I may have underestimated the amount of new content since Siege of Mirkwoodâ„¢, but it is hard to tell because my week back in The Lord of the Rings Onlineâ„¢ has mixed that, revamped content, and old content that I had skipped. A week’s worth of content (or a hardcore weekend) still feels about right: one day per quest hub/sub-zone plus one for bringing Volume III to Enedwaith. It is almost entirely solo content, with repeatables for slow reputation grinding. I am not quite done with everything, but let me tell you what I have liked with minimal whining.
Quest rewards are designed efficiently. Yes we have two new barter tokens, but they are used with two factions. Almost everything gives item advancement experience and reputation. There are few other non-coin quest rewards. The rewards are built with post-cap advancement in mind, which is critical given its place in the development cycle.
There are Explorer deeds. Find Hobbit lanterns and items, explore the Dundeling homesteads, find Dwarf markers. Finding random stuff is like having a “I have been everywhere” checklist for completionists, and if you are missing one, it suggests Googling to find new things in the zone that you missed.
The Stoor village was a wonderful surprise, and I am sorry if my mentioning it spoils it for anyone. You are directed there after stumbling on one of those Hobbit items via the epic chain. A lost Hobbit village, complete with the Hobbit-like quest to pick and plant flowers. This is also home to the “boar-droppings” quest, which makes it convenient that English has several four-letter synonyms for “droppings” at varying degrees of profanity. Bonus: the quest is a daily, just in case you are really excited about pig-poop. There is refuge in audacity is making the quest so demeaning.
You fight goat demons. Yes, really. This being Turbine, there are also violent cows, and this being LotRO, there are boars. I thought they had skipped boars, but then I went to the last sub-zone. Yep, there they are.
A downside is the limited enemy diversity within sub-zones. It varies between sub-zones, but you could ride for minutes while seeing only minor variations on two or three monsters. This is nothing new.
One quest has been described as Pac-Man, with elite shadow-wolves as the ghosts and dark torches as the pellets. Viewed that way, it becomes a great little quest.
Back to rewards, the ground-spawn chest-substitutes are actually worth clicking. There are occasional backpacks and corpses, and each will have 75 silver, a potion or two, and a few crafting components. I like finding candy, and there are few enough to keep it feeling special.
There are also ground-spawn quest-starters. I think this is a great mechanic that reverses the normal quest order. Instead of a quest-giver telling you to go click something in the fens, you click something in the fens that a quest-giver can tell you more about. This would work even better were we not sent directly to the ground-spawn items by other quests, which makes them sort of a bonus reward for doing an earlier quest. One quest sends you patroling with a ground-spawn quest-starter at every patrol point. The template stops being compelling when it is that transparent.
My primate brain reacts well to giant, shiny characters. You get some of those in the southwest corner when you start interacting with spirits. It is amazing how that works: take any character model and make it tiny or huge, colorful or glowy, and all at once it is awesome. WoW has the sparklepony, LotRO has a giant sparkleboar.
The enemies in this zone are harder than in Mirkwood. I have not re-learned the damage type mechanics and seen how much of that is just their being different monster types. Some of it is their having higher numbers, say 500hp more, and who knows if they have higher defenses underneath that. But some of the enemies also have different abilities, like the deer that reactively counter your attack type (an enemy seemingly designed for meleers that pull with a quick shot or shout), spirits that bud and consume mini-spirits to heal themselves, or demon dogs that drain health. I have no deaths, so it is not hard, but other level 65 enemies drop more quickly.
The zone needs a skirmish.