And now for part 2 of my long-winded “stolen” feature…
“Blackrock Depths (aka Blackrock Deeps, BRD) is the deepest part of Blackrock Mountain, ruled by the Dark Iron dwarves who are led by Emperor Dagran Thaurissan. Several minions of the Firelord Ragnaros also make their home in these lava-lined depths. BRD is currently the largest 5-man instance in the game, and is likely to remain so, making it a true wonder of the World of Warcraft. The average time to complete the entire instance is 4–6 hours due to its complexity: a large amount of mobs and bosses, several scripts, and many quests.” – wowwiki
Yeah, this place is huge alright. It’s just one part of Blackrock Mountain too, which also contains the Lower Blackrock Spire and Upper Blackrock Spire standard dungeons, as well as The Molten Core and Blackwing Lair raid dungeons. The Depths alone felt like two dungeons mashed into one.
You begin in the spoke of a circular hub area which spreads out into many paths, most of which lead to prison halls with a bunch of mysterious locked doors. You’ll need to find the prison key before you can open any of these, and naturally a well-guarded boss holds it. Clearing out the long, dark iron dwarf-filled prison halls, key-holding boss, and opening those many cells takes a good chunk of time alone, and that’s just the beginning.
After dealing with the prison area, you’ll find yourself locked in an arena trap, then if you survive it’s up to a fork in the path, one direction of which is sealed for the moment, the other leads up to the arena seating area where you have to make your way through mobs of arena spectators, then onto the barracks and beyond.
Further in there is a strange shrine area and some kind of underground dark iron dwarf city that you can only partially access at first. One of the more noteworthy sub-areas here is the Black Vault, which is pretty much what it sounds like. In this room there are a dozen or so locked safes that you need to have found keys for on various enemies on your way down. There are also 4 menacing looking golems standing frozen in the middle, which naturally all come to life once you’ve opened all the safes. They also bring a boss friend with them, and you have to survive it all to gain access to the final secret safe, which holds some nice items and something you need for a quest.
After this you start getting near the Molten Core entrance area and start to see a rise in fire elementals, golems, and deadly lava pits. This all leads to the Dark Highway, a long and wide stretch of “road” that seems to lead to a gigantic door in the distance.
Certainly this must be getting close to the end, right? Oh look, once you fight your way down there you finally come to an enormous magma giant named Bael’Gar. This sure looks like a final boss fight…but it’s not. Once you finish him, there’s nowhere to go except a locked door that seems to lead back to the beginning, but wait, where’s the key? And wasn’t this the same key needed for that sealed path way back by the arena and all that?
So, as it turns out, you need to get that Shadowforge Key to get to the rest of this place, and where’s that? Well, you need to get it from a quest from a ghost that you can only talk to when you’re dead, of course. So one “quick” detour later, the key was obtained aaaaaand that leads to a whole other series of areas. What the fuck, how big is this place?
There was another barracks area, another section of that underground city, and some nasty labs full of evil gnomes and golems. Then there’s The Summoner’s Tomb, where you have to survive an onslaught of ghost dwarf bosses to open the exit to the next area.
Then there was this giant, open area packed full of lower level enemies, but in such high concentration that you could easily find yourself overwhelmed again if you weren’t careful. You have to carefully, but also quickly, push your way through here to find specific torchbearer enemies that drop torches, which are needed to open the exit to this area, and once you finally do that, you come face to face with…another identical magma giant called Magmus.
And THEN, FINALLY THEN, you’re in the last area, The Iron Hall. At the end of this hall lies the real final boss, the emperor of the dark iron dwarves himself. Finally, finally, finally, once you beat him you are done with this place (I mean…until you have to fight your way almost all the way through again to get to the entrance to The Molten Core, dammit).
We took a much-deserved moment to rest and pose for what are probably horribly cliched tourist pics, but who could resist stopping to sit in this throne after all that?
If this all sounded horribly complicated to you, it’s actually even worse than it sounds. There are so many sub-areas in here that I can’t even remember all of them, and I think I glossed over more than a few of them. This is a complete basic map of the place. Wait…did we not even need that Shadowforge key? I could have just picked the lock? Urghhhhhhh!
