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LotRO: Siege of Mirkwood expansion examined

nazgul

We’ve got some exciting news today on the LotRO front. Turbine just announced that they plan to release their first digital expansion this fall titled “Siege of Mirkwood!” Victor of Mmeow was quick on the uptake and had a post up on this almost right away, so thank you to him for the tip. I have to tell you though, the timing on this worked out perfectly because I decided to revisit my level 29 Guardian just this morning.

There’s lots of goodies packed into this expansion that newcomers and old vets should all enjoy. Let’s break it down.

(All quotes taken from the official press release, found here. Emphasis my own.)

The Epic Conclusion to Volume II: Mines of Moria™ – Under the command of Celeborn and Galadriel, players will fight through vast armies of Orcs alongside the Elves of Lórien in a battle that will take them to Dol Guldur, the fortress of the Ringwraiths. This update includes Book 9 and the Epilogue to the sweeping epic tale begun with the award-winning Mines of Moria expansion.

This part won’t benefit me right away since my highest character is still fairly low. Still, I love how the storytelling of the book quests, so I’m glad to see players get this addition to the story.

What really stands out to me is the “fight through vast armies of Orcs” part. I’m hoping that this means some truly epic battles. It’s one thing to kill hundreds of orcs in small bursts. It’s another to fight through masses at a time in a battle scenario. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them to use heavy instancing to give that epic feel but they’ve shown that they can pull that off well.

Increased Level Cap — Players will be able advance their characters up to level 65, gaining access to new traits, virtues, skills and class quests.

Players relish the ability to progress their character, so this will be a welcome addition to many. The five level increase makes me wonder about the upcoming (and as yet unannounced) expansion. Will they raise the level cap by five there too? Ten? Not at all? Based on this slight raise, I would expect a 5 level raise come expansion time and more lateral content as we’re seeing coming forth in WoW.

Answer the Call of War! – Jump into the heat of battle with the new Skirmishes feature. Skirmishes offer endless action in repeatable, randomized instances where players can create and lead customizable soldiers into battle, training them to greater skill as they earn victories against the forces of shadow.

Skirmishes! Finally! This makes it sound slightly Diablo-esque, which I think would be a great addition to the game. I have to wonder if/how skirmishes will be tied to character progression. Making them of too much benefit will just lead to farming unless some form of limit is placed on how many times a player can run a skirmish. Customizable soldiers, too! Perhaps skirmishes will serve the purpose of advancing soldiers more than anything else? The idea of training customizable soldiers sounds a lot like IXP. One more thing to progress but since soldiers are limited to skirmishes I’m waiting to hear why we should care about advancing them.

Answer the call of war wherever violence erupts with the new “World Join” function that lets players and their fellowships band together to fight in various locations throughout Middle-earth.

There are two ways this could play out. Either the game will ready battlegrounds (read: instanced encounters) where players face off against monsters attacking a town or region; or, cooler, random attacks will begin hitting parts of Middle-Earth. I see instancing as the more likely option because it’d be pretty immersion breaking to have areas pop from “at war” to “at peace” and vice versa.

Hopefully, the outcomes of these battles will have some impact on the wider game world.

Take up Arms! – Infiltrate the dark jails, deadly arenas and savage stables of Dol Guldur, the fortress of the Ringwraiths, and strike a blow against Sauron’s forces in new 3 and 6-player instances. Call upon your fellows to adventure into the most deadly 12-player raid yet and face the ultimate challenge – the Nazgûl Lord!

They say all that needs to be said.

And, the big one:

Major Gameplay Enhancements – Turbine continues to improve the award-winning experience of LOTRO with major improvements to the combat and Legendary Items systems. Players will experience improved responsiveness when in the heat of battle. Players will also be able to create and craft their own customized Second and Third Age Legendary Items from raw materials and grow their weapons’ power to level 60. Achieve new Legacies, new titles, and a fourth Runic slot that will make Legendary Items even more unique and powerful.

There’s a lot in that paragraph but the bold part is probably the most important to players currently looking at the game or considering returning. One of the biggest gripes players have is that the combat feels sluggish. I’ve read that it’s by design but the fact is a lot of players don’t like it and it looks like the devs are wising up to that. I’ve seen a lot of reports about people liking the game but not being able to stand the combat. If this sounds like you, check the game out again after the expansion. This is a change that should take effect for everyone, whether you get the expansion or not, so it’s worth a try.

Now, you’ll notice that this release is being tagged a “live expansion” and not a “patch.” When I first heard this, I almost rolled my eyes since it seemed like the same marketing trick Mythic tried to pull with WAR. Well, in this case, I think it’s a little more valid. This little piece hidden below the bullets explains.

Details regarding Siege of Mirkwood’s pricing and availability will be unveiled soon. For more information or to download a free trial, visit www.lotro.com/mirkwood.

That’s right. They’re charging for this one. I expect that some players will be upset by this given Turbine’s track record of release big chunks of content for free but I don’t see it as much of an issue. They’re adding a lot here (even though I expect the decision to charge was based largely on the level cap increase) that will substantially change the game. FFXI has been charging for small expansions than this forever, so it’s not unprecedented. So long as they don’t charge more than $15, I won’t much mind.

All in all, things are looking good for LotRO players. I enjoyed my own time there this morning, despite still being in the North Downs. I’m so close to being done with it and the Lone Lands that I’m considering devoting more time to just get it behind me. I hear the game gets a lot better once you move past them. Plus, I don’t quite know that I have it in me to dredge through them both again on another character. They are, by and large, a worse equivalent of WoW’s STV and that’s saying something.

We’ll keep you posted on anything else we find out!

Update: Middle-Earth Adventurer reports that the base price point will be $19.99. Alright, a little more than what I’d hoped but I’ll bite.  He also has an interest analysis of the Rohan expansion. Is it coming or not?

