World Of Warcraft's Age Is Starting To Show With Mists Of Pandaria

This morning, I got up early and sat down to a freshly patched World of Warcraft to play a brand-new Pandaren. I still don't love the WoW art style — I never have, it's just personal preference really — but even I had to admit that the vivid blue streak in my panda's pigtails was kind of cute. And if I didn't love the way she ran, well, at least I could get used to it, and the vivid colours of the vistas she merrily stabbed her way through were worth appreciating. The experience started out smoothly, if a little on the slow side.

About half an hour in, I made my first mistake: I tried to throw a dagger while running toward my target. Red error message text popped up across the top of my screen, helpfully reminding me that I couldn't cast while moving. I stopped dead in my tracks and threw my dagger once again, hoping that my target would then run to me, and waited patiently for it to lope within range of my other combat arts.

My second mistake was trying to dodge the kicks from the ghost of a Pandaren monk. I ran around, looking like a fool dodging for position, but there's no way to avoid the attack of a mob that has targeted you. I couldn't tuck, dodge or roll. Once again, I couldn't attack while in motion.

My third mistake was hovering over new weapons and armour in my inventory and in the character screen, desperately willing them to show me tooltips comparing the stats of my currently equipped gear with the newly-acquired gear in my bags. Alas, none appeared.

After an hour of play and a helpful cup of coffee, I finally realised that all the silly mistakes I kept making, all the ways I kept anticipating the game would behave, were because I've been playing Guild Wars 2 for a month, and other, newer MMORPGs like The Secret World before that.

World of Warcraft, alas, doesn't behave like Guild Wars 2; it behaves exactly like World of Warcraft. Had I not been playing at the slow hour of 7:45 a.m., I no doubt would have made an ass of myself by stealing someone else's kill, item, or node without meaning to. I would have been a jerk not from malice, but from a lack of habit. Newer games have taught me not to wait my turn, but to dive right in and help.

The general feeling I have picked up from my first, brief, newbie foray into Mists of Pandaria this morning is that even in its newest content, World of Warcraft remains a product of its time — a time that now feels archaic. WoW itself did not invent the MMORPG, but when it launched in 2004 it refined the genre in such a way that it became a juggernaut, an unstoppable snowball of popularity. In the years since, every new MMORPG has faced accusations at one time or another of being a "WoW clone".

For a player who never really had a World of Warcraft heyday, though, the little ways in which the genre and industry have moved along and evolved in the last eight years highlight how hollow that accusation rings. The static combat of the WoW era has been replaced with more dynamic, fluid motion in newer games.

Isolated, clannish ways of moving through the world as quickly as possible have shifted into a more participatory sense of space in GW2. A hundred players could stand together on the Wandering Isle of Pandaria, and yet each of us is concerned only with the bubble of our own quest log. If I pay attention to other players at all, it is because they are a hindrance; the game provides no real mechanism through which we can help each other, at least not in the low levels.

I can travel off the beaten path in Pandaria if I want, but there is no real reason to do so. I will find no vista points to show off the lavishly-constructed views; I will find no collectible nuggets of lore buried beneath the leaves. Falling off the road doesn't tumble me into a new and exciting adventure here; it just means I need to find a way back up to the road while having irritating monkeys nip at my heels.

After a month in Guild Wars 2, Mists of Pandaria feels like a time machine that shows me how far the MMORPG has really come — and how far back the innovations World of Warcraft once boasted now stand. The king of all online games is getting old enough that it could really stand to take a cue or two from its upstart younger siblings.


    I know that feeling. Having spent about 4 hours playing GW2 before jumping into Mists, I had to keep stopping myself from running over to help other players in combat. I had to keep telling myself that I wouldn't be getting any experience or loot for doing so and it wouldn't count towards my quest objectives. I also found myself trying to dodge a few attacks.

    Still, I have to disagree with some of this article. WoW doesn't have the action combat of GW2, but the combat it does have is one of the smoothest of any MMO I've ever played. Also, there are little things you'll find if you go off the path, it's just that unlike GW2 there's not a giant arrow pointing to the areas you should go to that are off the path.

