Monday, December 8, 2008

Halls of Stone

(WARNING: Halls of Stone spoilers!)

Friday night I got invited to run Halls of Stone with a group from Heroes Inc. The group was myself (Protection Paladin), a second Protection Paladin (who was healing the run), a Shadow/Holy Priest, a Warlock and a Mage.

The Priest helped out with healing in some of the more intense parts of the dungeon, but for the most part the Protection Paladin was able to keep me up.

The only one of us who had previously been inside Halls of Stone was the Warlock and it had been a while. He didn’t remember much of the mechanics of the boss fights, so we were literally flying blind. We never wiped, and I’m not even sure we had a single death.

I don’t know if this says more about my tanking or their healing or the difficulty of Normal mode instances.

Halls of Stone was incredibly fun, and may be my new favorite instance. The artwork and layout are very nicely done, but the story and lore in the dungeon are even more incredible.

The instance is in the shape of a 'T'. First off, we went over and attacked the giant rock elemental looking boss first. He was almost an exact copy of Gruul as far as fight mechanics go.

Then we went into a different hall and found a boss mob that looked just like Maiden of Virtue from Karazhan. The Boss in the Halls of Stone was similar, and even did Repentance on the party. Fortunately, she didn’t have Maiden’s annoying silence to deal with.

You finally get to meet up with Brann Bronzebeard, the brother of Magini Bronzebeard, King of Ironforge and Muradin Bronzebeard, who accompanied Arthas to Northrend.

Brann Bronzebeard was thought to be dead in An’Quiraq, and his camp is a quest hub in Silithus, a level 60 zone that is usually skipped now in favor of Hellfire Peninsula. Now I never got very far in even AQ20, so maybe you find Brann in AQ40, I don’t know.

You escort Brann through the instance and trigger an event where you have to protect Brann while he accesses the Titan’s computer.

As a Dwarf, this was especially important to me. I thoroughly enjoyed Uldaman and hints that it gave to the creation of the Dwarves, as well as the follow up quest at Ulduum. Many of the answers to those lingering questions were finally revealed in this event.

In case you missed some of the story while finding off the Titans defenses, or looting the chest, here’s what was revealed.

The Titans created the Earthen to shape the deep parts of Azeroth. You learn this at the end of the instance where you first encounter the Earthen, Uldaman. Then Azeroth was invaded (‘infected’) by the Old Gods, who the Titans refer to as parasites. The Old Gods infected the Earthen (and other ‘seed’ races) with something called the ‘Curse of Flesh’.

The Titans came back to remove the Old Gods but determined that if they killed the Old Gods, it would destroy Azeroth. So they neutralized them and buried them deep inside Azeroth itself. The Forge of Wills inside the Halls of Stones and ‘other systems’ were used to create new Earthen.

Protectors were appointed. These were the Dragon Aspects (Alexstraza, Nozdormu, Ysera, Neltharion aka Deathwing, and Malygos), and the Earth and Stone Giants. For an unrevealed reason the Earth and Stone Giants went to war. Loken, whose image we saw in Howling Fjord, ended the war by neutralizing the Earth and Stone Giants. Loken put several races into statis at this point: The Earthen, the Giants, and the Vrykul!

Eventually the statis wore off, and the Earthen, Giants, and Vrykul woke up. But by that point, the ‘Curse of Flesh’ had taken hold. They were no longer made of Iron and Stone but of flesh. The fleshy Earthen would become known as Dwarves. The Vrykul would eventually give rise to the Humans.

Brann then instructs you to meet him by the front door. He opens it and you find the the final boss of the instance, Sjonnir the Ironshaper, who appears to be Vrykul made of Iron. In his death speech, he seems to hint at a larger battle with Loken, no, Sentinel Loken as the computer called him.

Sjonnir revealed Loken is trying to retake The Forge. But what Forge? It can’t be the Forge of Wills, because Sjonnir is guarding that, so technically Loken already has it. We also know from the quests at the Explorer’s Camp, and near Fort Wildervar, that Loken is sending Runed Stone Giants to attack the defenses of the Pantheon (Titan Ruling Council). He must be sending the Giants to attack the defenses of the Forge he wants!

I have a feeling we haven’t heard the last of Loken.

Sjonnir dropped an Amulet of Wills. I see it as an upgrade to my Betrayer's Choker, but the complete lack of defense is a killer. The other Protection Paladin said he had no interest in it, so I went ahead and grabbed it.
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