Playing The Lord of the Rings Online™: Shadows of Angmar™, I have really been enjoying the PvP content. This is unusual for me, as I am not a big PvPer. Maybe it will fade, but let me tell you about it.
There is one The Lord of the Rings Online™: Shadows of Angmar™ zone in which people play the monsters. Human-played orcs, uruks, wargs, and spiders (“creeps”) work with similar NPCs and huge trolls to control five keeps. Any player can hit a button to get a level 50 monster. The opposing forces are the normal PCs, the Free People (“freeps”) who unite to dethrone the tyrants of each keep and claim them for the light. This is Player vs. Monster Player (“PvMP”), The Lord of the Rings Online™: Shadows of Angmar™’s answer to PvP.
There are many good things here. First, dedicated PvP players with little to no PvE interest can focus on monsters. There is no level grind; there is a PvP reputation grind, but you work through that via normal PvP play. There is almost always PvP action going on, ranging from ganking and skirmishes to massive keep battles that have multiple raid groups on both sides.
There is also a place for PvE. Monsters do better when they have farmed some food and potions. You advance faster if, between PvP battles, you do some PvE farming like collecting troll stone, taking out NPC guards, and hitting the zone raid bosses. There is the standard top-end dungeon whose control changes based on control of the zone.
Yes, there is advancement. Monsters start at level 50, but they can build from there. There are extra skills and stats to buy with destiny points. You get destiny points by completing quests, defeating NPCs, or leveling a freep. There is also your PvP rank, starting at 0 and theoretically ending at 15 (no one has reached two digits in the first year). You gain points towards your new rank with every PvP kill; it only goes up, although you also have a chess-style rating that fluctuates based on your kills and deaths. New ranks give you new options.
Most of those new options come in your first few ranks. I hit rank 3 in about two weeks of non-dedicated PvP, and that opens almost everything: a bar of skills, all the passive stat boosts, and more traits than you can use at once. The higher ranks still have some fun toys, like stealth detection and group buffs.
You can get almost all this advancement from PvP, without any PvE. Taking and defending keeps will get you many destiny points, although you are fighting both PCs and NPCs in those keeps. The guards along the way drop items that can be traded in for more quest completion. At some point you will need PvE just to farm a bit of cash and barter to trade for consumables and customization, and PvE helps you advance more quickly, but you really could just PvP all the time.
The freeps have several advantages. Few creeps beat freeps one-on-one, and “beat” in this case often means “run off” rather than “kill and eat.” Given equal numbers, freeps should win. I am not sure of the full suite that contributes to this, since I do not have a level 50 freep, but some of the advantages are:
- Faster running via mounts and the hunter speed chant
- Far more buffs
- Great crowd control. An area-effect root that lasts 30 seconds or a 35 second mez is huge, and the creep versions usually just slow a single target long enough for the tide of orcs to catch up. This is the single largest factor, and the one most annoying to monsters. No one likes sitting there watching yourself get whittled down while you cannot react.
- Utility powers (creeps have very few)
- More experience with their characters. If you are a level 50 freep, you have probably played that character for a while, have a group of allies you know and have practice working with, and know the game mechanics well enough. Creeps get level 50 for free whether or not they know all the movement keys. Many creeps are just freep food. Half of my deaths came in the first two nights, as I figured out what was going on.
- Even when they have practice, creeps can be overly excitable and die one by one as they get lured into obvious traps. Some nights it seems like the blue team is picking off fools in a single-file line.
- Good healing and other defensive powers. The new creep class adds red-side healing, but the blue team has far better burst healing.
- More ranged attacks.
- Bonuses from equipment, deeds, crafted consumables, and all the PvE benefits Middle Earth has to offer.
The creeps have several advantages. The main one is that few fights are one-on-one. Dedicated creep players have only one zone, and their main method of advancement is PvP, so they are there and available to rumble all the time. A freep may be stronger than a creep, but two creeps will probably win (or at least not die). Coordinated attacks from massed archers are devastating, as are pounced from stealthed warg packs. Others:
- No grind, instant access. If you are bored with your Hunter, you are out of PvP for a few weeks while you level a Champion. If you are bored with your Black Arrow, you are out of PvP for one minute as you make a Reaver. The red team needs no breaks for leveling, and it gets all the PvPers who want to skip the level grind, which includes some pretty hardcore folks.
- Great hit points. My uruk archer has about as many hit points as a freep tank.
- Easy learning curve. Creeps do not forget their cool abilities because they have three bars full. When you have four active abilities, you use all of them all the time, and all those newbs are not far from being useful.
- Mobility via cross-zone teleports. Completing quests can earn maps that take you to the common battle areas. This does, however, require time and often PvE, and the cooldown is long. Freeps have better mobility, but any non-newb creep can get back to the battlefront quickly.
- No equipment, crafting, or other distractions to gain power. You gain ranks by defeating freeps, destiny points from quests, and barter rewards from the one dungeon. That’s it. The freep scholar can make some great buff items, but he must take the time to make them, while the creeps are out conquering keeps.
- Monsters are low maintenance. No repair bills. Few consumables. Die all you want, rezzing is free.
- Monsters get along better. Dragonlance is a story about how evil devours itself through envy and backstabbing, but Tolkien has a world with monolithic evil against heroic factions that have trouble getting along. The Lord of the Rings Online™: Shadows of Angmar™ effectively reproduces this. The monster tribes are not bickering and hating each other in broadcast channel. While freep players are calling for each others’ classes to get nerfed, creep players are also calling for freep classes to get nerfed. There is not a competitive sense. There is no loot to ninja-loot. On a raid, you get credit for helping claim a keep even if another raid gets the kill on the boss. I have twice seen a solo player get the tag on a keep boss, which nets a 2000 destiny point item; one gave it to the raid leader, the other offered it for /random, only to be met with a tide of “eh, who cares.” We all got 2000 for claiming the keep, so why stress about a 5% chance for another 2000? We are all there to kill freeps, and the rest is just details.
One interesting outcome is that most people win most of the time. The side with more bodies usually wins, or the winning side quickly becomes more numerous as fair weather friends join and leave their respective teams. There can be multiple fronts, so 75% of the freeps might be at the lumber camp beating 25% of the creeps, with the reverse happening at the mine: both sides had a win, and most of the players on each side were part of that win.
Similarly, my kill count includes all the kills to which I have contributed, so I reached 500 kills before I had a dozen killing blows. I need to check my deed log to see how many really counted as “my” kills, rather than the many I accumulate via raids. Everyone should have a positive kill-death ratio.
It’s a positive-sum game. Everyone who plays gets a few wins, and wins accumulate while losses are wiped away at the rez circle. Most people seem to have a good time, or at least I do.