I got through Volume 2, Book 9 pretty quickly in Lord of the Rings Online Siege of Mirkwood. Getting through the epic books is one of my favorite goals to set, and when a new Book drops, it is one of the first I usually attack. Book 9 used the new gameplay type Skirmishes instead of the usual static 3 or 6-man quests. This created a choice, where none really existed before. A person could get through the Skirmish portions quickly by going at it alone, or they could choose to group up. Except for one Skirmish Book quest, I went at it alone and regretted it.
Skirmishes are nicely done in that as the group goes from solo to 3-man to 6-man to 12-man the story intensifies. Sure there will be more and harder mobs, but the boss fights become more epic. For instance, in everybody’s favorite Thievery and Mischief the boss in solo mode will be one half-orc mob. Add 5 more fellows, and the boss gains two friends, which requires a strategy. It feels like Bree was under a harsher rule from the three bosses requiring a 6-man + soldiers to kill than one mere half-orc.
Now in the multiple, repeatable challenge skirmishes this is not a big deal, but in the epic story, the Chapter can only be completed once. Sure, I can go back and rewrite history by redoing the repeatable skirmish that I did in that Chapter, but the feeling is lost. If I choose to efficiently and easily run through the Chapter using a solo skirmish, the Chapter will feel less epic. Turbine has created, whether they meant to or not, a situation where greater risk creates a greater story.
I didn’t feel this way until I fought the Olog-hai troll gatekeeper in a Dol Guldur instance. I remembered fighting the gatekeeper to Angmar, and how epic that felt with my 5 other fellows. Fighting this Dol Guldur gatekeeper with just me and my soldier felt a tad overshadowed by comparison. But, it was my fault. If I went in to the skirmish with 5 or 11 other people, the story would’ve felt worthy of song and glory.
Now, it is not all my fault. Playing with other people is more fun, but there was the perception that it was indisputably more efficient to solo skirmishes. So the immediate culture surrounding skirmishes was to go at it alone rather than to create a culture of pick up group heaven. In the Volume 3, Book 1 update grouping in skirmishes will net even more rewards so I hope that this causes a tipping point.
Anyway, I have seen the light. I want my epic books to remain epic. I don’t want to ever just “get through them” like I did for Book 9. I want to maximize my story. With, Volume 3, Book 1 there will be a skirmish involved in the epic quest line and normal quest rewards also will affect to a much more minor degree the risk versus story rewards. In the latest dev diary, it was illustrated that one reward will help to rocket the player through the epic line, while the other reward will be more meaningful long term yet require more work through the story. I really like having this greater choice for greater risk and greater story, and I am glad I can move forward knowing how I want to play.
We are lions!