When Pandaria separated from Kalimdor many thousands of years ago, a veil of mist kept outsiders from discovering the newly-formed continent. The mists also hid the site of an ancient evil: Lei Shenâ€™s Throne of Thunder. During his rule, this fortress was the seat of the Thunder Kingâ€™s power. Great swathes of corrupted energy lingered long after his death, and now, the resurrected Thunder King and the Zandalari trolls intend to harness that energy to reestablish Lei Shenâ€™s reign.
Join us as we delve into the Thunder Kingâ€™s stronghold, one of the largest raid dungeons that Azerothâ€™s adventurers have ever seen. Here we will learn about its fearsome denizens, and gain insight into each battle from Lead Encounter Designer, Ion â€œWatcherâ€ Hazzikostas.
Last Stand of the Zandalari
Jinâ€™rokh the Breaker
When the Thunder King awoke, he rewarded the most loyal and ambitious Zandalari trolls with power beyond their wildest dreams. The berserker Jinâ€™rokh was one of the first to receive the Kingâ€™s blessing, and even though Lei Shenâ€™s gifts nearly tore his body apart, the troll is now capable of calling the fury of the storm in battle.
Ion: Long-time players may remember this guy as one of the Zandalari berserkers living on Yojamba Isle in Stranglethorn Vale, back when the Zandalari were our friends. He was a quest giver in the assault on the original 20-player Zulâ€™Gurub. He was a huge brute to begin with, but heâ€™s been imbued with even greater power by the Thunder King. He crackles with electricity, using both his raw strength and channeled lightning to destroy his enemies.
The Zandalari brought powerful creatures with them to the Isle of the Thunder King to use as engines of war. Led by the War-God Jalak, the dinomancers of the Zandalari Beast Ward use ancient tribal magics to strengthen the great beasts and command obedience. The horns of Horridon, the fabled mount of Jalak himself, can tear through the stone walls of a keep as a blade cuts silk.
Ion: Trolls love dinosaurs, so itâ€™s only fitting that the most advanced and powerful troll tribe should have the largest and most powerful dinosaurs. The overall structure of this encounter recalls past fights like Lady Deathwhisper or Mâ€™uru, where players must keep up with waves of lesser (but still threatening) minions while managing the boss, before turning their attention directly to him in the later stages of the fight.
Council of Elders
The history of the troll tribesâ€”the Drakkari, the Farraki, the Amani, and the Gurubashiâ€”is awash with millennia of betrayal and conflict, but the Zandalariâ€™s promise of a new, unstoppable empire has finally united these disparate troll leaders.
The Council of Elders consists of four mighty troll leaders: Kazraâ€™jin of the Amani, Sul the Sandcrawler of the Farraki, Frost King Malakk of the Drakkari, and High Priestess Marâ€™Li of the Gurubashi.
Ion: Garaâ€™jal the Spiritbinderâ€™s defeat in the Moguâ€™shan Vaults was, yes, merely a setback. It takes more than a few blades and spells to put a voodoo priest down for good, though he no longer possesses a corporeal form. So this time around you arenâ€™t fighting him directly, but rather dealing with him as he possesses and empowers leaders of four other troll tribes, strengthening their attacks until you can force him out of the body he has chosen to occupy.
Over the millennia, small amounts of mogu flesh-shaping magic seeped into the caverns below the Thunder Kingâ€™s citadel. The dark energies warped one of the chamberâ€™s native dragon turtles, melding it to the surrounding crystalline walls. Known as Tortos, this amalgamation of flesh and stone has since feasted on the caveâ€™s rich mineral deposits and grown to a colossal size.
Ion: Along with asking why we fight, and learning that our true enemy is war itself, a major theme of the Mists of Pandaria has been killing turtles. This raid encounter elevates that motif to all-new heights, presenting players with the chance to fight a huge turtle, and small turtles, and also the ability to kick one of the small turtles into the big turtle. What more could you ask for?
