On the eve of World of Warcraft’s sixth expansion Legion, I am going to take a look back at an expansion that I consider to be quite different from World of Warcraft’s normal trends. I am going delve into the heart of Pandaria, and tell you what I think about how much different this expansion was, compared to other expansions produced by the World of Warcraft franchise.
At first glance. it is rather reminiscent of the movie Kung Fu Panda and you could argue that, on the surface, it does look childish. Kung Fu Panda’s in a game that is serious about its fantasy genre? What is the thinking behind that? Well I am among the guilty who took the expansion at face value, it seemed like a joke; like Blizzard wasn’t taking their game seriously anymore.
Another reason I told myself at the time is that Blizzard was trying to reach a younger audience, which is probably part of the intention. However, as I found out after coming back from a long intermittent period, Mists of Pandaria was about much more than presenting a younger audience with something they can relate to.
When you play through its content you feel two things: firstly, you feel like you are exploring a land that has been untouched by anyone else in the world, and secondly, I can’t help but feel upset for the Pandaren’s situation after completing the Pandaren beginning storyline.
To provide some back story before I go on: upon the encounter of the beautiful Pandaren continent, the rest of Azeroth is locked in a ferocious war for resources. Garrosh Hellscream’s Horde and Varian Wrynn’s Alliance, both desperate to gain advantage, take their fight to the shores of Pandaria.
However, the Pandarens are a peaceful species, one might say pacifists of sorts, and the land in which they occupy sacred and spiritual. The reason why the story of the Pandarens is particularly upsetting is because they get forced, due to desperate circumstances, to join the factions of Azeroth. So they are split between Alliance and Horde, joining both sides so as not to be seen taking any one side and fight not only for a war they never wanted, but against each other. That is in my opinion, the tragedy of the Pandarens. It is not their fight and to prevent the war consuming their lands the difficult choice was made.
That I suppose is one of the elements that Mists of Pandaria conveys so well. That and it bleeds old Chinese culture every where you turn. From mystical temples, ancient fables, mythical evils and wondrous landscapes. Walking into Pandaria, you wouldn’t know you were playing World of Warcraft. It’s like playing a completely different game.
In that respect it’s a refreshing change from World of Warcraft’s usual format. It allowed for more of an exploration focus, gathering knowledge about a seemingly lost culture, opening up new mysterious doors and not knowing what’s around each corner.
On reflection, it is perhaps the most complete package in the World of Warcraft franchise. With its fresh perspective and rich mystical culture, I think that’s why it is at least, the most original and under rated expansion in the World of Warcraft series.