May 172012

I’m fairly certain almost everyone knows that the successor to a famous, perhaps even legendary, game was released just a few days ago. While I admit that this post has next to nothing to do with World of Warcraft, it is another game by the same developer and therefore I figured it reasonable to post some of my thoughts on this game and perhaps even recommend it to you assuming you haven’t purchased the game already.

As I mentioned above, Diablo 3 has incredibly high expectations to fulfill given the success of its predecessor, expectations which it fulfills to varying degrees. As far as the gameplay goes, it’s very much a Diablo game in spite of some changes that seem distinctly similar to World of Waracraft such as the inclusion of ‘Fury’ for Barbarians which is charged, as you might expect, by dealing damage and is used to fuel a number of abilities most of which are carried over from Diablo 2 in one form or another.

Diablo 3 is a more streamlined experience than its predecessor, disallowing some of the character customization offered in D2 in favor of allowing you access to all abilities although you are only allowed to ‘equip’ a limited number at any one time. Whichever abilities you choose can be freely swapped out for alternatives at any time. What this does is make each character more versatile and prevent you from accidentally destroying your character by misplacing skill points in the wrong ability, but also somewhat diminishes individual creativity and decision making.

Ultimately I would consider it a net positive, and the addition of Skill Runes to each ability which augment the effect in various ways from adding damage or stun effects to changing the creature summoned by a spell allow you to distinguish yourself from others of the same class.

While every class aside from the Barbarian is technically new, you can easily see the influence of now removed classes in their design as each of the new classes seems to be something of a mixture of the older ones, the newly added Demon Hunter’s abilities resembling those of the Amazon and Assassin for example.

The mercenaries of the old game return as the Templar, Scoundrel, and Enchantress, now thankfully reviving themselves rather than costing you a potential fortune each time they die, which can be fairly often as I’m sure veterans of Diablo 2 will remember.

I should note that they are designed solely for the single player experience as the companions are unavailable when one or more players join your game, something I find unfortunate as even if his actual effectiveness is much lower than that of a player character I rather enjoy the banter the scoundrel provides. You can have one companion at a time and each companion wears different forms of equipment, which you’re able to customize along with their abilities.

The actual launch of the game has unfortunately been marred by a number of server issues which, due to the design of the game making it mandatory to be online even for the single player, is more troubling that it might have been otherwise. However, these issues are quickly clearing up, and I think that the gameplay more than makes up for a few launch day problems, most of which are a result of the massive number of people seeking to log on and play the game.

Some new features worth noting are the crafting system, a welcome addition, and a region wide Auction House with the real money auction house scheduled to open soon.

All in all I think that Diablo 3 will be a satisfying experience for players experienced wtih Diablo 2 as well as for people looking to try a Diablo game for the first time and I would recommend taking a look at the game if you haven’t already. If you’re looking to maximize your Diablo 3 experience I recommend taking a look at this Diablo 3 guide.

May 172012

Now that we’ve covered the Pandaren starting area I’d like to talk a bit about the experience starting from the Cataclysm level cap up to level 89, the limit in the current version of the MOP beta.

Where as a young monk in training we endeavored to rescue the island our people lived on, which also happened to be a turtle, here we begin a fight against a malevolent force known as the Sha, essentially evil spirits which both feed off of and generate negative emotions. Perhaps most prominent of these emotions is hatred, something which also happens to be in no short supply among the Horde and Alliance fighting over who will possess the new found land making me curious to see if this factors into the story at some point in the future.

Our battle is not solely against the Sha themselves however, but also those controlled by the Sha such as the Yaungol (Basically Tauren) and Saurok (Lizard People,) in addition to the conflict between Horde and Alliance, as well as their allies and with others such as the Hozen and Virmen. Finally, given the prominent martial arts aspects of the expansion what with the inclusion of the new Monk class, a number of quests also involve challenging yourself to become stronger with the expected amusing parodies of the genre.

As with the Pandaren starting area, the new regions are quite beautiful to look at with a number of forests, plains and mountainous regions. As far as the actual leveling experience, I particularly enjoyed the humorous tone which the vast majority of the quests take on, although this does make it a bit hard to take the actual story behind the expansion very seriously given that at least 90% or more of the dialogue and content is poking fun at itself rather than truly emphasizing the seriousness of the enemy. Of course none of this is new to World of Waracraft, but I would say that this expansion feels particularly this way.

In addition to the prominent humor, MOP gives us a few new quest types such as one in which you play the role of sniper, supporting an ally dwarf as he makes his way through enemy territory by taking out the approaching enemies from afar. MOP also brings a welcome new feature in the form of bosses that provide quest credit to any player who participates in the battle before the boss dies, rather than solely the first player or team to tap the mob. This new feature makes it much easier to get quests done in crowded zones and encourages a measure of cooperation even across factions as every player stands to gain.

Despite the fact that the beta is missing a considerable amount of content which is still under development, including key features such as the pet battle system, I would say that I’m already rather optimistic about what Pandaria has to offer.

May 162012

When I first read of Blizzard’s plans for the new World of Warcraft expansion I must admit I was a bit apprehensive about the whole thing, but after spending some time in the beta, and leveling a new Pandaren character through both the starting area and from levels 85-89, (89 being the current maximum level available in the beta) I found my opinion on the new content, class and race changed considerably.

The new regions introduced in Mists of Pandaria, both the Pandaren starting area atop what you find out is a massive, moving turtle, and the new continent for everyone level 85-90, have a refreshing visual design to them. The obvious Chinese influence in the architecture and terrain of the new continent and starting area help breathe new life into the game, providing a welcome change from what we’ve become used to in Azeroth, Outland, and Deepholm.

While admittedly not everything about the leveling experience was fluid, given that a number of quest areas simply end without further guidance in addition to some quests being outright broken, I found that the humor and innovation Blizzard employed in the quests was enough to make even someone like myself (having played since launch) enjoy himself immensely.

I’ll comment further on some of the new types of quests when I go over the my experiences from level 85-89 in depth, but to put it simply I had fun and that’s exactly what I wasn’t expecting going into the beta, being rather cynical about the concept of the Pandaren as a whole, as well as having long extinguished my interest in reaching the new level cap brought with each expansion.

To come to the point, the Pandaren starting area is basically a low level version of what you’ll be doing on the level 85-90 continent in that it involves Pandas, rodents with strange attachments to vegetables, and alcohol. Also fun.

As I mentioned above the entire starting area is in fact a gigantic moving turtle, and the primary quest chain you’ll be completing relates to your quest to rescue this turtle from death after it suffers a mysterious injury. Eventually you’ll discover that this injury is the product of a massive Alliance airship crashing into the side of the turtle, bringing with them the faction politics of the Horde and Alliance that we’ve come to know and love.

After completing a series of quests where you help both Horde and Alliance survivors before healing the Turtle of its injury to ensure the safety of your people, you’re allowed to choose which faction you wish to join. While playing the beta I was unable to use my favorite leveling guide, but once the game is fully released you’ll be able to benefit from its guidance in navigating the new content in Pandaria.

Read part 2 here: A look into Mists of Pandaria part 2