As every WoW player knows, the game can be divided into different parts and for some people, the game only really 'begins' when you hit level 80, when you start doing high level dungeons, raids and garner epic gear.
Furthermore, it is likely that I will be writing a third part review to assess the post-level 90 gameplay - a task which, when you have a full time job, takes some time to reach.
With the new expansion, the character level cap has been raised from level 85 to 90 and unless you are among the perennially unemployed, it can take 24 hours of solid playing just to move up a level in the higher echelons of the game.
As a player with a few level 85 characters, adorned with purple PvP gear, I was waiting for the new cap to kick in and move out of Kalimdor and into Pandaria for the new zones.
Good Things Come to Those Who Wait
After tying up some loose ends in my quest lines across one of the other continents, I, like most active players, went back to Horde City Orgrimmar to leap into new quest chains that lead you back into the continent of Pandaria, which you haven't since level 10. In gaming years, that can feel like a century away.
As per my part I review, the new Pandaria content was sublime and unique but the downside was that it felt like there wasn't enough of the new content.
In less than a few hours, you were transported back to the relevant faction cities and for some players familiarity breeds contempt.
However, it was clear that good things come to those who wait and Blizzard developers clearly wanted to whet our appetite early on, in order to keep us playing until at least 85 when the deluge of new content begins.
For leveling your character between levels 85 to 90, you are able to skip older stomping grounds and head straight to Pandaria where a wealth of new quests, races, characters and cinematic reels await.
From the outset, the love and care that has gone into the cinematic reels is prolific and evident. Coupled with this, the new worlds and questlines are substantially different to what has been encountered before.
Unique Quest Lines
Alongside the new lore and characterisations that have accompanied new content, quests are not merely replicated from previous expansion packs and are more closely attuned to new gameplay.
While the underlying core gameplay follows the MMPORG grinding technique of mobs, developers have been careful to rack it up a notch and develop new incentives and types of strategy.
From sniper FPS sequences, to mob killing that requires a different tact, completing quests are not identical to Cataclysm, nor are they similar to Wrath of the Lich King.
For instance, quests are spliced with dramatic and high quality cinematic reels. There has also been a wide inclusion of new ways to complete quests, including from an FPS viewpoint where your character has to complete a sniper mission from a hill.
Even when it comes to levelling up professions some changes have been made to vary up the gameplay. For example, skinning is not exclusive to beasts any longer and certain panther style mobs turn to rock, meaning high level mining is required, rather than the subsequent profession.
Enemies and bosses are also brand new and it is refreshing to experience diverse and unique visuals that step firmly away from another realm of destruction and lava that players were bombarded with through Burning Crusade, Wrath of the Lich King and Cataclysm expansions.
One of the notable and aesthetically pleasing aspects to new WoW gameplay is the account level crossovers, which allows you to rack up achievement points, level battle pets, use mounts and send gold to another one of your characters swiftly.
From my Pandaren character, I am able to level up my battle pets on my post level 85 death knight toon, as well as utilise the tortoise mount I garnered when I reached level 20 on my Pandaren.
Sending gold between account characters has also become instant, instead of at least an hour delay, and battle pet levelling is interchangeable between any toons. It also has given players incentives to play across all their characters and not just the newly rolled character from the expansion.
As with all new games, there are a number of bugs that become evident along the way.
For example, in the level 85-86 quest line, quest completion on "Guerillas in our Midst" is thwarted by a bug unattaching General Nazgrim to your toon and thus rendering it difficult to carry on with the chain.
However, logging in and out of the game seems to rectifies the situation, which is rather cumbersome. Also, a number of mobs 'evade' quite regularly and despite having an optimal gaming machine, the graphics don't seem to catch up with the speech of the NPCs.
When submitting a ticket to in-game 'gamesmasters,' the average waiting time was over 5 days for looking at a 'bug ticket,' which may indicate the level of technical issues gamers were facing.
Despite this, there is good news that the bugs will be rectified shortly as Blizzard is preparing to launch the first patch for Mists of Pandaria.
The new patch will be a major update to add new content and fix some of the bugs mentioned, as well as add new underground fighting rings to the game, and will allow players to upgrade their gear with accumulated Valor points, which will be featured in Part III review of the game.
Other patch changes include enhancements for PvP players, where underground fighting rings will be available in the key faction cities of Orgrimmar and Stormwind, which will allow some of the more hardcore players to compete and get their names on a global leaderboard.