My wife was working away last week helping out with a store refit so I once I’d created my Monk, I just parked her and didn’t log her in. On Saturday we, along with a friend, decided to check out the Pandaren starting zone; The Wandering Isle.

The first thing I noticed when logging in was that I couldn’t see anyone else. There were NPCs around, but no other players despite my wife being logged in on the same realm right next to me. I invited her and our friend to a party and they both appeared. A quick Google search turns up this blue post and specifically this quote:

The Wandering Isle, the pandaren starting area, will also not have CRZ enabled at launch, though we’ll have multiple instances of this zone running as needed for each realm, in an attempt to prevent overcrowding.

Hats off Blizzard, this is an excellent idea and very well implemented. The whole time we were questing through the starting zone we never really had more than one or two people competing for spawns which is a vast improvement over previous expansions (the DK starting area, for example, was very crowded).

 

As with the Goblin starting zone, we knew we wouldn’t be returning here so we took our time (embracing the Pandaren ideal of “slow down”) and let everything sink in. Like the rest of this expansion, the artwork in the Pandaren starting zone is beautiful and while I understand that anthropomorphic pandas aren’t everyone’s cup of tea you do have to give Blizzard credit for a job well done. The area is fresh, the stories engaging and the quests (while reusing tried and trusted mechanics) don’t feel too tedious.

The quests involving recovering the elemental spirits were fun and gave you lots of little glimpses in to Panderan culture. The fun quests are nicely balanced by more somber quests such as Passing Wisdom, where you bid farewell to Master Shang Xi. There’s even a budding romance between the two central characters Aysa Cloudsinger and Ji Firepaw which we know from the start is doomed.

The final series of quests, starting with The Suffering of Shen-zin Su introduce the Horde and Alliance. The contrast between the two factions has never been clearer; The Horde characters seem intent on revenge for being having prisoners on the crashed ship, while The Alliance characters seem more concerned with rescuing everyone from the wreckage before thinking about anything else. It’s at this point that the relation ship between Aysa and Ji is torn apart and it becomes clear to the player where eachs loyalties will ultimately end up.

 

All in all I quite enjoyed the zone. It’s a nice set up for the expansion and a great introduction to the Pandaren.