It has been quite some time since I have progressed much further along the solo questline in Rohan. I left off having been directed to Walstow, the final town of Sutcrofts, and of Eastemnet. Then I started to do Hytbold quests, and generally I have found after doing those (and often also killing a few warbands) I have not had time and/or inclination to continue with the Walstow quests. I did a few a couple of weeks ago, and tonight I finally managed to get my head down and get them completed.
Walstow is surrounded, and poorly defended. There are two large orc camps nearby (three if one counts the one in the pass to the East Wall). The situation looks pretty dire, and addressing this situation is what the first set of quests is all about. To begin with there are a couple of quests just in and about Walstow itself – strengthening the defences and gathering supplies. Next it is time to start to take the fight to the enemy, which involves a raid on the two orc-camps. Some of the quests one picks up in Walstow itself, and some whilst “on the job” – and in short order I ran smack into a minor failure of game design which I will get to in a moment. Also there is a business with tracking down a missing Rohirrim, which is interesting as the poor man clearly has had an encounter with a Nazgul or something similar in the recent past. Even so this portion is mostly about killing orcs, and that is something our characters are very accomplished at doing. The pressure on Walstow is relieved, at least for the time being.
That being the case, we are now asked to do a few more tasks. One of these brings out, I think, another minor failure of game design. The rest though follows the theme of the town trying to establish a little more permanency to their situation. Nothing over the top however – it feels much like a small sortie to establish intent. The folks at Walstow are in a bad way, but they are not defeatist. These tasks complete we take our leave of the town to return to Snowbourn to see what Fastred might want us to do next.
It is interesting to compare Walstow with Ethengels, as there are similarities to the two of them. Both towns are led by women Thanes in mourning for the slain. Both seek to persevere against the enemies that beset them, and both are filled with hardy folk. In Ethengels however there was a greater sense of threat as the role of the Reeve of Norcrofts is considerably in doubt. With Walstow and Fastred there is no real doubt which side Fastred is on – his hatred of orcs burns so brightly. Ultimately I think it is probably because the internal story of Walstow is just not as compelling. I must admit I left feeling rather dis-satisfied. Part of that might be to do, of course, with the two game design faults I mentioned earlier.
I should stress these are not bugs. The first is very minor – there is a quest to retrieve a valuable item from just outside Hytbold. When you get there a message pops up saying something like “You retrieve the trinket from near the ruins of a once-prosperous town”. The problem is, by now Hytbold is well on the way to being rebuilt. While not entirely restored as yet, no longer does it lie in ruins. It shows one is “meant” to get to Walstow before the Hytbold quests – but given one can start Hytbold at Level 84 and, so long one is not rushing content, this will likely occur long before Walstow. For me it happened before I even arrived in Sutcrofts.
The second is more annoying. In the raid on the orc camps you can complete all the quests in the northern camp. However, there is one quest one needs that fires when you are in the southern camp, but there is nothing really to point you to it. I had to look it up online. My wife, when she went through the questline, had to do the same. Landscape quests are brilliant ideas, but if you need to kill particular people I think they need to be carefully used. Here I think it was ill-used.
So I leave Walstow feeling something of the wearied adventurer. Fastred will no doubt want more blood – that is his thing. I can only hope Snowbourn has some other charms.