Just when I was ready to abandon all hope of ever laying my eyes upon the beta of Mists of Pandaria (as I couldn’t afford the year-long pass when it was offered to us), Raptr gave away beta keys a few days ago! Imagine my excitement when I realized that I not only qualified for a key according to their setup, but I was able to actually snatch one up almost immediately after it was offered and get into the awesomeness that was the beta. It felt like it took forever to download, but soon, I was there!
Clearly, the thing that was the most important to me was checking out the Pandaren starting zone, so it made sense for me to start there first. After waffling over class choices for several hours, I chose to create a little pandaren priest. Shadow priests are my thing, after all, and with Adaret’s story officially at a close, I’ve been giving some serious thought towards race-changing her into something else. Why not a pandaren? However, I had to make sure I liked them. They were cute and their women were appropriately curvy (which I did like), but could I stand to play one for an extended length of time? I figured this would be a very good test of that.
There were a few things I noticed immediately once my beta!priest was rolled and I was peering around at everything and everyone. First off, everyone and their mother, it seemed, was determined to play a pandaren monk (not that I blame them, as both will be new for all come MoP release day), and I couldn’t help but feel a little out of place as a little pandaren priest with her tiny little staff and adorable Chinese-inspired robes. Secondly, the zone itself is incredibly detailed and gorgeous, as are the models. At one point, I paused so I could zoom in on my panda’s face, and I could clearly see the detail they put into the fur. It looks gorgeous.
Of course, as we all know, all pandaren begin life factionless. You get the option to join the Alliance or the Horde around level 12. However, before you can join your faction of choice, you must train! Your first ten or so levels are spent improving your skills and doing various important tasks around your home before you learn that things are not all happy and wonderful on the back of the giant turtle that you and the rest of the pandaren live on. Once you get to this point, the events that unfold afterwards shape the choices you make to select your faction. No spoilers, for those who are avoiding them, but let’s just say bits of the plot made me sad.
What I can tell you, however, is this: the entire leveling process, at least where you begin as a pandaren, is pretty streamlined. Strangely, however, there was a complete lack of class trainers. I discovered that as I leveled, new abilities appeared on my actionbars, completely eliminating the need to stop whatever I was doing to run back to town to try to find a trainer. I’ll be honest; I found that kind of nice.
The abilities I had to start off with up until level 10, were Shadow Word: Pain, Smite, Power Word: Shield, and Flash Heal. Upon hitting level ten and choosing the Shadow specialization, Smite immediately transformed into Mind Flay. Smite was locked to me from that point on. There are some abilities you get no matter what your specialization is, though. For example, I could still heal myself decently as Flash Heal didn’t go away. However, I don’t think I could manage to heal an entire group that way.
Being the shadow priest lover that I am, there was still more left to do once I was done with the pandaren starting zone. I had to see how things were at the former level cap of 85! Fortunately, beta lets you play with an 85 template, and I created a new pandaren shadow priest that way and was promptly overwhelmed by the sheer amount of people in the middle of Orgrimmar. (I come from a tiny server; I’m not used to seeing that many people.) The beta wound up giving you a lot of THINGS when you logged in, namely gems, enchanting materials, and even gear. I had two sets of gear on me, one with spirit and one without. I promptly switched to the set without the spirit as we no longer had anything that converted spirit to hit, rendering spirit pretty much useless for a shadow priest. Also, 5000 gold were waiting for me in my bags. Not a bad place to start off!
I didn’t get very far, as it took me a bit to get used to how certain abilities were triggered and what they did now, but even the short amount of time I spent as an 85 in the beta was some of the most fun I’ve had as a shadow priest in a long time. It was fun trying to figure out how things worked again. I’m still not sure which of the redesigned talents are the most beneficial to me, but, for now, it’s still a ridiculous amount of fun and I can honestly say that I’m looking forward to the release of Mists of Pandaria now. I want to be a bouncy panda priest.