Serenity & Chaos: Does Mists of Pandaria’s New Monk Class Measure Up to the Death Knight?

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It was two expansions ago that fans received their first new class in World of Warcraft and with the release of Mists of Pandaria, the time of new designs has come again. However, after a few years of player feedback and constant balancing, does the experience of the monk class hold up to the experience of the death knight. It’s a battle of order and chaos as we compare two wonderfully designed, but very different, classes on the merits of uniqueness, versatility, and overall presentation.

Uniqueness: Damnation vs. Serenity

Death Knight Concept ArtBefore getting into presentation and story, we need to take a look at the raw play mechanics Blizzard has incorporated into its death knight and monk classes. In both cases, the two characters introduced abilities that players had never seen before. For starters, the resources are modified renditions of the familiar be it the death knight’s runic power (i.e. warrior rage) or the monk’s quasi-energy/combo point system (chi). Regardless, while the monk uses old resources in new ways, the death knight just gives players more to do by combining runic power with the truly unique rune system.

Looking beyond resources though, the introduction of player movement mechanics such as death grip still continues to stand out years later – much more so than the newer floating monk chi orbs and other related “pick-up” type abilities. Even ignoring the idea of undead minions (including the amazingness that is Army of the Dead), death knight further steps above monk as the class that completely changed how Blizzard looked at tanking mechanics. In both Burning Crusade and vanilla WoW, tanking was primarily about shields, defense, armor, and health. With the shieldless death knight though, the tanking became about self-healing and proactive use of defense cool downs. Moreover, the lessons learned from death knight tanking paved the way for monk tanking.

Point: Death Knight

Versatility: Death’s Embrace vs. Eastern Balance

Pandaren MonkThat being said, death knight may feel more unique, but it’s nowhere near as useful as monk. The simple fact is that a death knight can be tanks or DPS while monks can offer healing, DPS, or tanking options. If players wanted to have this level of options in the past, they were limited to druids or paladins. Monk finally gives us all another choice.

Now, this isn’t to say that the three primary specializations of death knight are bad (Unholy is all about diseases and minions, while Frost is more for burst-style damage dealing), but they just aren’t different enough. With monk, the talent choices made, along with the base skills themselves, makes each specialization truly feel different and fitting for any palette.

Point: Monk

Presentation: Encroaching Darkness vs. Mystical Discovery

Human Death KnightFinally it comes down to the class presentation itself in which we’ll focus on the unique starting experiences. As a disclaimer, this is very much subject to personal opinion.

In the case of the monk, the aesthetic is top notch and far beyond that of the death knights of Archeus. The Wandering Isle is filled with phenomenal “wow moments” in which you learn about your “island” home, leaving you in awe when you first see it in its entirety (we won’t spoil it for those that haven’t played a monk yet). It’s also filled with wonderful bits of humor and a spiritual, Kung Fu-style perfect for anyone that enjoys the martial arts. The class-specific quests that grant added experience buffs, after the starting zone, don’t hurt either. However, the monk’s overall scale still pales in comparison to the death knights’.

If it had to be summarized in one statement the death knight starting experience is this: You… are… evil! It’s the only early quest series where players truly feel like a villain as they take orders from the Lich King himself; listening to his commands echo through their minds. Along with sinister music and quest mechanics that have you questioning your morality, players really do feel like a monstrous weapon of war. Also the first quest area to make heavy use of phasing technology, the final battles against entire battalions of Scarlet Crusader and Argent Dawn forces displayed a scale not yet seen in WoW (discounting Ahn Qiraj). Throw in the story of Arthas, and you have a perfect recipe for amazing.

Point: Death Knight

In the end, neither class is truly “better” than the other. They’re just different. Both are wonderfully fun to play and use unique mechanics that other classes just don’t even come close to offering. Objectively speaking though, based on their original incarnations, death knight does feel slightly stronger than the newer monk. If you still can’t decide though, just ask yourself this: Do you seek Zen tranquility and balance, or do you prefer a juggernaut that is death itself?


Posted on October 13, 2012, in Core Games, Design, MMO, Online, Reviews, World of Warcraft and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.