World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria is the fourth expansion set for the massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) World of Warcraft, following Cataclysm. It was announced on October 21, 2011, by Chris Metzen at BlizzCon 2011, and was released on September 25, 2012.
Mists of Pandaria raised the existing level cap from level 85 to 90. It introduced a new character class, the monk, along with a new playable race, the Pandaren. The vanity pet system was overhauled and a pet battle system was added. Scenarios were introduced, and Challenge Modes were added for dungeons. The existing talent trees were replaced by a new system of tiered talents awarded every 15 levels. The initial patch included nine new dungeons, three new raids, two new battlegrounds and one new arena. Subsequent patches introduced the Brawler's Guild and heroic versions of the scenarios. Several additional raids, dungeons, a new battleground, and a new arena were also added.
On the October 4, 2012, Blizzard had announced that 2.7 million copies of Mists of Pandaria had been sold within the first week of its release (Cataclysm sold 3.3 million copies within the first 24 hours of its release), with the global subscriber base passing 10 million subscribers. As estimated by Carol Pinchefsky from Forbes.com, digital sales of the game outnumbered the retail sales by nearly 4:1 in the first week of sales.
Subsequent comments by reviewers acknowledged that the sales of nearly 3 million in the first week would be desirable and an indicator of success for any other company in the gaming industry, but the reviewers said these numbers "still aren't looking good for the long-term future of Blizzard's wildly successful MMORPG" and "likely left some of the team at Activision Blizzard wondering where they went wrong". Pandaria's start has been slower than any other WoW expansion, with both Wrath of the Lich King and Cataclysm selling more copies in the first 24 hours than Pandaria did in its first week. As of October 14, 2014, Mists of Pandaria is included for free with the base game, similar to previous expansions.
With Deathwing's menace ended, Warchief Garrosh Hellscream seized the opportunity to strike at the Alliance and expand the Horde's territory on Kalimdor. His assault completely obliterated the human city of Theramore, causing world-wide violence between the factions to erupt anew. A destructive naval skirmish left Alliance and Horde forces washed ashore on the fog-shrouded island of Pandaria, which had appeared in the open sea, defying modern maps and charts. As both warring factions established footholds on the resource-rich continent, they made contact with the noble pandaren, one of its most prolific peoples. This ancient race worked with the Alliance and Horde in the hopes of dispersing the Sha: dark, ephemeral beings roused from beneath Pandaria by the bloody conflict.
The conflict between the Horde and the Alliance entered a bloody new chapter in Pandaria. As the two factions' armies clashed on the shores of the continent, Warchief Garrosh Hellscream dispatched elite troops to find the Divine Bell—an ancient mogu artifact capable of endowing his soldiers with unimaginable power. Garrosh's bold and reckless actions, however, had dire consequences for the Horde, including the outbreak of violence against the Darkspear trolls and the expulsion of the blood elves from the once-neutral mage city of Dalaran. Although Garrosh claimed the bell, Prince Anduin Wrynn and the Alliance secret agents of SI:7 closely tracked the warchief's every move. On the highest peaks of Kun-Lai Summit, the brave prince thwarted Garrosh's plans, leading to the fabled mogu artifact's destruction.
The Thunder King
While war between the Horde and the Alliance raged across Pandaria, the scattered mogu plotted a return to their terrible former glory. They rekindled their historical alliance with the Zandalari trolls, who managed to resurrect the tyrannical mogu emperor, Lei Shen the Thunder King, in the hopes of restoring mogu dominion over the continent. The valiant Shado-pan rushed to suppress their enemies, creating a task force, the Shado-pan Assault, originally composed of pandaren warriors and later supported by heroes of the Horde and Alliance. These fearless champions strove to defeat the Thunder King, though they also simultaneously served their factions' interests on Pandaria. Jaina Proudmoore led the Kirin Tor Offensive on a quest to uncover the source of all mogu power (and keep it from the Horde), and Lor'themar Theron took the Sunreaver Onslaught in search of mighty mogu weaponry to aid a daring plan…an insurrection against Warchief Garrosh Hellscream.
Garrosh Hellscream's quest for power in Pandaria leads him to excavate part of the sacred Vale of Eternal Blossoms in search of a sinister artifact, a decision that puts the Horde at odds with the Shado-pan and other influential pandaren. Meanwhile, in the Horde capital of Orgrimmar, Chieftain Vol'jin and the Darkspear trolls are declared traitors and hunted by the Kor'kron, Hellscream's personal guard. Vol'jin's people retreat to Durotar and the Barrens to gather supplies and reinforcements for their counter-strike, relying on the support of their former warchief, Thrall, and a particularly tenuous pact with the Alliance, whose interest in ending Garrosh's rule may not bode entirely well for the Horde...
