Vale of Eternal Blossoms: a memorial in pictures and words

From the Gate of the Setting Sun, you make out the Golden Pagoda and even a few things beyond - in spite of the mist!

From the Gate of the Setting Sun, you can make out the Golden Pagoda and even a few things beyond – in spite of the mists!

Introduction

The Vale of Eternal Blossoms represents different things to different people.

In fact, it represents different things to the same people, too.

At level 87, leveling players do a short questline at the Temple of the White Tiger which leads to their participation in the opening of the Vale by Xuen and the other celestials. Once this veritable paradise is opened, visitors, heroes, and refugees alike are treated to wonders both natural and constructed: majestic waterfalls and sparkling water, brilliant autumnal colors, colossal statues, magnificent buildings, and a beautiful soundtrack. The opening of the Vale represents opportunity, hope for a new and better existence, for all who enter (including players).

To many players, the Vale also represents the brutal Golden Lotus reputation grind. Players spent weeks, doing more than a dozen quests per day for a pittance of reputation per quest. (I know that it was mid-November before I myself reached Exalted.) The Golden Lotus became the poster boy for the complaints about dailies leading to burnout due to the gating of gear behind reputation requirements. I remember finishing my Golden Lotus grind, getting my necklace, and swearing off that faction for a while. And mine was one of the kinder reactions: many players finished and never looked back.

This is unfortunate, because Blizzard’s basic design for the Vale as a questing and dailies zone was extremely well-crafted. We got to know the Golden Lotus pretty well, and their story was vital to the telling of the story of Pandaria itself. It’s a place and faction rich in lore, and tied in with raids in both tiers so far (and will, of course, with the 5.4 raid as well). Blizzard crafted more than 80 quests that made it into the game in the form of dailies, which is really just phenomenal, and the Golden Lotus questline as a whole was very interesting if one both a) cares and b) can look beyond the brain-numbness that the daily grind brought to so many of us.

In truth, while the rep gear gating and the resultant grind were a bit of an overreach, it was an honest attempt on the part of Blizzard to ensure that players had plenty to do when the leveling process was over. And the result was a fantastic zone and faction that were, unfortunately, tarnished by the amount of repetitive slog that players felt forced to put into them for the sake of gear.

The Vale and the Golden Lotus at the end of 5.3

As our time with Mists of Pandaria pre-5.4 drew to a close, I had in the back of my mind that I wanted to take a bunch of screenshots for posterity and memory, since we know that Garrosh is going to do something today…

(We players are a prescient and privileged bunch, aren’t we!)

…and then on Sunday, Matthew Rossi of WoW Insider tweeted this:

…and I thought that was an excellent idea. So I, Mushan, went back out into the Vale and dutifully did every Golden Lotus daily available that day. It was fun and fairly easy, and as I quested, I visited with old friends in the GL, thought about how I felt about the places I visited, and recalled some of my memories of times of yore (such as when killing Thundermaws was a perilous undertaking early on…).

That was a great experience, and I’m completely glad that I did it. But in doing so, I almost forgot to take screenshots.

I would have regretted that error, so on Monday night, I decided to buckle down and take some screenshots, which was an adventure of its own. I took 58 pictures, and then I remembered that, while I have a decent computer, I typically run with custom settings for better performance during raids, since I’m not running a top-of-the-line rig. So I stuck all of those shots in a folder, moved my settings to high/ultra, and took another trip around the Vale to the tune of 64 more screenshots. They turned out beautifully, and I’d like to share a couple dozen of them with you.

Without further ado, here we go. (Click pictures to enlarge.)

The Summer Fields/Mogu’shan Palace

The lake in south-eastern Vale, with the Shrine of Seven Stars in the background

The lake in south-eastern Vale, with the Shrine of Seven Stars in the background

View of Mogu'shan Palace from the south

View of Mogu’shan Palace from the south

The lake just north of Shrine of Seven Stars, looking down toward Mogu'shan Palace

The lake just north of Shrine of Seven Stars, looking down toward Mogu’shan Palace

The short waterfall from said lake...

The short waterfall from said lake…

Mogu'shan Palace has an amazing front yard!

Mogu’shan Palace has an amazing front yard!

Here's a closer look...

