Q. Could you name three places you feel players shouldn’t miss on their first trip through the zone?
A. There’s a lot to see in Pandaria but one of the most significant locations is the Serpent’s Heart. This is an enormous statue in the middle of the zone in which pandaren stonemasons have toiled at building for nearly a hundred years. However, they are running out of jade, and the mines to the north are overwhelmed by monsters. Trouble is definitely afoot.
On the coast to the east lies the Temple of the Jade Serpent. This is the home to Yu’lon, the Jade Serpent, who is one of the celestial guardians of Pandaria. She’s the spirit of wisdom, but also represents spring, youth, growth, and nurturing. Players will get a chance to meet her in person.
Jade Forest is also the zone where the Alliance and Horde first make landfall on Pandaria. The Alliance will land in the southwest and will begin a search for Prince Anduin Wrynn, who has gone missing in a recent naval battle. Meanwhile, the Horde arrives on the northern shores. In both cases, the conflict in the rest of the world spills into Pandaria, and they’ll be fighting from the moment boots touch the ground. The tension between trying to explore a new land while simultaneously fighting a war drives a lot of the action in Jade Forest.
Q. So, from a story perspective, Jade Forest is a pretty important zone?
A. Absolutely! All this deep-seated tension and animosity is unleashed on the shores of what has been a relatively peaceful land for a long time. The consequences of the battle in Jade Forest reverberate across the entire continent.
Pandaria’s first dungeon is here: the Temple of the Jade Serpent that I mentioned earlier. If you play through the whole zone, you’ll get to visit the dungeon and interact with the inhabitants when things are peaceful. Once everything goes bad, you’ll have to go back in and try to undo a lot of the damage the fighting between the Alliance and Horde has caused. You’ll learn a lot about the Pandaren people and hopefully gain wisdom from the Jade Serpent herself.
Q. What factions or races will we be able to interact with?
A. Pandaria is host to several races that the Horde and Alliance have never encountered before. There are the forest hozen: semi-intelligent monkeys with a penchant for violence. They aren’t a very mature group and are in fact quite rowdy and crude. They eventually ally with the Horde. (Other tribes of hozen exist in other zones, but they aren’t the friendly sort and won’t ally with anyone.)
On the opposite end of the spectrum are the jinyu who are a wise and proud race of amphibious creatures. They have refinement and culture. Their “waterspeakers” can listen to the waters to foretell events of the future, although this is a rare occurrence. A subset of this race will end up allying with the Alliance.
Players will also encounter the mogu for the first time. This fearsome, brutish race is pillaging and destroying a few areas of the forest, giving us a hint as to their nature. But they’re really just a foreshadowing of what’s to come – the mogu play a huge part in pandaren history, and they’ll play a big role in this expansion as well.
Of course, the pandaren will be there as well for people to get to know. Imagine their surprise when the Horde and Alliance show up and turn things upside down.
As far as factions go, the Order of the Cloud Serpent is a faction and a daily hub that players can access at level 90. Members of The Order are sent out into the wild to find a cloud serpent egg, and then raise their serpent hatchling to adulthood. Serpent riders train and nurture their cloud serpents, then ride them into war. Players will also be able to choose their own egg and raise their own serpent, watch it grow to adulthood, and eventually keep their cloud serpent as their own flying mount. Exalted status with this faction also awards Cloud Serpent Riding, which is a tier of flying skill required to ride any cloud serpent mount from Pandaria.
There’s a lot more to be seen in this zone, but hopefully this will give you a taste of what’s to come in your adventures ahead.