The Quests: The text is funny, the voice acting superb (for the most part), and there are just enough cutscenes to look epic without being overpowering (i.e. make you feel you are playing too much or too little). I also like that phasing for completing quests makes you feel like you’re doing something. Once you’ve killed off those enemies and reclaimed your supplies, the phasing shifts to a place where you can see the rewards of your efforts.
The Scenery: Thus far, every square inch of Pandaria I have seen is absolutely gorgeous. Everything is so pristine and tranquil. It really makes the alliance/horde influence stand out, and not in a good way. I actually feel guilty sometimes for what “we” are bringing to this once-peaceful land.
The Story: I feel like I am an active part of the story, and not just some errand boy masquerading as a hero/adventurer. When I’m killing things, it’s because they need to die. When I’m gathering things, I feel like those things need to be found. The story is quite nice, I’m always interested to find out more. I feel like, though I’m a part of the story, it’s not about me. I’ll play a part of something much, much bigger than myself. I find that exciting.
What’s NOT Good:
The Complexity: Despite all the claims of “dumbing-down” the game, some parts of it – cooking springs immediately to mind – have become needlessly complex for no apparent reason. Tracking a half-dozen mini-professions within a profession has been a hassle and a half. I may get used to it in time, but I still see no reason for it.
The Pacing: Despite making and seeing changes at the micro-level (see my comments about phasing above), at the macro level I feel like I am spinning my wheels. I’ll log in and play 4-5 hours at a stretch of nose-to-the-grindstone leveling and come out with 60% of a level accomplished. No doubt, with time and familiarity I will be able to bring that down a bit, but it still feels needlessly grindy. It’s disheartening to spend 4 hours questing and you have neither gained a level nor left the zone. That is to say, there’s no external reminder that you’re making progress. No dings, no zone transitions, just quest hub after quest hub and an experience bar that trickles towards full at an agonizingly slow rate.
The Changes for Change’s Sake: So many of the changes (class overhauls, cross-realm zones) seem like they were changed just so Blizz could tinker with crap. Classes were fine before. They needed a scalpel, not a hatchet. And for a feature that has supposed to be a boon to levelers, cross-realm zones have introduced a large amount of competition, griefing, and undesirable complications to leveling where there were none before. Perhaps I could forgive so many resources going to fix problems that didn’t exist if everything else was perfect, but promised content got dropped (launch event, for example), ongoing projects got shelved (cross-server heirloom transfers, for example), and the live release had an extraordinary amount of bugs at launch (many of which have yet to be addressed, much less fixed). I have to say that I (and many others I’ve spoken to) would have been much happier if the design team had finished up some of those quality of life changes instead of revamping every single class, their mechanics, and the talent and glyph systems.
Overall it was a solid, even if not good expansion. How it stacks up compared to others remains to be seen. The bottom line, though, is that I’m not entirely convinced that I’ll buy MOP for my 2nd account, and had this been my first wow expansion, I probably wouldn’t have stuck around for a second. At the end of the day, even the fun parts felt a little grindy and grinds aren’t worthwhile enough to be self-sustaining. We’ll see where it goes from here.