|They really weren't kidding about the speed of this...|
5.2 may not be appearing for us to play with before next year, but there is an awful lot to chew on in the break over Christmas. The Patch Notes are now available and the usual suspects are frantically data-mining even as I type, and its clear there are two new islands available for play. Looking at the current world map and the datamined information available thus far, the large island I initially assumed would be Thunder King HQ appears now to be identified as the 'Island of Giants', which appears to have some relevance to the Zandalari.
There's also a metric tonne of additional content, apart from the new Quest Hub, Tier Gear and expected Class changes. Some are, I have to say, quite a surprise.
- Players that have grown attached to working the land at Sunsong Ranch can now purchase the land from Farmer Yoon. Once the farm is owned by a player, it becomes a rest point like an Inn, where the player can bind and instantly log out. Work orders will pour in to the farm from factions across Pandaria, and completing a work orders will earn a reputation boost with the issuing faction.
- Seed bags have been added, that allow planting of crops 4 plots at a time.
- Yoon's Mailbox has been renamed to Sunsong Ranch Mailbox.
- The yield from special crops has been improved to make farming them competitive with gathering these items out in the world.
- Running the Master Plow across underground Virmen will cause them to pop out of the ground at 30% health and stunned.
- Wild Crops will now occur less often.
Note to the smart: time to start stockpiling those Terrible Turnips :p The bags of seed are welcome, as is the trick with the Plough (sticking with non-US spelling here) but there are other things we could see to improve matters still further. Let's have more items coming out of the ground when we're ploughing: moving soil can disturb stuff when you're grinding Tiller's rep: why does that have to change when that's done? I'd still like to be able to purchase more seed types and maybe make more use of the animal NPC's on the farm: might be cool to be able to make cloth from the sheep's wool, for instance. Still, this is very early days so a lot could yet appear.
Pets are getting a new tier of fight: the Elite Pet Battle:
- Elite Battle Pets have been added to the game world. These rare pets will spawn alone against an entire team. A new quest has been added to track progress as these new pets are hunted down, and defeating that quest will award the new Red Panda pet.
Knowing that there will be pets that take three L25's to bring them down makes me wonder just how powerful those Elites will be themselves: if they're that good, everyone will be using them in the same teams and life may get boring very fast. I hope the Dev's have thought this sufficiently through to mean the Elites come with something special but don't end up making all the effort and time people have put into training redundant. I'll be watching this develop with interest. It's good to see that not only will Battle capped XP players have a chance of Lesser Charms in their fights, but those below 90 can use fights as an additional character XP boost. Will certainly mean I'll be using both quests and Pet Battles to get a couple more alts out of the 85 zone sooner rather than later. Here's one significant change to battle protocol too:
- Fleeing a pet battle will no longer despawn the pet that was being battled, but doing so will now inflict some damage on the fleeing pet battle team.
This is great news when you get a spawn of a quality you don't need but someone else may well be able to use. It's also going to deter people (like me) from starting fights and then deciding they don't want to finish them because of pet rarity. I'm pleased to see that the Devs are looking at the nuts and bolts of fights and working out where changes can be made not simply to improve quality of life, but deter shortcutting the system.
What this does make me aware of is the need to now try and catch myself up with the outstanding quest grinds I have in game, and to try and 'clear the decks' of outstanding tasks before we see 5.2 deployed. I reckon I've got a while yet before I need to start panicking, but it is clear from Blizzard's enthusiasm to prep everyone to go as soon as Christmas is done that they mean business when ti comes to keeping people moving and occupied. This will be me then, off with a pencil and pad, to work out exactly what needs to be done by when...