New LotRO Low: Update 6 (and then some)
March 2, 2012 16 Comments
That’s right sports fans, Mr. Doom and Gloom isn’t quite finished with this ride just yet. While I did plainly spell out in my last writeup on LotRO of how I felt about the game and how I was no longer putting my time into the game, I still like to keep tabs and make an effort to at least try to see what has happened since my hiatus. Funnily enough it wasn’t Update 5 that brought me back, but the glimpse of someone’s “favorite cosmetic outfit” on the forums wearing what looked to be a Ranger’s outfit. As someone who has been doing his best to mimic such an outfit since 2007, I was immediately intrigued. As you can guess, this obviously led me down the path of Update 5 and some more fun tidbits I had missed in my previous observations of the state of LotRO. So, shall we continue to a point where you find one thing wrong with this writeup and then attempt a blanket statement that everything I say is untrustworthy? Good, then let’s continue!
As I said, I became curious as to what Update 5 added, so I gave it a once-over in early February. The only thing I cared about, at that moment when I logged in, was getting my Ranger outfit. After some help from a kinmate, I followed the joke that was the beginning of Book whatever (I’m calling it Book Stupid Rohirrim Prince, or Book SRP), talked to a few Rangers, and got a set of Ranger armor. I laughed for a moment. It had taken me fifteen minutes to accomplish what I had been trying to do for years now. Personally the closest thing I could ever seem to get to was the Annuminas set, and I didn’t even get a fair crack at that until they turned it over to the skirmish system. And then there was that ridiculous potato sack hood that I grinded an endless night to get the tokens for (which they eventually threw up on the store for a pretty penny). And now? Now I run and talk to a few Rangers and get their carbon-copy outfit. Which, of course, everyone else has and runs around with. All of the sudden I don’t really care about the outfit any more. I’m more curious about what other experiences Turbine has cheapened to peddle over their wares.
I followed the Book quest line. After all, I heard rumors that this Book pretty much finishes up Theodred (literally). Of course it was going to be a little troubling at LV72, but I managed along the way. I took advantage of that daily task limit. Before I knew it I was LV73 and was up to the whole “assault on Isengard” instances. If it seems like I missed something, trust me, I didn’t; the Book is four chapters long. I’m pretty sure Dr. Seuss books last longer than this. Anyway, let’s continue with how Turbine handles Rohan’s sheer stupidity after apparently knowing beforehand (by the game’s lore) that Saruman had a huge army of his own, shall we?
Theodred essentially goes Leeroy Jenkins, or, “We have always defended the Isen and we shall do so again. For duty! Honor! Justice! Rargh! Blarharagh! Rargh!” Grimbold agrees–it is time to die a most noble death while believing you can prevail. Apparently these guys have been hanging around the Rangers for too long. Anyway, they start with an “assault”. Theodred is not sure if Saruman has an army or not and wants to see the truth to it. When they pretty much ride up to the gates unchecked, all on horseback, Theodred commits the forces to assault Isengard. “Woot! We’re winning! Scissors beats rock, ha!” Not.
Isengard pours out. The Rohirrim are still fighting skirmishes on horseback for some reason. Theodred retreats back to the Fords of the Isen. Grimbold insists that you and he need to hold back the waves of enemies to cover the prince’s retreat. You both go on a death march before sounding the retreat. However, before you can come to a full retreat, news has reached your ignorant ears: the enemy has boxed Theodred at the ford! Oh noes! Who could’ve seen this? Not Theodred, obviously. He lost his eyes in the last Book, remember?
You and Grimbold make a mad dash to the fords to cut through the Uruks who are doing a good job at slapping everyone around. You’re about to be overtaken by the same group that’s walloping on Theodred when Rohirrim reinforcements come across the Isen and drive the attackers off. The result: a tactical victory for Isengard. What follows is a sappy attempt for you to care about some of the Rohirrim who fell on the battlefield–some of which were quest givers (also some tosser who lost his glove). Theodred’s men gather around him and he says some last words. “I…I just…I was just looking…for…my eyes…” That’s probably why you lost the battle.
