Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Smugglin', Mists of Pandaria, and Targeter's Heart-Wrenching Story

An accurate representation.
First off, the most important news.  I have now achieved level 50 on my second character in TOR.  That's right, Targeter is now joined by the infamous Outlaw Targeteer!  I haven't finished the third chapter yet (got to 50 through Belsavis dailies and some rather outstanding guildmates), but so far I have to say that the Smuggler storyline is every bit as interesting and fun as the Agent's.  It's not as good obviously, but it is very well done and chock-full of humor.  Unfortunately, I don't have a screenshot of Targeteer with his ridiculous Columi hat on, so I'll just post this representation of him.  That's pretty much what he looks like, 'cept blue and has less straw on his hat.  I also participated in my first operation with him last night; my guild rewarded my blitz to 50 with a pity run through Eternity Vault.  How nice!

The second line item for today is a more in-depth view of the Mists of Pandaria expansion, releasing September 25th for World of Warcraft.  As you may (or may not) know, I've re-upped to World of Warcraft since Bioware's updates for SWTOR have been few and far between.  Very far.  Oh my god it's a content drought.  This however has left me with ample time to check out other games.  Now, here's some full disclosure:

I played World of Warcraft from 2007 till 2011.  I came in at the end of The Burning Crusade and never really got to experience any end-game content of any note in that expansion.  Hell, I barely knew what I was doing!  My Dwarven Priest (Fear Ward HELL YES) stacked ludicrous amounts of stamina, whacked people with his staff as his primary attack, and put 5 points in Wand Specialization (remember that?!).  So I was what most people would call a 'bad.'  When Wrath launched the next year, I was in a much better place and able to compete at the highest levels; this included getting lost in Naxx, shamefully asking in Ventrilo what hit rating was, and not knowing what white or yellow damage was.  This got much better later on when I stopped Death Knighting (I had abandoned my Priest and the Alliance early in Wrath) and went Shamaning instead.  During my reign on Blackwater Raiders as Neverender, and later Ancestor and Brewtotem, I became almost competent as a raider and definitely a top 100 player ... on my server.  If you just count shaman.  Horde shaman.  Horde shaman who's names start with A, N, or B.  Look, I knew my way around a shaman and I was pretty decent at it.  Was I the best evarz?  No, of course not.  But I was pretty good and proud of it.  So, in Trial of the Champion (patch 3.2) I really hit my stride; I joined a 'hardcore' 10man guild, became an elitist asshole, and started thinking my shit didn't stink.  We did all the hardmode stuff in Ulduar and TOC, and then moved on to ICC where my hardcore guild of elitist assholes exploded, to nobody's surprise.  I later fell in with some friends I should have never left in the first place and we had more fun.  Then Cataclysm came.  Oh, how aptly named.  I was promoted to raid leader and had a grand time for the first three months.  To be honest, I was having so much fun that I didn't even mind that we weren't killing any bosses.  That's right, it took us almost three months to get Halfus down.  But I didn't care; the team was fun and we were having a blast.  Then it happened.

Loot drama.

My raid team and our guild exploded one night over a hat.  Long story short; main healer got herself locked out of the raid we were trying.  She brought another character (her third healer) to the raid.  Halfus dies.  Hat drops for a shaman.  I award the hat to our faithful shaman healer who has been showing up week in and week out, doing all the right stuff.  Third healer girl (also a shaman) blows up.  She wants the hat too.  Drama ensues.  GM and disgruntled party get drunk and blow the whole raid team up over Vent and toss me out of the guild.  Welp, that pretty much did it for me in Cataclysm.  I left the game and never really looked back, instead focusing all my efforts on the upcoming game THAT WILL CHANGE DA WORLDZ FOREVAH!  That's right!  Hello Kitty Online Adventures!  No, wait, I mean SWTOR!  Totally SWTOR!  Not Hello Kitty Online at all!

Considering that particularly messy end to my WoW career, I honestly never figured I'd ever be back.  Cue the siren call of kung fu pandas.

Ok, that's not totally accurate.  It's not really Kung Fu Panda.  But it's pretty close.  I was always one of those ardent defenders of Pandaria; "It's not really Kung Fu Panda, guys.  Pandaren were in the original Warcraft games!  Get educated!"
The years were tough on Donatello.

Then I played the Pandaren starting zone.  There is a particular part of the starting zone that is suspiciously familiar ... there's a Master Oogway moment.  Remember him?

Wongding comes for you!
Maybe it's disingenuous to call it a 'Kung Fu Panda' moment, because in reality, this a moment that happens in nearly every kung fu film.  The master passes knowledge on to the student, and then he passes on to the next life.  I liked how they handled the whole zone, to be honest.  It had a very distinct eastern feel; the architecture looked right and had the correct coloring, the enemies were interesting (ape-men whom I hated, bunny-men who I hated to kill, even dragons randomly appearing!), the tone of the quests was spot-on.  Heck, the zone was even difficult!  Once you reach level 7 or 8, you get into the area where the Horde and Alliance are, and the enemies are so tightly packed that you can't really help pulling two or three at the same time.  I enjoyed the difficulty and strategy required to complete the area, but I'm fairly confident that the zone will be nerfed to hell before release ... and I'm ok with that.  It's a starter zone, dammit.  You probably shouldn't have to utilize all your cooldowns and get lucky to survive it, well at least Blizzard probably thinks that.

I did, in fact, roll a monk.  I sorta hated the class.  The mechanics felt off and the abilities didn't seem to make sense.  I never felt comfortable playing it, but then again, it is the beta.  I was also playing the Brewmaster specialization (the tanking spec) and it just didn't feel ... right.  Once the game hits live, I'll go in and try the monk once more.  Probably a windwalker, cuz Targeter don't tank, baby.  Targeter don't tank.

Welcome to the Wandering Isle.

 So far, Pandaria has been pretty impressive.  I'm not going to lie; the graphics in MoP took me by surprise.  For a nearly 8 year old game, the vistas are nothing short of impressive.  The draw distance seems to have been lengthened considerably as well.  Close up visuals reveal the truth (leaves still render poorly, old race models remain laughably bad) but overall, the graphics of MoP are stunning.  I'm pretty pleased.

For me, Pandaria seems to be hitting all the right buttons.  I'm making sure that I don't experience too much of the new content in the beta ... I want to avoid the problems I had with TOR (9 months of intense beta testing burned me out before the game even launched).  But I can safely report that MoP is injecting things into the game that I like to see; more lore, more factions, more stuff to do.  They have Pokemon (which I refuse to use), and also a faction called the Tillers that allows you to have your farm (it's very similar to Harvest Moon).  There are others too, but I haven't seen them yet.

All in all, I can't wait.

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