Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Lessons in Lore - Temple of the Jade Serpent

This morning I'll take a look at the first dungeon in Mists of Pandaria. You can jump into this dungeon via the dungeon finder as soon as you're 85, but to have a better understanding of what's going on you should quest through the Jade Forest until you've completed a group of quests that take place in a non dungeon instance of the temple. You should also finish the quests leading up to and including the climactic event that takes places at the Serpent's Head. Please be aware that there will be spoilers for these events and others in the dungeon in the post below.

Temple Courtyard
The Temple of the Jade Serpent rests on the eastern side of the Jade Forest, overlooking the coast. The temple is a monument to the last emperor of Pandaria's triumph over the Sha of Doubt thousands of years ago. At some point while questing in the zone, you'll be tasked to deliver a shipment of jade to the center of the forest where a group of Pandaren are hard at work building a statue of Yu'Lon, the Jade Serpent. Then you'll get the opportunity to go inside the temple before anything has gone wrong. Inside is a huge library, the Waters of Everseeing, and a large courtyard where the guardians of the temple train. You'll also meet Yu'Lon herself, and she explains that the statue being built is meant for her to pass into when she dies, and a new celestial guardian will be born.

Upon leaving the temple, however, events take place that alter the course of Yu'Lon and all of the Pandaren in the Temple of the Jade Serpent. The Horde and the Alliance go to war near the jade statue, and their anger and hate draws the Sha of Doubt up out of the ground, destroying the statue in the process. Together with Lorewalker Cho, you push the Sha back, but this is just the beginning of problems as the Sha and its minions proceed to invade the temple and corrupt its inhabitants. This is where we start when we enter the dungeon for the first time.

Sha of Doubt makes its first appearance.

Wise Mari
When you first met Wise Mari he was a simple waterspeaker plagued by mischievous water sprites. He spent most of his time gaining insight and knowledge from the Waters of Everseeing. Now he is hostile, driven to distrust and suspicion under the influence of the Sha. By attacking him you're able to force the Sha out, and he eventually calms down.

Lorewalker Stonestep
As you enter the library, you'll notice that the Sha have infested the many books and scrolls scattered about the place. You'll have to face down corrupted versions of characters from Pandaren stories and lore as you make your way down to the bottom where Lorewalker Stonestep is waiting. Once there you will have to battle Sha who have personified one of two stories. In the Trial of the Yaungol, you will have to fight against the manifestations of Strife and Peril. If you get the Champion of the Five Suns you will have to shoot the suns out of the sky before they possess Zao Sunseeker. Once defeated, the library returns to some sense of order, and Lorewalker Stonestep sends you on to the courtyard. On the way there, you see many of the temple guardians have been slain.

Liu Flameheart
Once the most devoted of the temple priestesses, Liu is now consumed with uncertainty as to the future of the jade serpent. With the statue destroyed, what will happen to the spirit of Yu'Lon? She fiercely protects the heart of the temple from anyone who might intrude. Including you. As you attack her, she continually calls upon her training to fight paw and foot. Eventually she will even call upon the spirit of Yu'Lon to defend her, and you must defeat the image of the jade serpent to finally break her out of her trance and open the doors to the cause the suffering and pain within the temple.

Sha of Doubt
Being trapped underneath the temple for thousands of years has caused the Sha of Doubt to obsess over Yu'Lon and corrupting her influence on the Pandaren people. With the battle of the Horde and Alliance giving it enough strength to break free it used this opportunity to strike at its obsession. Now its up to you to defeat the Sha and drive it back from the temple. Upon defeating it, you save the temple from its corrupting influence for now, but can the Sha ever truly be defeated? 

What is worth fighting for?
To echo a phrase used in the Mists of Pandaria trailer, I've decided to use the last part of each of these posts to summarize why we as characters fight the monsters in each dungeon. For the Temple of the Jade Serpent, it's fairly straight forward. The war between the Alliance and Horde has freed the long trapped Sha of Doubt from the ground where it was imprisoned long ago. The Sha then seized this opportunity to attack the home of the Jade Serpent Yu'Lon, corrupting its inhabitants. It's up to us to free the temple from the influence and doubt of the Sha; to clean up the mess that the Horde and the Alliance have made by bringing their war to this land. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

All in a Day's Work

Lal and Elionene hit level 90 last weekend. Since then it's been a little overwhelming as to what to spend our time doing. There are numerous daily quests, scenarios, heroics, and of course there are the rest of Townlong Steppes and the Dread Wastes to finish. I like having options, and when you have limited time to play, you're forced to prioritize what you do in game. Here's what I've done.

Since my primary goal is to enjoy the story of Pandaria, I'm much more inclined to focus on finishing the quest chains in each zone. We're very close to finishing Townlong and then it will be on to Dread Wastes, where there is a new daily hub with the Klaxxi. While I say that is my primary goal, I will admit to being distracting by the many other quest hubs. We needed to do Golden Lotus every day because Lal is a tailor and Elio is a Leatherworker, and we needed Honored status with the Golden Lotus to have access to our patterns. It took us about a week to get there, and now Lal has her fancy epics made because she's been able to stockpile cloth since we started leveling. With Elio, on the other hand, I can't make one piece of epic gear because I need a lot of Spirit of Harmony just to make one piece.

