I’ve had beta for a little over a week, but the tough thing to remember is that I was on vacation, and away from my computers for a few days — so the extent of my testing has been pretty slim. I did get a chance to level a Pandaren Monk to 12 on Alliance side, and ran through the majority of the quests in the Jade Forest with my Hunter, and completed the Temple of the Jade Serpent (the first dungeon).
So, knowing I’ve gone through all of that, what’s my take? There’s lots of work to do. The level cap is currently 86, pet battles aren’t implemented yet, pet specs aren’t yet ironed out, and things are buggy. Really really buggy. I logged in today to a whole bunch of giant pink blocks until I turned down my graphics settings.
I will say that the questing through the Jade Forest is well thought out and pretty fun. All of the quests have a very Asian feel to them, and give some emphasis into the spirituality of why we’re in that area to begin with. I won’t spoil the stories, but just know you do have some great stories to look forward to.
The Temple of the Jade Serpent is also really buggy. The first time I ran through it, the first boss bugged out, and I had to leave the instance. The second time I ran it, I didn’t have any issue. I’m going to refrain from talking strategy yet because, after all, it is beta.
The low level Pandaren area is well thought out, and has a good flow to the questing. Unfortunately Blizzard still hasn’t graduated from the “everyone has to go click this one item that only spawns here” mentality. (We all remember the stupid clam in Cataclysm, don’t we?) The stories are fun with exploration and wonder up to the point where you choose between helping the Alliance or the Horde — which will ultimately set up the latter plot lines in MoP.
Here’s my more detailed take on things:
- The graphic models are amazing. I can’t say enough about how beautiful and clean the environment looks. The level of detail in the Asian artwork, and the level of detail is breathtaking. When you get logged in, take some time to just look at all the work that the texture artists did.
- It’s good that there are no add-ons for beta yet. It lets testers really focus on the content and the overall game play instead of how much DPS or HPS they’re doing. I can’t honestly tell you what is going to be the best spec just yet — or even what the optimized rotation will look like — it’s just too early, and I can’t even get to 90 at this point in the game.
- The opening quest chains are great. I thoroughly enjoyed running through them. I will say that as beta gets more and more populated, we’ll hopefully show Blizzard that the “everyone has to go find this one thing that only spawns one place, and can only be used by one person at a time” is a bad model — it makes for a very frustrating experience. I have not played through to the Horde side, but it’s my intention to do that well before beta is over.
- For a 5-man dungeon at the beginning of an expansion, I think the Temple of the Jade Serpent is well tuned for levels 85-86. There are upgrades from normal mode Deathwing there, so don’t get terribly attached to your purples from Dragon Soul. The mechanics have been used before in some manner or another, but have been paired in each boss encounter slightly differently. I had fun, and I think the Heroic Challenge modes will really make these instances even more challenging for the players who are looking for the bigger challenge.
Largely I think Blizzard has prepared very well for this expansion. For now, and knowing what stage of beta we’re in, I don’t see any glaring flaws in what their goal is. I’m really looking forward to playing through the next few zones and eventually getting to 90. I’m very excited for the pet battles to be implemented, and really hope that comes next.
So, for those of you in Beta, what’s your take on what you’ve seen so far?
(As a side note, I’m tired of WordPress not implementing social media commenting, so I’ve swapped comment systems for now. It will let you comment via twitter, Facebook, openID, and others. Check out Livefyre.com for more information)