At this point we’re about one dungeon away from hitting level 60, where technically we could go start in on The Burning Crusade again, but…there’s still so much left to do in Azeroth. There’s the Blackrock Spire dungeons, and the dreaded Stratholme and Scholomance. There are also several raid areas and world bosses to try conquering (if we can even do those with only 2 of us). I suppose we’ll stop gaining any experience from any of these things pretty soon, but these are the best parts, and these places must be seen and destroyed!
Next in the Wild World of Warcraft was…
“Temple of Atal’Hakkar (also known as Sunken Temple and more rarely, Lost Temple) is a shrine erected by the Atal’ai trolls, led by their master Jammal’an the Prophet, to the nefarious Blood God — Hakkar the Soulflayer. Believing that this was the intended site for Hakkar’s reentry into Azeroth, the great Dragon Aspect, Ysera, and her green dragonflight sunk the temple into the depths of the Swamp of Sorrows…but the dragons did not realize that it was the wrong location until it was too late.”
Yet another troll cult place with a temple theme. There sure are a lot of these. The difference with this one is the addition of a lot of dragonkin and lesser dragon type enemies.
The temple is divided into 3 kind of ring sections, each of which has various paths leading up and down throughout them, and sort of a different theme for each one. The bottom is a little submerged (this being the sunken temple and all), and kind of resembles a sewer, with a lot of muck monsters, slimes, and other such filthy beasts.
Down here there’s a bit of a hidden boss that requires you to inspect an altar, which makes 6 crystals above you flash in a certain order, so of course you then have to go up there and fight your way to each one and activate them all in that same order to make this jerk boss appear.
The middle is full of trolls. There are 6 troll mini-boss type guys spread around the ring, which I needed to kill all of for a paladin quest (but we would have killed them anyway), all leading to that troll prophet from the description. This section was pretty straightforward and relatively easy to deal with.
The top section is where all the real fun starts, with little baby dragons, partly humanoid dragonkin, and some big drakes and lesser dragons to fight, and there are a shitload of them scattered all over the place. It would be easy to get overrun if you weren’t careful here.
It all leads up to a final boss fight against the closest they’ll let you get to fighting a real dragon at this point, the Shade of Eranikus. He’s just a ghost of a relatively small dragon, but he’s still the biggest one we’ve fought so far. It’ll be a while still before we’re cool enough to fight “real” dragons. In fact, they’re so big they usually require raids of 20-40 or more people to kill, so that will be interesting someday…
Anyway, before moving on to the next place we became a bit sidetracked by the Lunar Festival.
Despite all the fanfare there isn’t much to be done for this special event. You can track down some elders spread around the world to get some special coins that can be traded for some fireworks or goofy cosmetic items, but that didn’t seem all that exciting. There is one special thing about this festival though, you can get a quest to summon Omen, a world-level boss with 5.5 million HP.
Guys like this are meant to be taken on by groups of 20-40 people and we only have 2. Well, luckily we have the option of altering the stats of fellows like this. World/raid bosses in our world are set at 1% of their normal stats, which still left this guy with around 55,000 health. It took a while to whittle him down, but apparently he was quite defeatable in this state.
There’s no real worthwhile reward for doing this, we just wanted to fight this guy just for fun, and we’ll be tracking down more world bosses in the future for the same reason.
The next stop on the tour was Blackrock Depths, a place so huge that it’s going to need a whole post of its own, so until then…
The next stop on the Azeroth world tour was to be Zul’Farrak, but first we had to travel to many faraway places and do many convoluted quest chains to get those sweet, sweet dungeon quests. Along the way we did a difficult trio of escort missions for…mechanical chickens, because they just happened to be there and they were worth a lot of points.
Then we were sidetracked by ridiculous Christmas event quests where we won some more useless cosmetic items so we could look stupid because why not?
Then after many hours of preparation, it was finally time to go back to the desert region of Tanaris to tackle that dungeon, but not before I stopped to show off on my fancy paladin horse. Aaaaaanyway…
Zul’Farrak is basically just a giant troll city. It’s so large in scale that you can use mounts inside it, though you don’t really have much of a chance or reason to do so.
While it’s a big place, and it does have a few nice bosses and an interesting scripted event, it’s all a little too similar looking and you spend most of the time fighting the same few troll enemies over and over again. There are some nice rewards to be found, but it’s definitely not my favorite place.