      This, at least in relation to the combat. GW2 has absolutely nailed it in terms of creating an interactive, free-flowing world that encourages player interaction, but WoW still has one of the best combat systems in the genre.

      If an MMO could come out that combines the two together, that would be an instant-buy for me.

    Yeah but it's Warcraft ... It stands the test of time because its familiar and as mmo'ers we can be quite lazy when it comes to a new mmo. But hey I love wow and love every bit about from its art style to its story and lore...the Warcraft franchise has been around longer than most other game franchises to date and that's why there is still over 10 million people still playing it... It's a known quantity and spans into far more than just a game franchise unlike the new ones :-) my opinion anyways :-)

      Personally WoW is a Entry Level MMO now, its where most people get their 1st experiences into the MMO world. I personally Love GW2 more than WoW since then i quit WoW it was way to easy to do things and the ideas they have had either were already done in their own game or was added by a mod.

      WoW is still a great game, just have grown away from it. and Warcraft will always be Warcraft, if they make a 'Warcraft IV' (new version of Warcraft3) i have no doubt that it will sell millions & millions of copies just due to the name. Blizzard know how to get people into their games

      9 million

        I think its back up to 10 million now as when I tried to log onto my server last night it took nearly 3 hours so I am positive 1 million people have come back to just my server alone.

    Yeah, how about no. Everybody complains that this or that new MMO is just WoW with a different paint job so why bother. Why would you want to ruin having several different styles of MMO by making WoW change in to one of the newer ones and recreate the same problem over again. I'd rather be able to swap in and out of MMOs and be able to get a different experience from each to keep it interesting.

    "the game provides no real mechanism through which we can help each other, at least not in the low levels."
    I would think that the dungeons are a good example of players assisting each other in getting loot and killing enemies...yes, the main landscape is an isolated series of quests (unless you pair up with a guildie/random player), but at the same time it's that sense of self that makes it fun. You don't have to rely on other players, you don't have to rely on can do the quests all by yourself. Well, aside from a few assisted quests, but I haven't seen those since Wrath.

    As for the combat system, yes, it's a bit old in comparison to other, newer RPGs out there...which is why people keep on coming back to WoW. It's what they know. Leaving that comfort zone is difficult unless there is a plethora of people following you to the newer RPG.

      I couldn't disagree with you more about the combat system. If that were the case then Rift and SWTOR wouldn't have taken such massive dives in player populations once end-game was reached. This style of combat just isn't very fun or satisfying on it's own. You always have to augment it with something else. Rift had a huge, new world to explore. SWTOR had an awesome narrative. Both those things expired once end-game was reached and all that remained was the combat.
      Then you've got Warcraft which augments it with community. At a glance it's a bunch of trolls but it goes waaay deeper than that. There's competition and creativity within the community both in-game and out, as well as an established history most players had some part in. It's fun to score Xk DPS because there's a proper spirit of competition most near launch MMOs lack. Thanks to the community being good at your job in Warcraft is way more rewarding than being good at your job in Star Wars.
      World of Warcraft gets away with a terribly disconnected and bland combat system where every other modern MMORPG that uses it falls flat on it's face because there's always like-minded people to play with. Ultimately I think that's why people come back to Warcraft.

    The item comparison thing does exist in WoW, you need to press shift while you hover over the item and it will compare the stats for you.

    I do agree that blizzard should get their act together and release a new MMO some time before I die.

    I have played most of the other MMO's that have come out and while fun they usually don't have enough content to keep me interested past the initial free month and all the ones I have tried have felt clunky.

      Blizzard have been working on a new style MMO for years. There was a forum moderator/developer that was 'relocated' to work on a new Blizzard project several years ago, he said this in his final post. A lot of the speculation was a starcraft style MMO however I'm unsure how legitimate that is. I believe the project is called 'Titan'.

    Starting to show? Mate you must be blind.

    I think a good solution for this would be to bring content across game builds, i.e. An MMO or RPG allowing you to import your character from a previous version. I love how Borderlands 2 recognised my BL1 saved game and gave me a few bonuses, but I am talking really continuing that experience. Bring out World of Warcraft 2, on an updated engine, but don't leave fans that have spent weeks of character building, out in the cold...

