For those of you who have read the blog for awhile, you will recognize the “blog azeroth” prepend too today’s topic. For everyone else, Blog Azeroth is an amazing resource for the “WoW Blogosphere”, where various bloggers can meet and share ideas. One of the constructs of the website is the “shared topic”. The general idea is that multiple bloggers write on the same topic. I’ve done a few in the past, but always horribly past the “due date”.
The topic chosen for today is from Spinks over at Spinksville. Inspired by a post on massively, the basic idea is to take your favorite quest, questline or zone and deconstruct it telling everyone why you love it so much. I can’t say I will be near as successful as she was, but I am going to try anyway.
Westfall needs Heroes
I remember back in 2004, I got my first taste of the wow crack with the File Planet sponsored “Stress Test” weekend. I had been playing City of Heroes at the time, and managed to get into the test with a good number of my cadre of friends. Initially I had rolled a Tauren Warrior by myself, and while enjoyable, the Mulgore area was thoroughly uninspiring to me. When I joined with my other gamer friends, we decided to roll humans, since most everyone could find a class they wanted to play there.
Elwynn Forest was a good deal more interesting and we quickly progressed through the starter quests. Before long we were fighting a curious band of thugs known as the Defias. The storyline surrounding them was pretty scant but I definitely thought they were a cool villain. Everyone needs a brotherhood of evil to foil their plans, and as we moved through the newbie quests we started to see some glimmers of an emerging plotline.
A Kingdom in Need
As soon as you cross the bridge from Elwynn into Westfall you are presented with the start of the zones central conflict. Ahead of you, curiously at the side of the road are Farmer Furlbrow, his wife, and his their horse Blanchy. Some thugs have overrun their farm, and in the rush to escape with their lives they forgot their most prized heirloom. Being the consummate hero that you are, you offer to help them out in their struggle.
Low and behold, the “thugs” ransacking their farm house are none other than the Defias brotherhood you had seen so many of in Elwynn. After making short work of the thieves and recovering the valuables, the good farmer suggests that you look up the militia at Sentinel hill. On your way across the land, you encounter more farmers that tell similar tales. It seems that Westfall is not only blighted with a horrible drought but also besieged by the mysterious Defias.
The People’s Militia
When you reach sentinel hill you are told the tale of the people’s militia by their leader Gryan Stoutmantle. It seems that Westfall is not receiving much help from Stormwind, and quickly enlists you to help him investigate the activities at several nearby mines. It seems that not only are the Defias pushing back the farmers, but they are also tunneling deep into the earth with the help of the local tribes of kobolds.
You had encountered Hogger the leader of the river paw Gnolls back in Elwynn and as a result knew the fury brutes were nothing to be trifled with. If the Defias and Gnolls were in fact working in coordination it meant great trouble for the struggling farmers. After a few skirmishes, Gryan realizes that the Defias are not a band of cutthroats but instead a serious organization. He determines that you must get to the bottom of this threat.
In Search of the Leader
Gryan sends through Elwynn to Redridge and the town of Lakeshire, where he knows a man called Wiley the Black can help you infiltrate the Defias. Wiley lets slip that the Stonemasons guild might have something to do with the organization. Upon returning to Westfall, Gryan sends you off again to verify this information with Mathias Shaw, the head of SI:7.
While talking with Shaw you find out that the Stonemasons’ Guild was run by a man named Edwin VanCleef. VanCleef was responsible for rebuilding Stormwind after the orcs razed it in the First War. Apparently, VanCleef and his men were unhappy with their treatment by the King after the reconstruction was complete. This information fills in a few pieces of the puzzle.
Kill The Messenger
Once you arrive at Sentinel Hill, it is quickly determined that you must find the location of the Defias hideout. Gryan has scout reports that a Messenger has been seen on the roads between Moonbrook, the Gold Coast Quarry and the Jangolode mine; all of which were locations of heavy defias activity. The militia asks you to obtain the message he is carrying at all costs.
The message is firm proof that VanCleef is in charge of the brotherhood, and this escalates the need to find their base of operation. With a stroke of luck Militia operatives caught a Defias thief trying to steal Farmer Saldean’s wagon. The brigand has offered to lead you to the Defias hideout, in exchange for sparing his life.