The scripted event I mentioned involves killing a little boss at the top of a big pyramid-type structure who drops a key, which you use to unlock a group of cages, which starts another “escort” quest. There’s not really much actual escorting to be done, you all just stand at the top of the stairs while huge groups of guys rush you all. It becomes a pretty intense battle and luckily the people on your side aren’t as fragile as the usual escort quest people because things get so crowded and frantic that I lost sight of most of them within a few seconds.
If you manage to survive all the waves, you all walk down to the bottom and witness a dramatic scene where one of the prisoners leaves the group and runs away, and the rest suddenly turn on you and you’re forced to kill them. Thanks, guys.
About those super-convoluted quest chains, the worst one involves Gahz’rilla. If you want to fight him you’re going to have to jump through quite a few hoops. The quest only tells you that you need to find a way to summon him so you can kill him, and that the trolls might know a way to do it. If you do it the way the game wants you to, you’d have to actually go to Zul’Farrak first and get a randomly dropped trash item that’s actually an important text file that tells you what you need to do to perform the summoning ritual. Having done it before, I knew what needed to be done, but that didn’t make it simple still.
You need to find a certain enemy in Hinterlands, a forest area with more trolls that’s way on the other side of the world, kill him and take his sacred mallet, then you need to fight your way through an entirely different troll city, up to the top of another pyramid-type structure, all of which is almost the same size and difficulty as a normal dungeon itself, and use the mallet on the altar at the end to create Mallet of Zul’Farrak. Then you take that back to Zul’Farrak and use it on another altar, which finally summons the damn guy, all so we could win some items we didn’t even use. Oh well. He needed to be conquered, so that’s what we did!
Apparently if I get the other one of these two rare one-handed swords there, they can be combined into a pretty sweet epic sword. I NEED DIS! We had already moved on to the next place before I realized though…
“Maraudon is a 5-player dungeon, consisting of 3 wings (The Wicked Grotto, Foulspore Cavern, and Earth Song Falls), located in the Valley of Spears in Desolace. It is a combination of ancient centaur burial grounds, as well as a primal temple dedicated to the elemental earth.”
This place was added into the game after its earliest days, and so I never had much experience with it. I think I might have gone there once, but don’t think we explored it all. I can see why we wouldn’t have done that at the time because this place is fucking massive.
It’s another one with a huge pre-instance dungeon, probably the biggest one since Deadmines, and to make matters worse, this area comes to a forked path, each of which leads to a separate entrance to the same instance, but if you should happen to pick the wrong one you’re going to end up doing it “backwards” and messing up the order of a few key Maraudon quests. Naturally, there’s no indication whatsoever which way you should go first, so if you happen to pick the wrong one you won’t know until it’s way too late to do anything about it other than do the whole place over again (unless you can get some magic GM help…).
Once inside, the instance itself is even more enormous and confusing. Like the description says, there are three distinct zones and each one is almost a full-sized dungeon on its own. First (though as it turned out, this was NOT where we should have gone first) there’s The Wicked Grotto, a big series of crystal-covered caves full of angry centaurs, satyrs, and some really hard-hitting slime enemies. I always liked those slime guys because you can see the little bits of skeletons and stuff floating around in some of them and when you loot them they’ll be full of junk items like skulls and broken weapons. Always thought that was a nice touch of detail.
Anyway, then you reach another fork in the road, with one path leading to Foulspore Cavern, a weird bio-wasteland full of angry mutant plants. This area has a lot of enemies, but is pretty simple and linear (which I guess is why it’s supposed to be the area you’re supposed to enter first).
Earthsong Falls, the third and final section, is the biggest and nastiest. It’s a long stretch of twisting roads leading up and down some cliffs which branch off into multiple directions again, some leading down to an optional section of watery depths at the base of the waterfalls, which is guarded by giant worms and lizards, hydras, and some earth elementals, as well as some extra bosses. The other way leads up through a gauntlet of towering boss-sized stone giants, and finally ends with the last boss of the whole crazy place.