Exeunt Turbine’s handling of Theodred’s death. All the Rohirrim remained oblivious to the fact that they had game-lore knowledge of the fact that Saruman had a large force but chose to ignore it. Also, like General Custer, Theodred apparently believes, “horse charge = win”. As I said, Turbine is starting to develop a nasty habit of portraying the series’ heroes as complete idiots. I was wondering how they were going to handle it and they handled it exactly as I thought they would: wrongly. It seems Turbine writes that Theodred went full retard and said, “Hurf de durf, Saruman has only ten orcs, hurrhurrhurrhurr”, and then charged the front gates. *raises hand* Hey, Theodred? Remember when I said I was a prisoner and I had personally seen legions of these guys teeming inside there? *Theodred looks at me, cross-eyed* “What you talkin’ ’bout, Sonny Jim? Imma git me some roasted orc leg tonite, YEEEEEHAAAAAAAWWWWW!” *speared to death*
The instances themselves weren’t all that great. It’s all geared toward close melee combat, which screws over which class again? Ah, right, the only class I play. Of course. Makes perfect sense. Like numerous other instances I came across in Dunland, I found myself being unable to complete the second (or was it the third?) part of the instance, where you and Grimbold retreat from Isengard. Along the way waves and waves of mobs swarm you and Grimbold–light and normal mobs alike, and the aggro is random. I’m able to survive the first part of this instance after blowing all of my goodies (Press Onward, Rain of Thorns, etc.). We then come to the second phase, where Grimbold goes all geriatric on me and becomes inactive. Not even a second later two normal mobs aggro me before I’ve even had five seconds OOC. Needless to say I obviously died. Of course I was underleveled and still using old equipment, so I’m sure that contributed to my demise, but I sincerely doubt it would have been any less hairier if I were properly equipped. The next time I did the instance I did the exact same thing I did in that one Dunland instance that has you fight endless waves of enemies with the Rohirrim until the clock reaches zero and you ride away on horseback; I camo’d and stayed out of the fight safely out of range and then carefully picked my fights. Once again Turbine is telling me something: “We don’t play Hunters. Ever.”
So here I am sitting pretty at LV73. I figured, “Hey, why don’t you just get level cap out of the way?” Sure thing, I tell my brain. You’ve never led me astray in the past. What follows will be an experience anyone under the sun will gladly rebuke, I’m sure, but here’s my experience. I finished all the landscape quests that I could solo (this means all those quests that required me to take on Elites, like the five or so quests that do so in the Pit of Iron, are still floating in limbo in my quest log); that took me three-fourths of the way to LV74. I then went back and finished all the Volume II content I never got around to doing because of that knee-breaking nerf Hunters suffered shortly after MoM hit. Like SoA content, years later I’m actually finally getting to experience what I missed out on. I must say, I do miss how intricately-designed quest content used to be. That whole bit with the mirrors was pretty fun. Of course I found out they raped the lore, what with the whole Cthulhu bit. “It’s from another dimension! This totally happens all the time in Lord of the Rings!” Still, fun. That took me a little bit over 74.
So I visited my old friend the skirmish system. “Hey there buddy,”I said to it. “When have you ever let me down?” Oh, right. Right around the time you required me to purchase that pesky rank off the store. Okay, fine. Here’s your pound of flesh, Turbine. Let me just try and get to the level cap in peace. So I start up my old favorite, Fords of Bruinen. Oh nice, I said. This’ll be a nice 40-minute walk in the park, like always. I get the daily done, go to another, do that daily, and then refresh the next day. Uruk goes down, trumpets sound and…huh? Wait, where’s my daily quest reward experience? Did it not fire off? Did I do something wrong? /bugged? I check other skirmishes and I notice something severely lacking from all of them–none of them have the quest rings next to them. I try another skirmish just to be sure and yep, no more daily quest experience reward. Oh goody. So the only reason I ever skirmished in the first place has been removed.
I figure, hey, I’m in Galtrev, let me go see if those grayed-out quests are now not so gray anymore. And they’re not, of course. I find out that they are IXP and LI title instances, like the stuff we have with every new level increase update since MoM. I slip into the first one that has you defend Galtrev from Orcs setting the place on fire. I’m doing slightly okay until the third wave launches and out comes one of those fire-hammer bastards, who immediately applies a fire death bleed of gratuitous doom. Whoops, sorry. I had already potted that same wound earlier. What can I do now, Turbine? Oh, right. Die. Quest cancel. You are now leaving Lagtrev.
