(Sorry, I've been having way too much fun with alliterative post titles lately.)
So, shortly after hitting level eighty-five, our Worgen duo was off to Pandaria, which was finally going to be new content for both of us. The expansion didn't exactly make the best first impression, considering that the continent's loading screen is possibly the ugliest thing ever (seriously, who wants to look at these Mogu things all the time?), but the Jade Forest itself drew us in quite quickly.
The actual quests in the area were sufficiently fun and varied, though I really wish that Blizzard would take a leaf out of SWTOR's book and make questing in a group less of a hassle. It wasn't too bad in Jade Forest at least, but there just doesn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to whether certain quest drops and updates are shared or not, and "picking things up from the ground" type quests are always a pain because the game doesn't let you share loot from the ground, ever.
The new quest reward system took some getting used to as well. At first I missed the option of getting to choose between several different items, even if most of them probably wouldn't have been useful for my class, but that feeling quickly went away as I was happy to just watch the upgrades roll in. The one thing I didn't like, and more importantly, which I absolutely do not understand, is how some quests will allow you to choose between rewards for different specs but most of them will only show you the item for your current one. Having to switch specs before handing in a quest every time I want a piece for my off-spec just feels extremely clunky.
My impression of the Jade Forest story can probably be summed up as: pandas aren't so bad, but my faction kind of sucks. I was never a rabid hater of the pandaren, but I wasn't all that keen on them either when they were first announced. Travelling around Jade Forest however, I found interacting with the panda NPCs quite enjoyable, as they were whimsical and funny without being over the top. They also didn't seem to scare easily - I was most amused by a quest to free some trapped miners, who then just went on to talk about how "they were just lying down - under rocks, obviously" or how they'd have to tell their children about how exciting the whole experience had been.
The one bright influence on the Alliance story was Anduin, whom I already loved in Cata and who just continues to be adorable and amusing in his priestly ways. My favourite bit was the cut scene where he mind-controlled a friendly NPC to create a distraction. Genius! It always bugs me when NPCs are portrayed as completely different from player characters in what they can and can't do, so it's nice to see the writers make good use of abilities that you would expect a priest to have when working on Anduin's scenes.
The one thing I'm not so sure about is that the zone still felt very linear, which would be a problem for replayability, just as it was in Cata. The first two hubs at least felt heavily railroaded, though the map opened up a lot after that and we were given the option to do a variety of sub-zones in a different order. There was still an overarching story to the area however, so I'm not sure whether all that choice was just an illusion and you still need to do everything to be able to witness the zone's climatic event, or whether the side-quests are genuinely non-essential.