Many nice pieces of gear were found and much fun was had, but there’s much, much, much more to go still. Join us next time for adventures in the Sunken Temple and…whatever comes next after that? Stratholme maybe? I don’t even know! I’m excited to get started on these later level Azeroth dungeons though, as I seem to remember liking them and their semi-horror-themes the best. Until then…
Now for some more tales of furious World of Warcraft playing. We ended up playing quite a bit during the extra downtime of the holidays, before we ended up on an extended family vacation where we’re currently doing a whole lot of nothing. Anyway…I guess I forgot to mention our characters too, eh? I used to play a rogue back in the old days, so I figured I’d try something different this time. Now I am Ralstonicus the retribution paladin, and it’s been pretty fun. I’m sort of a tank, but also with a lot of interesting crowd control, damage, and healing/protection spells.
Mrs. Fotchenstein decided to go with a shadow priest, so she’s got a lot of healing and some pretty nice damage spells. We actually make a pretty good team with these classes and builds, luckily. She also ended up spending a lot of time setting up a guild for us, all 3 of us (us 2 and the extra GM account), which we decided to fittingly name Servants of Pantha (our cat).
So…the next stop on our journey was…well, it was going to be Razorfen Downs, but apparently the internet misinformed us of the level range of that one so we overshot it by a great deal. Luckily there’s another dungeon, Razorfen Kraul, literally right across the street, so that’s where we ended up.
“Razorfen Kraul is the ancestral home of the quilboar, obscured by thorns that grew from the corpse of the demigod Agamaggan”
I guess things didn’t work out too well for the quillboars, because this place is a decrepit maze of caverns, filled with angry undead quillboars and other such decayed abominations. A bit of the way into the place we came upon a large room with a big gong in the corner. Mrs. Fotchenstein said to me “you should ring that gong”. I couldn’t remember what this thing did, but it sounded like a dare to me, one that I didn’t think she thought I would do! So of course I immediately did it and about a dozen weird spiders rushed out and attacked us, almost killing us. We survived and she said “Ok, now will you hit it again?”, and so I did. This time a group of larger man-spider things rushed out and attacked us, almost killing us again. This time she says “are you sure you want to hit it again?”, and I say “YES!” and do it, which summons the final enemy, a giant spider monster called Tuten’kash!
He wasn’t too tough at all really. It’s much easier to deal with a single tough target than it is to be surrounded by a swarm of weaker guys. The only time we died in here was to another boss, some super skeleton guy, who had about 20 minor skeleton guys around him that swarmed the shit out of us.
Things went pretty smoothly after that. Lots and lots of undead to fight through and some cool looking undead bosses. The only other tricky part was an escort quest that started with a guy we found locked in a cell deep in the dungeon. Luckily we had cleared the place out before trying to start his quest so it was simple enough to get him where he needed to go, but then he started doing a little magic ritual that he needed protection during and more undead quillboars started appearing out of nowhere to attack in waves for quite a long time, with no chance to rest. We made it through though, and conquered all there was to conquer in the dreaded Razorfen Kraul. Next up, Uldaman.
“Uldaman is an ancient Titan vault buried deep within the Khaz Mountains. Partially excavated, it has since fallen into the hands of the Dark Iron dwarves who seek to corrupt its riches for their master, Ragnaros.”
Uldaman is pretty fun, but also kind of annoying in some ways. It’s a large place with another really complex layout that’s easy to get turned around in. There’s a pretty large variety of enemy types and bosses, so that’s good. There’s a secret boss hidden behind a door that can only be opened by finding the two halves of a staff that was clearly based on the one from Raiders of the Lost Ark.
There are a lot of dark dwarves, trogs, various types of stone golems, and some surprisingly deadly pits of little scorpions, which ended up killing me in an unexpected ambush once. Luckily Mrs. Fotchenstein was there to save me.
The downside of Uldaman though is another lengthy pre-dungeon area to fight through and some really convoluted quest chains that want you to do multiple things in the pre-dungeon area, then run back and turn the quests in just so you can get the actual quests for inside the dungeon. There’s even one quest that wants you to get 3 special gems in the dungeon, all of which drop from different bosses that are all over the place, so you aren’t getting them all without doing the whole dungeon, but then when you turn it in they want you to go back and fight another boss that was in there, one that you’d have to fight your way through half or more of the whole place again to get to again. No thanks, one complete exploration of this place is quite enough for now.