What does that leave me with? Oh, right. Grinding. Because having a second day job is what I always wanted in my life. No thanks. It’s clear Turbine has changed the game to ensure that what ever problem you may be facing you can find the solution on the store. This is clearly evident by removing the daily quest bonus from skirmishes–it was a prime source of XP income when I would try and level my alts. Instead all I have now is the hope of rest XP. Of course, if I have no soul, there’s also the accelerated XP stuff on the store as well. I don’t know why they just don’t throw up a button to a link to that item in your quest log or something. So can you guess what I did? Well, can ya? Let me put it this way; I left as quickly as I came back. It’s like they’re purposely trying to get me to loathe them with a passion. No, I will not buy your stupid XP acceleration scrolls off the store simply because you guys are pulling douche moves out of the ‘1001 Ways to be a Complete Douche (With a Forward by the Paizes)’ book in Chapter Douche: The Fine Art of Being a Douche, page one-hundred-and-douche.
This now concludes my Book SRP experience. If you were looking for the Update 6 stuff, then you should probably start here, because, boy, have I been following this update or what. Update 6 is something that intrigues me about Turbine. It completely blows their old update schedule out of the water. Whereas we had been waiting, in the past from anywhere between a year and six months for new landscape, Turbine has pulled a rabbit out of their hat and has axed that dark period of waiting by another three months. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Turbine is seeing a return on their greed and is finally putting that profit to try and push out more content. Okay, this I can’t complain about, so put this in your win category, fanboys. Put in another point for the fact that they are making it free to VIPs, which completely surprised me.
Update 6, or Shores of the Great River, is a new update that seems to be slated for late March or early April (I’m leaning toward April, given that it went to Bullroarer on the 1st). The general announcement can be found here. Some cliff notes: we’ll be fighting Easterlings and the undead (again), the region connects Lorien to the Wold, there’s an update to the instance finder, and we’ll be able to have soldiers on the landscape. Of course, you know me; I’m not content to leave it at just that. No, I must melt your faces. In fact, the need is driving me so that I don’t even know where to begin. But I’ll do my best to be gentle (well, no, I won’t).
First, let’s start off with Turbine’s development strategy, or what I like to call, “delaying the inevitable”. RoI put us firmly within the grasp to ride to Edoras and meet up with Aragorn in co., which would then lead us to the Hornburg. This, of course, is something Turbine could not allow, as they just spent the last five years trying to keep us within the timeline of The Fellowship of the Ring. Which, truthfully, does span quite a bit. But the events that happen in The Two Towers and Return of the King all unfold and finish within two months. And when you say that out loud you suddenly realize, “Oh my God, we’re so close to the end!” Which, again, brings me to my original point: delaying the inevitable. We were ready to cross that threshold in the last Book update and Turbine had an epiphany–there’s more than one way into Rohan.
So, exeunt logic, enter the long road to progress. Update 6 takes us south of Lorien into a part of the land that has seen little to no activity lore-wise for five-hundred years (not since Eorl the Young rode with Gondor to drive back the Rhunic invaders). As far as we know in regards to the lore of the area, it’s rather uninhabited and uninteresting (as opposed to, say, the Gladden, where we could possibly run into Beorn). Turbine, however, has decided that the term “creative liberties” has no boundaries and have set into the area by trying to have so much happen in such little space.
Yes, I did say little space. Update 6 is boasting a number of quests similar to Enedwait (200 is the number Sapience likes to throw around). However, unlike Enedwait, “The Great River” (the name of the zone currently) is rather small. How small, you ask? Before I get into that, let’s get into the developer diary by Budgeford in regards to the size and design of The Great River. First he doesn’t beat around the bush and lets us know that we’ll be coming across our first Rohirrim settlement. Because of this, they have worked on new art resources, so it’s a pretty safe bet that what ever you see with these Rohirrim settlements is likely to be the set norm for Rohan in general (including all the Rohirrim welcoming you in the Elvish tongue, saying, “Suilad melon”). Given that it’s a confirmation that we’ll be facing Rhunic invaders, I’m also willing to bet there will be new art in that camp as well. Which means one thing; the next updates, for quite some time, are going to feature the Rohirrim and the Rhunic invaders. Oh, and also some undead type (remember one of the Nazgul taking the spirits of the Dunlendings in Dunland?). We’ll also be paying a little visit to the Ents as well.
