On Mists of Pandaria

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Over at Ars Technica, Andrew Groen is impressed with the new World of Warcraft expansion set:

By the time a WoW player has reached Pandaria, he or she will likely have invested hundreds or even thousands of hours into that character. That's easily more time and character investment than any five Final Fantasy games played one after the other. As a result, even the most banal quest in Pandaria is going to be much more engaging because it's adding to an extended personal story.

It's difficult to know what Mists of Pandaria might be like for a new player, but I can say that it has been good fun to explore the land with a dwarf that's now over seven years old. I'm looking forward to diving further into the other zones and tackling the high level dungeons and raids once there are no more new lands to see.

Mike Fahey, at Kokatu, is much less impressed:

I've grown accustomed to a certain standard of questing over the past few months. I crave dynamic stories and spontaneous events. I want to be surprised around every corner.

Instead I'm doing the same things I've been doing on and off for nearly eight years. I am killing eight spiders. Why eight? Shut up and kill the damn spiders. Oh, and collect some objects on the ground while you're at it. Kill these wasps for their stingers. Not all of them have stingers. I don't know why, maybe they hide them.

That's not to say Pandaria's quests don't have their appeal. There are dramatic and humourous story moments around every corner. It's just that once the clever narrative is done we're back to collecting and killing by numbers. It's incredibly hard to stay motivated. I'm only now approaching level 86.

The motivation thing is real killer. I thought that one thing the new Star Wars game got right was the introduction of strong narrative. I actually wish I'd stuck with it. I left because the interface was really confusing in PvP, and I couldn't get use to a guy healing me by shooting me with a laser cannon. That was the moment the Trinity jumped the shark, and narrative started nakedly working for game mechanics instead of the other way around.

I actually really miss WoW. But I miss the old WoW 1-60. The franchise has gotten more jokey and kiddie as its aged. Or maybe as I have aged. Sometimes I wonder whether they should let the MMOs just end, instead of extending levels upward. Comic books and MMO expansions make a great case for death as a force for good in the universe.

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Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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