You protect the traitor as he leads you along the roadways of Westfall, heading to Moonbrook. You are ambushed many times by his former allies trying to keep him from revealing the truth. After fighting your way into the Defias enclave of Moonbrook, he shows you to the entrance to a series of interlinking caverns known only as The Deadmines.
You gather with you some stalwart allies and make your way inside the Deadmines. As you climb through an intricate series of mine shafts, you find the secret entrance to the hideout. Inside you face greater resistance in form of defias, miners, goblins, and gnolls. You fight your way through mine shafts, a goblin foundry, and into a great underground dock complete with a warship.
Throughout the battle you have to fight your way past a number of members of the Defias brotherhood. Rhahk’Zor the Ogre and his two lieutenants guard the first passage. Next you are confronted by Sneed and his Goblin Shredder, that tries to make mulch of you. In the foundry, the master engineer Gilnid turns the fire of his forge against you. After using gunpowder to blow your way into the docks, you are confronted by Mr. Smite, who attempts to overpower you with his mastery of weapons.
Once on board the ship, you must fight your way past tiers of pirates. Even Cookie the ships cook, tries to flatten you with his rolling pin. As you mount the top of the ship, you are confronted by Captain Greenskin and his retinue, who attempt to skewer you with the harpoons. All of this leading to the top deck, where the mysterious Edwin VanCleef stands awaiting your challenge.
Edwin VanCleef is a very formidable fighter in his own right, as his attacks quickly put your party on the defensive. Just as you regain your footing and begin to cut through his offensive, you are ambushed by more Defias rogues. You can’t really expect the leader of a crime syndicate to fight fair after all. Though the battle is tough, and it taxes your skills, you and your allies persevere and laying before you is the corpse of leader of the brotherhood.
The Beauty of Westfall
This was the questline, that plain and simple, hooked me on the game. Prior to wow, you had never really seen this level of intricacy and storytelling. The game pioneered making quest lines both easy to find, and engaging at the same time. In Everquest, you had to dig with obsessive fervor to be able to find a series of quests and complete it. But here for the first time, quests evolved themselves in a very organic way.
The Westfall storyline is basically every good pen and paper adventure, distilled to its purest essence, and recast in MMO form. Your character is drawn into the conflict slowly, and through the series of the quests you are given foreshadowing of the events that are to come. Each quest giving you a piece of the puzzle leading up to the final reward. The first alliance dungeon, The Deadmines.
Deadmines in itself was groundbreaking as well. This was the first time in an MMO I had seen such amazing scripted events. Each boss unlocked a piece of the dungeon, with its own flavor, giving you access to something new. My jaw literally hit the floor the first time I aggro’d the ogre boss, and he announced “VanCleef pay big for your head!”.
Later when you collect gunpowder and use it to blow open the door to the docks. This was a level of interactivity that simply did not exist prior to wow. Players who were new to the MMO genre really missed the sense of amazement that all of us felt, seeing this content for the first time. This was truly ground breaking stuff, giving the player a level of immersion into the storyline that we had never really had before.
Improved by Never Replaced
Next to some of the newer content, the Westfall series seems dated. But in my heart it will always have a special place. It was the first time I was given a glimpse of what this game could truly deliver, and was the dealer giving me my first real hit of crack. After playing that first stress test weekend, City of Heroes no longer felt as shiny as it once had. The bar had been raised, and nothing short of World of Warcraft was going to scratch the itch I now had.
I’ve recently started a new warlock, and while Goldshire is a wretched hive of scum and villainy on a role-playing server, I am dealing with it in order to experience Westfall again for the first time in 3 years. There is almost a certain amount of giddiness I have at the thought of playing my way progressively through the Westfall quest lines once more. I might even go so far as to pug my way through the Deadmines, trying to experience all the content as it was intended.
Westfall was to my Warcraft career, as the Dungeons and Dragons boxed set was to my role-playing experience, or Pong was to my video gaming history. As the game ages and matures, I hope they can keep recapturing the magic of the Defias brotherhood. With Wrath of the Lich King they seem to have taken the art of MMO storytelling to a new level, and they gave us some equally epic quest lines like the Wrathgate storyline. This gives me great hope for what the future will bring. But for me…