Ah World or Warcraft (WoW), you are the juggernaut that so many games try to tackle, yet you remain king of the hill. During your 10-year reign, countless players have died in your dungeons, slain numerous bosses, cleared heaps of dungeons, and battled for coveted gear. It seems now you want to bring back players by enticing us with cute pandas and martial arts. Well, it worked!
What does not work is the Mists of Pandaria strategy guide from BradyGames. I have to slightly deviate from my normal review style not only due to how this guide is laid out, but because I feel the need to save WoW veterans some time. If you are a WoW addict and have any amount of time, six months or so, in this game, you can skip this guide. If you are completely new to this Blizzard crack, have NEVER EVER touched an MMO, or just like having books in your bookcase, then go ahead and read on.
The first 203 pages take the reader through the basics of not only an MMO, but also WoW itself. If you’ve never heard of a Blood Elf Death Knight or what an Auction House is, then these pages will serve you well. This section not only has a comprehensive glossary of terms, but it also contains a small blurb on life as each race as well as how to get through their starting areas. I need to note that there is a small excerpt here on picking a class, more on this later. On the plus side, this is your first glimpse at the new talent screen.
From here, the guide gets all sorts of scatterbrained. The next 50 pages actually breakdown the new features of the Mists of Pandaria expansion, including the pet battle system and mechanics. This is a good place for all players, new and old, to spend a few moments as it does cover how characters/UI/reputation/professions change, sometimes rather drastically. It is not much, but there is a smidgen of useful info here.
The next 32 pages tackle all the newly added dungeons, raid areas, and the continent of Pandaria itself. It also covers the revamped dungeons like Ragefire Chasm and Scarlet Monetary. This is good content to study for all you hardcore dungeon crawling raid fans, as this is where you are spending countless hours farming for gear.
Now we hit 164 pages of what the heck. Remember how I said I would cover the classes later, well that is because they appear in greater detail towards the back of the book. This also applies to picking a profession, like cooking, as well as PvP tips and tricks. I say “what the heck” because this whole area feels misplaced and needs placement at the front of the guide. Why make readers go through all the races and then have to flip to the back to find out info on the classes? This does not jive with the basics of character creation. It also means that new players who are playing on PvP centric servers are also diving into the back of the guide to get valuable info before they sink hours into character development. This seems like so much more work than it needs to be.
Despite some misplacement, there is some meaty info in here for novices. New players can read how each class grows and matures between level one and ninety. All talents, spells, and abilities appear in clean charts that are simple to read and easily usable in planning a new character. Old timers may want to look in here as well as this is the easiest place to see how various spells now behave as well as what might be missing from a beloved class. The authors did try to make this portion specific enough to help new players pick something they would like, yet kept it vague enough that future patches and hot fixes will not render the info completely useless.
A six-page bestiary covers the new creatures added in this expansion. It does give level info and locations for each creature, along with a brief description of each. This is handy for all those go to x location and kill y amount of z enemy.
Lastly, we hit the achievement section, which is lackluster at best. Almost every guide I have reviewed contains something similar, but with a nice table showing the achievements, their value, and how to obtain the harder ones. While I fully understand that WoW is a big game with countless things to do, showing me the in-game achievement screen and then regurgitating info that is clearly ascertained from that screen feels terribly cheap. Instead, give me info on how to score some of the more difficult achievements. This tiny section is totally skipable.
This is a hard guide to recommend. The bulk of the info in here is stuff veteran players either know already or can quickly figure out within a few moments upon logging into the game, or the game spoon-feeds novices as they make their way up the level ladder. The maps are nice, but they make up a small portion of this guide, and are freely available online. As a long-time player, I cannot see spending money for a few pages detailing the changes to the game with a few handy charts showing me changes to my beloved Mage or Hunter. At the end of the day, this just makes me a sad panda as I so wanted to love this strategy guide.