I like to be ahead of the game so when I heard the Mists of Pandaria news yesterday (after checking for the 100th time this was no cruel elaborate hoax to entertain the crowds at BlizzCon) I began to look into pandas with my research partner Mr Wiki Pedia (always reliable). What I wanted was a sense of what the early quests in Pandaria would likely be so I could get into training for them (my kill and collect skills are a little rusty). Anyway from even a cursory glance at some of the information available I think I already have the first ten quests pretty much mapped out. I’ll be very surprised if Blizzard do anything different from the following:-
Panda fact one:- their diet is 99% bamboo (tasty)
Pandarian quest:- a clan of renegade pandas wearing a surreal white eye patch to differentiate themselves from the others have infested the area to the south of the starting zone. They have stolen all the bamboo in the area and are using it to tempt females from the home tribe to come and “see my bamboo shoot”. Your first quest is to go to this area, kill 10 pandas and steal their shoots. Eye patches should also be looted and vendored.
Panda fact two:- due to farming and deforestation they have been driven out of the lowlands they used to occupy.
Pandarian quest:- the Venture company are causing their usual mayhem by draining a lake and filling it with sand for baby goblins to play in. You have to go to the sandpit with a water tank strapped to your back and, standing in the middle of the sandpit, fill the lake with water. This will aggro the mother goblins who will be sitting casually on various park benches around the pit complaining that everytime they ask their husbands to do anything they are dismissed with a “time is money friend” and then sleazily propositioned with a “I got what you need, ” and never cuddled after intimacy (parting words are normally just “spit it out”). Anyway they are fairly easy to kill and will give you good experience plus if you’re lucky and wear cloth a fetching goblin female dress which looks strangely good on both male & female pandas (actually male and female pandas make anything look good).
Panda fact three:-while they are usually docile they have been known to attack humans if irritated by them
Pandarian quest:- involves teleportation this one, but no problem since the quest giver does it all for you. Great overlap here with vanilla WoW. You are teleported to Elwynn Forest and have to kill three very irritating human npcs – Billy MacClure who stole the necklace, Bernice Stonefield who has no gumption and gives into Billy’s blackmail all too easily and has most humans running round left right and centre for stuff for her bloody pie and that sad sack Tommy Joe Stonefield lazing around by the lake bemoaning his love life. Despatch them quick sharpish then rub your nose (pandas look cute when they rub their nose so this is a nice graphic). This will stimulate the teleportation powder on your nose (did I forget to mention that bit – anyone would think I’m making this up as I go along!) and get you back to Pandaria.
Panda fact four:- pandas communicate through scent marking (spraying urine) and clawing trees.
Pandarian quest four:- fun one this with a good game mechanic. There’s an old decrepit panda hiding up a tree. The pandas are worried about him but can’t get him down. You have to climb the tree and, using a targeting mechanic, urinate on him and then while he is soaked (60 second debuff) claw the tree six times. The urine makes him more amenable to persuasion and the clawing of the tree basically means, “Get your ass down right now.” Need nimble fingers for this one. If you get it right he will slink shamefacedly back down the tree and wander back to his hut. If you get it wrong he will aggro and rip your face off then urinate over your dead body.
Panda fact five:-the West first learned of the panda in 1869 -the French missionary Armand David received a panda skin from a hunter.
Pandarian quest:- in homage to this French missionary there is an NPC to the west of the starting area Armand David Ginola who trains in skinning and a bit of rudimentary French to help the pandas get by on their holidays. Go there to learn skinning and how to say “I would like three bamboo shoots” (“Je voudrais trois pousses de bambou” if you think you might need to know this too).
Panda fact six:- the 70s practice of “Panda diplomacy” was important for China and involved loaning giant pandas to American and Japanese zoos.
