Jolly in Jade Forest

(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.

We're both the sort of player who likes to go off the rails every now and then, so we had fun right away by sitting down on a rock and fishing in the middle of a war zone, which promptly rewarded us with some quest items which we're apparently supposed to take to another, higher-level zone. Speaking of random fun, I was also very pleased to see the increased attention that has been given to rare mobs, both by making them more interesting to fight and making them visible on the mini-map, so they are easier to spot even without add-ons. We ran into two at our level, as well as into several Zandalari warscouts. We knew that it was probably a bad idea to engage the latter, seeing how they were five levels higher than us, but we were too curious not to at least give it a try. Let's just say that we went splat very quickly - though we also vowed to come back when we're higher level to get some revenge.

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 few Alliance-centric quests were generally a lot less impressive however. Some of the NPCs were likable and amusing, but on the whole it seems to me that the Alliance is following the Horde's example of becoming more and more aggressive and militaristic in a way that feels off-putting and strangely modern, which is not particularly fitting for the setting in my personal opinion. Yes, WoW has never really been high fantasy and has always had steampunk influences, but when your introduction to the zone consists of machine-gunning down orcs from a helicopter, I kind of feel like I've fired up the wrong game.

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.


  1. Don't bother with offspec gear from quests. Later in most zones, you'll find an NPC which will allow you to purchase green gear for any spec.

    If I remember correctly, the rule is that green rewards are only for the current spec, while blue rewards give you the choice of multiple specs.

    1. I've seen those vendors actually, but why pay extra money for gear when I could be getting perfectly good quest rewards of similar quality for free? :P

      And I'm pretty sure I got to choose between two greens at least once... either way I don't think it makes sense to not give players the choice all the time. (Unless "people clicking on the wrong quest reward and then bothering CS about it" was a really big issue??)

  2. I'm reasonably sure (haven't actually tried it) that you don't have to switch specs to see alt spec gear from quest rewards, you just have to change your current loot type spec... right-click your character portrait, there should be an option to let you pick a spec there for gear drop purposes. It's not exactly elegant either but if it works the way I think it does, it should be better than actually switching spec.

    As for the vendors, not everyone arrives in MoP in a full set of high-end Cataclysm gear... my last 7 toons (6 via 3 sets of self-RAF leveling pairs, 1 via gifted levels from the RAF toons) all arrived in Pandaria with miserable sets of gear... I'm experienced enough that I was okay going in with what I was wearing but newer players (or those more worried about leveling ASAP) have the option to buy the gear. It's a nice option to have even if you don't take advantage.

    1. Thanks for the tip, I'll try that UI option for the quest rewards. (So many new features that aren't explained anywhere...)

      And I wasn't dissing the vendors in general; I agree that they're useful. (They added similar vendors to the start of Cata btw, since the gear jump there is just as bad while levelling up.) My own druid entered Jade Forest in lvl 80 Cata greens and would have benefitted from the upgrades tbh, I just found the option of simply buying everything kind of boring personally.

  3. I haven't experimented, but from what I remember of the Jade Forest, it would make sense to me if the only things you had to do to get the zone cinematic were the faction-specific quests and helping Lorewalker Cho with the mural. That said, I'm pretty sure you can also just bug off and go to the next zone whenever, though I also suspect the quests there don't show up till level 86.

  4. I can't remember whether you have to fully complete Jade Forest to get the key "cinematics", but in Kun-Lai summit you definitely DON'T have to do the whole zone to get into the main capital hubs, but in the Klaxxi zone you definitely DO have to do everything to see the whole Klaxxi story (which is very good by the way, I think).

    Mostly though, I think MoP is a bit linear, but does tell a decent story, and is overall better for it. It's worth picking the zones you want to do, and playing them completely, rather than doing "just enough" quests in each zone to get to the next one. Jade Forest, Krasarang, and Dread Wastes would be my choice of 3 zones to try to play completely.

    I also quite liked the way a lot of the optional lore has been put into "discoveries", which once you complete each set, will unlock a quest for you in your main hub later on (the Lorewalkers faction). I don't know if you have bumped into any of those scrolls yet.


    1. I think the big difference for me is that in Cataclysm you HAD to do each hub to get to the next hub... if you flew over a later hub you had no option to pick up quests. In MoP even though there is still a hub/spoke design, it's generally or at least sometimes optional... you can often head out to a later hub and just start from there. That was nearly, if not entirely, impossible to do in MoP and it's a significant benefit to me, there are quests and questlines that I don't much enjoy in MoP and being able to skip them while still doing the rest of the zone is very welcome.