Q. So just what’s in the Vale of Eternal Blossoms? What’s the story here?
A. The Vale of Eternal Blossoms was the seat of the mogu empire in ancient times. When the mogu were overthrown by the pandaren, the capital was moved east to the Jade Forest, and the Vale’s gates were closed off to the outside world. Within the Vale, a small group of specially chosen caretakers known as the Golden Lotus kept watch over the Vale, keeping it pristine and safe, with occasional help from the Shado-Pan.
In more recent times, the Golden Lotus have become increasingly concerned after spotting mogu scouts that somehow circumvented the gates. They are in need of the Shado-Pan’s aid again, and perhaps new strangers as well, should they prove worthy of the privilege. Any adventures who are able to aid the Golden Lotus will quickly discover that the mogu intend something grander than simple scouting within the Vale, and that their plot ties in with the return of the most feared of all the mogu, the dreaded Thunder King himself.
Q. The Vale is a beautiful place! Can you describe three of your favorite places there?
A. One of my favorite places in the vale is Mistfall Village, a small town established in the south by refugees from Kun-Lai. Strangely, it’s not the natural state of this location that makes it appeal so much to me, but more so the way the village changes so dramatically based on the current events in the zone.
On normal days, the village is populated by merchants, cooks, construction workers, and bar patrons, and adventurous players will only find the mild excitement of tasks to hunt in the nearby wilds or tasks to quell rowdy spirits in the nearby graveyard. On other days, nearby forest sprites run around town causing trouble, sometimes stealing kegs of the village’s famous brew and having a troublesome sprite-party on the village’s upper rise, or sometimes becoming even more dangerous by kicking over the villages braziers, setting spreading fires near the freshly built huts. And on far worse days, the invading Shao-Tien mogu raid the town, cornering all of the villagers in the inn and setting fire to all the huts while their powerful leader attempts to break into the hidden tomb behind the town. This sort of wide variance day-to-day keeps Mistfall Village very interesting and fresh to me. Even knowing all the possibilities, I’m excited each time I approach the village to uncover what the latest series of events might be.
Another place that ranks among my favorites in the Vale of Eternal Blossoms is the Gate of the Setting Sun, the main gate on the Serpent’s Spine, a giant wall that protects the vale from the dangers of the Dread Wastes to the west. The Gate of the Setting sun is constantly beset by mantid forces, with siege machines pounding on the main doors, catapults bombarding the outer wall, and flying mantid assaulting the defenders upon the ramparts. The scale of the fight here is immense and varied, and the implements the Shado-Pan defenders use are equally varied. When players prove themselves enough to be called to the defense of the gate, they can look forward to things such as battling landing mantid upon the ramparts, pouring burning oil upon the mantid below, using turrets on the gate’s giant towers to shoot down swarms of flying mantid, riding a war serpent to drop bombs on the sieging mantid ground forces, and fighting a giant burrowing amber scorpion in the courtyard inside of the gate. Whatever the defensive tactic for the day, I consistently find that the Gate of the Setting Sun draws me into the broiling conflict between the mantid and the Shado-Pan in exciting ways.
My favorite place in the vale by far though is the Guo-Lai Halls. Players arrive to find what appears to be an ancient burial chamber surrounded by a series of large locked doors. As their experience in the vale unfolds, the gain access to the areas beyond these doors one by one, uncovering a series of ancient mogu halls, vaults, and ritual chambers that house many of the vale’s secrets, but also contain many dangerous traps. Among these traps are a seemingly endless number of stone statues of quilen and mogu, frozen in a wide array of poses. Some of these statues remain dormant, while others will come to life in defense of the halls, but predicting which will attack and when is nearly impossible as they may ignore two adventures in front of you only to surprise the stragglers instead. One of my favorite sets of traps lay wait in the Hall of Tiles, where a long hall filled with four different types of tiles seems to mysteriously change pattern each day. To reach the far end of this hall and the chambers beyond, players need to discover which tile is safe each day, and make their way through this hall without a misstep, all the while risking attack from the statues looming along the paths. Much of the story of the mogu threat unfolds within the Guo-Lai Halls, as do many of the Vale’s most dangerous challenges, making it definitively my favorite place in the Vale of Eternal Blossoms.
Q. Do players have to wait until they’re level 90 to get into the zone?
A. Not at all. Starting at level 87, players can undertake a series of challenges at the Temple of the White Tiger that will allow them to enter the Vale. The Alliance and Horde will set up embassies in the Vale that will act as the main central city for Pandaria, so players will definitely be spending a lot of time here. Characters won’t be called on to help actually defend the Vale until they reach level 90, though.
Q. And how will players defend the Vale?
A. The Vale of Eternal Blossoms is driven primarily by a single faction, the Golden Lotus, the caretakers of the Vale. The Golden Lotus have long been peaceful, with little need to fight inside their tightly locked valley, but when things come to conflict, the Golden Lotus seek out the nearby Shado-Pan to aid them. Though players will work for the Golden Lotus for the entirety of their time within the Vale, they will fight alongside several Shado-Pan heroes along the way, will aid the Shado-Pan at the Setting Sun Training Camp, and will join the Shado-Pan in the defense of the Serpent’s Spine wall.
In working for the Golden Lotus, players will be able to experience more than 100 daily quests within the Vale, by far the most daily quests for a single faction in the game. Part of the reason the Vale contains such an immense number of daily quests is so that we can use randomization to create an experience each day that feels very different from the day before. Each day, after aiding the Golden Lotus in fending off mogu attacks near the central Vale, players can expect to be sent to random locations, each location seeded with random quests, and each quest environment featuring random variations to the monsters, defenders, traps, and other features located there.
To provide even more variety, a mogu attack force roams the vale, moving to different locations each day, so players may find that the peaceful village is now being raided by the mogu, or that the normally spider-infested ruins have been turned into an established mogu camp, entirely changing the experience at these locations for the day. We also want to make sure that players always end their day on a strong note, so no matter what reputation the players have or where they were sent in the vale, they’ll get to end their day with one of more than 20 unique boss fights that were constructed just for this zone.
And on top of all of this, to make this all even more impactful and memorable, we’ve put a lot of effort into weaving an interesting story that unfolds as players work their way up through the Golden Lotus faction, culminating in an enormous war that breaks out across half of the valley.
The Vale of Eternal Blossoms should prove to be an entirely unique daily experience for players, with randomization and progression used far more heavily than ever before to create one of the most interesting and expansive outdoor end-game experiences yet.