I didn’t like how there was so much focus on just them sparing. I don’t like anime type stuff. Just like I didn’t like that ‘scene’ in Frozen Throne expansion to Warcraft 3 at the end where Illidan spars with Arthas. I wish they spent that valuable cutscene time doing multiple clips (like in Vanilla or BC) instead of just one clip.
I remember when the Cata one came out, and I hated it intensely. I like the Pandaria one, but I think too much screen time was spent on the sparring.
The reason why I am curious about your response is because I wonder if non-WoW players would have a more positive response to the cutscene than current subscribing WoW players (and any other differences. I hear some people love seeing the combat while I think it hogged up all the time). It is interesting to see the different reactions.
Here are your responses:
You said you were genuinely curious, and I have to admit that I’m echoing that sentiment.
I never played WoW, I just don’t have any interest in MMORPGs, so I cannot comment on Pandaria’s “crunch”, I’ll comment on the “fluff” instead. I played Warcraft III years ago, so the Pandaren race is no real surprise for me and I thought they fit pretty well in even back then.
One thing western RPGs get critsized for rightfully is that they always tend to stick to the old Lord of the Rings / Dungeons & Dragons template with Humans, Elves and Orcs in a medievial world. There is nothing wrong with that, it is familiar and instantly recognisable, but when every game is like that they all seem the same. Japanese RPGs on the other hand got for the other extreme where nothing makes sense.
This is where i think Mists of Pandaria is great, it expands the world in a way that makes sense. It makes sense that not the entire planet is medevial Europe and it makes you wonder what other cultures there might be besides medevial Europe and feudal Asia. Granted, I haven’t been paying attention to WoW, so maybe there are expansions that introduce more cultural facettes, but Pandaria is the first one I actually noticed. The land looks exotic, yet it feels very familiar because such places exist in real life, Pandaria is not too exotic. Even the name, Mists of Pandaria, sounds mysterious (Mists) and expanding (Pandaria? What is Pandaria? I want to know!), rather than epic (Cataclysm, Wrath, Burning Crusade).
Another thing I like about Pandaria is the colour green. Western games in general suffer from a grey-brown obsession (while Japanese games go to the other extreme again), so a landscape dominated by lush green areas, blue rivers and a wide sky looks very inviting, it makes me want to actually check it out (if it weren’t an MMO), so much nicer than Cataclysm’s red and black. The entire scenery is also dominated by round shapes (look at the landscape in the trailer when the fog fades away or the Pandarian architecture with its round buildings, arced bridges, circular training grounds and of course the general shape of the Pandaren people), which looks much more friendly than the hard edges used in Cataclysm or Wrath.
The Pandas are cool, those aren’t Care Bears, Blizzard has managed to make pandas look badass (which is not an easy thing to do). They have fangs, cool clothes and badass martial arts moves. i like the idea of a monk class, I have been a martial artist myself until my injury, and I find it a real shame how in most RPGs an unarmed unarmored class is usually inferior to other classes. I also like the attitude of the Pandaren narrator from the trailer, as to why they fight. Again, nicer and more inviting rather than eeeepic.
The trailer itself is extremely well done. i agree that Blizzard has been getting worse and worse with their story and cutscenes. The old Blizzard cutscenes had some sort of organic feel, but their new render videos are dominated by posing, camera angles and pretentious monologues. It’s like someone followind a film making textbook religiously and cramming as much use of “techniques” (low angle shots, closeups of half a person’s face while blurrign the background, 360° camera rotations) into them as possible.
This trailer on the other hand feels right. It starts of with pirates (well, they probably aren’t really pirates, but you know what i mean) rather than pandas, because pirates are cool. Then you see an orc and a human engage in battle in a foggy jungle setting (jungles are cool as well) at night (the night and fog are important). They fight and stuff, which is the usual stuff, until an unknown force interferes. This part was greatly done, you know there will be panda, so you wait for the panda to come, but he doesn’t, the fight goes on, then you see the tip of a staff and it’s gone, you are like “here he comes…”, then you see his silhouette, then the eyes, then the body concealed by mist and it all builds up towards the final reveal of the panda (who gets revealed as a badass martial artist, who can kick a human’s and an orc’s ass at the same time).
