Since the NDA dropped, I wanted to share the strongest points in my mind that I experienced or read during my time in the closed beta.
The Good – Skirmishes. I cannot stress this enough. It will change how casual players access Lord of the Rings Online, and it might have a greater effect on the MMO landscape. They are self-contained adventures similar to Guild Wars missions and Dungeons and Dragons Online quests, but most like solo instances in Lord of the Rings Online itself. Since it has its own reward structure, players can solo to their hearts content, but the best feature is scalability to include other players to get, duh, better rewards. 12-man skirmishes are basically casual raids with customized bosses. Plus players get a personalized skirmish Barbie to dress up and skill out. If I had any qualms about activation energy to play Lord of the Rings Online, this feature destroys it. This is seriously an expansion in itself.
The Bad – Any complaints players had about radiance gear gating and legendary item grind still remains in some form. Things are better, though. The Siege of Mirkwood pre-raid gear is a lot easier to get with tokens from instances instead of one Hard Mode coin drop. Casual players can eventually get the radiance gear by repeating instances. Hardcore players will get their pre-raid gear faster. Expect a complete reset of your legendary items as well. That First Age level 60 might become relic trash once you pick up a level 65 legendary item. Still, players can now have more control over the legendary item slot machine with scrolls that affect the inherent powers of the legendary item. The worst part, in my opinion, is the split between Tier 1 legendary items (<level 61) and Tier 2 legendary items (>level 60). Plenty of things that affect Tier 1 won’t affect Tier 2 (like experience items). Things are improved, but not perfect, is about the bottom line.
The Ugly– The level cap has been raised to 65. Players get one more improved skill, which from what I have heard is nearly worthless. For example, my Captain gets Improved Fighting Withdraw, which is a skill I think I have used once in my whole time playing my Captain main. Hunters and Wardens, as far as I know, just get traveling skills. There are no raised virtue caps, no new trait slots, or anything that might make leveling more meaningful. I understand that there will be some across-the-board effects from going to 65 (like level 60 mobs being easier), but the raise feels superficial. Like some marketing puffery.
The Unsure – The attack system has been changed. They have been making a lot of adjustments in beta, and I am sure that once Siege of Mirkwood launches more adjustments will be made based on the live data they receive. It feels a lot smoother, more akin to World of Warcraft or Warhammer Online, but it is going to take some getting used to. I am very comfortable with the ultra-rhythmic button-mash of the current game. Now, it feels little more active, a little quicker, but I am not sure if that is a good thing. I hope it is a good thing because Turbine has been tinkering with their combat system a lot.
The Silver Lining– I have to end on good notes because the expansion is definitely worth the cost of entry. Mirkwood is great. If you enjoyed the PvE aspects of Moria (and Lothlorien, I guess), then you won’t be disappointed. There is a new instance cluster with 3-mans, a 6-man, and a final 12-man. The 12-man is a complete raid, and it has a very intense “gauntlet” portion, where players have to fight their way up the tower while covering their backs. It feels like an actual assault. Lonelands and Volume 1, Book 2 epics have been re-done to help smooth out that rough level 20-30 patch. Crafting gets a few new things like recipes with multiple outputs (and Tier 7 Scholar battle scrolls, praise Eru). And, players can get class quest items from skirmish barterers.
TL;DR – The expansion is generally good. It pushes forward on many fronts, and opens up a new one with skirmishes. All fronts were not pushed forward equally and perfectly, but the net effect is good. Some people, especially the “hardcore” might be more disappointed with “rewards,” but for casual players I think the expansion is right on the mark.
nodding my head like yeah