Fun fact: We originally wanted to make a fire turtle boss in the southeastern section of Firelands in Patch 4.2, but opted not to at the time; weâ€™ve been looking for an opportunity to do a turtle fight ever since.
Even the most callous among the mogu quaver at the thought of the dark experiments performed at the Thunder Kingâ€™s behest. Long ago, a young cloud serpent was twisted into a multi-headed hydra and left to languish beneath Lei Shenâ€™s throne. Now the twisted creature lurks deep in the Forgotten Depths, awaiting the moment it may finally inflict its terrible agony upon others.
Ion: The inspiration for this boss fight was the classic hydra that Heracles (Hercules, if you prefer the Roman version for some silly reason) battled in Greek mythâ€”a beast with many heads that regrew two heads in place of each that was severed. That foundation, combined with the concept of three distinct types of heads, resulted in the beast that now awaits players beneath the Thunder Kingâ€™s lair in patch 5.2.
Mogu flesh-shapers discarded their failed creations in an abyssal shaft beneath Lei Shenâ€™s keep. The reek of decay lured many scavengers to the refuse pit, including the great Ji-Kun. Ruthless and cunning, the monstrous bird devoured her rivals one-by-one until she held sole dominion over the shadowy tunnel.
Ion: This fight takes place in a cylindrical shaft containing a large central platform with multiple nests located both above and below that platform. The encounter was designed to highlight the strong vertical elements of the terrain, without adding actual aerial combat which could have felt awkward. For example, players can gain and use a temporary flight ability to switch levels and deal with Ji-Kunâ€™s fledglings before they mature and pose a greater threat to the raid.
Halls of Flesh-Shaping
Durumu the Forgotten
Lei Shen commanded his sorcerers to mold an aberration that could peer into the hearts of his followers and detect betrayal. From this decree, Durumu was given life. The clever entity stubbornly obeyed its masters until the Thunder Kingâ€™s death, at which time it disappeared into the citadelâ€™s labyrinthine corridors. Only recently has Durumu, all but forgotten by the mogu, emerged from hiding.
Ion: Years ago, players encountered Câ€™Thun, the eye of an old god beneath the Temple of Ahnâ€™Qiraj. As giant eyes are wont to do, it fired eyebeams as its primary method of attack. Durumu has many more eyes, and therefore fires many more eyebeams.
Deep within the bowels of Lei Shenâ€™s island citadel, mogu flesh-shapers formed the saurok out of a magical substance of unknown origin. When the citadel was abandoned, some experiments languished in the dark pools for far too long. . . .
Ion: The fact that the mogu created the saurok (among other creatures native to Pandaria) is something that may not have been obvious to players who were exploring the continent and learning about its inhabitants. This encounter provided us with a chance to â€œshow, not tellâ€ this piece of Pandariaâ€™s history. The actual mechanics of the fight evolved from discussion and brainstorming around the themes of evolution and mutation; a few of us had also recently watched the movie Prometheus, and the vaults of black goo in that movie helped inspire the overall vibe of Primordiusâ€™ lair.
During his reign, Lei Shen labored to build a mechanical servant that would defend his citadel without fear. When his first attempt failed, rage took hold of the Thunder King. He poured this negative emotion into his next, and most successful, creation: the Dark Animus. To this day, the ornate construct observes its duty, empowered by the mysterious substance at the heart of all mogu flesh-shaping experiments.
Ion: The mechanics of the Dark Animus encounter arenâ€™t quite like any boss fight weâ€™ve done before. It centers around a fixed quantity of the mysterious swirling liquid, known as Anima, that is at the heart of the mogu experiments in this wing. The vital fluid animates golems, escaping and moving on to larger and larger constructs as the initial vessels are destroyed, until it eventually amasses enough volume to empower the Dark Animus itself, largest of all the golems. The encounter has a certain puzzle-solving element to it, and players will need to carefully manage how they shift around this finite quantity of Anima or the fight will quickly get out of hand.
