Mists of Pandaria NDA lifted… though some may wish it wasn’t…

Yup, it seems that the NDA embargo was lifted this morning and we all got a glut of information on the new World of Warcraft expansion.

Including spoilers, which I will discuss after the break.

On the surface, Mists of Pandaria looks to be a natural conclusion for the animosity between the Horde and Alliance – with things set to escalate before everyone can hold hands and sing their Kumbayas. The cross-faction division with the new Pandaren is important in this mechanic, as they are essentially Yin and Yang in the grand scheme of things. One values action over words, the other words over action, and both are required for their society to work.

It is a quite clever, albeit transparent, method of finally uniting the world of Azeroth. Although that brings with it far greater issues, and it doesn’t seem like it will tie off all the loose ends; the animosity between the Stormwind Humans and the Lorderon Forsaken doesn’t sound like it will be addressed. And the deep divisions in the Tauren don’t appear to have any significance either. It is details like this in a lore-heavy MMORPG that people dedicate hundreds of hours to a year that are important to cap off.

Most of the mechanics changes appear to be good – for alters, the journey to get everything from pets and mounts to achievements account-wide will amount to a lot of goodwill, as people can work on the same set of achievements regardless of who and what they play as. The new PvP mechanics seem sound and the new Looking for Raid loot arrangements – whilst needing work – look to be a natural and logical conclusion to the raid environment.

But all of this may have been for naught, as Blizzard decided – in typically brash fashion – to spoiler the whole ending of Mists of Pandaria. That’s right, they spoiler-ified themselves before the game has even hit the beta.

More on this after the jump.

—SPOILERS BELOW THIS LINE—

Now, I am all for predictability. When it’s the journey rather than the destination you don’t always need to rely on cheap shock tactics to get things done.

That said, part of the intrigue that surrounded Mists of Pandaria was down to the relative unknowable quantity of how they’d end it. In a war between the Horde and Alliance, which is the greater evil?

It would appear that was answered – Garrosh goes evil.

It’s unlikely Wrynn will escape with his life – that much is certain and we are already aware that Varian Wrynn will suffer a life-changing event. This is likely to make him a very serious target for the pre-Garrosh raid, one evil down with one to go.

But Varian Wrynn is still an quantifiable unknown – his probable downfall is yet to be detailed. Garrosh, however, has been revealed right away.

Perhaps it is not of great surprise that a green-skinned Garrosh texture has been in the game files for a long time (Since midway through Wrath), so the intention has been there for considerably longer than the Mists of Pandaria concept. But Blizzard probably had cause to be hesitant – the initial rumoured ideas involved alternate timelines being governed by the Infinite Dragonflight; which itself has been neatly tied off in Cataclysm.

And yet here they are, with the perfect timing and cause and most importantly, the right reasoning. In a war between the Alliance and Horde, the two sides would naturally seek weapons to use against each other – whatever it takes. Wrynn is perhaps the unlucky one, he is likely to change against his will lore-wise. Garrosh, on the other hand, will have had a choice, and will conclude that allegiances with demons are part of the Old Horde ways he cannot escape.

Except, the Horde have sworn to never return to those dark days. And with Garrosh succumbing to the temptations of that kind of power, both the Horde and Alliance must set aside their differences for the greater good, to stop Garrosh unleashing another terrible event like the Sundering in Outland.

It is here that we may finally see cross-faction communication, indeed – possibly cross-faction raids. There has finally come a point where both sides must work together, instead of fighting, knowing that it is required to spare their world a similar fate to the one that befell the homeworld of the Orcs and Draenai.

This kind of cross-faction, greater-good philosophy has implications of its own too. Sylvanas has gotten away with much; many have voiced their opposition to her ways. And yet she stands still, hidden in the bowels of Undercity. Will we soon see her wicked intentions stopped? And what of the Grimtotems, the Dark Iron dwarves; will we finally see the peoples of the world unite against the threats that have long divided them?

It is interesting, but the War in Warcraft is set to change radically during the course of Mists of Pandaria. Now we are seeing a greater play by Blizzard to level things out, if they cannot address server imbalances by forcing people to new servers then perhaps they can use this lore to their advantage, and unify the two sides to erase those faction imbalances.

Mists of Pandaria is certainly going to be one to watch, as it is set to radically change the future of the game. With more unified player accounts, server imbalances being addressed and a greater emphasis on the road to war and eventually peace, perhaps this is a sign that the series has begun to reach its climax.

Or perhaps its a necessary design to ensure the future of the series. Either way, it’s certainly going to be interesting to see what happens. And I, for one, am looking forward to seeing if Blizzard can learn from their past mistakes.

And use that knowledge, like the Horde and Alliance, for a better tomorrow.

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