Two zones in Pandaria lie beyond the Serpentâ€™s Spine wall, where few Pandaren dare to tread. One of these regions is the terrifying Dread Wastes, the homeland of a sophisticated insectoid race known as the mantid. What makes the mantid so terrifying for the pandaren, and what happens next? To find out, we spoke with Don Adams, Associate Quest Designer.
Q: So Whatâ€™s the Story in the Dread Wastes?
A: The Dread Wastes are the mantid homeland. From here, Grand Empress Shekâ€™zeer commands a seemingly endless swarm of mantid. They hurl themselves against the Serpentâ€™s Spine wall, nearly overwhelming the Shado-Pan defenders. Historically, the mantid have swarmed in regular and predictable intervals, but this swarm is about ten years too soon, and the pandaren are caught off-guard. Itâ€™s not that the Empress is getting more strategic; in fact, her whole society is in the middle of an upheaval.
Shekâ€™zeer has been overwhelmed and possessed by the Sha of Fear, and sheâ€™s running her empire into the ground. At her command, the mantid are embracing the sha, willfully corrupting themselves, their sacred trees, and the entire ecology of their land. Blind fear has driven the empress onto a warpath and itâ€™s tearing her civilization apart.
The mantid, however, are not a hive-mind. Their race is ancient, highly advanced, and highly structured. A council of mantid elders known as the Klaxxi are the stewards of mantid history and culture, and their goals are much more long-term than those of the empress. Avoiding spoilers, I will say that the Klaxxi are essentially the keepers of the mantidâ€™s true origin and purpose. They recognize that the empress has lost her mind, and that swarming Pandaria will mean little if their entire civilization is given over to the sha in the process. Most of the zone focuses around this conflict between the mantid swarm and the Klaxxi, showcasing both the terrible scope of a full-on swarm and the fallout of unchecked sha corruption.
We also have a few side stories that follow some particularly hardy pandaren who have ventured into the Dread Wastes. The Stormstout family has come to bring the fight directly to the mantid, and have fallen in with a group of brewmasters who specialize in brewing with sap from the native kypari trees. Meanwhile, the crew of a wrecked fishing boat has set up shop on the southern coast and is reaping the benefits of being the only Anglers beyond the wall.
Q: How Does the Story Play Out? What Factions Will Players Encounter?
A: This zone is all about the Klaxxi, which is a player power faction offering level-90 rewards. The quest flow is meant to blend â€œlevel-upâ€ quest progression with a daily reputation grind, so you begin working with the Klaxxi and earning rep almost immediately after setting foot in the zone. Your progression through the one-shot quests yields direct benefits to the eventual daily experience, and your progression into the higher rep levels through dailies will in turn open up more one-shot story quests.
So what will players be doing to help the Klaxxi? Although the Klaxxi are wise and powerful, there arenâ€™t very many of them. They donâ€™t have a standing army. But they do have access to the paragons: mantid champions from past eras who were preserved in amber at the height of their strength and buried all over the Dread Wastes. Some of them are war masters, others are ingenious alchemists or master assassins. These guys are the Klaxxiâ€™s ace in the hole.
When you first arrive in Dread Wastes, you stumble upon one of these paragons and wake him up â€“ he then introduces you to the council, and they allow you to continue waking up paragons to help build their forces. These paragons become your daily questgivers, so as youâ€™re waking them up youâ€™re also unlocking more dailies. They also provide you with buffs that let you do things like mind control enemies or double-jump while in the Dread Wastes.
Q: What Are Some of Your Favorite Places Within the Zone?
A: My advice to anyone stepping into Dread Wastes for the first time is to look up. The sky just pulses with sha energy, itâ€™s eerie and almost hypnotic. It does a great job of setting the theme for the entire place: sha fallout.
On the northern edge of the zone is the Sunset Brewgarden, where the sapmasters make brews from kypari sap. I love the way this area looks, with all the brewing equipment and the sap being tapped out of the tree.
This sap (or amber) is central to the mantid way of life, so youâ€™re also going to find some really amazing mantid chambers beneath some of the bigger trees where the sap collects in these great golden pools. The Amber Hibernal comes to mind, but there are several more, including some tucked beneath the Heart of Fear itself.
The Heart of Fear, of course, is the mantid palace and the seat of Grand Empress Shekâ€™zeer. There are plenty of quests immediately outside the palace, but youâ€™ll need a raid if you want to step inside and challenge the empress herself. Stretching out from the palace and ending at the Serpentâ€™s Spine are two great scars from the endless marching of the mantid swarm. Along these scars youâ€™re also going to see a few of the kypari trees completely engulfed by the sha, with mantid workers harvesting the corrupted amber and feeding it to their warriors or using it to quicken the development of their eggs.
Itâ€™s a bleak zone, and a dangerous one. I really think it captures the oppressive mood you expect from the final zone in an expansion.
Whatâ€™s next for Pandaria? We have one final zone to visit: the Vale of Eternal Blossoms, the golden heart of the continent and the setting for weeks of level-90 adventures.