We're going to encounter a bunch of new sentient races in Mists of Pandaria, some of them friendly, some of them not-so-friendly. Cory Stockton, WoW Lead Content Designer, gave us a breakdown of the races we'd encounter at Blizzcon. Here's what we know so far!
(These descriptions are paraphrased from Stockton's presentation, with the exception of the Sha. That bit is directly transcribed...for reasons that will be apparent later.)
The Jinyu are a race of fish-like creatures, kind of regarded as the wise men on Pandaria. They've been known to take their staff, stick it in the river and they can hear what the land is saying, it's literally talking to them. Players will see them across a wide number of zones, and they'll play into the story the whole way through.
The Hozu are a monkey-like race, they stand up on the hind legs and can walk around. They've been known to be really mischievous and like to play tons of pranks on the local Pandaren. They've been indigenous to the continent for a long time, and just like the Jinyu they show up in a lot of zones, as well as in the dungeons.
With the Verming, Blizzard really wanted to do a new kobold. The classic creature, whenever you see them you want to take them out. Players can fight them in droves, and because they're not too strong, players can fight a bunch of them at one time. The Pandaren have lots of farmland, and the Verming have dug tunnels under the farmland, and they're sucking the vegetables down underneath into their tunnels from below.
The Mantid are one of the "killer" enemy races. They will play a big role in the overarching story, and there will be whole raids/dungeons based around them. An insect race that's been on the island for millennia, lived next to the Pandaren the whole time but have been separated from the rest of the continent by a giant wall. Players will find out over the course of the expansion that the Mantid are starting to go a little crazy and they're starting to come through the wall in places, and players will have to deal with that. Unlike the other insect races like silithid, they're sentient creatures and can dress themselves. They're not a hive mind - they have their own houses and looks, can dress themselves, use weapons, etc.
Another ancient race, actually the first race on Pandaria before the Pandaren overthrew them over 12,000 years ago and took the island for themselves. And now the Mogu want it back. Players will see them in raids, dungeons, etc. Blizzard wanted a lot of villains for players to fight rather than one big bad guy. The Mogu are big and hulking, kind of an ogre-like race.
"And finally we've got the Sha. The Sha are really unique. Sha are the manifestation of negative energy on Pandaria. So if you imagine whenever someone gets killed or a fight happens, something like that on the island, any sort of battle (essentially what's happening with the Alliance and Horde once they get here), it releases Sha energy into the land. It's kind of a Shadowform creature, you're going to see it all over the place. Super aggressive, something you definitely want to take out. You can fight this guy as a raid boss for sure."
Of all the new races, my attention was immediately drawn to the Sha, for a few different reasons. First things first, they just sound cool. The manifestation of negative energy? That's pretty fun, and it really fits the peaceful nature of the Pandaren, the monks, etc.
We actually got a bit more detail about how the Sha work when Stockton talked about one of the zones, the Jade Forest, which is where the Alliance and Horde will be landing. Basically, the Alliance tries to befriend the Hozu, while Horde makes friends with the Jinyu, and they end up turning them against each other. This hostility releases a lot of negative energy, which of course releases/creates more Sha, which is "super bad." This is why the Pandaren aren't really big fans of either faction initially, because the Horde/Alliance have shown up in this pristine land and torn it apart with negativity.
Secondly, that's a pretty cool spider-ish look the Sha have, all spikes and fangs and tons of eyes. Very creepy, like a demonic ravager. Hmm, wait a minute, that sounds familiar. Wasn't there something like that in...Ulduar?
Pretty interesting! But still not what had hooked me. No, I actually freaked out a little when the Sha were announced:
Why was I so excited?
So hey, that's pretty cool, these shadow, nightmare-creatures of darkness, their name means light? That's a nice touch of irony. And it is!
Sha means Light...IN DEMONIC.
(Also known as Eredun, and also the language of the Draenei, since they and the Eredar were originally the same race.)
Shattrath, City of Light.
Sha'tar, Born of Light.
And now these monsters of negative energy, the Sha.
Now, Pandaria's been isolated from the rest of Azeroth for thousands of years, way before the Draenei ever arrived, so it's not like Velen took a jaunt out there and taught the Pandarens the language of his people.
But if it wasn't Velen...
Who named these terrors? And why is someone on Pandaria speaking the language of demons? Did the Pandarens name them? And if so, why the HELL do they know that word? /paranoid
Then again, WE haven't found Pandaria until now...but that doesn't mean someone else hasn't been here first...
In closing, everyone's assuming that Pandaria is this pristine, pure land full of harmony and tranquility. And while it's true that the island has been untouched by war, how accurate is this assumption? I mean, the Mantids ARE going crazy for some unknown reason behind their wall, and there's these freaky shadow monsters whose names are demonic in origin.
Maybe it's just me, but I'd be VERY concerned about this apparent demonic presence, especially because everything seems so peaceful and wonderful.
Because all that means is that whatever IS there on Pandaria...
...is really, really good at hiding.
By any other name would smell as sweet.
Unless it's rose in Demonic
then we just burn the place to the ground.
(The reason this is so interesting to me is because I used this EXACT hook in my Blizzard fiction submission - I had someone who definitely SHOULD NOT know the Eredar language cast a light spell by saying "Sha", which was a hint at his true, darker nature. And then a week later at Blizzcon - introducing, the Sha!)