The Halfhill farming zone is one of the more interesting features of Mists of Pandaria for me. It’s a combat-lite activity comprising of a pretty long reputation-locked quests plus the actual planting/farming activity itself.
The farming system ties in well with the rather complex cooking aspect of Mists since you can grow some ingredients at a steady rate. As you unlock higher reputation levels you increase the number of plots to grow things on. Crops are on a daily timer so the planting and harvesting aspect is really like any other daily task within the game.
Also at the higher levels you can buy special seeds that will produce a random material for another crafting profession – so in the screenshot above you can see the enigma seeds that sprout random herbs. On paper this is a great idea for making the farming activity itself useful. Not everyone likes cooking so this makes farming useful for a much wider audience. Will it screw up the auction house economy for dedicated gatherers though?
When harvesting and planting there is a chance of a problem arising which will need correcting before that plot can be used or the plant in question can be harvested. Common examples are the need to water the plant, the need to clear weeds or a vermin infestation.
The vermin and hawks that spawn as combat ‘problems’ can get rather annoying. Fully unlocked the farm has sixteen plots. On an unlucky day you might end up with eight or more dynamic level creatures to fight. In a sense I think this takes away from this being a nice non-combat activity. Sure for purple-laden raiders such creatures are probably not far off a one-shot kill. But for my farmer in his questing greens and blues it can take a while to wade through them. Somehow I find it incongruous to have fighting on the farm anyway, do the Blizzard devs really think the entire playerbase is that combat-crazed?
Vermin aside the system is nice, especially as I can now grow herbs to continue to fuel the inscription profession on this character. Up until now my old Boomkin has been sneaking around Jade Forest trying to stealth-gather herbs without having to fight too many creatures. Growing herbs is a lot easier, and given the random nature of the results I’m getting some nice higher level herbs that my herbalist/alchemist Boomkin couldn’t hope to farm safely at his level.
I will say that the farm is no replacement for a housing system. The farm grows and changes according to the quest chain, it’s a very nice example of story telling within the game engine (cut-scenes rendered through the game engine rather than a mini-movie). However there’s no real choices to be made here and there’s no equivalent of the adventuring trophies that you can proudly display in your LoTRO or EQ2 house. You also can’t invite others onto your farm at present, which is a shame as there’s a certain roleplay potential to the space.