World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria
$59.90-$199.90 depending on version
FOR many gamers, the world's divided into single-player titles where you - and only you - inhabit a world and interact with automated characters, and multi-player ones that allow you to play with, or against, other real people over the Internet.
No other game exemplifies huge online worlds populated by players than
World of Warcraft (WoW), which has become almost synonymous with massively-multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs).
Since it started disrupting physical lives as surely as it sparked online romances back in 2004, WoW has burgeoned with three expansion sets that have added new stories, characters and worlds to explore.
And this week, WoW got a dose of panda cuteness with the latest expansion pack, Mists of Pandaria. It opens up the lost continent of Pandaria, introduces the new monk profession, and raises the maximum character level to 90.
Most intriguingly, it introduces the Pandaren race of panda creatures. And it turns out that these Pandarens aren't Kung Fu Panda-style cute, but pack quite an aggressive wallop.
Mists of Pandaria doesn't fix the disjointed narrative that's plagued the sprawling WoW universe, but it does give it a new lease of life.
To play Mists of Pandaria, however, you need to also own the Wrath of the Lich King and Cataclysm expansions, in addition to a current WoW subscription.
WoW: Mists of Pandaria is available now for Windows and Mac PCs.
**** **** **** ****
One of the limitations of WoW is that there's no single-player mode. Borderlands 2, in contrast, makes sure that you can enjoy its fast-paced gun-fuelled action on your own.
There's no escaping the fact that the science fiction shooting game truly excels when played cooperatively with others. The game's really all about guns, guns and more guns, with the ability to customise and upgrade a bewildering arsenal. Teaming with up to three other gun-toting characters to shoot at monsters makes perfect sense.
There are four new characters to play, and while the four characters from the first game return, they aren't playable. Plot gets more of a nod in this sequel, but still isn't the core of the game.
If you have the budget, it's splurging on the $199.90 Ultimate Loot Chest Limited Edition of the game because the loot it's packed with helps to flesh out the fictional world of Pandora. For example,
The Field Journal of Sir Hammerlock describes Pandora's flora and fauna in hilarious detail.
And the bobblehead toy of gruff Pandora weapons dealer Marcus Kincaid, which comes in its own plastic loot chest, looks great when perched on top of your game console.
Borderlands 2 is available now for Sony PlayStation 3, Microsoft Xbox 360 and Windows PCs.