‘World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria’ misses the mark with kung fu pandas

03/28/2013 / Comments Off

2012 is the year of the blockbuster MMO: TERA, The Secret World, Guild Wars 2, and an impending re-launch of Final Fantasy XIV add up to an extremely competitive market and a lot of quality content. Factor inThe Old Republic, which released at the tail end of 2011, and the market is practically choking on triple-A MMO titles. So what hope does Mists of Pandaria, the latest expansion to an eight-year old game, have? A good amount, actually, but that’s due to the already invested World of Warcraft player base.

Mists of Pandaria makes do with a nearly decade-old graphics engine and aging mechanics, but the game is starting to feel stale. Blizzard may have the largest amount of players compared to other MMOs on the market, but they’re playing catch-up and it shows. Mists of Pandaria has neither the form nor function of its contemporary competitors, so playing feels like a step back in time. This isn’t an expansion for people who like MMOs and it won’t inspire a mass return of players. This is an expansion for people who are already happy with WoW.
It would be impossible to discuss Mists of Pandaria without addressing the pandaren. The pandaren have taken a lot of flak for looking like Kung Fu Panda rip-offs and, while you can defend their existence as a legitimate piece of lore that predates the Dreamworks films, it’s clear that the race has undergone some changes since their introduction to the world of Warcraft. Not all of these changes have been for the better.

Although they are anthropomorphic pandas and always have been, early sketches of the race depicted them as more muscular than chubby, and their samurai armor gave off an air of ferocity and strength. Now that the race has been made playable in Mists, they’ve been significantly de-fanged. Every pandaren has a belly, and they remark constantly how they love to eat, very similar to Po from the Kung Fu Panda franchise. They have not one, but two racial bonuses that apply to food: Gourmand, which gives a +15 to cooking, and Epicurean, which doubles stats from food buffs.

It’s very, very hard to take a pandaren seriously. To be fair, Blizzard seems to realize this and makes a little jab at the critics. Type out “/silly” as a female pandaren and she might deliver said jab: “So I was talking to this Tauren the other day. No, I mean a Worgen. No. Wait, which one’s a cow, and which one’s a dog? Ugh! All these talking animals are stupid!” 

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‘The Secret World’s’ secret weapon? Reality

03/28/2013 / Comments Off

“Everything is true” — or so goes the especially apt tag line for the forthcoming game called “The Secret World.”

Sure, this massively-multiplayer online role-playing game (set to launch in April 2012) is nothing but pure video gaming fiction. But it is setting itself apart from the pack (and generating plenty of buzz to boot) precisely because it is rooted in our very modern reality.

At the Penny Arcade gaming expo taking place in Seattle this weekend, I had a chance to talk with “The Secret World’s” lead content designer Joel Bylos from developer Funcom and he told me that “a huge amount of research” has gone into making this game as realistic as possible.

It’s an interesting choice, especially considering that “The Secret World” will be pitted against that behemoth of a massively-multiplayer online game — “World of Warcraft.” And “WoW” has been an enormous and long-running hit with players (at least in part) because it transports them to a fantasy world extremely different from our own.

But Bylos points out, “The market is flooded with fantasy stuff.” And he believes players want something different.

And so “The Secret World” is set not in some mystical medieval realm, on another planet or in outer space, but on our planet Earth with its familiar look and modern amenities.

Cell phones. Email. This is how the characters communicate. Meanwhile, the game unfolds in real locations like New York, Maine, the UK and South Korea. And Bylos says that, to make sure they got the details right, Funcom sent researchers and artists to many of the actual locations.

“We want these areas to feel like they belong in the real world,” he said.

And even when it comes to the not-so-real stuff found in “The Secret World” — this too is based on real-world research.

The thrust of “The Secret World” is this: gamers choose to play as one of three factions who — when they aren’t fighting each other — are busy fighting a host of monsters. The factions you can choose from: the Illuminati, the Templars and the Dragons. 

