much every reputation grind in Pandaria, and a few things that were almost universally negatively received. If Blizzard wants to strike exactly the right chord with reputation grinds in the future, they need to take the good from this scattered, jumbled pile of reputation grinds, and avoid the things that players just don't seem to care for.
- We like a good story. Every reputation grind that offered some sort of story component seemed to be received pretty well -- especially the storylines and quests offered in the Operation: Shieldwall and Dominance Offensive reputations. In this case, it wasn't just the storyline being told -- which was excellent -- it was the pacing of that storyline. If players completed all daily quests offered, they were given a bit of story every other day, and upon reaching revered and getting a commendation, they were given story content every day. This broke up the monotony of repetitive quests enough that players by and large really enjoyed the process.
- We like free stuff, especially free mounts -- getting to the end of Shado-Pan, Order of the Cloud Serpent and Operation: Shieldwall/Dominance Offensive was twice as cool, largely because we got a free mount to go along with it. It made for a satisfying end to the process.
- We like variety. Reputations in which players have more than one option for gaining that reputation. Whether it be through collecting items like Onyx Eggs or Dread Amber Shards, or killing mobs like the yaungol on the Timeless Isle or the Warbringers for Stolen Insignias, players like having more than one option for gaining reputation. Daily quests are all well and good, but having different ways to gain that reputation for players that don't prefer quest content works even better.
- We like non-essential rewards. Transmog items, mounts, pets, toys -- all of these things are fun, and aren't really considered required material like gear or profession recipes. It puts the fun back in the reputation grind, rather than making it feel like a chore that must be completed if you want to progress further in the game.
- We like speed. Grand Commendations were easily one of the best things introduced in Mists, allowing players to climb that big gap from revered to exalted much, much more easily -- and allowing players with alts to complete that grind on additional characters with much less difficulty.
Things we could do without:
- Daily quests -- to a degree. It isn't so much that we don't like daily quests, it's that they feel like a chore that must be completed, something that requires us to log on every single day and complete in order to feel like we've made some kind of progress. For people that play on a limited schedule, having a ton of daily quests and no other option for gaining reputation means that they'll quickly feel like they're falling behind -- not because they don't want to gain the reputation, but because they just don't have the time in the real world. That's incredibly frustrating.
- Gated reputation. Locking one reputation behind another feels like a deliberate roadblock, especially when there are things like gear involved.
- Progression rewards locked behind reputation. Having things like gear upgrades and profession recipes locked behind a wall of reputation made it feel like that reputation was absolutely a requirement. While yes, there was equal or better gear to be had elsewhere, putting rewards that enhanced character performance behind a reputation wall made that reputation feel mandatory -- which is probably the biggest thing on this list.
- Mandatory reputation: We don't want to feel like we have to do reputation grinds in order to progress in the game. Reputation grinds should be something fun to do, an option for neat rewards, a way to introduce story, but not something that absolutely has to be completed to make our character's performance better. We already have to grind out valor points to purchase gear -- adding reputation to that mix just adds an additional feeling of chores that have to be completed before you get anything good.
Filling green bars is fun for some, but it's not for everybody -- and because of this, maybe it shouldn't be something that everyone has to complete. Rather than making reputation a requirement for endgame, instead just make it an option for additional content. Something that players can freely choose to complete if they wish, or leave by the wayside if there's something else that strikes their fancy a little more.