Three down, nine to go.
I’ve now completed the monk class story in World of Warcraft. So far, every class story has been a bit inconsistent, to varying degrees, but this is much truer of the monk campaign than the rogue or warlock stories.
The monk story starts well. It’s intense, and it gives a clear and personal reason to hate the Legion right of the gate.
The problem is that after a while it stops being a monk story and becomes simply a brewmaster story. Even as a brewmaster main, this is a bit hard to get behind. Brewmaster is fun to play, but it’s far too silly a concept to carry a full story arc. To put it mildly, I have trouble taking the game seriously when it starts borrowing philosophy from Homer Simpson.
“Brew: The cause of, and solution to, all of Azeroth’s problems.”
This is a problem Blizzard often runs into. I like WoW’s sense of humour, but when the jokes become the meat of the story, they stop being funny pretty fast.
The ending of the base storyline is short and severely underwhelming in terms of both plot and gameplay, but on the upside, the 7.2 continuation provides a much more satisfying conclusion (the same was true for warlocks). The story’s still awfully brew-centric, but there’s some clever gameplay. At one point you imbibe a particularly potent batch of Storm Brew and are able to devastate an entire cohort of demons while moving at super speed (represented by the entire game around you moving in slow motion).
The real charm of the monk campaign is found not in the meat of its story but in the peripheral features. Fu Zan and Sheilun both have excellent acquisition quests and really fascinating lore. Seriously, if you haven’t read the lore book on Sheilun yet, go do that. Just… wow.
The frequent opportunities to revisit Pandaria are also welcome, and in many ways the monk campaign does feel like a good epilogue to Mists of Pandaria, which was one of the best expansions for story, despite whatever other flaws it may have had. After all the damage we did to Pandaria, it feels good to now be standing as one of its protectors.
The monk story also brings back a number of memorable characters from Pandaria. The Monkey King, of course, is always welcome to join me when I go grookin’.
But my favourite part was being able to recruit Taran Zhu. I know Zhu bruised a lot of people’s egos, but I’ve always felt him to be a very compelling and well-written character. After all of his distrust of us, his anger, all that he lost, to have him willing to follow my banner was an incredibly gratifying moment and, to me, the perfect coda to Mists of Pandaria.
I only wish the new characters could have been as compelling. Blizzard seemed to want to add some racial diversity to the monk followers, which is understandable, but the fact they’ve never really bothered to create non-Pandaren monk characters before now meant I got saddled with a bunch of nobodies I don’t care about.
Still better than Li-Li, I guess.
The monk campaign is so all over the map it’s hard to rate. At times, it’s thrilling or profoundly powerful. At others, it’s deeply disappointing. Overall, this won’t go down as my favourite class story, but I can’t say it didn’t have its moments.