ADVISORY: This post discusses spoilers for the expansion, some of which may impair excitement and surprise of your Warcraft experience. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

2000AD or GTFO

One of the reasons I love Warcraft is the Lore.

I’m not great at remembering lots of details, but I’m pretty good at the Big Picture. When a conversation started up on Twitter earlier about how Pandaria fits into the ‘Current Gaming Situation’ I found myself thinking (and recalling) far more than I realised I had grasped from the last few months of absorbing beta information. Even if the Pandarans began life as a joke, their place in Warcraft 3 lore was long established. Let us return to the Third War to begin our story…

Without the Pandarens, there would be no Orgrimmar. It was with Chen Stormstout’s help that Rexxar, Hero of the Horde was able to finally establish the Orc’s stronghold in Durotar. The panda had only come to Kalimdor to find ingredients for his latest brew, but inadvertently found himself between the warring orcs and the humans over the settlement of… yes, you’ve guessed it, Theramore. It was during this period that Jaina’s father died at the hands of the orcs. Stormstout remained staunchly neutral throughout, vanishing as mysteriously as he appeared…

…and the Orcs have never forgiven the Alliance for remaining in Theramore. Garrosh especially has become increasingly militaristic on Kalimdor, with the arrival of Deathwing corresponding to a distinct escalation in military activity down the eastern coasts of the Barrens and across the ravaged zone itself. I’ve run the 1-60 questlines in these areas and what is immediately apparent is the Horde’s lack of regard for either life or land. Lots of people get blown up, thanks to the Goblin’s arrival as allies. Everything points to Theramore as a flashpoint once again, and even if I didn’t know that’s exactly what’s going to happen thanks to my time on the beta, it wouldn’t be hard to guess.

Possibly a spoiler. Possibly just a bad hairdressing job. You decide.

Deathwing’s extended flypast also had the effect of exposing Pandaria to the rest of Azeroth, covered as it was by a self-imposed shroud. This ‘mist’ was placed on the lands by the last great Pandaren Emperor in the days before the first sundering, but came at a cost… but that’s not the entire story. When you begin your life as a Pandaren in the expansion it is not on your homeland…

Traditionally neutral, the fact that Pandarens take sides (for me at least) is of considerable significance. They do not initially come to join the battle between Alliance and Horde, they come to teach Azeroth of themselves and their home world, and to learn more about the mortal races. The two contrasting ‘recruitment’ cut scenes that a Panda will undertake (depending on what side you choose) show two military leaders with vastly differing agendas, of which pandas are simply a part. Instead of being a race with a grudge (as both the Worgen and the Goblins were) they arrive with a pretty blank slate. It is going to be your job to discover about their past, and from what I’ve seen of the beta, there’s a lot of dark secrets to investigate.

There are plenty of great bloggers out there who are already putting in the hours with the more detailed lore speculation. I am clearly a shabby amateur in comparison to the @Shadesogrey and @_Rades of the world, whose dissections of what has happened and what could be to come are well worth taking time out to read with a cuppa and suitable amounts of reflection. However, if I can gather just this from a couple of months and 10 minutes with Google, it is apparent that even the most lazy lore lover could do a lot worse while we wait for the Expansion to actually arrive than go do some digging…

Just remember, once you’ve read it, you’re spoiled, and some out there are worth coming to with the element of surprise. Tread carefully…

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