When Blizzard announced their latest World of Warcraft expansion pack Mists of Pandaria, they also announced a new system that would allow you to train and battle with the game’s assortment of non-combat pets. While fans were skeptical the system would feel a bit like a Pokemon clone Blizzard didn’t give players much of a chance to see what the system was like in action until this week. A new beta patch for Mists of Pandaria brought pet battles online for the first time (an earlier patch mistakenly allowed you to use the system for a few days but it was generally too buggy to play) and now I’ve spent some time exploring what the system is like and how it works.
The verdict: it is a TOTAL clone of Pokemon, and it is better than I could have ever imagined.
Of course, while the resemblance is sometimes uncanny I don’t mean to suggest Blizzard has done anything illegal here; Pokemon doesn’t have a patent on games where you train and battle monsters. Additionally, calling it a clone of Pokemon really downplays the amount of work Blizzard has put into this system. They’ve organized the games 100+ existing pets into 8 separate families that all have strengths and weaknesses versus other types. You can have a team of three pets, each with four abilities that it gains as it levels up, and you can do battle against other players' teams. This alone would be a pretty substantial new mini-game to add to your MMO.
What’s really impressive about the new World of Warcraft pet battle system, though, is the scale of it. While most players would probably be satisfied with a system that let them have a few quick pet battles with friends, Blizzard has gone out of their way to add in all the single-player elements of a pet training game as well.
The world of Warcraft is now populated by tons of extra critters that you can fight with and capture. These critters come in normal to epic varieties just like the game’s items, with more rare and elite pets featuring better stats. There are even NPC trainers you’ll have to do battle with, and the quests to battle various pet trainers have a loose storyline that really adds to the sense that this is a whole new game that Blizzard has built on top of their MMO. If you're looking for a full overview of everything available, Blizzard also published an Official Pet Battles Page alongside the launch of the new patch.
The system still has quite a few bugs to work out it, and though it feels odd to congratulate a game for successfully grabbing the game mechanics of another popular franchise, I’ve been waiting for a Pokemon MMO for so long that discovering it inside of World of Warcraft makes me more excited than upset.