If this sounds like a lot for such a small space, then just take a look at their own designs to try and “chop up” the region so they can fit as many different things as possible in as little amount of space.
Budgeford goes on to talk about how “ugly” the process is because there’s limited space from where Lorien is from the map (the map, by the way, is from The Atlas of Middle-earth by Karen Wynn Fonstad). They eventually settle on this design:
Before Budgeford can even let us wonder why the area seems so tiny, he goes on about how well everything worked out in the end, describing the landscape-building like puzzle-building. Uh, what? Just, why? Why do they keep doing this? Are they still ignoring the backlash from Enedwait? They pulled this stunt there, this phenomenon that is sweeping the landscaping team that I like to call the Disneyland Syndrome. Zones are not theme parks, so why exactly do they keep designing them as such. You’ve got Thinglad, which is a forested area; you’ve got the Wailing Hills, which hilly area; you’ve got the Limlight Gorge, which is hilly and forest-y; Eorlsmead, which is rocky and has a big town in it; the Parth Celebrant, which is just flat; and the Rushgore, which is a marsh. Did any of these guys take geography? You know where you see this kind of landscape change so drastically close from one another? Minecraft.
Secondly, there is no marsh on the Parth Celebrant, so kudos to spinning that whole, “We’ve got the lore experts spinning their lore weaves while crocheting with lore needles and keeping their lore fingers all lorey-dorey”. And what exactly is the purpose of throwing in a toe of the Brown Lands? So the zone doesn’t seem as small? It’s like they purposely took an area that could be quite large, tuned it down, chopped it up into little pieces, didn’t know what to call it, and then just added another side of the river for good measure of trying to offer some sort of theme park experience that we got with Enedwait. For posterity, here is the map without part of the in-game Lorien blocking where it’s not supposed to be:
Notice how there’s TONS of open space past their artificial mountain boundary to the west? And that Lorien is far much more north than where they have it in their landscape design? I mean, I’m not saying they should make all landscape to scale, but they sure as hell shouldn’t shrink it down when it’s unnecessary. They had plenty of space to offer more free-roaming territory and yet they sacrificed it to compartmentalize the new zone. And why? I have no idea. Bree-land is, without a doubt, one of my favorite zones, and it has nothing to do with the quest content–rather it has to deal with the limitless fields that just span incredible distances–a reminder that, at one point in this game’s time, enemies were not spaced five meters apart from one another. There are entire places in Bree-land that have nothing to do with quest content or deeds–you can just explore to your heart’s content, enjoying the fact that you’re not running into Legomylas or Xxbobisasumxx every five feet. Honestly, if I didn’t know any better, I’d say they were shrinking the landscape just so they can avoid anyone ever saying the population is empty or–oh, wait.
Still not convinced the zone is small? Take a look as I attach it right to where it would seem to be attached to Lorien:
It looks like the distance it would take you to touch the Limlight to the Celebrant (from Eorlsmead) is about the same distance it would take you to walk from one end of Caras Galadhon to the other side. But what evs, I’m sure there’s a good defensive argument to this up someone’s sleeve. “It means we waste less time getting to other content! Uh, yeah! Exactly!” Right, because I thought I was playing Mario Kart where I hectically try to rush past everyone to place first. Then again, the size doesn’t bother me as much as this whole Disneyland Syndrome that they haven’t been able to shake since Mines of Moria (Steefel’s “This is an MMO, so it must exist” spiel must have hit home to the landscape team–that, or Turbine keeps sending them to Disneyland for “inspiration”). Take a look at the zone’s paper map:
It looks like something out of a coloring book. The bold outline also compliments this page in the Middle-earth for Kids coloring book. Mountains everywhere! I can’t wait to see them pull off that mountainitis boundary sickness when we get to Rohan, place well-known for not having mountains.
