Blizzard’s story-telling prowess has been on full display in the zones of Mists of Pandaria. While the implementation of quest hubs has allowed for more leeway in how we progress through a zone (as opposed to the strict linearity of Cataclysm), if you are not doing all the quests in a given zone you are doing yourself a grave disservice. The zone that introduces us to how Pandaria will work, The Jade Forest, tells an amazing tale.
Horde players start out on the Northern coast of the Jade Forest. After an initial skirmish with the Alliance forces that are settling there, you set out to address the problem of the hostile Hozen. After beating them up a bit, you are given the opportunity to ally with them. General Nazgrim seizes upon this union and decides to mold them into an army.
The bulk of the Hozen training occurs while you are out exploring the rest of the zone. Two spots in particular have great relevance to the events that are about to happen. At Emperor’s Omen, Lorewalker Cho is completing an ancient Fresco that displays a prophetic vision by the Emperor. Initially, only the first of three panels is visible; depicting a meditating Pandaren. You are instructed to collect jade in the surrounding area, and you reveal the second panel which shows two Pandaren locked in combat as the hills of the Jade Forest are engulfed in conflict. The third panel is ominously left unfinished.
Next, there is the Serpent’s Heart. This is a monument to the Jade Serpent Yu’lon, who is nearing the end of her reign and is ready to be replaced. The monument is a pylon with a statue of a Jade Serpent wrapped around it. When the statue is complete, Yu’lon will breathe her life-force into the statue, thus ending her reign and passing her dominion onto the next Jade Serpent. After many years of construction, the statue is finally near completion. Yu’lon explains all this while flying you around the monument, and the tone of her narration is so positive that you can’t help but feel something terrible is going to befall the statue. Of course this feeling is correct.
When you finally return to Nazgrim and his monkey army, the time has come to meet the Alliance in combat. The ensuing cinematic that sets the scene for the finale of the Jade Forest is amazing.
Nazgrim marches his Hozen to the Serpent’s Heart, only to find Commander Taylor of the Alliance has similarly trained up the rival Jinyu. With no reinforcements available for either side, both factions have recruited the island denizens into fighting the war for them. Just as these Horde and Alliance proxy armies clash, the third panel is the fresco at Emperor’s Omen is revealed – the Sha of Doubt will rise. Witnessing this, Lorewalker Cho rushes to the Serpent’s Heart shrine to prevent the conflict that has already started, just in time to encounter the newly returned Sha of Doubt.
The whole scene is tragic. Yu’lon’s rebirth will again have to wait through the completion of a new statue. Lorewalker Cho failed to interpret the fresco, and his failure is personified in the gigantic Sha that has now looms over Serpent’s Heart. Several Horde and Alliance figures from the scouting parties are injured, and all you can do is help Mishi, Lorewalker Cho’s serpent, recover their unconscious bodies. Most of the units can later be found in Kun-Lai Summit, but there are still some members who have been missing since that battle, their wherabouts disconcertingly unknown.
After quelling the Sha, Blizzard sends you on your way into the Valley of the Four Winds. It is a bittersweet advancement. One of the highly touted features of gameplay in Mists would be that we would witness firsthand that our arrival on Pandaria would be anything but glorious. Destroying a tower (and future guardian) and empowering the Sha certainly fall into that category. It is disheartening, and that is exactly how Blizzard wanted it. My complaints earlier withstand — that without Taran Zhu’s early admonishment and warning of the Sha, the appearance of the Sha of Doubt at the end of the zone would be greater, but it is still astounding as it is. The Battle for Serpent’s Heart is one of the highlights of Mists of Pandaria, allowing the expansion to open with a strong storyline. Lucky for us, it does not end there.
Blizzard announces student art contest. Blizzard must be hard up coming up with ideas for patch 5.2. http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/7778780/
Blizzard announces that the upcoming Cinder Kitten pet will be sold with all proceeds going to Superstorm Sandy relief. Hurry up and get this kitty out, Blizzard! http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/7777896/Cinder_Kitten_Charity_Drive_for_Superstorm_Sandy_Coming_Soon-11_7_2012
The latest build of Patch 5.1 on the PTR is a release candidate. Hooray! Soon we’ll have more dailies to do!!! http://wow.joystiq.com/2012/11/13/patch-5-1-latest-build-is-a-release-candidate/
Blizzard announces penalties for anyone cheating in Arenas. This is why Jesse Ventura never got far in PvP. http://us.battle.net/wow/en/forum/topic/7118303086#1