While finally leveling my rogue alt to 90, I had the chance to once again play through early expansion content, taking the opportunity to reaffirm my opinion that the combination of the Krasarang Wilds and Valley of the Four Winds zones provides the best questing experience in Mists of Pandaria.
The zones are set up well at the first quest hub, Pang’s Stead. Players encounter a group of monk students, including Xiao and Lin Tenderpaw (who both previously appeared at the Tian Monastery in the Jade Forest), and also finally meet Chen Stormstout in his long-overdue first World of Warcraft appearance. After helping with a rodent infestation, players can journey with Chen or seek out the four students in their search for the Hidden Master. Two of the students, Lin and Clever Ashyo, are found in the Valley of the Four Winds, while Ken-Ken and Kang Bramblestaff venture into the Krasarang Wilds.
Following each of these characters introduces players to various aspects of Pandaria. Chen’s quests take him to the Stormstout Brewery, which is dealing with a Hozen and Virmin infestation. Ken-Ken leads players to Zhu’s Watch, which is suffering from an outbreak of sha-caused despair. Kang Bramblestaff introduces players to either the Horde Dawnchaser Tribe or the Alliance Sentinels, and ultimately leads to helping Anduin Wrynn defend the Temple of the Red Crane. Clever Ashyo grants players their first experience with the Vale of Eternal Blossoms by granting them a vision from its waters that have flowed into the Valley. Lin is the only student to find the Hidden Master.
After following each of these questlines, players wind up in Stoneplow on the western edge of the Valley. The pandaren there have been defending a steady Mantid onslaught and are struggling to keep the Serpent’s Spine in tact, as it is the barricade holding the Mantid in the Dread Wastes. Of course, just as the player arrives to help in defending the hamlet, a giant Kunchong breaches the wall and the Mantid invasion is ready to consume the village. Watch Commander Loon Mai is ready to evacuate the town and fall back to Halfhill, sacrificing over half of the Valley in an attempt to regroup, but just as he’s ready to call for retreat, the calvary shows up.
In one of Blizzard’s best storytelling efforts, all the characters that players had been helping throughout the two zones return to unite and battle the Mantid. Sunwalker Dezco and the Dawnchaser Trible, Lyalia and the Sentinels, the Hidden Master and the students, Chen, Mudmug, and Li Li, Mei Barrelbottom from Zhu’s Watch, and even Miss Fanny from Pang’s Stead all return for the fight. Not only do all these characters reappear, but they play critical roles in defending the valley. Mudmug delivers beer to the assorted defenders to rally them, forcing players to interact with each group one more time; The Master and the Students fight with the player to kill several powerful Mantid; and finally, the Hidden Master and Miss Fanny provide a satisfying conclusion to the entire zone. In Pang’s Stead, Miss Fanny, a domesticated mushan, is used to bat vegetables to a nearby farm. Here, her ability to knock things far distances is used to toss the player into the jaws of the massive Kunchong. From within the creature’s stomach, players are called upon to use the punching skills that the Hidden Master spent so long (and so many training montages) imparting to them. Thus, the kunchong is defeated when players are able to punch their way out from the beast’s belly. With the colossus defeated, the Mantid force is broken and they are forced to retreat.
The first time I played through this zone, I was surprised to see everyone not only return, but play pivotal roles. Characters like Sunwalker Dezco have continued to show up elsewhere in Mists, getting involved in leading players into the Vale of Eternal Blossoms and also making a cameo watching over Anduin during Wrathion’s Legendary quests. Blizzard learned that players responded to seeing everyone reappear, as they’ve used the Timeless Isle to serve as a coda to our adventuring in the newly-discovered continent. Characters from all of the zones can be found watching the Celestial Tournament. Since most of these characters won’t follow us into the next expansion, it serves as a nice farewell to them, but also a way to see that our efforts helping Pandaria’s citizens have not been for naught. Normally, MMO’s require that zones be stuck in time – in game, Zhu’s Watch and the Temple of the Red Crane will always be recovering from the Sha invasion, for example – but by appearing at the Timeless Isle, we see that the conflicts have been resolved and the NPC’s can make their way to the legendary isle with little worry (Clever that Blizzard would use an island stuck in time to narratively advance a story that would otherwise be stuck in time.).
Mists of Pandaria has been one of the most well-executed narratives Blizzard has undertaken. Blizzard’s refinement of the questing experience over four expansions was obvious to anyone who bothered to play through the Valley of the Four Winds and the Krasarang Wilds after discovering Pandaria. For that reason, those two zones together will be my favorite questing experience in Mists of Pandaria. Whatever it may be, I can only look forward to what further ideas Blizzard has in store for us in their next expansion.
Blink 182 is headlining Blizzcon! I’m pretty sure they stole all their dick jokes from Barrens chat. http://us.battle.net/blizzcon/en/blog/11394660/Party_with_Blink-182_at_BlizzCon%C2%AE_2013-10_31_2013
New short story! Not sure what its about but the picture is of a PANDAREN PUNCHING A SHARK!!! WHAT MORE DO YOU NEED TO KNOW??? http://us.battle.net/wow/en/game/lore/destination-pandaria/faction-stories/over-water/1
Connected Realms update. They’re still sending out beta-keys to the servers that have opted-in in batches. Your server’s invite will come soon. http://us.battle.net/wow/en/blog/11393305/Connected_Realms_Update-11_1_2013