Mists Of Pandaria brings with it a new level cap, a host of gameplay additions and everyone's favorite race of Asiatic, boozy bears.
Announced during the currently ongoing BlizzCon 2011 gathering in Anaheim, California, the Mists of Pandaria expansion pack adds both a new race (the aforementioned Pandaren) as well as a new class (the martial arts-themed Monk) to World of Warcraft.
What's a Pandaren, you ask? Originally, the Pandaren started as something of a gag character. Prior to the release of WarCraft 3, Blizzard issued an April Fool's Day joke claiming the Pandaren would be the game's fifth playable race. Likewise, in 2005, the company announced that "Pandaren Xpress," an in-game food delivery service, would be opening in World of Warcraft. Again, this was an April Fools' Day gag.
Surprisingly, the fan reaction to these jokes was incredibly positive. Even when the deception was revealed, fans held out (very vocal) hope that Blizzard would somehow incorporate the kung fu-themed, anthropomorphic pandas into World of Warcraft. With Mists of Pandaria, Blizzard, always willing to capitalize on fan affection, has done just that.
As a playable race, the World of Warcraft Pandaren can be either Horde or Alliance, can assume the role of almost any class, and even manage to facilitate a baffling reference to Disney's Gummi Bears cartoon via their resistance to falling damage.
Those of you who want explicit details on the expansion can visit Blizzard's site. I'd write it up here, but to be honest with you, there isn't much there to write about. So far the expansion lacks a release date and any sort of pricing information. It will extend the game's level cap to 90, but is anyone actually surprised to see that?
That said, the important non-panda bit of this expansion is the game's upcoming "Pet Battle System." A quick glance at the official page might convince you that this is an attempt by Blizzard to replicate Pokémon within World of Warcraft, and according to every source I'm hearing from that's exactly correct. In place of Nintendo's beloved 'mon, Blizzard is using creatures from throughout the vast Azerothian bestiary, but otherwise the basic ideas of capturing, collecting and battling miniature beasts is entirely intact.
Say what you will about the lack of originality here, but this combination of hyper-addictive gameplay mechanics has leaped over the line separating "clever business move" from "diabolical supervillain plot."
Blizzard, I wish I knew how to quit you.
Source: Mists Of Pandaria