I was absolutely stoked when I received the Beta Test invitation to Mists of Pandaria. I’ve always wanted to be a panda, and now I could be. More importantly, I could be a panda before a whole heap of other people!
I downloaded the test client, almost installed it, solved a number of installation issues through combination of Google searching and WoW forum posts. I created a character on a US server, which crashed and wouldn’t let me back in. I created a character on a Korean server which was full of spamming lunatics who were trying to make it as difficult as possible for anyone to get anything done. And then I created a character on an EU server which worked quite nicely. Not to crowded, not too crashy, just right, says Goldi-Panda.
It’s a weird experience, playing the Beta of a game. It’s obviously good enough for us to test, but it’s not quite there yet! For example, I can’t make Pandaimo tell jokes or dance. He doesn’t have a voice. There aren’t any cinematics. But it looks phenomenal.
What really impresses me with Mists is that the Pandarens aren’t aligned with the Horde or the Alliance. I’m only at level 5 at the moment, but I can see that this is going to be an extremely interesting change to the game.
So, Pandaria. Apparently, we’re floating around on the back of a giant turtle. I’m going to go for a swim soon, to see if I can confirm it. It might even be turtles all the way down…
Pandaren are cute, fluffy, round and apparently quite deadly. Even the little kiddies have beards. As in Pratchett’s Interesting Times, Pandaria is a mish-mash of a number of different asian cultures. I helped an old pandaren collect wood so that he could smash his head above it. I’ve balanced on one leg in the crane formation – and then been chased by a crane after I fell into a cursed pool and was changed into a frog.
The only thing ruining this experience, apart from the bugs, are the people. I’m not sure who’s giving out beta passes, but I think they need to use a little bit of discrimination. Quests are being run one at a time at the moment. I’m assuming we’ll eventually be able to complete a few quests at a time, but I’ve been stuck a couple of times with only one quest to complete and one major problem to overcome: idiots.
Yes, even pandas can be idiots. When I arrived in the world, I needed to talk to a wise old monk who would tell me what to do. Surrounding this wise old monk was a throng of bouncing, shuffling pandaren n00bs and trolls, yelling obscenities and coming up with the panda equivalent of Chuck Norris chat (“blizz really shouldn’t panda to these people!” “OMG, it’s panda-monium!”). To get a quest from the monk, I needed to find his wise old black-and-white form in amongst all of the dropkick black-and-white forms smothering him. It was like finding a needle… in a stack of needles. Black-and-white, furry, obscene, illiterate needles.
I did it. I found the monk, got the quest, completed a few others, and then: “Snatch this ball of flame from my hand. Climb to the top of the temple. Find the Edict of Temperance. Burn it.” Yeah, OK, old man. However, you didn’t mention the OTHER throng of stupid pandaren weirdos who, for some reason, found it incredibly amusing to stand in a pile around the edict, stopping anyone from clicking on the quest item and completing the quest. They’re still there. Every time I log in. Mountains of them on a tiny balcony not really designed for that many pandas.
What is amusing is the view of the inside of hundreds of pandas, as I tried to shift the camera view to a point where I could see the Edict to click on it:
It’s not impossible. I did it. I moved on, and got to see some wonderfully impressive examples of Pandaren architecture. The quests, for the most part, are basic WoW fare – collect this, kill that, return, repeat. There are a couple of exceptions, including playing games with a water spirit and learning to balance on a pole in the middle of a cursed lake surrounded by hungry cranes.
The fun part of playing a Beta game is finding and reporting on bugs. It reminds me of good old Vanilla WoW when I’d play with Mel and Corey and every now and then would get trapped behind something or laugh at a monster who was walking around up to the waist in solid ground. Here, I’m discovering the aesthetic joy of pink blocks. Every now and then I’ll come into a new zone, or log in, to find the buildings or chunks of landscape replaced with huge pink blocks. It’s easy to force the game to re-render the area and fix the issue, but sometimes it’s fun to walk around, or through, these huge pink cubes.
One of the great joys of starting a character in a new race is running through the emote system to see what the developers have for us. /sleep, /lol, /dance, /flirt, /train, /chicken are only a few of the emotes that can be typed in for humorous effect. Most of these aren’t in place just yet. I’ve checked. But PanDaimo does love a good snooze.
I’m really looking forward to trying some of the high-level content as the beta test progresses. At the moment, I’m simply enjoying the view, the fuzziness and the crowds of inept, annoying teenagers with nothing better to do. More soon.