Pandaria is very, very pretty.
It’s also very, very well put together. Having just levelled through the three previous expansions, the improvements are obvious, and massive. Even from Cataclysm, it’s night and day – the quests are tightly put together, well scripted and excellently organised. The new method of tracking zone quest progress – by completing hubs, rather than a simple quest number counter – is a particular triumph.
So, welcome to the Jade Forest, home of the Forest Hozen, Pearlfin Jinyu, and the first salvos on the latest chapter of the war between Horde and Alliance. The Horde expedition, led by General Nazgrim starts badly: we arrive on Pandaria late, with the Alliance already having had time to set up a forward base. Our airship, the Orgrim’s Hammer is shot down by ‘copters from a nearby airbase. Nazgrim states, quite rightly, that Garrosh will have his head for this debacle.
The initial problem is sorted through the medium of killing everyone in blue in the area, claiming the airbase in the name of the Horde (in a neat little quest where the banners are changed). Having dealt with that, you turn to subjugating the natives – namely, the local Hozen tribes. You start by killing their leader, the alarmingly named Dook Ookem. That done, you’re approached by Lorewalker
Exposition Cho, who explains that the loyalty of the Hozen can’t be won by simply killing their leader. He also explains some of how Pandaria, and it’s main inhabitants, the Pandaren and the Mogu, coexist. Having bribed the Hozen with some fish (sorry, slickies) and done some more good deeds for them, they agree to help you in your battles against the Alliance. Through the various quests aiding the Hozen, it quickly becomes clear that they’re all played by Andy Serkis.
At this point you’re left to explore and help the various Pandaren communities in the area, protecting them from Mogu and proving yourself to the island’s denizens. This leads you to meeting the Jade Serpent, Yu’lon, who explains the life cycle of Celestials, and the purpose of the impressive jade statue the Pandaren are constructing.
Once done around the zone, you’re called back by Nazgrim, who informs you that we’re ready to make our push against the Alliance. The battle begins…
… and goes horribly wrong, as the Sha of Doubt, empowered by the conflict, rises from beneath the Jade Serpent statue, shattering it and ending the battle. Maybe we should’ve listened to Taran Zhu.
Done with Jade Forest, Illirica is level 86. I’m very impressed with Pandaria so far, and looking forward to continuing – Krasarang Wilds next, I think! I’ll leave the last word on the zone to an NPC:
Why indeed, Curious Cub. Why indeed.