One other thing worth noting about Uldaman is that if you get all the way to the end you’re treated to a lengthy history lesson by a weird magic hologram type guy that reveals that some weird ancient creator race came to Azeroth and created all the life there, and that all the weird magic-tech like the stone golems and such are actually machines built by these strange beings which I guess you could call alien invaders? Very strange. My friends back in the old days of Warcraft would always rush through all these things so quickly that I never really had time to stop and read all this weird lore, so I never realized what a strange history this world has. I think I’m going to need to do some research on this because it sounds pretty interesting. I guess I should also actually play Warcraft 3 someday, as I always hear how good that was and how relevant it is to a lot of the stories in World of Warcraft.
Well, that’s enough of the Wild World of Warcraft for now. There are more tales to tell of things we already did weeks ago, but I’m a bit behind on everything thanks to this vacation so I’ll have to talk about Zul’Farrak, Mauradon, and more next time!
Ah, the slow grind of the early days. Stabbing your way through boars and sick wolves and such for some pitiful amount of xp. It’s a bit slow in the beginning, with such simple quests and such limited abilities for your character, but it was probably necessary, as we had no idea what we were doing after almost a decade of absence from this game. It’s not terrible, having to run around doing these early solo quests, but we were both eager to get to the dungeons, as that’s where all the real action and rewards are. Also, holy shit is it slow to have to walk everywhere. Level 20, where the first dungeons and mounts are, couldn’t come fast enough.
Once we got there though, it’s been almost nothing but non-stop back-to-back dungeons. I’m not complaining, it’s just strange to look back and realize how often we’d have to resort to doing everything BUT dungeons back in the day because we couldn’t find a group or we found one and it went wrong part way through. Without the reliance on large groups of friends or random strangers, you can just dive right into the dungeon content and never really stop.
We blew through quite a few places before it occurred to me that I should take more screenshots in order to keep some kind of record of all this, so there isn’t much to show for all these early ones. I actually screwed up a bunch of the first batch of screenshots by accidentally re-binding the same button to both video and image capture. Oops. So, I’ll keep these brief this one time.
The first dungeon for the Alliance side is The Deadmines. While it was nice to finally get into a dungeon again, this one is a bit annoying in the beginning. Dungeons are typically instanced so you can’t be disturbed by other players while you’re in there and the creatures don’t ever respawn as long as one of your group is still inside, so it’s strange that this one has a massive outer area that you have to fight through to get to the actual instance entrance. It’s really long for an entrance area and it’s a bit of a maze of caverns so there was a good amount of backtracking to find the right passage to the entrance, and since those no-respawn rules don’t apply to anything outside, we had to go through the same large groups of enemies multiple times. Oh well. It was fun once we got in. Rogues, goblins, and pirates. Pirates with attack parrots. Fun times.
Next on the list was Shadowfang Keep. This was one we never saw much of back in the day because it’s deep in Horde territory and very difficult for low level characters to get to without help. It’s a shame, because it’s my kind of dungeon, a dusty old mansion filled with werewolves and ghosts.
Then there are The Stockades. This was a common, popular one since it’s right inside one of the major Alliance cities. It’s not a particularly exciting one though. It’s very short and you just fight a bunch of prisoners with no real variety and no interesting bosses. Oh well.
After that was Blackfathom Deeps. This is a weird maze of ruins and caves that’s partially submerged under water. This is probably the first “real” dungeon you go to. It’s noticeably longer and broken up into different sections, each with their own different visual style and set of enemy types. You’ll come up against murlocs, nagas, giant snapping turtles, a variety of evil cultists, many more bosses than before, and there’s even a giant three headed hydra boss at the end. This is what it’s all about, that sweet, sweet dungeoning!
Then there’s the infamous Gnomeregan. A strange clockwork labyrinth full of trogs, diseased gnomes, and many bizarre mechanical enemies. The quests in this one are a bit complicated, requiring you to find well-guarded terminals in a specific order to upgrade a key card level by level until it’s high enough to open the door to the last boss. The layout of this place is pretty complex and it’s easy to find yourself lost or missing the one terminal you need. Still, without having any impatient team members trying to rush things along, we were able to explore it all at a nice relaxed pace and find everything we needed. Looking back on it, we used to play with some real assholes back then, that made things not so fun sometimes. I don’t want to get into all that, I’m just glad it isn’t an issue anymore.