      Weeks? Haha, try years. >.>

        Haha yeah.. Since vanilla for me!!! Understandably put way to much time into wow to then ditch it for something else.... I'm sure I'm not the only one who thinks this way...

          What would you be losing, Jacob? Your character and account and the priveleges which accompany these (like access to dungeons/content, elevated statistics compared to fellow players, achievement score etc) would certainly not be available to you if you were to start playing another MMO right now, but... that's it. You'd have a whole new world, a new set of mechanics, a new experience just waiting.

          What is important to you about World of Warcraft? Is it your avatar and the statistics attached, or the accomplishments you've achieved? The latter won't dissolve into irrelevance just because the former does, I think.

            Yeah I get what your saying... I do or have played other mmo's but have always come back to wow... I think like I was saying before in my first post is that it's familiar... Warcraft : orcs and humans was one of the first games I ever played seriously as a kid so for me I have somewhat grown up with Warcraft. I love the lore and the history of the franchise , I've read the books including the Warcraft 3 manual which gave a lot of history on the world...I think a lot of people would probably feel the same as I do with this... I first hated wow because it went to mmo and wasn't rts but the narrative drives it for me... I don't particularly care for how many achievements I have unlocked or gear I have I only pursue it more for the narrative that follows... For me once the story is complete I can move on but whilst they add extra chapters I will continue on... I'm sure this makes me sound ridiculously addicted to wow but oh well :-) I guess I am :-) although I'm not narrow minded mmo player.. I loved city of heroes and I am playing through gw2 also. Obviously not as quickly as others though :-p

      I suppose that is what Blizzard have done... They let you import your WoW: Cataclysm character and account into your WoW: Pandaria game.

      That said, Mass Effect's narrative import has been one of the coolest game design features in modern gaming for me, personally. Even more powerful than bringing your own actor across is bringing your own WORLD across! Would perhaps not work so well in an MMO, however.

      There's also an inherent assumption which you've made by claiming that older players are 'left out in the cold' when a new title comes out, and that is that time spent playing games is transient and inherently valueless, which I disagree with! I think you'll find that if someone's played WoW for years, and GW2 (or whatever) lands, they're able to bring their friends or guild, their contextual knowledge of the genre, and their skills across without much difficulty :)

        "that time spent playing games is transient and inherently valueless" Woah, woah, woah... Don't read me wrong, I wouldn't spend a ridiculous amount of time on this website if I felt that way. I was leaning towards a more positive approach, such as how amazing it would be to still have a character I have grown over three or four generations of games in a series.

    this dude probs never raided a serious day in his life

      So, uh... A) why is the author's raiding experience relevant at all? Is this ad hominem or something? and B) Author's name is Kate Cox, which suggests that "dude" may not be correctly used here...

    This 'article' epitomises everything that is wrong with Kotaku. I'd even say it epitomises everything that is wrong with gamers in general.
    "This game doesn't play like my other favourite game. Make it more like my other favourite game!"

      Not to mention flat out wrong: "I will find no collectible nuggets of lore buried beneath the leaves." Womp womp.

      That's a shallow way of reading the article. Looked at a little more broadly, Kate's experience with WoW contrasted with GW2 shows how game design has evolved, how the nature of player interactions have changed, and how even with a new release, WoW is still WoW. It's an observation on the state of the art, not a complaint.

      Though I do have to agree with you, Booka, regarding Kate's comment about not finding Lore in WoW. There's so much more to WoW's world than GW2's one.

        Given that WoW is not the same game it was at release, I'm not sure how relevant her point really is.

          I agree. WoW has blatantly copied pretty much every useful innovation (aoe looting, glowing quest items, smaller raid sizes) "from its upstart younger siblings".
          Sure, it doesn't have GW2's rolling system (a system which I'd debate the usefulness of anyway), or the ability to easily group/quest with others (another system I'd debate the benefits of - even less reason to interact with people, yay!)

          It's absolutely not. And what I think she's trying to get at is that for all the changing and evolving and advancing that WoW has done, which is incredibly significant, it's still hamstrung by a lot of design decisions made in (or pre-) 2004.

