MoP Endgame: The Good, the Bad, and the Grindy

Mists of Pandaria endgame:

My warlock riding her disc of the red flying cloud mount in Kun-Lai SummitMy warlock has been 90 for a couple of weeks now, and I’ve had a chance to experience pretty much everything the Mists of Pandaria endgame has to offer —  or at least everything that appeals to me. There’s a lot to love, and a lot that just makes me wonder what they were thinking.

Dungeons:

Heroics have traditionally been both the bread and butter and the heart and soul of my endgame, so dungeons very much make or break an expansion for me.

I have to say, they really got it right this time. All of the MoP heroics are just about the perfect length, neither too long nor too short. They’re not clogged with endless reams of trash the way Cataclysm dungeons were, and they’re excellently paced.

My rogue exploring the Temple of the Jade SerpentTemple of the Jade Serpent, in particular, is an instance I would hold up as the gold standard for heroic dungeons. It’s long enough to feel substantive but not long enough to be tedious. Visually, it’s one of the best dungeons in WoW history, with gorgeous and diverse environments. The fights are well-designed and entertaining, and it has a great backstory.

The new heroics do feel just a little easy for my taste, but I’d rather they err on the side of too easy than too hard. WoW is a social game, and that means that you should be able to play with your friends even when their skills or gear aren’t quite up to snuff.

Scenarios:

Going in to MoP, I thought scenarios were something that I would love.

I was right.

Scenarios are everything I hoped they would be. Something quick, fun, and relaxing you can do whenever you have free time.

My warlock running the "A Brewing Storm" scenarioThey’re also surprisingly rewarding. While they offer less gear and valor than heroics, they also take much less time, so it seems to average out to the same amount of progress regardless of which you choose to do. This puts the choice down to what you’re in the mood for, which is a great place to be.

Raids:

Firstly, I will once again express my extreme gratitude for the Raid Finder and the fact that every single MoP raid will be accessible through it. This is one of the best things Blizzard has done, and it’s so wonderful to be able to access the most epic content regardless of your time, skill level, or willingness to enter the raiding community.

As for the content itself, I’ve only done Mogu’shan Vaults so far. I’d judge it a very middle of the road raid. I’ve seen better, and I’ve seen worse. The first couple of bosses are pretty dull, but Elegon provides nice visuals and some interesting story revelations, and Will of the Emperor is very fun and chaotic.

I’m not impressed by the new world bosses. I’m pretty sure Galleon doesn’t exist, and the one time I did Sha of Anger, it turned out to be a laggy, confused mess in which I spent most of my time running back from the graveyard.

Rep or die:

And here we come to the big controversy. In order to access valor gear or important trade recipes, you now need to participate in fairly lengthy reputation grinds with numerous factions.

One does not simply daily with Shado-panThis in and of itself would be frustrating, but on top of that, they’ve made reputation much harder to get. Tabards are gone, leaving daily quests as the only option to grind rep, and dailies now award much less reputation per quest than they used to.

Things get to a whole other level of frustration when you realize that two of the key reputations, August Celestials and Shado-pan, can’t even be accessed until you reach revered with the Golden Lotus faction.

One of the big complaints about Cataclysm’s endgame was that it boiled down to “raid or die.” Unless you raided, your options and progression were very limited. Unfortunately, Blizzard hasn’t learned from that, because now we have “rep or die.”

“But wait,” I hear you say. “You can just skip the dailies. They’re not mandatory.”

In the strictest technical sense, this is true. You don’t have to do anything in WoW if you don’t want to; it’s a game. But there are a number of issues with trying to argue that people can just skip them.

First of all, you’re losing out on a lot of pretty good gear. Yes, it’s possible to gear up and clear content without it, but pretty much everyone wants better gear. Even casuals still care about character progression, even if it’s not their main motivator. Progression is the whole point of RPGs, MMO or otherwise.

So we put some rep in your rep, so you can grind while you grind.Second, I — and others, I suspect — enjoy the process of buying valor gear. I know Blizzard is in love with RNG, but I don’t enjoy gambling with loot tables. I would much rather have a goal that I can progress towards in a clear, measurable way. That’s fun to me, and the valor grind has been the center of my endgame for as long as I’ve played.

Now Blizzard says valor was never supposed to be a main progression path. But for the last two expansions, that’s exactly what it was. So now they’re basically telling me, “Sorry, you’ve been playing the game wrong for the last three years.” It’s unfair for them to pull the rug out from under us point collectors after so long.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Blizzard never intended the dailies to be optional. In a discussion about MoP’s rep grinds on the beta forum, Greg “Ghostcrawler” Street himself said that content can’t be “too optional” or it “doesn’t count.”

Want further proof? Just look at how virtually everything in MoP gives valor, but only one thing allows you to spend it. Or the fact that the dailies also reward rep required for the new legendary chain. Or the fact that they’re the only way to get charms of good fortune.

My warlock battling the Mantid in the Dread WastesI won’t even get in to how horrible this is for alts except to say that I’m now playing only one character for the first time in my WoW career. And no, the upcoming reputation boost for alts is not a solution.

