Stepping through the Pandaren starting zone in Blizzard's upcoming expansion.
The Pandaren experience begins on the back of a floating turtle, a level 1 through 10 zone that serves as the starting point for anyone that wants to start over as World of Warcraft's newest race. Unlike the rest of WoW's playable races, Pandaren are not auto-aligned with Horde or Alliance right from the beginning. Instead, they're neutral, and initially unconcerned with the Horde versus Alliance rivalry that so strongly defines life in Azeroth.
Pandaren Monk Gameplay Commentary
You begin by proving your worth to Pandaren elders by recruiting elemental spirits to a central temple in Pandaria's starting zone. The visual style is unlike anything else in World of Warcraft, with lush bamboo forests, strata of soft cloud floating between sets of rounded hills and ornate temples stacked atop the zone's highest peaks. Though there are threats like packs of raucous, occasionally drunk monkey-like creatures called Hozen and rat-like vermin poaching carrots from farmlands, Pandaria feels isolated and pristine, untainted by the events that ripped up Kalimdor and the Eastern Continent.
Mists of Pandaria's upcoming talent tree redesign.
That is, at least, until you manage to recruit all the spirits to the temple and take a hot air balloon to talk to the turtle on which the zone is built. It turns out the turtle thinks it has a thorn in its side, and after checking into the matter, you find the thorn is actually a crashed airship surrounded by Horde and Alliance. You investigate by doing kill and collect quests, then eventually blast the airship clear off the turtle's back, opening up a rather gruesome wound.
The new starting zone looks great despite WoW's age.
This leads to the most interesting quest of the whole starting experience, where run around near the gash and recruit healers to mend the injury. You'll need to protect the healers as they fling magic at the wound, as they're constantly under attack by monsters. When it's finally done, you head back to the zone's central temple and have to make a choice. The Pandaren elders realize they can no longer ignore what's happening in the larger world, and you're given the option to join Horde or Alliance. If you choose Alliance you're whisked away in a hot air balloon and set down in front of Stormwind, where you'll begin your long trip through the rest of World of Warcraft's content until you return to Pandaria for the level 85 to 90 experience.
A few memorable moments in Pandaria's starting zone.
The starting quests in Pandaria are all fast, simple and move you around the zone quickly, though aside from the finale provide few truly memorable moments. The quest goals usually involve killing and collecting, and a few that try something a little different – such as fighting other Pandaren while balancing on thin wooden poles – wind up feeling more awkward than entertaining. Quirky humor elements are placed throughout the zone, including Hozen dangling from rooftops and jumping on your head in combat, strangely cute vermin gnawing through oversized vegetables in farmlands and magic pools that temporarily turn you into small animals like skunks and frogs. As Blizzard previously said, heavy use of phasing isn't present here. You'll notice it in small amounts, but the technique doesn't seem like it's used quite as much as in the Goblin and Worgen starting zones. If it is, it's skillfully hidden.
A different style of quest, not necessarily for the better.
If you really want to create a Pandaren character, you don't have to pick a monk. Every class aside from Paladin, Warlock, Druid and Death Knight is available to Pandaren characters. Pandaren characters get some useful racial bonuses, including doubled statistical bonuses after gaining Well Fed from eating cooked meals, halved fall damage, and rested experience that lasts twice as long, making leveling a little easier.
The Pandaren starting zone is set on a turtle's back.
The Monk class can be specialized for healing, tanking or dealing damage. In a damage dealing role, the Monk uses two resource systems: energy and chi. You'll use a basic attack, called Clobber with a staff equipped, that consumes energy and builds a single point of chi. Up to four chi points can be stored and used to trigger other attacks. The Tiger Palm attack consumes one chi and deals additional damage if the enemy is above half health. Another attack, Blackout Kick, only becomes available after an enemy is knocked down to 35 percent health, and consumes two chi, though will refund one chi if the kick is the killing blow.
Though Pandaren start neutral, eventually you pick sides.
The best use of these attacks early on is to use Tiger Palm early, Clobber to build chi, then finish with a Blackout Kick. When you approach the next enemy you should have at least one chi point available to open the next fight with Tiger Palm, then repeat the Clobber and Blackout Kick combination. To help you dart between targets quickly, the Monk also gets a Roll ability that sends him forward a short distance over the ground.
For now Blizzard is just testing out the early Pandaria's starter zone, so expect coverage of the main bulk of Pandaria in the high level zones as testing continues. Hopefully we'll also get to play around with Blizzard's Pokemon-like pet battle system soon as well.