Pandarian quest:- zoo-type enclosures are somewhat different in Pandaria. They are run by pandas and filled with Worgen and Tauren as a result of the Horde and Alliance policy of “let’s give up the race that really doesn’t fit in with us & we all know it”. You have to go around the enclosure feeding meat to both – there is something suspicious about the meat though & it will later turn out in the game that you are feeding dead Tauren to Worgen & vice versa and creating a dangerous hybrid (the chief of which is the first boss of Pandaria you later fight). Cultivation (Tauren racial) and Flayer (Worgen racial) are completely mixed up in these hybrids meaning they “cultivate skins” in a very disturbing Silence of the Lambs way and flay herbs and basically cause a mess (petals and leaves everywhere).
Panda fact seven:- pandas in captivity seem to lose interest in mating and there is consequently a very low birthrate amongst them.
Pandarian quest:- this one proves that, all appearances to the contrary, in Mists of Pandaria Blizzard are not turning WoW into a game just for children. The language is subtle but the symbolism clear. You have to help two pandas “have fun” by collecting certain mood enhancers from the area. These include feathers (“I like to be tickled!” is one of the stock panda NPC phrases), a pearl necklace (early archaeology artifact) and a kobald candle. Once received the two panda NPCs run off to a tent where the real problem of the low birthrate becomes apparent if you hang around long enough in the area to listen to the dialogue (“It goes in your ear”, “Really? Are you sure?”, “Definitely, keep your head still.”)
Panda fact eight:-the mother of Emperor Wen of Han was buried with a panda skull.
Pandarian quest:- a direct reference to this story & what at first appears to be a clever allusion/homage to Kung Fu Panda to keep the lawyers at bay.The skull belonged to the old master monk Dustin (Hoffman was the voice of Shifu in the film so this one’s for the fans) and you must retrieve it with the help of a bumbling, clumsy panda called Po (not even subtle this one). Funny dialogue and hijinks ensue and all seems well. However, after retrieving the skull you get possessed by an “envious spirit”, and brutally slaughter Po (excellent experience points here). It seems this is an attempt to stop the Kung Fu Panda franchise in its tracks. A very bold move indeed. His final words are “The Pandarians predate me” which is an oblique reference to their original appearance as an April Fool’s joke before Kung Fu Panda was ever made. The fact that what started as an April Fool’s joke is now a playable race should not be used by anyone as proof that WoW has jumped the shark (or panda) of course.
Panda fact nine:- there seems to be no pre-20th-century paintings/drawings of giant pandas.
Pandarian quest:- the in-game reason for the lack of panda paintings is the lack of white crayons and a surplus of black. The fact that, using white paper, there is a way around this has escaped them all (you might want to get as many intellect items as possible when playing a panda – it will really help). So your mission is to go and steal a white crayon from the house in Goldshire (where the creepy kids are).More teleportation follows (economic reuse of other starting areas here – dropped subscriptions mean even highly successful game companies have to economise). The crayon is easy to steal by distracting the kids with a puppet show. As soon as you right click on the puppet the usual vehicle mechanic pops up with buttons for “wave puppet”, “hit puppet” and “reveal paw inside puppet”. The latter completely traumatises the children and causes them to hide their eyes in terror at which point you pick up the sparkling crayon and teleport back to Pandaria. You then give the crayon to the resident artist who immediately starts drawing in white on white paper and then cries in frustration.
Panda fact ten:- the World Wildlife Fund uses the Panda as a symbol
Pandarian quest:-it would be socially remiss for quest ten not to have a charity dimension. In this one you have to pick flowers from the surrounding area, give to an NPC crafter who will fashion the flowers into a garland necklace for the poorest panda in the village. This will not help the panda survive of course but the flowers are gorgeous and will mask the odour of his decaying body for days after his death, by which time he will have decomposed sufficiently to be fed to the captured Worgens. Perfect!
So there we have it. The first ten quests. This should get you up to something like level 7 (only 83 more to go- keep smiling). More importantly you will leave the game having learnt a lot about pandas, ready to take on the subject in any pub quiz and also with a definite plan to rewatch Kung Fu Panda to fine tune your rotation. Enjoy!