Today we take a walk on the wild side, and for the first time since our tour of Pandaria began, we step beyond the Serpentâ€™s Spine wall and into the dangerous â€“ but hauntingly beautiful â€“ hills of the Townlong Steppes. Leading the way is World of Warcraftâ€™s Lead Quest Designer, Dave â€œFargoâ€ Kosak.
Siege of Niuzao Temple
Q. Whatâ€™s the story here in the Steppes?
A. The events in Townlong directly follow up on what happened in Kun-Lai Summit. If you play through Kun-Lai youâ€™ll meet the Shado-Pan, and if you step into the dungeon you can help them overcome their crisis in the Shado-Pan Monastery. There, Lord Taran-Zhu, the leader of the Shado-Pan, had become overwhelmed by the Sha of Hatred. The rescue at the monastery is an important moment for Taran-Zhu; heâ€™ll finally see the value that the Alliance and Horde bring to Pandaria, and players will have earned a staunch ally.
The story picks up from there. In Townlong Steppes, Taran-Zhu is tracking down his nemesis, the elusive Sha of Hatred thatâ€™s blasted its way across the zone. Youâ€™ll get to ride with the vanguard with the Shado-Pan vanguard, but theyâ€™ve got a lot of ground to cover. The Steppes are home to the Yaungolyaungol, who are still on the warpath. Meanwhile, the mantid are encroaching from the south. The sacred Temple of Niuzao is under siege, and a splinter sect ofMogumogu are trying to create their own dark demigod on an island off the coast.
Even the mighty Shado-Pan will have their hands full. Itâ€™s a good thing youâ€™re here.
Q. Could you name three of your favorite locations players should check out on their journey through the zone?
A. As with everywhere else in Pandaria, thereâ€™s a lot to drink in. No visit to the Steppes would be complete without a pilgrimage to the most hardcore of pandaren shrines, Niuzao Temple. Niuzao is the formal name for the Black Ox, one of the four August Celestials who watch over Pandaria and the embodiment of fortitude for the pandaren people. Bonus: your Valor and Justice vendors are there, as well, so something tells me youâ€™ll definitely want to pay a visit. In addition, every few days, the guardians of the temple may need your help with some daily quests.
Youâ€™ll also want to visit the Shado-Pan Garrison on the western coast. This is the main base camp for the Shado-Pan on the move. Once you get to revered with the Golden Lotus faction, youâ€™ll be able to come here and start earning your stripes with the Shado-Pan â€“ more on that later.
Finally, thereâ€™s a little grotto in between Townlong and the Dread Wastes that isnâ€™t important from a story perspective, but itâ€™s one of the coolest places in the expansion. Iâ€™m talking about the Ambermarsh, a little corner of the map where the roots of the giant kypari trees burrow down into a foggy marshland, creating a kind of living canopy surrounded by canyon walls. The curling roots coil around globules of amber while mischievous wood sprites scramble around through the fog. The overall impact is really haunting â€“ itâ€™s just one of those hidden treasures that youâ€™ll find all over the map in Pandaria.
Q. You mentioned that players can help the Shado-Pan and the August Celestials here…?? How do those quests work?
A. Right! The four August Celestials of Pandaria need your help, but never all at once. Sometimes youâ€™ll help the White Tiger in Kun-Lai Summit, sometimes youâ€™ll be needed at the Temple of the Jade Serpent…. Here in Townlong, the Black Ox will need a hand as well. On some days heâ€™ll rest quietly at the temple while you complete missions in the surrounding terrain. But on alternate days Niuzao will be on the warpath, actively defending his temple from a mantid assault. If youâ€™re clever, youâ€™ll lure the mantid into his rampage and heâ€™sheâ€™ll help you slaughter them in big groups. With the dailies in Pandaria, we really tried to mix it up, so youâ€™re never going to be doing the same sorts of things two days in a row.
Thatâ€™s also true of the Shado-Pan. Once youâ€™re revered with the Golden Lotus faction in the Vale of Eternal Blossoms, youâ€™ll have proven yourself to the Shado-Pan and youâ€™ll be able to start doing daily quests for them and moving up in their organization. There are three branches of the Shado-Pan faction, focused on stealth, strength, or magic. Every day youâ€™ll work with one of the three disciplines, and youâ€™ll get to choose a companion to come with you.
One of our goals with the expansion was to make sure that earning reputation with a faction was more than just watching a bar grow across the bottom of your screen. In the case of the Shado-Pan, thereâ€™s a couple of things going on. For one, thereâ€™s a story that plays out, as you investigate what the mogu are doing on the island of Shanâ€™ze Dao and ultimately thwart their plans.
For another, as you earn reputation with the Shado-Pan, you can unlock additional companions to accompany you on your daily quests. For example, on days when the quests require a caster companion, will you take along Fei-Li the Firecracker, the tempestuous fire mage? Or will you bring along the quiet but stern priest, Yalia Sagewhisper, to take advantage of her buffs and heals? Every new Shado-Pan companion has to be earned by first defeating them in a sparring match. (Easier said than done. During the beta, Snow Blossom the frost mage would absolutely DESTROY me.)
We built the Shado-Pan companions to actively assist you. Protector Yi will use his abilities to hold agroaggro for you, whereas Snow Blossom will try to crowd-control large groups of enemies with Frost Nova. The Shado-Pan daily quests take place in some of the most dangerous parts of Pandaria, so youâ€™ll appreciate the help, although itâ€™s possible to do the quests solo if you feel like a real challenge. That was another goal with our design of Pandaria â€“ we want players to have lots of ways to pick their own level of difficulty as they play!
Players who get to exalted with the Shado-Pan will actually be inducted into the order (there are some sweet transmoggable helms up for grabs.) If youâ€™re really dedicated, you can also earn the Shado-Master title by completing all of the associated achievements â€“ youâ€™ll have to defeat the Sha of Anger world boss in Kun-Lai Summit and other significant challenges for the privilege. Not easy, but worth it!
Coming next: We venture into the Dread Wastes, the terrifying home of the Mantid Empire.