Update II: Tony has a some official responses on how these systems and features will work. I’m so glad to hear they’re speeding up combat!

We’ve got some exciting news today on the LotRO front. Turbine just announced that they plan to release their first digital expansion this fall titled “Siege of Mirkwood!” Victor of Mmeow was quick on the uptake and had a post up on this almost right away, so thank you to him for the tip. I have to tell you though, the timing on this worked out perfectly because I decided to revisit my level 29 Guardian just this morning.

There’s lots of goodies packed into this expansion that newcomers and old vets should all enjoy. Let’s break it down.

(All quotes taken from the official press release, found here. Emphasis my own.)

The Epic Conclusion to Volume II: Mines of Moria™ – Under the command of Celeborn and Galadriel, players will fight through vast armies of Orcs alongside the Elves of Lórien in a battle that will take them to Dol Guldur, the fortress of the Ringwraiths. This update includes Book 9 and the Epilogue to the sweeping epic tale begun with the award-winning Mines of Moria expansion.

This part won’t benefit me right away since my highest character is still fairly low. Still, I love how the storytelling of the book quests, so I’m glad to see players get this addition to the story. Not to mention.

What really stands out to me is the “fight through vast armies of Orcs” part. I’m hoping that this means some truly epic battles. It’s one thing to kill hundreds of orcs in small bursts. It’s another to fight through masses at a time in a battle scenario. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them to use heavy instancing to give that epic feel but they’ve shown that they can pull that off well.

Increased Level Cap — Players will be able advance their characters up to level 65, gaining access to new traits, virtues, skills and class quests.

Players relish the ability to progress their character, so this will be a welcome addition to many. The five level increase makes me wonder about the upcoming (and as yet unannounced) expansion. Will they raise the level cap by five there too? Ten? Not at all? Based on this slight raise, I would expect a 5 level raise come expansion time and more lateral content as we’re seeing coming forth in WoW.

Answer the Call of War! – Jump into the heat of battle with the new Skirmishes feature. Skirmishes offer endless action in repeatable, randomized instances where players can create and lead customizable soldiers into battle, training them to greater skill as they earn victories against the forces of shadow.

Skirmishes! Finally! This makes it sound slightly Diablo-esque, which I think would be a great addition to the game. I have to wonder if/how skirmishes will be tied to character progression. Making them of too much benefit will just lead to farming unless some form of limit is placed on how many times a player can run a skirmish. Customizable soldiers, too! Perhaps skirmishes will serve the purpose of advancing soldiers more than anything else? The idea of training customizable soldiers sounds a lot like IXP. One more thing to progress but since soldiers are limited to skirmishes I’m waiting to hear why we should care about advancing them.

Answer the call of war wherever violence erupts with the new “World Join” function that lets players and their fellowships band together to fight in various locations throughout Middle-earth.

There are two ways this could play out. Either the game will ready battlegrounds (read: instanced encounters) where players face off against monsters attacking a town or region; or, cooler, random attacks will begin hitting parts of Middle-Earth. I see instancing as the more likely option because it’d be pretty immersion breaking to have areas pop from “at war” to “at peace” and vice versa.

Hopefully, the outcomes of these battles will have some impact on the wider game world.

Take up Arms! – Infiltrate the dark jails, deadly arenas and savage stables of Dol Guldur, the fortress of the Ringwraiths, and strike a blow against Sauron’s forces in new 3 and 6-player instances. Call upon your fellows to adventure into the most deadly 12-player raid yet and face the ultimate challenge – the Nazgûl Lord!

They say all that needs to be said.

And, the big one:

Major Gameplay Enhancements – Turbine continues to improve the award-winning experience of LOTRO with major improvements to the combat and Legendary Items systems. Players will experience improved responsiveness when in the heat of battle. Players will also be able to create and craft their own customized Second and Third Age Legendary Items from raw materials and grow their weapons’ power to level 60. Achieve new Legacies, new titles, and a fourth Runic slot that will make Legendary Items even more unique and powerful.

There’s a lot in that paragraph but the bold part is probably the most important to players currently looking at the game or considering returning. One of the biggest gripes players have is that the combat feels sluggish. I’ve read that it’s by design but the fact is a lot of players don’t like it and it looks like the devs are wising up to that. I’ve seen a lot of reports about people liking the game but not being able to stand the combat. If this sounds like you, check the game out again after the expansion. This is a change that should take effect for everyone, whether you get the expansion or not, so it’s worth a try.

Now, you’ll notice that this release is being tagged a “live expansion” and not a “patch.” When I first heard this, I almost rolled my eyes since it seemed like the same marketing trick Mythic tried to pull with WAR. Well, in this case, I think it’s a little more valid. This little piece hidden below the bullets explains.

Details regarding Siege of Mirkwood’s pricing and availability will be unveiled soon. For more information or to download a free trial, visit www.lotro.com/mirkwood.

That’s right. They’re charging for this one. I expect that some players will be upset by this given Turbine’s track record of release big chunks of content for free but I don’t see it as much of an issue. They’re adding a lot here (even though I expect the decision to charge was based largely on the level cap increase) that will substantially change the game. FFXI has been charging for small expansions than this forever, so it’s not unprecedented. So long as they don’t charge more than $15, I won’t much mind.

All in all, things are looking good for LotRO players. I enjoyed my own time there this morning, despite still being in the North Downs. I’m so close to being done with it and the Lone Lands that I’m considering devoting more time to just get it behind me. I hear the game gets a lot better once you move past them. Plus, I don’t quite know that I have it in me to dredge through them both again on another character. They are, by and large, a worse equivalent of WoW’s STV and that’s saying something.

We’ll keep you posted on anything else we find out!

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