During last weekend's BlizzCon, the titular PC gaming giant unveiled the latest addition to its world of strife, backstabbing, and apocalypse dragons: Pandas. Now bears, of course, are generally horrifying creatures. We are thankful for our right to bear arms primarily because we fear bear arms. Pandas, though? They're generally associated with cuddles, rainbows, and Jack Black. Surely, Warcraft's finally jumped the shark, right? No more junk, no more soul – just heaping dollops of d'aaaaaw? Not so, says Blizzard. Apparently, pandas can be badasses too.
“I think people will come around once they start playing it in the game,” lead encounter designer Scott Mercer told Game Informer. “You’ve seen in the demo that they’re so charismatic. Playing a monk is amazing. Pandaria is gorgeous. I think it’s just a matter of time for some people.”
“This is no joke. This is not a throw-away silly-silly ha ha funny expansion set; it is absolutely the next vital chapter and as things ratchet up, they’re gonna get really gnarly,” VP of creative development Chris Metzen explained during a BlizzCon panel.
On top of that, Metzen cleared up some of the confusion surrounding the Pandaren's origins. This isn't just some April Fools joke gone horribly, horribly wrong. Apparently, this has been the Pandaren master plan since day one.
“There’s no way we’re gonna build an expansion set based on an April Fools Joke,” he said.“What you guys may not know is, our senior art director, Sam Didier, started drawing these guys years ago. Was it in Warcraft III, we included Chen Stormstout in Frozen Throne, maybe, in the Orc campaign? Was it after that? I can’t remember anymore. But these guys are not a joke. This is an idea that we’ve been thinking about for years. It’s one of our favorite flavors of Warcraft.”
So then, is it an odd direction for a WoW expansion? Sort of, yes. But is it the right one? Time – and probably an inevitable PETA-created “parody” – will tell.