Mists Of Pandaria: Entering the Jade Forest

AFTER SUCCESSFULLY getting the realm first for fishing when Mists of Pandaria opened this week, I hit the new continent of Pandaria to start my journey from level 85 to 90. As with Cataclysm, I wanted to jot down some thoughts on each zone as I leveled, and the first stop, Jade Forest, took some warming up to.


For Alliance, the road to Pandaria starts in Stormwind Keep, which triggers a cutscene explaining how a new continent has been discovered “wandering” through the southern oceans of Azeroth. (Funny how these WoW characters keep uncovering new parts of the world every few years. Whoa, where did that continent come from!) After hitching a ride on the Skyfire gunship, you arrive in Pandaria to a full-fledged battle raging on the continent below.

Your first mission is a simple gyrocopter flight: it’s an on-rails mission where you’re firing missiles at hordes of enemies below. It’s basically a cinematic introduction that gives you a few minutes to view the new zone from above before you parachute down into the chaos.

Once on the ground, the opening quests (the Alliance starts on the south coast, the Horde the north) are simple enough: kill some enemies, blow up some tanks, etc. As you’d expect, the starting areas are overcrowded right now, but Blizzard has gotten better over the years at building quests to accommodate the rush. After a few more quests and scripted events, it was off to my first quest hub: Paw’Don Village.

Hubba Hubba

I’m not sure how I feel about the new Pandaren village layouts. So far, they feel a little too spread out, with NPCs scattered all over the place. You can’t fly in Pandaria (why do I keep wanting to call it Pandora?) until level 90, so it can be a little confusing finding that mailbox with areas overlapping each other and roads winding around mountainsides.

One questing tweak: achievements for completing zones are now based on completing hubs (instead of how many quests you complete). Every time you finish a hub, a mini-alert pops up; this gives questing a more story-like feel, where each hub represents a chapter of a larger tale. 

Most of the Jade Forest story centers on the arrival of outsiders (that’s you) and initial efforts to coexist with the Pandaren. Unfortunately, the focus on the story causes things to drag out a bit, with a lot of gimmicky quests and mini–games that bring the action to a halt. Unless you’re really into the whole zen-and-harmony theme, you’ll probably have lost patience by the time you’re doing Pandaren household chores. I killed Arthas and Deathwing, dammit! Why am I trimming this tree?

The Epic Finish

Things pick up greatly in the second half of the zone, with more traditional questing and far more interesting events. The Tian Monastery was the first place the Pandaren stuff clicked for me, and the Serpent’s Overlook event closes things out with an epic cutscene and transition to the next zone. You also get an up-close introduction to the Temple of the Jade Serpent, one of the first new dungeons available to players as they head towards 90. 

If nothing else, Jade Forest is unquestionably pretty. It’s mostly forest, but the addition of cherry blossom trees and Pandaren architecture makes it superior to previous jungle zones like Stranglethorn Vale or Sholazar Basin, so in that regard it’s a great way to introduce players to Pandaria.

Next up is the Valley of the Four Winds, although I can’t say I’m in a giant hurry to churn through it. I’ve cleared Jade Forest on two characters, and (oddly) find myself in no rush to get to 90. Instead, I’ve been dabbling with my professions and the new pet battle system (PokeWoW!), so for now, the dungeon grind can wait.