If you missed it, Blizzard used its 2011 BlizzCon fan event to announce Mists of Pandaria, the next expansion for World of Warcraft. Among many other things, the expansion will offer the new Asian-themed continent of Pandaria to explore, a new playable race in the Pandarens (who originated as an April Fools' Day joke for 2003's Warcraft III), and a new playable class, the monk. We took the opportunity to try out a Pandaren monk at the event and have new details to report.
The Pandaren race is currently still being worked on--female character models aren't actually in the game yet, for instance--but our male Pandaren monk seemed to walk, jump, roll, and fight just fine. Pandaren monks begin their lives on their continent's Wandering Isle, reporting to a kung fu master who accompanies them throughout their early travels. Monks' early quests require them to equip themselves with fistwraps and consult lore scrolls to learn about their heritage, but soon, they're encouraged to travel outside of the monastery to fight off pockets of marauding hozu (the monkey-like race indigenous to the continent) and begin rescuing and escorting elemental spirits to sacred temples. Along the way, we found ourselves dueling with spectral martial arts masters and perching ourselves precariously on poles poking out of a cursed lake. You can expect to see plenty of World of Warcraft's trademark quirky quest objectives early in your life as a pudgy panda monk here.
The monk's early skills pertain almost entirely to combat. Very early on, monks get the stance of the fierce tiger, a modal combat stance that increases their damage by 20 percent, though they can later learn an alternate stance, drunken ox. While they don't use mana to cast their spells like mages and warlocks, they do have "chi" points, which are expended to perform certain attacks and skills, but fortunately seem to recover very quickly over time. The monk's basic attack is the jab, which currently costs 40 chi points (our monk had a maximum of 100) and builds up one light force point and one dark force point.
Monks use force points as their combat "resource" (similar to combo points for rogues) and can store a maximum of four light force points and four dark force points. They can also learn the tiger palm attack, a melee attack that costs one light force point and deals bonus damage to enemies with more than 50 percent health; the blackout kick, a roundhouse kick that deals decent damage and costs a dark force point; and flying serpent kick, a melee attack that lets monks close distance (not unlike the warrior's charge attack) and briefly stuns its target. Monks can also learn the roll ability, which costs 50 chi points and deals no damage but causes them to tumble forward along the ground--a much faster alternative to walking.
Pandaren characters have several innate racial powers that pertain to food and cooking (they gain 100 percent bonus from eaten food, and have a +15 to their cooking skill), along with a safe fall skill that reduces their falling damage by half, and they gain double the experience bonus for being rested and also have a "quaking palm" ability that can stun an enemy target for four seconds or until the target is damaged. Quaking palm may sound powerful, and will likely be useful in certain situations, but from our experience so far, it isn't an overwhelmingly unfair ability at all. Monks, in the meantime, seem like an interesting alternative to warriors with an unusual combat resource system. We'll bring you more updates on the expansion as they become available.