          Personally, WoW's advancement in terms of both design (especially dungeon/raid level and mechanical design) and technology (especially phasing) has been utterly amazing to see. I don't know many other games which have changed so much, so effectively. But despite all this, a lot of the newer design choices made by other studios have really begun to outstrip WoW's structure, and there may not be much Blizzard can do about it. And that's okay! It's a good thing, even. World of Warcraft's decline as THE persistent multiplayer game means we'll see more experimentation, and thus more improvement, and thus better/more fun/more engrossing games. It's a future I'm excited to observe.

          Rambling aside, that's the sort of thing I think Kate was getting at by way of primary observation and comparison between WoW and GW2.

            Yeah, but therein lies the rub. She wants WoW (or i guess it's successort) to pickup all the (subjectively) 'good' things from this game... leading to a whole bunch of MMOs that are the same thing all over again. Keep them different (for a given value of difference, of course).

              Thinking WoW doesn't steal/integrate new/other peoples' ideas over time is pretty naive. The major features of any patch between Vanilla and Cataclysm (after, I dunno, I stopped playing) were mostly just incorporating and making 'official' the more popular UI mods.

      Another way of looking at the title is " Popular game, played religiously by fans is aging poorly and struggling to keep up with other games of the same genre but fans will play it regardless" World Warcraft has aged badly against itself which is the fairest comparison. It has become mind numbingly easy and content quality os down with the best raid release for catalcysm (Firelands) having a reused boss and it's final raid content (Dragon Soul) featuring no new boss models and a rather poor ending. Don't compare Wow to new mmo's compare it to BC or Wrath where it falls far short. BC (Illidan), Wrath (LK), Cataclysm (Deathwing) and now MoP (Pandas/Garosh)

      It's not a request to make World of Warcraft into Guild Wars 2. Guild Wars 2 is just the go to example of how modern MMORPG's approach things. There are so many core features of World of Warcraft that were standard 10 years ago but are massively dated today. Many parts of World of Warcraft are based on the hardcore treadmill loot grind games even Warcraft was trying to move away from.

    i hate how i cant glide in half life but i can in batman arkham city

    I agree with the premise, but not with your argument. The biggest standout for me has been a few of the quests in the Jade Forest that create a bottleneck where there's too many people trying to do the same thing at the same time. GW2 avoids this issue entirely with the way group quests are structured, and in this respect I think WoW does show its age for lacking design insights like this.

      in both lich king and cataclysm they had 2 starting zones, this helped split people up more so they werent all in the same place, pandaria only has the jade forest so everyone gets sent to the same place, while its really too late to fix this blizzard should hopefully change this for futre expansions. The mad rush to get into pandaria should also die down after a couple of weeks

        It can only be solved right at design inception by having, from the ground up, a number of different zones. One way to do this would be to separate it by class, or by some story element you choose when making a new character (see GW2's approach here, but for quests instead of spawn zone).

    Your arguments are fair but the thing I noticed when I came back to WoW last night is that the story is still light years ahead of GW2 (Which I have been playing for the last month). That is the biggest thing. I like that they added group looting to WoW and the mechanics can be a little dated but the story in GW2 is really shallow. I have found myself bored after only a couple of weeks. This is where WoW shines brightest.

    Also, if you press shift while hovering over the new items in your bag it does show the stat difference compared to what you have equipped.

    I for one love the art style in WoW, so colourful, but that's just me.
    The combat system is... Simple. It does still work though, so I wouldn't see any reason for them to change it, besides, I still jump around like an idiot.
    You may not be able to jump in and help people for your own benefit, though to be honest, I still like the way it's set up. There are plenty of opportunities to help people (dungeons, raids, pvp and even just partying while questing). The good thing is, you're not forced to do it, so far every quest can be completed alone. I want to be able to finish a quest on my own, I don't want to wait around for someone else to come along.
    Despite being the same genre, WoW and GW2 are not the same game. I wouldn't want to see them become too similar. Stick with the one you prefer, don't try and make one into the other.

    In two years the next WoW MMO will be released, on the tenth anniversary of this WoW.
    We will buy millions of copies, play for years on end, all the while complaining how crap and disappointing the game is.

      Yeah, they have 1 more expansion planned before Titan, but don't be surprised if they just... keep... going...