The last stop on this particular tour is The Scarlet Monastery. This was another semi-popular one, but also one that was pretty difficult to get to for the level range it was intended for. It’s not only in Horde territory, but it’s through a few areas that are of much higher level than you are if you’re going to this place. You’d either need an escort or just have to try to run for it and hope you survive until you get there. It’s a pretty fun place if you make it though. A lot of crazy templar types and big boss fights.
That’s all for now. I apologize for how basic this post is, I’ll make sure to have more pictures and details on adventures in individual dungeons now that this has caught up to the point where I actually realized “I should record this shit!”. Goes to show how much we’ve been playing this and how quickly we’re progressing, as we’d already shot up to the mid 30’s by this point.
Mrs. Fotchenstein and I used to play this together something like 10 years ago. I believe we first started back before we even got together, then kind of drifted away from it, then started again when we moved in together when Burning Crusade came out, then a few months later finally quit entirely after I had some problems with my account, which is a story too long and boring to bother getting into.
Anyway, we tried a few more things after that (before I swore off MMOs forever) like Dungeons & Dragons Online, Lord of the Rings Online, Age of Conan, and Warhammer Online, but none of them ever really got their hooks in us like good old Warcraft did (though DDO was a close 2nd place for me. Sometimes I miss that one a bit too). World of Warcraft is the only one I found myself having serious urges to play again even after all those years though. Sure, it lost some of its luster in the endgame days where it just became endless repetition of daily quests and the same small handful of final dungeons, but there was so much to like about the long journey leading up to that part.
So what’s a guy to do when he really wants to jump back into an old online-only game, but doesn’t want to deal with all the ganking, griefing, guild drama, and bullshit involved in having to repeatedly team up with groups of strangers who have about 50/50 odds of being awful? Well, I thought it would just be like most cases of old online-only games I liked, where I was just shit out of luck and better get used to the idea of never playing it again (which is mostly why I don’t touch online games anymore).
Turns out there are…options though. It just suddenly occurred to me one day that if there are all these private WoW servers that we keep hearing about, then surely I should in theory be able to create my own home server for just two people, right? Well, it took hours of research and then several more hours of messing around with various files and settings, but I finally got it going.
It’s pretty interesting stuff really. It’s not just a simple case of making the game client play offline, you need to emulate a login server, a world server, and a massive database, then you can connect to that collective emulated server and play the game all as-usual, minus all the other people of course.
Now you might think that would make all those group-only dungeons, which most would consider the best part of the game, completely unplayable when there’s only 1-2 people around, but AHA…having control of the entire server means YOU make the rules! Rules like knocking all those pesky elite enemies’ health and damage down to 20% or so of normal, making them entirely beatable by only 2 people. Hell, you could make yourself a GM account and be invincible or teleport or create any object you can think of if you wanted to, but there’s no challenge or fun in that (Well, ok, maybe we created a few crafting materials, since there’s no more auction house for conveniently buying such things).
Interestingly enough, there’s even a single player mod that spawns a bunch of random bots on each side. You can team up with them if you want, or try to hunt down opposing members for pvp rewards if you can manage to find any, but for the most part they’re not smart enough to be of much use. They do make for nice background flavor though, as you can see them running around in big towns or out getting in fights with creatures or other players in the wild.
The only downside is that you can’t really do this with the newer expansions. The artificial servers for the more recent stuff isn’t in working order yet (though it is being worked on currently, supposedly). The highest you can go up right now and still be near 100% working and stable is Wrath of the Lich King, but I can live with that (for now!). That’s still enough content to keep busy for quite some time.
So yeah, it’s been quite fun so far, and Mrs. Fotchenstein seems to have become even more re-addicted than I am, but we have agreed not to play on these characters unless we’re both playing, so that keeps us both in check somewhat.
I think that maybe I’ll chronicle our various adventures here, so expect the first part soon, of what I guess will probably have to be quite a long series.
Quick, and probably pointless, disclaimer: I’m running this server only on a home LAN, using our own personal legally bought World of Warcraft discs. It’s not open to the public, I’m not running some pirate server on the internet. Don’t sue me, Blizzard!