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King Black Dragon & Dungeon Rework

03/27/2013 / Comments Off

It’s been ten years since the King Black Dragon ate his first adventurer, and although Gielinor is a bigger, more dangerous place than ever, he’s still ranked among RuneScape’s most lethal monsters. With this in mind, we’re proud to herald the return of the king, with an awe-inspiring new look and graphically reworked lair!
To tempt a new generation of dragon slayers to face down this three-headed terror, there’s a magical artefact behind Edgeville Monastery which allows quick access to his home. For those entering the old-fashioned way via the Wilderness, there’s a 10% bonus to damage dealt to the King Black Dragon.
The dragon’s hoard of loot has also been enriched. We’ve increased the value of his drops across the board, but there are also brand-new Dragon Rider gloves and boots – with best-in-slot prayer bonuses – and two cosmetic upgrade kits for the dragon kiteshield: one adding ornate decoration, and the other giving a more warlike appearance.
Finally, everyone involved in taking down the King Black Dragon has a chance to receive a lore book, chronicling the rise and fall of the fabled Dragon Riders. As with the recent God Wars lore books, this will be given in addition to regular drops, so you won’t miss out if lore’s not your thing.
Step into the dragon’s lair – if you dare!
How to fight the King Black Dragon:
Use the artefact behind Edgeville Monastery to teleport there instantly.
Alternatively, enter via the Lava Maze in the Wilderness. Doing so earns you a 10% bonus to your damage output against the King Black Dragon for the duration of your visit.
Requirements:
You must be a RuneScape member.
A combat level of 100 or higher is strongly recommended, and bringing friends will greatly increase your chance of survival.
Dungeon Updates (Members Only)
Along with the King Black Dragon’s Lair, four more dungeons have been updated. Battle your way through the following dens of villainy and drink in their breathtaking new graphics and sound:
Brimhaven Dungeon
Chaos Tunnels
Fremennik Slayer Dungeon
Taverley Dungeon
Enjoy!
Mod Dylan
Behind the Scenes VideoIf you haven’t already, you can take a tour of the King Black Dragon’s lair and the dungeon updates in our recent Behind the Scenes video:
In Other News
Coming Friday: Yelps has added crates of skilling resources to the Squeal of Fortune. These come in two sizes, increasing in rarity, and contain level-appropriate materials for training the following skills:
Construction
Crafting
Farming
Herblore
Smithing
Summoning
The Dwarven Warsuit – a miracle of dwarven engineering – is now available in Solomon’s General Store. It comprises a full armour, crossbow, shield and sword reskin, a new teleport animation, two titles and two emotes.
There’s just one week left for those of you eligible for Sizzling Summer to claim your free items from Solomon’s General Store. If you haven’t already, log in now to claim your five-piece Tropical Islander Outfit, Squid Cape, Crab Dance emote and ‘the Tanned’ title.
It is now possible to select multiple options from your purchased teleport animations within the customisation interface. When you use your Home Teleport spell, one of these selected animations will play at random. If none are selected, your Home Teleport animation will play as normal. Please note: For other teleport spells or tablet teleports, your ordinary teleport animation (or Sky Jump, if it’s one of your selections) will still be used. 

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Dungeoneering XP & Gravestones

