World of Warcraft's Mists of Pandaria expansion is deceptively dark. Beyond the adorable panda bears with martial arts skills, it's a story of bringing war to an otherwise peaceful utopia. Blizzard VP of Creative Development Chris Metzen has shared some thoughts on the expansion's tone and plot.
"The big hook to Pandaria is that as we roll up on the beach, all the hate and violence we bring as Alliance and Horde really kind of begins to make the Sha bubble up," Metzen told PC Gamer. "And the Sha is something that's been contained for ten thousand years. It has been a very serene place, and of course our shenanigans break it, heavily." he says in contrast to Lich King feeling tragic and Cataclysm's bleakness, Pandaria has a "lighter tone."
And caught in the middle of the war, the Pandaren as a race serve as a more passive middle. "The pandaren just help facilitate that contrast and that soul-searching," he said. "Because Pandaren don't get super hot, they don't get super cold. They'll fight and they'll fight well, they'll fight to win. But it takes a lot to make them angry. I don’t imagine they fight in a state of anger; they fight in a state of need, thoughtfully, and with gusto. But rarely out of anger. It's been an interesting culture to write."
At the same time, don't expect the Pandaren pacifism to rub off on the other races. Metzen calls the racial hatred that underpins the series "cyclic," and suggests that even with short breaks the series will always come back to that. Which makes sense, considering Blizzard already has more expansions in the works.