Home > Other MMOs > Sullas the Goat or Die Pandas Sind Gelandet

Sullas the Goat or Die Pandas Sind Gelandet

March 19, 2012

At a friend’s behest, I dipped back into WoW for a couple of days. I got scrolled, and I might drop a month’s sub on it to get my inductor whatever sparkle pony du jour is offered for successful pimping. I do not expect to play with the resulting month much, though.

Since I had never tried paladin healing in earnest, I boosted one and requested a holy spec. The game proceeded to fit me with a cookie-cutter holy spec instead of letting me feel important by shoving a tree’s worth of talent points in myself. It’s just as well. We would not want the returning veteran to harm himself with the safety scissors.

It also gave me holy gear. The holy gear was enough to jump in and heal the first Cata dungeon, Blackrock Caverns, but it wasn’t doing much good for questing. I’m not sure what exactly would be overpowered about giving the scroll-boosted 80 green-quality gear for all three specialisations and letting the player mix and match to taste with dual-spec, but never mind. The ret greens from the early Hyjal quests were more than up to the non-existent challenge.

Random thoughts from the perspective of a now-TOR-player:

Levelling in WoW is much faster and bloody boring. Granted, my friend graciously invited me to her max-level guild with its 10% experience gain boost, but 80-83.5 took about eight hours total, including visits to some battlegrounds, a handful of xp-inefficient dungeon runs, and general arsing around.

No, really. The ‘Hyjal for the nth time’ groan-fest has, in my mind, firmly put to rest any comparison in questing difficulty between WoW and TOR. Questing in TOR is harder. End of story. In TOR, around the 40s, if one does not pay attention and tries simply to faceroll, one can die. Even in single player areas, and certainly on ‘quest boss’ encounters. The mob groups are more densely packed than in WoW. There are no flying mounts, and speeders are much more sensitive than even WoW’s ground mounts to dismounting via damage. There is no auto-attack. Incoming damage, relatively, is much higher. TOR’s mob groups take a longer time to whittle down, and with silver-strength mobs and above, it does matter whether or not you take down the healer first.

WoW questing, to borrow Bhagpuss’s excellent comparison (to which I wish I could link directly) feels like knitting or crocheting. You put on a podcast or the Beeb radio stream, fire up a quest add-on with its arrow pointing to the next location, relax your eyes so that various urgent textual missives from frazzled night elves become pleasantly blurred and a few hours later you are two levels higher.

Speaking of add-ons: WoW’s UI, macros and add-on support are wonderful and sorely missing in TOR. I don’t use too many add-ons, but being able to set up my beloved mouse-over macros for healing, shift around the built-in raid frames just so, and set up my Power Auras to track cooldowns, buffs and spell availability for both holy and ret specs felt great. Felt like home. In general, WoW feels clearer and, I cannot avoid the cliché, more polished. I realise that this feeling is in large part due to my familiarity with WoW’s systems. I know intuitively what the abilities and secondary stats do, for example, whereas it would still take me a moment to process whether or not Saber Ward prevents elemental damage. However, WoW’s ‘getting the game to do what you want it to do’ part is still superior, and I do hope 1.2 takes a few steps to close the gap.

Speaking of urgent textual missives: I think WoW veterans have become inured to just how bad the storytelling is. We forgive the game its howlers like the final Hyjal showdown in the company of  Hamuul, Malfurion and Cenarius against Ragnaros. Or the ‘jousting for Aviana’ mini-game. WoW has set itself up cleverly as a light-hearted game, with its occasional asides to the audience, in-jokes and more corn than Iowa. It’s great at making us smile wryly and shrug at the disjointed, silly mish-mash – it’s just old WoW doing its thing, don’t be so po-faced! – but it comes at a price. Its occasional desultory groping for gravitas tends to settle at the level of a Dragon Ball Z showdown. WoW’s genuine emotional payload ended at the Wrathgate, with a death-twitch around Arthas’s demise. I have been utterly spoiled by TOR’s voice acting, decent writing, and stories that more or less hang together. I do not expect to be immersed by WoW-like questing again. Bring on the elf-blur.

At one point during the course of last night, the blur turned vaguely green. I reluctantly focused my eyes, and discovered guild chat a-twitter about the Mists of Pandaria NDA being lifted. It is difficult to get too excited, but: the pandas look good. If one cares about such things, as does my best friend for whom the design of the female pandaren model was a matter of life and death, then the expansion passes muster. It will be pleasant to dwell in, a persimmon-scented fairy tale with homicidal bunnies and (more) wise fishmen. On the other hand, it is difficult not to notice salient borrowings from other games: AoE looting, a battleground inspired by the TF2 payload mode and a battleground that seems a whole lot like Black Garden from Rift with maybe a touch of Huttball, depending on how throwable their version of the Fang of Regulos ends up. And let’s not bring up the pokemon.

The moral of this, I think, is that as of MoP it is no longer strictly correct to talk about WoW and its clones. It’s a multi-polar world. Like an old, tired alpha dog, WoW has been humbled and the AAA theme park franchises now comprise an echo chamber, feeding off each other’s ideas for good and ill.


Update: Couldn’t resist including this item:

YA’AN, China — China’s national treasure, the giant panda, will become even more precious if one businessman succeeds in using their dung to grow organic green tea he intends to sell for over $200 a cup.

An Yanshi, an entrepreneur in southwest China, grows the tea in mountainous Ya’an in Sichuan province using tonnes of excrement from panda bears living at nearby breeding centres.

The first batch of panda dung tea will be sold in lots of 50 grams that will cost some $3,500 each, a price An said makes it the world’s most expensive tea. Most people use about 3 grams of tea per cup.

And pandas make plenty of fertilizer.

“They are like a machine that is churning out organic fertilizer.” An said. “They keep eating and they keep producing feces.”

Actiblizzion metaphors practically write themselves.


Categories: Other MMOs