        Plus Blizzard are working on a new MMO. . . which they deny and wont say anything about.

    Stat comparisons between gear pieces has existed in WoW for a long time... All you do is hold shift. As for attacking while moving, the only attacks that can't be used are most casted or channeled abilities.

    Blizzard cant win can they? If they change something people bitch, if they keep it the same people bitch. For every person who thinks WoW is archaic theres another person who would be happy rolling the whole thing back to vanilla. The reason we dont see this problem in other games is because none of them last as long as WoW (with a couple of exceptions).

    I notice that this article carefully contrasts the things that GW2 is good at and WoW pays very little attention to (ie. questing and exploration) and then completely ignores the things WoW is good at and GW2 pays very little attention to (ie. instances, endgame content, raids, combat).

    Sure, GW2 is a lot better in the questing and exploration department - because apart from PVP that's the entire game.

    If I was to say "GW2 seems like a dated MMO, there is no endgame to speak of just a bunch of running around and recycled lore ideas" you would probably be mad right?

    So why write an entire article making the same assumption about WoW?
    Because GW2 is new and hot and WoW is an easy target since most people who quit are old and biiter?

    Yea that's what I thought.

      You're the one who sounds butthurt buddy. Other than that you have a point. I guess the OP just likes the exploration and questing more than end-game raiding. In her case GW2 is the more suitable game.

    Haven't played GW2 yet so I can't comment on that specifically, but personally I quite like WoWs dumbed down combat mechanics (from a movement perspective). While I can't comment on GW2, I did play Age of Conan for a while which did allow you to dodge etc and while it worked for PvE combat, PvP turned into a spastic stream of circle staffing and the occasional collision of swords. It was basically jousting. Unless the levels were really unbalanced, it was too easy to just run away and too difficult to kill someone if one party decided they couldn't win and would retreat.

    Maybe GW2 has fixed that if it allows free movement....I don't know, but in my past experience WoWs scheme was fine for what it was. Given the pace of casting and pings we get in Australia, I think I'd rather hits be determined by a roll dice than my aim given I'll have to wait a few seconds to recast if I missed a moving target anyway.

    I played WOW since its release back in 2004 and have purchased every expansion at a midnight launch... Until now MoP just doesn't interest me, "Im like fuck pandas they look shit" and the last expansion was boring as hell.

    I thought id pretty much never play a MMO again, then GW2 came along a fresh take on MMO and I like it. If anyone is actually retarded enough to compare the popularity of WoW to GW2 when WoW came out 8 years ago, then I hate you.

    Pfft, 'mists of pandaria'. I'm hanging out for 'Fog of Wombatria'

    I played WoW for 7 years and was a fairly intensive raider for most of that time. I will not be buying MoP. The game is stupidly easy until you get to the later hard modes where all of a sudden its an exercise on how good 9 other peoples comprehension and net connection is.

    Raid finder mode, even normal mode is a joke, and I don't see how after 9 months of not playing the game, people I know were still raiding content I had burned out on in December LAST YEAR... It will be fun for a while, then go back to don't stand in this circle, save your cd for burst phase, collect loot every night do the same bosses.

    "World Of Warcraft’s Age Is Starting To Show With Mists Of Pandaria" it took you 4 years to say that?

    This is probably the most ignorant review I have ever read.

    Want to compare item stats? Hold shift. Want to view vistas? Climb a mountain.

    I'm sorry but do you ever look at Counter Strike and say 'gee I wish there were sentry guns and nuclear missiles', just because Call of Duty has them? No, you play Counter Strike because it is -not- Call of Duty and if you wanted to play Call of Duty then you would.

    Making all of these comparisons and saying that WoW should change to be more like GW2 is just so incredibly ignorant I can't even believe this article was allowed to be posted on the internet. Not to mention that you obviously didn't play for more than an hour to not know that if you hold shift over an item you will see a stat-comparison. It's like saying 'Oh yeah, I logged into the start of a team death match game of BF3, noticed that I didn't have any ways of customizing my gun so this game sucks. Also I want nuclear missiles, like COD. Get more nuclear missiles, BF3.'

    At least LEARN about the game you're playing before you make such ignorant blanket statements like this entire review.

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