Even all this might not be so bad if the dailies themselves weren’t so boring. Golden Lotus and Klaxxi quests would have felt outdated in Burning Crusade. At least Quel’danas had bombing runs. GL and Klaxxi are nothing but kill this and collect that. Where’s the originality that went into the Molten Front?

Not to mention how small the daily areas are, forcing an ungodly amount of competition between players. I’ve given up on honour; I can and will steal your kills without mercy.

There are actually some very fun rep grinds in MoP — the Tillers and the Lorewalkers are both absolutely delightful — but in a sad irony, these do not offer significant rewards compared to the other reputations.

Lorewalker Cho telling me the tale of Emperor Shaohao in World of Warcraft: Mists of PandariaWhat it comes down to is this: you can choose not to do the dailies, but you’re only losing out by not doing so. That’s not a fun gameplay choice. It’s the same mistake that led to the phrase “raid or die”: do a particular type of content, or be penalized.

Do dailies or lose out on valor is not a choice; it’s an ultimatum.

Final thoughts:

Ultimately, Mists of Pandaria’s endgame consists of a lot of truly amazing content — some of the best in WoW’s long history — but it’s shackled by some extraordinarily bad game design, which holds it back from being truly great.

Which is pretty much the entire story of World of Warcraft. Blizzard has amazing artists, composers, writers, and content designers, but they always manage to find some stupid caveat to almost, but not quite, ruin all the hard work they put into their content.

Ultimately, I think this is why I find my eyes roaming to other games more and more. I feel tired. I’m sick of always trying to eat around the poison pill in the banquet of content that is WoW.

Battling the centaurs during a dynamic event chain in Guild Wars 2I’m too attached to the universe and mythology of Warcraft to ever seriously consider giving up for good, but I’m starting to think WoW may be destined to become a game that I only dip into for a month or two at a time to keep up on the main plots, while I spend the majority of my time playing other games.

I need to stop writing such long posts. ><

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5 thoughts on “MoP Endgame: The Good, the Bad, and the Grindy

  1. Almost got my ‘lock up to ninety and I have to say from what I have see so far, your MOP reviews have been pretty spot on. There has definitely been some great things about this expansion (and yes I was a QQ’er who didn’t want anything to do with it initially, sad but true). On the other hand, there have definitely been moments in MOP that have solidified my ongoing love hate relationship with this game.

    Some of the storyline is just ridiculous but on a whole, there is a series of great, moving story arcs that have been developed in MOP, the depth and quality of which continue to be the reason I play this game. The questing is fairly straight forward, places are (fairly) easy to get to with the exception of some poorly placed graveyards which make it monumentally annoying, not to mention time consuming, to get back to your corpse. I’ve been dealing with this nonsense since vanilla WOW and see no reason whatsoever why finding your body should be so exasperating.

    Anyway. Minor annoyances aside, I’ve never been a raider. Mainly because I have a family and the amount of time it took to gear for raids in vanilla and BC was well over what time I could spend playing, but also because up until now raid finder didn’t exist (I plan to use it this time, however).

    I will say that I agree with this: if you are going to be spending your time farming scenarios for good gear, at least make them interesting. I quite enjoyed wyrmrest accord to get my dragon reins in WOTLK and am sorry that some dailies have become boring and unimaginative. I have become the person who plays wow for content and nostalgia, cuz while I still love it, there are other other great games out there, for sure.

    • Ugh. Sorry for my bad grammar in that last post, what I meant to say in that last bit was I’m sorry bblizz can’t come up with better scenarios if they make it so their players need farm those specific scenarios for gear. Makes no sense if you want to keep your loyal players interested.

  2. The single, absolutely positive thing I would say about MoP is that the leveling experience was superb. The restriction of flying mounts brought back a sense of adventure that I haven’t felt since vanilla, and very effectively showed off the beautiful design of Pandaria.

    Regarding PVE
    I would disagree with what you said regarding heroics, but as with many things in WoW, it comes down to personal preference mired in the nostalgia of ones experiences. The tuning, and the content, of early cataclysm heroics I found to be ideal. The pandaria heroics as they existed in patch 5.1 (I have since uninstalled) are far too easy. This is supposedly offset by challenge runs, but it is still part of a larger problem with PvE that has existed since mid-WotLK. Since Trial of the Crusader, blizzard has released raids and eventually dungeons with multiple iterations the player is expected to progress through (Normal [10 or 25], Heroic [10 or 25], Challenge mode, Raid Finder etc. –compounded at the time by ToC consisting of a single bloody room). This for me has been the downward spiral of endgame, where one is forced to replay an instance multiple times each week with the difficulty knob ramped up each time around. The sense of actual progression, of unlocking a new segment of an instance that you have worked towards, is lost. This apparently is in the spirit of including more people in the content, which is understandable, but is achieved by abandoning elements of the best (albeit imperfect) epoch of raiding: BC through early WotLK. Blizzard should realize that accessible 10-man-only raids, the shining example being Karazhan, provided unprecedented access to raid content for those who were shunned in vanilla, and were also enjoyable for veterans and hardcore players, at least for a time.

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