03/27/2013 / Comments Off

There’s nothing like breaking new ground in the murky depths of Daemonheim with a full party of friends at your side. If you prefer to go it solo or with just one or two friends, though, some of Daemonheim’s sweetest swag could – until now – feel unobtainable. That wasn’t fair, and today’s update changes that.
Clearing floors in Daemonheim now gives you far greater XP returns than before – at least double for a solo player – as well as a far higher yield of tokens. While a full group of five is still the fastest way to progress, no-one should feel that Daemonheim’s bounty is out of reach. Start saving up for that chaotic rapier!
In line with feedback received on the Evolution of Combat, we’ve also overhauled the item binding system. Everyone – regardless of Dungeoneering level – can now bind ten items. You won’t get to carry all ten at a time, of course; they’ll go into a remotely-held pool of bound items, from which you’ll be able to select loadouts by speaking to the Smuggler. You can return to the Smuggler at any time to switch your bound items, and he’ll remember up to three presets for ease of use. The number of your bound items that can be included in a loadout varies according to your Dungeoneering level:
1 Dungeoneering: 1 item
20 Dungeoneering: 2 items
50 Dungeoneering: 3 items
90 Dungoneering: 4 items
120 Dungeoneering: 5 items
With this new system, you never need be without the right weapon for the job – doubly important when the Evolution of Combat lands in a week’s time. Switching between specialised melee, range and mage setups is as simple as a trip back the smuggler and will no longer take such a heavy toll on your inventory. Couple that with a slick new interface to manage the new system, and no foe need stand in your way.
Gravestone Update (Free Players & Members)
Ever died in Darkmeyer, watched as your gear faded before your grasping fingers, and found yourself in a city full of hungry vampyres, wearing just your undergarments and an expression of dismay? Brr…
With the new gravestone interface, there’s no longer any reason to be left out in the cold. Just click once on your gravestone to neatly display everything you dropped on death, allowing you to choose the items from your gravestone rather than clicking frantically through a long list. It’s also possible to click the gravestone timer while nearby, to take you straight to the point of your demise – useful if there’s more than one stone about. There are also ‘take all’ and ‘re-equip all’ buttons, so you’ll be up and back into the fray before you know it.
Mod Liono & Mod Chris L
Behind the Scenes Video
If you haven’t already, check out this week’s Behind the Scenes Video for a tour of today’s content release.

In Other News
We’ve made a selection of tweaks to the Crucible based upon player feedback:
We’ve placed a Prayer altar in each of the Crucible’s banks to help out between battles.
The pairing mechanic has been reworked to give fairer opponents.
Familiars have been disallowed.
Information about the Supreme Champion has been made clearer.
The Supreme Champion role will now deal more damage, and reward an extra trophy bone per killing blow.
Gorajian mushrooms are now allowed into the arena.
Put some boom into your skilling with Explosive Skilling Animations, now available inSolomon’s General Store!
The prizes on the Squeal of Fortune have been overhauled! Along with a shiny new interface, Yelps has added prismatic pendants, which can be turned into the skill pendant of your choice. You’re more likely than before to strike lucky with a rare prize, and some of the smaller coin and XP rewards have been replaced with handy items for your day-to-day gameplay.
The 3 quest points awarded for Prince Ali Rescue have been removed. As such, the quest point total has been lowered from 338 to 335. 

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God Statues

03/27/2013 / Comments Off

In this new Construction distraction and diversion, you’ll help Copernicus Glyph – master sculptor – to build up to four statues each month at sites around Gielinor.
There are four statue sites around the world: in Lumbridge, Taverley, Canifis and Gu’Tanoth. At each site, you’ll have the choice of building a statue of any of the following: Commander Zilyana, Juna, Kr’il Tsutsaroth and General Graardor. It’s up to you which statue you build and where, but tempers in the area may flare if you make a controversial choice!
When you’ve made your choice, you’ll follow Copernicus’s expert directions to build scaffolding, from which his latest masterwork can be wrought. Once you’ve determined the correct number of pieces to be used and arranged them in columns of the right heights, the statue will be completed and you’ll earn a hearty chunk of Construction XP. The quality of the statue that you build – and the XP reward- will depend on your current Construction level.
If you have chosen a statue that’s appropriate to the area in which you’re building, then you’ll have the opportunity to pray at that statue for a {C}Prayer XP reward{C}. However, if you’ve built a statue that ill fits the area’s faith, then you’ll earn the ire of one of the local god’s more militant followers. Drive off the fanatic who attacks you and you’ll earn a Slayer XP reward. In this way, you can choose to receive either Slayer or Prayer XP for each of the four statues that you can build per month.
At the start of each calendar month, any statues you’ve built will be destroyed, and you’ll be able to complete the D&D four more times for further rewards. Build any one statue four months in a row (in any location) and you’ll earn a wieldable chisel, in the colour of the statue’s related god. When wielded, this handy tool can be used to boost your Construction level by 1 – great for making some headway in your player-owned house!
So, what’re you waiting for? Prove to Copernicus that you’re a chip off the old block and earn yourself some rocking rewards! 

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