Here’s a closer look…

Jaluu the Generous has an awesome place to sit

Jaluu the Generous has an awesome place to sit

The Horde had this view a lot

The Horde had this view a lot

The little lake on the north side of Mogu'shan Palace. Such a tranquil place...

The little lake on the north side of Mogu’shan Palace. Such a tranquil place…

The Golden Pogoda/The Emperor’s Approach

The Golden Pogoda

The Golden Pogoda, with Shrine of Two Moons in the background

I'm going to miss you, friends... in spite of having to work so hard for your favor. Others of you... I'll be bringing my friends to fight against you.

I’m going to miss you, friends… in spite of having to work so hard for your favor. Others of you… I’ll be bringing my friends to fight against you.

The view west from the Pogoda, to The Emperor's Approach / Whitepetal Lake

The view west from the Pogoda, to The Emperor’s Approach / Whitepetal Lake

The largest Mogu statues ever!

The largest Mogu statues ever!

We fought Mogu ancestral spirits here...

We fought Mogu ancestral spirits here…

... and here's the view from the opposite side.

… and here’s the view from the opposite side.

Mistfall Village/Whitepetal Lake

Looking at Mistfall Village from the north east side of town

Looking at Mistfall Village from the north east side of town…

...and again from the west side.

…and again from the west side.

Whitepetal Lake

Whitepetal Lake

The lake is quite deep!

The lake is quite deep!

Perfect, pristine, beautiful.

Perfect, pristine, beautiful.

Ruins of Gou-Lai/Setting Sun Garrison

Ruins of Gou-Lai (and quest-givers)

Ruins of Gou-Lai (and quest-givers)

The approach to Gou-Lai Halls

The approach to Gou-Lai Halls… with sun-shafts!

Gate of the Setting Sun

Gate of the Setting Sun

Setting Sun Garrison, viewed from high above the wall.

Setting Sun Garrison, viewed from high above the wall.

Thankfully, from what I understand, Setting Sun Garrison will be untouched by the coming destruction. Because, you know, they don’t drink water there, and stuff.

And finally, a bonus…

This waterfall at the northern edge of Valley of the Four Winds - where we do the 1000-Year Water quest - pours Well of Eternity-colored water into the valley. Will that stop flowing now? Hmm...

This waterfall at the northern edge of Valley of the Four Winds – where we go to do the quest “1000-Year Water” for Nana Mudclaw – pours Well of Eternity-colored water into the valley. Will that stop flowing now? Hmm…

Closing

When the coming destruction was first announced, I watched the video and looked at the pictures, but that was months ago. I know what some of it looks like, but I will be seeing it again with new eyes when I log in later today. I’m looking forward to it… but I’m not looking forward to the awfulness, if you know what I mean.

The changes to the the Vale are devastating and probably irrevocable. They are also not phased, so every player will see the same thing, even those opening the Vale for the first time post-5.4. The Vale may heal at some point, but it will never be quite the same. I wanted to document how the Vale used to be for posterity, so that I can tell the young night elves about it when I am an old one.

I hope you enjoyed this post, and my amateur photography. This is a sad day, but we press on. Garrosh will fall!

Saya from Heals n Heels posted a haiku yesterday that is fitting for how many of us feel about what has happened and what is to come. Check it out here.

Thanks for reading this post by Mushan at Mushan, Etc. Comments are welcome!

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5 Comments on “Vale of Eternal Blossoms: a memorial in pictures and words”

  1. Erinys says:

    Bah, I wish Blizzard would make ugly zones and then destroy them rather than ruin all the pretty ones.

  2. I did something similar before Deathwing changed Azeroth forever. After playing WoW for such a long time, it’s easy to become attached to the areas, the NPCs and even the quests. I’m sad that I’ll never get to experience the old Shadowfang Keep (with the original lore and bosses) or Scarlet Monestary again, but hey, the game changes.

    I really enjoyed your collection of screepcaps. When I first logged in last night and saw the destruction of the vale, I kept telling myself it wasn’t a big deal because I grew so sick and tired of the Golden Lotus rep grind that I never really went back afterwards.. but after landing on the ground and exploring the area again, I kept remembering what it used to look like and how new players will never get to experience such an amazing area.

  3. Zeirah says:

    This was one of my favourite zones, not just in Pandaria but the whole of the game. It’s shame they made it so ugly. Love your photos though :)


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