Krasarang Wilds is, indeed, next on the list. The most noticeable thing here is the massive variation in monsters – some have vastly high HP totals than others, some do a lot more damage. Some monsters actually have abilities that you need to avoid, which is entirely new for random quest monsters out in the world. Another hugely positive change, in my opinion, injecting a little more interest in to the simple task of killing x number of y creature for z NPC.
You come here in search of some of the monks from the Tian Monastery in Jade Forest, who are searching for the “hidden master” to further their martial arts training. They’ve split up across the Wilds and the Valley of Four Winds to look for him, and you track two of them here. The initial quest hub is full of despondent Pandaren. A strong negative emotion affecting a settlement? Surely the work of the Sha! So it turns out, with the influence of the Sha of Despair eventually exorcised by Ken-Ken creating a special mask for the purpose. You’re sent in the direction of the Temple of Chi-Ji, the Red Crane, where the Sha of Despair holds it’s lair.
On the way, you stop off to help a Nesingwary employee kill some of the local animals. Because, really, it wouldn’t be a WoW expanion without them showing up, would it? You also meet up with a tribe of Tauren who have moved to the area following the visions of Leza, their leader‘s pregnant wife. She dies in childbirth despite the best efforts of her husband in a frankly crushing cutscene, which left me not really wanting to play for a little while. Oof.
After that, you finish heading to the Temple of the Red Crane to face down the Sha of Despair. Here you’re given an assistant: one Anduin Wrynn, who dislikes the Sha a lot more than he does the Horde. He’ll make an excellent leader of the Alliance when World of Peacecraft launches, at least. After saving some Pandaren and banishing several manifestations of despair, you face the entity itself. It’s destroyed after a short battle, and Chi-Ji is freed from it’s influence.
There’s a little more after that, introducing the bug race, the Mantid, before the zone finishes. Valley of the Four Winds!
Valley of the Four Winds is the heartland of Pandaria, where the majority of it’s people live and the majority of it’s food is grown. As such, it’s all farms, including one of your very own! Although, Illirica’s isn’t in particular good shape at the moment, as you can see. That’ll change, with time!
The quests here primarily follow Chen Stormstout and his niece, Li Li as they explore the zone. After a little traveling you meet up with hick homebrewer Mudmug. Through Mudmug, Chen discovered the Stormstout Brewery, run by relatives of his. He travels there but is turned away by it’s odd curator. After some goading, he resolves to return – this time, with beer to share. Naturally, you’re enlisted to help gather up the ingredients. Which are… less that savoury. Hops, muddy river water, and moldy wheat from a cave in Krasarang Wilds. You’ll, uh, you’ll excuse me if I pass on a mug of The Emperor, Chen.
Leaving Chen, you finally track down the Hidden Master that the monks have been searching for. A series of exceptionally well done martial arts training montages ensue, with no part of the genre left un-mocked. Marvelous stuff.
Finally, with both zones complete, you’re called to the defence of the town of Stoneplow, which is under siege from the Mantid of the Dread Wastes. A gigantic Mantid Colossus crashes through the wall, threatening to totally overrun the town, and the rest of the Valley. Luckily, all of the people you’ve been helping – the Tauren, Red Crane monks, the despairing Pandaren, some farmers and the Stormstouts – all show up to help you tackle this menace. Putting your martial arts training to good use, you’re swallowed whole by the Colossus and punch it to death from the inside.
A run of Mogu’shan Palace and a couple of battlegrounds (in search of an elusive daily win) later and Illirica is level 88. I now have all of the Rogue abiltiies besides the level 90 talent, with Crimson Tempest and Shadow Blades added to my abilities. Shadow Blades in particular is an excellent (if short) cooldown, something non-Combat Rogues have traditionally lacked.
Off to Kun-Lai next. At the current rate of progress I’m pretty sure I won’t have to do one of the zones to hit 90. I imagine Townlong is going to miss out, here – I’ll get it next time around.
I’ll leave the final word on Valley and Wilds to an ability, rather than an NPC.