I think I’ve thoroughly taken a chunk out of the new zone itself in the design aspect, so I’ll move right along to the features that will be coming with Update 6. Honestly there’s only two that struck out to me the most (as I don’t use the current instance finder I can’t really comment on the new new instance finder). First, there’s the skirmish soldiers, which they revealed with as little info on possible (and I’m guessing on purpose for reasons I will soon go in to). The other one deals with the store and how Turbine has changed systems currently in the game to take advantage of their disgustingly greedy behavior. So keep with me, folks, I’m not done shoveling yet!
When I first heard “skirmish soldiers on the landscape” as a future feature, my first thought was, “It’ll tie in with the store somehow.” Although, truthfully, I was far more liberal with my ideas. I thought “ties in with the store” meant, “you can purchase temporary buffs for your soldier”. I had forgotten though–this is Turbine. Why give your customers something slightly for free and have them pay for the rest when you can just have them pay for everything from the start? Which is exactly what’s going to happen with skirmish soldiers if you want to summon them on the field. You’ll need to buy a set of summoning tokens off the store for 100TP. Pretty cheap, I know. Oh, but did you know you can get them in-game legitimately as well? Oh, absolutely. You can barter for them at a skirmish camp. They are as cheap there as the relic removal scrolls are. Heh. See what I did there? Oh, and where these soldiers can be used is limited as well–they apparently vanish when you go into towns and using them in instances is right-out (unless you’re in a skirmish, in which case you can summon your skirmish soldier for free…for now).
The other far more important feature is the finalization of the barter wallet. Remember how we’ve been asking for years now for some sort of wallet that would take all of your BOA barter items and put them in some invisible wallet? Well, they partially delivered with that when they tucked away all the skirmish stuff in it, but they did promise to deliver on the full feature. Guess what, they did…
…For the low, low price of 995TP! That’s right, folks, for this Turbine Special Ultra Low Gollum I Can’t Believe It’s Not Rohan price, you can FIX YOUR GAME! Imagine if your bags and bank were emptied of useless barter items and were instead stored in a neat space like this!
There’s a number of expletives to describe what’s going on here, but I don’t think I really need to explain myself on this one. Turbine’s greed is out in the open on this one–they are selling a fix to the game. Spin it all you want. This is a feature people have been asking for day one. When its beta brother was delivered, they said they would finish it. This has always been a standard feature, and the fact that it’s not even free to VIPs is beyond telling. Turbine is well on their way to destroying old systems so that they can replaced with some store-linked scheme (like the collapsing of Destiny Points and the setting up of Commendations). Honestly, spin me until I’m dizzy, I’m still not getting on the Merry-go-Round-of-Mad-Hatters. You go and have your fictitious tea party by yourselves.
Actually, you know what, you can have that tea party while sitting on loot boxes, because I hear they are a hit with damaging the raiding population because some LV1 tarts are getting symbol drops and also with destroying a server’s economy. I don’t think it’s a mystery to what future content will look like for LotRO. In fact, I’m willing to bet my first born that the following features will happen, at one point or another, in LotRO:
- You will be able to buy all housing items on the store
- You will be able to pay your housing upkeep on the store
- You will be able to buy a lot more gear off the store (jewelery etc.)
- You will be able to buy LIs from the store
…Actually, you know what’s really sad? I kept writing a number of bullet points to stuff that would appear on the store and then I realized IT’S ALREADY IN THE STORE. LI relics, titles, legs, and scrolls? All in the store. Buffs to everything (stats, XP, IXP, deeds, damage, PvMP rank, crafting, skirmishing, and rep boosts)? All in the store. The majority of crafting materials and recipes? In the store. Virtue ranks? Store. Restoration pots that are better than what ever a Scholar can make? Kaching. Items that allow you to revive your character and wash away your dread (remember, you won’t be able to buy that perk any more with Destiny Points being done away)? Bling bling. Nowadays you have to ask yourself: what’s NOT on the store?
You’re a joke, Turbine.