Into the Mists: Valley of the Four Winds and Krasarang Wilds

Meeting with Chen Stormstout in the Valley of the Four WindsI continue my spoilerific journey into the lost continent of Pandaria. Now, my characters have split up, with my warlock venturing into the steamy jungles of Krasarang and my rogue riding across the sun-soaked fields of the Valley.

It should be noted that I have not seen the climax to both zones because I split my characters up. I think it’s dumb you need to do both zones on a single character to get the full story.

Anyway…

Krasarang Wilds:

Encountering the Sha in the Krasarang WildsThis was an interesting zone, I thought. I wasn’t a big fan of the zone aesthetically — too muddy and claustrophobic — and it didn’t have any “this is Warcraft at its best” moments like the Jade Forest did, but I found it a good, solid quest experience.

I liked the continuation of the Sha arc, and I especially loved the concept of a place so choked by despair that the land itself is literally weeping. Certainly puts another nail in the coffin of the “pandas are for kiddies” argument.

All in all, the Sha storyline is turning out better than I’d hoped, and it’s an interesting twist to see us players as the villains. If I had one niggling complaint, it’s that I wish the game would put more effort into drawing the connection between our actions and what’s happening to Pandaria. We’ve done a horrible, horrible thing. The game should be doing everything possible to lay the guilt trip on us.

Birds soaring over the cliffs above the Krasarang WildsI also liked the arc with the Sunwalker and his pregnant wife. Warcraft tends to focus on grand, universal conflicts, and I like that, but I also very much appreciate it when they can bring things down to earth with more humble problems. Makes the world feel more real.

And the ending is just heart-breaking. That’s a quest that will stick with me for a long time.

Mists of Pandaria’s questing hasn’t brought the major leap forward in quality we saw in Cataclysm and Wrath, but if there’s one thing I can point to that MoP is doing better than the previous expansions, it’s making NPCs feel like real people.

Traditionally, most of the NPCs in this game have felt like little more than quest-dispensers. Blizzard didn’t put a lot of effort into making them into legitimate characters in the story, barring a few notable exceptions.

My warlock meeting with Anduin Wrynn and Koro Mistwalker in the Krasarang WildsHowever, between a huge increase in unique voice-overs and more fleshed-out writing, the NPCs in Pandaria feel much more like living, breathing people, and that makes the stories come alive a lot more.

Getting back to Krasarang specifically, my one major complaint is that it feels unfinished. All the major arcs are very short and conclue quite abruptly. Considering all the cool ideas that went into this zone, that’s kind of disappointing.

The Valley of the Four Winds:

I didn’t like this zone.

My rogue in the Valley of the Four WindsHonestly, there’s not much more to say other than that. Beating up overgrown bunny rabbits and baby-sitting Chen Stormstout’s obnoxious niece do not fit my definition of heroic adventure. Whereas the Krasarang Sunwalker plot made the world come alive by evoking powerful emotion with a simple dilemma, the Valley is just domesticated and dull.

Aesthetically, the zone is bland. It’s pretty, but it’s pretty in a very monochromatic and uninspiring way. The music is utterly forgettable.

Also, who else is crushingly disappointed they couldn’t get the original voice actor for Chen Stormstout? This new guy is just so… flat.

Finally, I’m no expert on geography, but I’m pretty sure the Valley of the Four Winds isn’t a valley. It appears to be a plateau.

My rogue working on her farm in Halfhill in the Valley of the Four WindsPretty much every expansion has had at least one zone that just didn’t work, though. Even Wrath had Sholazar Basin. In some ways, I’d rather have a zone that’s a total write-off than something that falls just short of perfection like the Jade Forest did.

The one thing I did like about the Valley of the Four Winds is the farming mini-game in Halfhill. It’s a fun little change of pace from the usual questing model, and I’m looking forward to expanding my farm once I hit 90.

Bottom line:

Level through Krasarang. It’s a better zone all around.

Or at least I think so. What’s your opinion?

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