These don't quite seem to be a replacement for uncovering zone maps so much as an addition to them. The stories found in the different areas involve various parts of Pandaria's history. Considering the fact that Pandaria's been shrouded in mists for 10,000 years, we don't really know a lot of that history at all. These shrines and their associated achievements are a wonderful way for lore hounds out there to find out all they can about Pandaria's past.
What's more interesting is that there seems to be a new tracker for multi-objective achievements like this one. Each time you find a shrine, a faint window will pop up and notify you that you've completed a step in the achievement's objective. Once it's completed in full, you'll get the full-on burst of light that you usually see with an achievement's success.
This is a great way to integrate lore and exploration into something new and fun for players that really love the lore of the game. While these achievements are all marked as Not Yet Implemented, they seem to be tracking progress already. The one and only plaintive request I have is that completing these achievements give the player a specific reward -- a book that contains the full story that they've just completed discovering. What can I say? I like books!
Whether or not these achievements will actually be implemented is up in the air, but I hope that they are. Searching for hidden shrines has become just as much fun as questing through the zones themselves.
It's open warfare between Alliance and Horde in Mists of Pandaria, World of Warcraft's next expansion. Jump into five new levels with new talents and class mechanics, try the new monk class, and create a pandaren character to ally with either Horde or Alliance. Look for expansion basics in our Mists FAQ, or dig into our spring press event coverage for more details!