This works well because it establishes the panda’s character before his appearance. In Xenobalde there is this race called “Nopon”, they are tree-hugging, baby-talking small round fuzzballs, just like the Ewoks from Star Wars. Somewhere around the end of the first quarter of the game you get a Nopon party member and even though he’s quite a good fighter there is no way I could take him or his race ever seriously. You just cannot establish this race that looks like something I should get out of a claw machine and then later tell me that they are actually badass warriors who just pretend to be cute in order to deceive their enemies. Sure, my reasoning could accept the fact, but in the back of my brain I know it’s just a load of BS. Blizzard did it the other way around, they established the Pandaren as a badass first and as a panda second by hiding his appearance in the mist.
Another thing I really like is the lightheartedness of the scene when the panda puts that thing back in place (and correts its position with his staff) and the perplexed human hands his spear to the equally perplexed orc, whom he had wanted to kill just a moment ago. The panda then smiles. It’s a break from the dark and gritty beginning and fits with the theme of nice and inviting (did you notice that after that moment the sun starts rising and the fog gets thinner? If you haven’t your brain certainly did) rather than overly epic.
In the final moments the scene gets brighter and clearer, the colours start fading in and the view cleares. pandaria is now visible and even the orc is amazed by the things he sees (and which you will see in a second). The panda gestures his head into the direction of the valley as if he wanted to say “welcome to Pandaria”, inviting the viewer.
I love how the trailer speaks just by using the scenery, there is no pretentious monolgues, the action speaks for itself, everything just feels like something that would really happen if that was a real place. The human and orc strand in the new land, carrying their old conflict and going on with it uninterruptedly. As they fight their presence disrupts the old inhabitants’ order, they rise to defend what is theirs. The orc and human are both equally alien to the Pandaren, they are both carriers of an alien conflict. But the panda is not there to kill them, he is there to show them where their limit lies and why he doesn’t want their conflict to carry over into his land. All of that without a single word, except the beginning and the end. Compare this to something like the Demon Huntress introduction video for Diablo III.
I whish I could comment on more of the game, it certainly makes a nice impression, but I didn’t bother with any research about the actual game content. Pandaria did make me interested, but the fact that WoW is an MMORPG just makes it a game not for me. I don’t have the time to devote to a game on a regular basis and paying subscriptions for a game I’d play a few hours per month is just too much for me. If Pandaria was explored in another game or if it were a game with another similar setting I’d be interested. Jade Empire had that whole exotic setting West-RPG thing, but the game itself was pretty much meh. I guess I will have to keep saving various interpretations of Middle Earth over and over again.
Some interesting reactions. You guys definitely analyzed it more than I did. The last email here really went into some detail. “Blizzard made Pandaran badass first, pandas second.” I didn’t think of it. And I liked your observation that every fantasy game does a medieval Europe/Tolkien style (and Japanese fantasy games are just crazy) and Pandaran are a break from that pattern. I can’t think of a fantasy show that had something like the Pandaran except for kid shows. It might be why you only hear ‘Kung Fu Panda’ responses to the Pandaran Expansion because people are used to fantasy content being like content from somewhere else (so they incorrectly assume Pandaren are coming from a kids show). Fantasy has gone on so long without new stuff that we may not know how to take it.
Actually, there is an example of the Pandaran. It would be the Furlings from Stargate SG-1 (the only of the super Four Race alliance not shown). The closest they appeared was in a spoof because apparently the writers weren’t sure how to make them appear without being hokey.
Above: Stargate SG-1 had to spoof their Furlings because they couldn’t figure out how to show them without being silly. Blizzard appears to have suceeded in making the Pandaran ‘badass’.