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UPDATED: 4/25/12 – I’ve added a new tab on the latest Mists of Pandaria beta patch.

ORIGIINAL POST: 4/20/12 – So, with some time into the two active Blizzard betas, Diablo III and World of WarCraft: Mists of Pandaria under my belt, I wanted to give you some First Opinion reaction to what I’ve seen.

Diablo 3 Beta

I played mostly a wizard in my Diablo 3 beta time, beating it one. I’ve given the other classes some burn as well, with, personally, the Witch Doctor feeling the weakest. Once I picked up a companion most of the way through the beta, the game felt more complete as a soloist. The Templar I drug along always had something different to say. Speaking of speaking, the voice acting is whoa-whoa-bad so far. I shudder every time the old man I rescued speaks and the Skeleton King isn’t much better. I have little to no faith that this will be improved in under month so it’s just how things are going to be I guess.

The action actually felt more like Torchlight then Diablo to me. I was repeatedly reminded of the latter as I played, despite playing some Diablo II as a refresher heading into the beta. It’s not just the visuals, either. The action, the controls and the sounds all remind me of Torchlight. Which, of course, isn’t a bad thing since I really, really liked Torchlight The issue is that Torchlight 2 is due out a month or two after Diablo III comes out. Time will tell if their styles clash.

World of WarCraft: Mists of Panaria beta

Ah, World of WarCraft. I’ve played this game for well over 1,000 hours but I’d been away for quite a few months now. Other then a quick jaunt into a PvP battleground as my main (lvl. 85 human retribution paladin Gavelier) the other night, I was going into this beta cold. It took me little time to come to grips with the new talent system – although finding my new talents in the horribly designed skill book took some work – and I quickly was overwhelmed by the masses of players standing in Stormwind including one big guy.

World of WarCraft: Mists of Panaria beta

Someone’s got a massive Devilsaur in town. On the live Cataclysm servers, pets are shrunk a good bit. This one seems enlarged. Well, it’s a beta. Let’s go to Pandaria proper and see what we find.

World of WarCraft: Mists of Panaria beta

What I found was sheer chaos. Tons of people – almost as many as in Stormwind, but not quite – were loitering around the warp point, some fighting each other, some pulling mobs into town, some just complaining about people fighting and pulling mobs into town. I went out and fought a few random critters to get my feet back under me and try out my new talents, but it took me a 20+ minutes of running around before I found any quests to do.

World of WarCraft: Mists of Panaria beta

And this was what I found. I know, try to hold in your excitement.

I thought the game looked better, for what that’s worth. The shading and lighting seemed improved, even in Stormwind. The new talent systems seem to be almost fire-and-forget, with no real big choices to make. Blizzard is of the opinion that the old talent trees were option-free as well, so I guess just making the whole ‘option-free, no matter what’ process go faster is a good thing. The drop rate seemed pitiful to me for whatever reason. Maybe I’m just spoiled to Cataclysm mobs with their high quest item drop rate. I remember Burning Crusade and Lich King mobs being stingy, as well.

A number of things aren’t implemented yet, such as the pet battle mini game so there’s more to come. I’ll try to keep this updated when there’s more to report.

A patch was released last night for the Mists of Pandaria beta, and here’s what I found standing out.

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First off, Gavelier, my main, found a large Chinese-styled balloon floating near Stormwind. As far as I could tell, it didn’t do anything that stood out. What did catch my attention though, was the revamped UI.

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Anyone who read my first opinion noticed that I disliked the new skill book. Well, now they’ve overhauled it again. It now comes with new icons that point out and explain where and what everything is on your display. This is a great feature that’s integrated into almost all of the menus.

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There’s even a ‘core abilities’ menu but it currently only displays warrior abilities, regardless of player class.

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Along with the addition of Pet Battle achievements, the pet menagerie manager for said battles has made it into the game at last. The battle themselves though, have not. In fact, the beta doesn’t acknowledge that I own any pets at all.

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The mount menu works on a similar system. I think it looks sleek, personally, and it works well. Kudos to Blizzard for improving the GUI.

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One of the most interesting beta testing features is the ability to create a level 85 character. No longer do we have to import template characters; we can just create a new avatar that starts at level 85 with high-end gear. This will really speed up testing. This picture doesn’t show my level 85 Pandarian hunter, Beartook, and instead shows my level 1 (at the time) Pandarian monk, Damook.

The beta is coming along well. Again, I will keep everyone abreast of any changes.

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