Having ignored most of the Beta and being baffled by most people's commentary on their own blogs (Mogu, Schmogu), I figured I was going in as blind as you could be without actually being a complete noob to WoW. Also, I decided this would be a good duplication of my previous attempt in Cataclysm, the "Convoy to L85"*, but with my iL at 280 I assumed this would be a bit rougher of a transition.**
I flew up to the Skyfire, landed, and we were off.
About five minutes into the intro questline, I had one overwhelming thought: why are we still playing WoW with swords and axes and bows? WoW has gone full steampunk with Mists, and the old paradigm has become obsolete. It's so steampunk, both gyrocopter sequences --the one you pilot as well as the one where you tag certain places in the Horde stronghold for air strikes-- felt like something out of Apocalypse Now.
Throughout the entire SI:7 portion of Jade Forest, the comparisons with Vietnam grew stronger, with the Alliance and Horde's arming of the indigenous populations echoing the Soviets and U.S. arming the Vietnamese.***
And then, things just collapsed.
We were back to the traditional WoW environment of kill ten rats, sly names with a nod to popular culture, and quest writing similar to any other expac. It's almost as if Blizzard went up to the edge, looked over the precipice, and decided to play it safe and go back to the tried and true. With the exception of the graphics and voice actors, if you were to drop the Pandaria quests into another expac you'd not tell the difference.
The more I thought about it, the more it made sense: WoW is what it is, and putting an Asian veneer over it isn't going to change the core of the game. Just like how I could tell Aion was Korean in origin by the quest text****, I could tell that this was WoW by the quest text.
Still, my first observation stands: why are we using bows and swords and axes in a game that has become dominated by "magic tech" and steampunk? I can understand a Rogue's use of daggers in an assassin's role, but the Paladin, Warrior, and Hunter seem obsolete in the tech that you see in WoW. The magic oriented classes --Druid, Shaman, Priest, Warlock, and Mage-- have more utility in the New WoW Order than the melee based classes.
From a historical perspective, once one group makes a major technological leap in warfare, other groups quickly follow suit or they get steamrolled over. When the musket was introduced and the concept of interchangeable parts introduced, all of the major powers of the day almost instantly switched to this new tech. Blizzard went in this direction with the entire opening and SI:7 sequences, yet pulled back from the obvious conclusion of modifying the classes to accommodate new arms and tactics. Yes, the game would have been radically changed forever had they gone through with those sort of changes, but it remains that Blizzard seems to have wanted the flash and bang of the new stuff without the natural conclusion that those changes would have wrought.
Unless, of course, Titan is really WoW Steampunk.
*Use the label to find the old posts on that adventure; I examined the transition from Wrath to Cata as a pair of fresh L80s --Neve and Tomakan-- without the benefit of having run a single Wrath raid or heroic instance. For fun, I added Q into the mix just to compare the difference in Hyjal from someone with T10 gear vs. Wrath greens.
**Oh, I guess you're curious how my severely undergeared Rogue handled the intro zones. It was much slower going than the transition to Cata, and the first boss, Ga'trul, proved to be a true gear check. I'd be doing well enough until he converted to Sha form, and then I'd end up wiping. In the end I had to go back and blow some of my Honor and Justice points to get enough gear to allow me to knock that warlock out. Once I got past Ga'trul, however, the road was much smoother than I expected.
***You could also insert any Nineteenth Century European power here, particularly during colonial expansion.
****If there's one thing that makes me hesitate about Guild Wars 2, it's that I didn't like the tone of the quest text from Aion. If the same company, NCSoft, makes both games, it stands to reason that I won't like feel of GW2 as well.