The new stuff picks up south of Echad Eregion. This will be a happier post. You may have noticed that the last two posts showed severe underwhelmedness, which is like a word. Seeing new things is whelming, which actually is a word, even if none of the definitions are quite what I am looking for. Maybe I should have gone with “neat” or “novel.” Oh well, too late now. The previous posts had two points. One is to chronicle: humans tend to remember the extreme events and think of them as typical, forgetting conflicting evidence or whether they really were happy/sad for most of the moments. Going through those moments provides point two, which I will let Yeebo explain:
I’m not really sure what Turbine was thinking with the lead in to the mines. You show up at the north end of a new zone, and it’s not even remotely obvious that the best thing to do is run ahead. I guess they figured everyone would see Moria on the map and head straight there (that’s what I did).
In southern Eregion, the landscape changes. The scrub plain looks a bit like the Lone Lands, adding large furrows of dried-up rivers. The ruin architecture also feels different, although I do not study ruins enough to speak intelligently there. It is not like walking into one of WoW’s zones with an entirely different color palette, but it was striking enough for me to notice as a very non-visual person. Around Mirobel is where it really kicked in: enemies above level 50, a new monster type, legendary items, and all that jazz.
I received my first legendary item from a random enemy just outside Mirobel. Some random guy fell, and I got Burglar Tools of the Third Age. I could not use them, because my Burglar is 20 levels too low and I had not unlocked legendary items yet, but still cool to see a completely new gameplay mechanic. Also: burglar tools as an ancient relic? Seriously? A set of skeleton keys, crowbars, and such passed down through the generation to become an epic item of the realm? I understand the mechanics, but the concept seems marginally insane (not necessarily a complaint). Mirobel also had the first relic handlers I found, guys who would upgrade or disassemble them.
I make a habit of defeating one of everything in a new zone to check for deeds. There were crawlers (giant worms) outside Mirobel, so I shot one. “Lizard and crawler slayer.” Lizards? That’s new. Poking around, yes, there are dilophosauruses running around! You may remember those as the tiny, spitting dinosaurs from Jurassic Park, the ones with the big neck frills. And yes indeed, they pull out the frills when you get close, and they spit acid in your eyes to blind you. I was rather excited to see one, and I did what any Hunter would do: fill my focus and shoot it. It lived a couple seconds: “Oh. Well, it was fun while it lasted. I’ll be burning from acid for another half-minute, that’s new.” Seriously, neat little model, and it looks a lot like this.
There are also giant goats in the eastern reaches of Eregion. Goats are not as exciting as miniature dinosaurs, and I have not yet seen if they do anything interesting. As a Hunter, most normal enemies die rather quickly, so I start to see their tricks when I accidentally aggro three.
Push on, push on to Volume Two, Book One. Book One is good. Most of it takes place in the rocky furrows and swampy marshes just outside Moria, tucked into a little mini-zone. Some of it is pretty standard: go talk to a guy, pick up rocks and branches for pickaxes, kill some crows and wolves. Around the seventh chapter of those, I was wondering whether it was just a change from being cockblocked by elves to being cockblocked by dwarfs. It is not much of a speed bump, and it is an interesting one, so let’s talk.
The dwarfs sound eastern European rather than Scottish. I respect that. The voice-acting is also context-relevant. If you are the sort to skip flavor text, the NPC’s single line will still give you the idea of what the full paragraph is saying. In other voiceover news, it sounds like Galadriel is taking over for Gandalf.
There are two caves of side-quests. You can do these only before finishing Book One, and Book One sends you in front of each in case you want to. One is short and easy: a cave full of lizards. Lizards are threateners rather than aggressive enemies, they have low hit points, and in this cave they are well-spread. Quick, easy, do it. The other is a cave full of half-orcs and crebain, many of whom wander. This one is harder, and one of the quests is bugged: you must such piles of bones for a gold tooth, but you must search all of them even after you find the tooth. And you thought it was always in the last place you looked. These caves introduce a future Moria mechanic: 3-D thinking. You enter the lizard cave by a waterfall, and the last chamber is at the top of the waterfall. It is a simple (unlabeled) tutorial.
The Watcher’s pool is a huge swampy pool. The miasma puts Jimmy Carter to shame, and it drips foreshadowing because we know what is coming. The Watcher’s emergence is a good bit, with a great animation of grabbing dwarfs, smashing them against rocks, and pulling them under.
Next up is the introduction of legendary items. It is better if you know this is coming, otherwise you will have the full Tweety rant reaction: “My comrades bleeding by the pool, the brand new expansion featuring the zone I’ve been dreaming of for a year just beyond that battle, and I gotta level grind my freaking axe?” Okay, full-on Tweety would have some cursing as well. The first few levels are trivial: 100xp to level two, so kill two things. Level 10 takes a little while, so I did the Pembar quest chain (another reason to skip the Eregion quests; lousy zone design) and rescued Bill the Pony.
My wife was very excited about saving Bill the Pony.
As a result of Book One, I have my first two Hunter legendary items. Sadly, it looks like I will be mulching them once I find ones with better legacies (their bonus powers), but until then it costs me one equipment slot to carry around an extra axe. The initial item can be leveled only while wielding it, rather than keeping in your pack, but it is not a horrid bow. The axe gives three bonuses, two of which are for powers I do not have yet, so it is just soaking up xp until I recycle it.
As a player, I like the notion of item xp, just because it gives me an extra reward for each kill, with no opportunity cost. I will always take more reward for the same actions. When I am trying to grind an item to its max level, I will probably be less thrilled, but for now it is just a little bonus.
I found another Burglar third age relic, a dagger. I am led to believe that I will find more of these things than I will ever need.
I have my map point and my Hunter campfire set to Eregion. I want to explore the zone a bit more, both because there are some new things (boss-summoning mechanic, new quests and such to read and explore) and because I need to find the last two monster dens to get my Hunter guide skill for the zone. You unlock the horse routes by visiting the towns, but you unlock the quick travel versions by completing the quest deeds in the zone, so I may want those later. And I am a badge whore, so I must do complete some deeds, although I worry less about the slayer deeds given the huge numbers at later levels. I am told that every forty deeds adds a slot to your quest journal, and I can always use more quest space.
A bit more Eregion exploration, and I will tell you about Moria in a day or three. Doing the same old thing with some different mechanics in play is potentially interesting.
It feels really unnatural to write “dwarfs” instead of “dwarves.” Old school AD&D habits? They might be using “elfs” now for all I know.