We'll continue to do Golden Lotus to open up the other factions. We're also pretty hooked on farming, as it seems to be the best way to get guaranteed Motes of Harmony once you have opened up your farm. It really isn't that difficult either. Then there's the Cloud Serpent dailies, which we have been doing, but I don't feel  are that necessary because it's just for the mount, whereas some of the other factions were about gear for when we start raiding. Most of our raiders have just hit 90, so the next few weeks should see us finally getting into regular heroic runs.

Speaking of heroics, I've only done a couple and they've seemed fairly standard. I've also done a few Scenarios that have been a lot of fun because it's something different. I haven't gotten to do as many as I would have liked due to the amount of other things there are to do, but I am looking forward to writing out some lore posts for the dungeons soon.

I see a few people on the forums complaining about the amount of dailies they "have" to do and the fact that there is no cap makes it a horrible burden. If you're one of those people, I can understand what you're saying, but I would also advise you just to look at what's there, and prioritize. If you're after gear, you only have to worry about Golden Lotus and Klaxxi for the most part. You can get any honor gear without reputation from the vendor in Townlong. Valor gear is available with rep, but the valor gear is not something you need to start raiding, so you have time to work your way up with the reputations and then get the valor gear you need to fill in the gaps you haven't gotten from the raid instances.Other reps, such as Tillers, Cloud Serpents, and Anglers, offer mainly cosmetic rewards such as mounts and pets. I'd save those for if you have time, or after you've got your gear situation settled. You could argue that Tillers is more necessary than the others because you can grow Motes of Harmony and ingredients for buff food.

I've taken some fun screen shots. This one is of a Pandaren that will play music for you if you pay her two gold. She's located in Halfhill at the market, as well as in the Alliance city on the Vale of Eternal Blossoms. You'll also see Lal and Elio at the top of Mount Neverest up above, and a nice shot I took from Zouchin Village in Northern Kun-Lai. I'm continually impressed at the art design in Mists. Everything from Jade forest to the Vale of Eternal Blossoms has been a delight to look at and quest around.

Since turning 90, I've had the chance to tame two of the new rare hunter pets, and our guild got together for the Wanderer's festival in Krasarang last Sunday. I'll be sure to put up shots of that in the next post. Until then, have a good morning!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Best Expansion No One is Playing

Or at least that's what the analysts would like you to believe based on the early estimated sales figures. You can read the brief summary at Massively by clicking the link below.

The short of it is Mists of Pandaria reportedly only sold an estimated 700,000 physical copies of the game in its initial release. I admit I was a little surprised at this development. And then a little skeptical when I read that it didn't include digital sales. This was the first expansion that allowed a direct digital download, and much like people took advantage of that with Diablo III, I had to assume they would do the same thing with Mists. My own unique situation involved buying one digital download (for my wife) and then picking up a physical copy for myself at the local game store on Monday night.

One of the first things I noticed when I arrived at the game store was there were a lot fewer people waiting around than in years previous. I've been to midnight releases now for Wrath, Cata, and Mists. The Wrath release was at a mall in Burlington, MA. There were well over a hundred people, some in costume, and one of the fast food places brought everyone free chicken sandwiches while we waited. When Cata came out, we had moved to North Carolina. The town was less populated, but there were still probably 60-70 people at the game store with the line going out the door. Now with mists, at the same store where I got Cataclysm, there were maybe 30 people total, and we all comfortably fit inside the store.

I didn't think much of it until they started handing out the games at midnight. I would say around 80% of them were the big box collector's editions. I was only there for the regular edition, and the only reason I didn't download it is because I had a gift card to the store. It dawned on me that the low turn out was due to the availability of the digital download, but the only way to get the collector's edition with all the bells and whistles was to through a retailer. If I based sales expectations on my experience, I'd say that digital sales were three or four times as much as the physical sales. That would put Mists total sales up above the two million mark, and close to the sales from previous year.

Then Massively did a follow up to their first article.

That's more encouraging. I hope Blizzard releases some actual numbers for us before November.

I have to ask myself why I care. Sales of the game don't really help or hinder my enjoyment of the game, so what does it matter? Mists of Pandaria is a wonderful expansion. I've only played it for a week, but I look forward to logging in every night. The zones are beautiful. The quests are fun and entertaining, and the new lore of Pandaira is fascinating. The few dungeons I've done have been well laid out and a lot of fun. There are an overwhelming amount of things to do at max level, which may be good or bad depending on your personality, but I like that there are options.

A lot of people in the various forums where Warcraft is discussed dismissed this expansion as Kung-Fu Panda in WoW or argued that the inclusion of pet battles meant Blizzard was catering to the Pokemon kids (news flash, a lot of those kids are grown up now and still enjoy it). The company got a lot of flack for what some considered a very bad Diablo III release. But the expansion is so much more than that. I can't get over the art, or the variety of quests. The NPCs are some of the best I've seen to date in the game. I've never seen Kung-Fu Panda, but I know the Pandaren have a rich and detailed history that stretches long before the movies existed.

My hope is that the game begins to attract attention for these things, and that the pretenses that people may have dismissed it for initially get washed away. It would be like a movie that doesn't do so great on opening day, but word of mouth gets out this movie was the best movie in the franchise, and eventually you have droves of people going to see it. I would not be surprised to see WoW subscriber numbers start climbing back up and with it a lot of expectations for the future of Warcraft. Which leads me to my next thought. How are they going to top this one?


2.7 million copies sold and back over 10 millions subscribers. I guess that answers that question. I'd still like to know digital versus physical copies of the game sold, and I wouldn't be surprised to see those numbers grow rapidly over the next few weeks.)