Pinnacle of Storms
Legends speak of the brutality of Qon and his quilen champions. The fearless mogu commander was dubbed "Iron Qon" by the Thunder King for his unrelenting resolve to claim victory after victory for the empire regardless of the cost.
Ion: Qon is one of Lei Shenâ€™s elite personal guard, and a master of mounted combat. An original concept for this fight was inspired by the Three Kingdoms warlord Lu Bu, a fierce warrior renowned for his skill in fighting with a spear from horseback. Though Qon does have some very cool and unique mounted attack animations, in the end we found it more interesting to explore gameplay via the different abilities of his mounts instead. Thus, the encounter involves Qon switching among different magical quilen, each of which is empowered with vicious elemental attacks, creating a four-phase encounter that is almost like four separate intense fights rolled into one.
The Twin Consorts of Lei Shen, Luâ€™Lin and Suen, are said to be greatest of the Thunder Kingâ€™s treasures. Rumored to be the only known female mogu in existence, Lei Shen keeps his trophies close, and their combined arsenal against interlopers closer.
Ion: Players may have noticed the complete absence of any female mogu in their exploration of the continent of Pandaria. Players who look closely at the models of these celestial twins will note that they seem quite literally carved out of stone. Indeed, these were specifically created by Lei Shen and empowered to serve and guard him, and they are a direct reflection of his will rather than any broader sense of mogu culture as a whole. An earlier version of the concept for the fight had them actually being spirits of the Sun and Moon, but that didnâ€™t feel quite right (and we all know that the only true spirit of the Moon is Elune, and clearly she was not locked away by the Thunder King).
Lei Shen, the Thunder King
Tyrant, Dictator, Conqueror, Emperor. The Thunder Kingâ€™s numerous titles were earned by bringing absolute misery to the races of Pandaria. Resurrected into a world where his people no longer rule, Lei Shen is bent on ending the farce and bringing the land under his heel once more.
Ion: The core concept for the Lei Shen fight developed during a brainstorming session as members of the encounter design team were throwing around ideas for potential fight mechanics, trying to see if anything would stick. A popular idea was for him to need to pause and recharge periodically, but someone suggested an interesting twist on that ideaâ€”the Thunder King isnâ€™t just a battery that needs to recharge; heâ€™s actually a power source himself. So instead of him drawing power from his citadel, the citadel draws power from him. He is a mighty warrior in his own right, with distinctive weapon and lightning attacks, but his mere presence energizes and activates portions of his citadelâ€™s defenses, and managing those becomes a central element of the encounter. With a wide array of incredible visuals provided by our effects artists, and an awesome dungeon backdrop (those walls arenâ€™t entirely decorative . . .), Lei Shen is an epic final encounter to wrap up an epic raid zone.
Lei Shenâ€™s life changed forever when he stumbled into a dark chamber below what are now the Moguâ€™shan Vaults. Legend has it that he found an ancient titan keeper guarding a miraculous device known as the Engine of Nalakâ€™sha. No one knows what transpired between the two beings, but Lei Shen later emerged from the site bristling with the power to forge an empire. The keeperâ€™s fateâ€”and his current whereaboutsâ€”remain a mystery.
Ion: This is the â€œAlgalonâ€ of the zone; a bonus boss for the high-end raiders who have finished the main zone progression. Lei Shen is the true final boss of the zone, and we wanted to make sure that he still feels that wayâ€”unlike Sinestra in Bastion of Twilight, thereâ€™s some backtracking involved to reach Ra-den after heâ€™s unlocked. The mechanics of the fight are deliberately obscured in the Dungeon Journal for now, so I wonâ€™t say much more. The primary purpose of the Dungeon Journal is to provide an in-game resource to players who are trying to learn an encounter, instead of making them feel like they have to Alt-Tab out to read an online guide. In Ra-denâ€™s case, we know that those of you who face him at first are also the same people who often write those online guides, so hopefully youâ€™ll enjoy a sense of discovery when you first reach him.