Courtesy WoWHead and sorronia

After nearly three years, I’ve returned to Azeroth. I’m playing World of Warcraft again. And, to be honest, I think I’ve come back at a good time.

It can be difficult to convey story through the medium of video games in the best of circumstances. What I mean is, video games have the potential to tell a more involved, more personal story, since the player becomes a part of the story through their interactions. In an online multiplayer game, the challenges increase exponentially, as you don’t necessarily want players to change everything about your world. It’s probably for the best that some major characters never stay dead; you don’t want to leave yourself open to the possibility of town guards suddenly saying “All hail Emperor XXXYoloSwag”.

However, Mists of Pandaria has surprised me. I was fully prepared to be keenly aware of the contrivances inherent in a new landmass appearing out of nowhere and its people blithely becoming part of the world. However, from the start of its quest chains, I was shocked. The themes of the factional violence occurring in this new land have echoes of a cautionary tale on colonialism and its impact on a native population. The indigenous people of the continent are cautious yet curious about the newcomers, and the quests you undertake with the character Lorewalker Cho demonstrate that beautifully. You feel a creeping sense of dread as your faction militarizes some of the natives, and… well, I’ve probably already spoiled enough. Suffice it to say, this is the most involved I’ve felt with a story in an MMO in a long time.

I’m sure there are plenty of neckbeards shaking their fists at the rearrangement of talents and whatnot, but for my part, I don’t mind some systems getting streamlined and simplified. I used to be concerned that I’m “just another DPS” and get very frustrated at the prospect of dying in dungeons or raids. But it’s all part of learning and improving, and contributing damage is contributing, regardless of class or other utility. So I’m feeling better about that part of the game, too.

I have character and story ideas aplenty, but I have other responsibilities, and I want to get at least one character to max level before I do anything else. Somebody’s gold has got to pay for everything, after all.

I had a feeling I’d get pulled back when the client started downloading updates for World of Warcraft after it installed Hearthstone. I’m glad that, so far, the game feels worth my time and my money. I’m cautiously optimistic about Warlords of Draenor, and I’m holding out hope that the dungeons and raids I have yet to see in Pandaria have enough challenge to keep me involved.