Siege of Orgrimmar
Garrosh Hellscream's reckless thirst for power has led him to do the unthinkable: from beneath the Vale of Eternal Blossoms, he has seized the desiccated heart of the dead Old God Y'Shaarj to use as a tool of war, unleashing horrors upon the sacred valley. The warchief has also turned against other members of the Horde to create a purely orcish force of his own. Now this "True Horde" is amassing strength within Orgrimmar's iron ramparts. With Garrosh bent on total victory, he plans to demonstrate the potency of the True Horde by conquering not just the Alliance but the whole of Azeroth. After champions purify the vale, they are called on to follow their faction in bringing Garrosh to justice.
Leaders of the Alliance and Horde lay siege to Hellscream's capital in order to topple the ruthless Warchief. The leaders of Azeroth then agree to prosecute Garrosh for war crimes in Pandaria. Vol'jin, for his contributions in Garrosh's downfall, is chosen as the new warchief of the Horde. King Varian Wrynn decides to end the conflict with the Horde but warns them that the Alliance will return to end them should they return to their honorless warmongering ways.
Monks use an energy source to power basic abilities like Jab. The basic Jab attack is used to generate a resource called "Chi", which are then used for more advanced attacks. The monk class was originally announced with not being able to utilize an auto-attack like the other classes, however, the developers chose to forgo this idea and they have been given an auto-attack. The monk class has three specializations: Brewmaster (tanking), Windwalker (melee damage), and Mistweaver (healing). Monks' healing specialization is capable of healing allies through dealing damage to enemies, as well as through "proximity" based heals, and by dropping statues, similar to a shaman totem, that pulse healing as they perform attacks on the enemy target. Choosing the healing specialization will give the monk a mana bar like other healers while the tank and DPS spec will use an energy bar. Monks make use of leather armor, and every race except goblins and worgen can play as a monk. An 11th character slot was added on the release of Monks, allowing a player to have one of each class on the same server.
The pandaren — a race of anthropomorphic giant pandas initially created by veteran Blizzard artist Samwise Didier as an April Fools style joke — were later reintroduced to the Warcraft canon in the bonus Horde campaign of Warcraft III: The Frozen Throne. Unlike previous races in World of Warcraft, which are tied to either the Horde or Alliance in-game factions, pandaren are faction-neutral for the early levels of the game. Until the end of the principal quest line on the Wandering Isle, the pandaren player character is faction-less; at the end of their starting experience, the player chooses to align with either the Horde or the Alliance. The pandaren speak both the pandaren language (though the factional language barrier will still remain between Horde and Alliance pandaren) and the main languages of their faction, which are Common (Alliance) and Orcish (Horde). (In an interview with Kat Hunter, Chris Metzen jokingly said the languages had not yet been chosen but Pig Latin was a strong candidate.) The classes available to pandaren characters are Hunter, Monk, Mage, Priest, Rogue, Shaman and Warrior.
Mists of Pandaria introduced Challenge Modes, a gameplay option where a dungeon group is challenged to finish a dungeon of increased difficulty as quickly as possible. All players' gear is normalized, allowing for fair ranking. Depending on how quickly the group clears the dungeon, the group will earn one of three possible medals. The higher the medal quality, the higher the prize for achieving that medal.
Introduced with the expansion, the pet battle system allows non-combat vanity pets to be pitted in battle against each other in a turn-based combat system, either against wild pets or other players' pets. Defeating wild pets allows players to capture them, adding to their collection and their pet journal. Pets can be trained up to a maximum level of 25, with new abilities and enhanced stats granted as they progress. Players are able to seek out master pet trainers and battle their pets, with daily rewards if the player defeats them. All information regarding pet levels, abilities, and battles is tracked in the Pet Journal. There are 10 possible pet classes, each with their own strengths and weaknesses.
Mists of Pandaria also included a new 3 player instance mode, called Scenarios. Playable on either normal or heroic difficulty, they are short stories players can play through and earn rewards at the end. The stories are mostly relevant to the Horde and Alliance storylines in Pandaria. Scenarios have different stages, and the players receive different tasks for each stage. During a heroic scenario, the players can attempt to complete a timed objective for an extra reward. The scenario mode doesn't require anyone to queue as a role, and it's up to the group what composition they want to run with.
In patch 5.4, a new raid setting was introduced with the Siege of Orgrimmar raid, called Flexible. In it, players would assemble a premade group of 10 to 25 players, and the difficulty of the raid would automatically scale accordingly. This setting is intended to be more challenging than the Raid Finder setting, but not as difficult as the Normal or Heroic modes, and groups can be formed across realms (cross realm group forming was later added for normal and heroic difficulties).