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A Week (and a bit) in the Woods

December 15, 2009

It’s no secret I’ve been a bit of a slacker blogwise over the last 10 days or so. This may directly relate to Siege of Mirkwood hitting the EU servers on 3rd Dec. And what a ride it’s been, between learning the new area, tackling skirmishes, levelling again and bemoaning our lot with the Legendary Items lottery.

I thought I should do like my kinmate Berathe, and make a few observations and thoughts about Mirkwood and the development of LotRO.

Skirmishes

I’ve not done them perhaps as much as many people, mostly I’ve concentrated on questing, but I like the skirmish system. I’ve enjoyed having a way to use up 30 mins or so in any group size from 1-12 on a whim. I like how the difficulty scales in tiers, in levels and by group size. I adore my Hobbit Sage, and I will soon get her her ultimate skill (check the Skirmish Captain for the Ultimate skills, not the Skirmish Trainer as you do for other skills). I’m glad it hasn’t become a sole focus for gaming. I love the fact parts of the epic book utilise the skirmish system (ie. scaleable grouping, having your solider along, and skirmish marks for helping others doing the quests in the future).

I can see skirmishes forming the basis for some very interesting developments in the game too. Imagine is every instance scaled from 3-12 players (let’s assume solo instancing would remove the point of some of it). I know I’ve often wished I could take 4 people into a 3-man instance – but I’d also love to see how some of them could scale. I’m sure it’s a ton of work, but I find it an intriguing notion.

I think we can say that skirmishes have delivered what they promised. While the limited number (which grows once you’ve completed Book 9), and the scripted nature, I could imagine getting bored of them, but if I manage to ration myself and never do them when I don’t feel like it, I can see the skirmish mark barter system being developed further.

Quests

Mirkwood follows an Eregion-like structure, quest in one hub, move to the next. The swift travel options open up a hell of a lot faster in Mirkwood. I think I got them almost immediately on discovering the stable-masters. The areas aren’t huge, and were very camped on the expansion launch, but even now are thinning out.

There’s a lot of daily quests. More than I’d probably do if I was in full-time work and wanted to do interesting stuff each night. By definition I don’t find daily quests that interesting. They’re more like  a red flag, capturing my attention. But they do give regular access to barter items I might want in the future and aren’t as boring as crafting instances for gold leaves that are now pointless (my own fault, I knew they would be).

I’ve enjoyed many of the quests in Mirkwood though, ignoring the standard ‘kill 10’ variety, I’ve looked for signs of the Necromancer, fought with spiders and orcs, and explored. I’m not going to say too much about other more story-based quests, except that there’s some really great unexpected ones in there that pull you straight back into the source material and suddenly remind you of the IP this is all based on again, in its purest sense.

I greatly enjoyed Book 9 and its epilogue. It’s probably up there with my favourite books, and I look forward to Volume III. I’m, again, not going to mention any details, except to say I enjoyed it a lot and I appreciated the story and the challenge level of the book, showing it doesn’t always need to be group-based to be challenging. More of this, please.

Instances

There are three 3-man instances in the Dol Guldur cluster: the Warg-Pens, the Sword-Halls and the Dungeons. I’ve now completed them all, 2/3 on hardmode as well – and I fully intend to conquer the Dungeons hardmode the next time I visit.

Compared to the Water Works and the Hall of Mirrors, I’ve really enjoyed these new 3-man instances. They’re tough, they’re clever, they need strategy! In fact, it’s almost a shame the Sword-Halls is by far the fastest and the most rewarding, so has already quickly become the default ‘farming’ instance. Me, I’d probably do them all just for fun, I don’t even know how many barter items I need – I just like them, so far.

We’ve done the 6-man, Sammath Gul a few times now, and again in terms of boss behaviour it’s been a big learning curve. When we get a fight down, we have it. I like that. And the first few times it was truly hellish, and now eminently manageable. It’s pretty rewarding, has some decent jewellery drops and has a chance to drop the item you need for the 2nd Age crafting. I hope, for us, this will become more of a default, because it gets medallions for 6 at a time, not just 3. Also, Halls of Crafting (the most recent prior 6-man) was probably the instance we did the most.

Have stepped into the raid and stepped straight out again. Maybe sometime after Xmas we’ll take a look, but we’re still doing Dar Narbugud as a kin, so who knows!

General

Despite all the rampant positivity, let’s first tackle the nitty-gritty, this isn’t the same amount of content we got with Mines of Moria, and it cost me the same.

It is, however, a very fun content addition with increased level cap, some fun new content, the skirmish system and I should recognise here that I’ve played through it a LOT faster than the average player. I haven’t done ALL the quests yet, but that’s only because I’ve spent less time online over the last few days.

I like the atmosphere of the new zone of Mirkwood. It’s spooky and there’s a definite sense that war is coming. I like the architecture, the gravity of the NPCs, the layout and Dol Guldur is a magnificent study in greyness. Its expanse really does give a fortress feel.

Bartering is with us for good, after it worked well in the Rift. It’s being fine-tuned to make it a bit more useful across the board. But the raid gear still works on one gem for one item specificity. I wouldn’t mind some kind of change there, due to botlenecks forming where everyone just needs 1 or 2 bits of armour that drop from the final 2 bosses (because by the nature of raiding, you generally do the first bosses a lot more often than the final ones, while learning the place). I like being able to barter for potions, and I suppose I can’t bitch too much about daily quests when it means I can get more barter tokens…

…but daily quests turn into a grind quite fast, and a fairly bland one. The same hand that gave us changing skirmishes, has also given a rather flat set of daily quests (scout 4 points x 2, destroy banners, collect badges/spears/tokens/teeth, kill wargs/orcs, etc etc). I’m already a little bored of them, and maybe I should ration how often I do them!!! And add the fact all the instances have a daily quest of hardmode, you could spend all day every day doing daily challenges in quests, instances and skirmishes. It makes my head hurt even thinking about it.

 Got this far?

Congrats. I should have put it out in chunks, but it’s here and ready, so why not? Next, thoughts for the future of expansions and LotRO.

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6 comments

  1. Sadly, the “Known Issues” say that the swift travel routes were intended to 1) be gated behind deeds and 2) cost more, and will do so in future. 😦


    • Ah, well at least it explains why I was surprised to see them all up there. Hopefully many people will have all the requisite gating by the time they fix it!


  2. Yeah, I was surprised about the horse-routes – that’s usually the way they are in beta and they just forgot to fix them for launch 😉

    I haven’t run any of the instances yet, but am very excited for them. However, due to my schedule I might not get to them until the new year 😦

    But I agree on the daily grind aspects – especially if you have multiple toons. I will most likely only do them as needed and share rewards between toons as I can.

    Have you looked at any of the new crafted items?


  3. I feel cheered by the instance reports. They sound like fun.


  4. Great write up on SoM. I’m really enjoying the Skirmishes, and feel like I could play them forever. I can’t wait to open more of them up, and to see how they are woven into the Epic Quest line in Mirkwood.


    • the epic book ones are great, they tend to be the ones I replay most.



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