Big day, yesterday, for us LOTRO folk. After a two-day delay, Turbine launched Helm’s Deep and with it the second half of Rohan, the epic battle system, and the biggest overhaul of classes the game’s seen to date.
I felt that this was the best time for a change of scenery in more ways than one. On Tuesday, I said goodbye to my kinship, The Council of the Secret Fire. No big drama or fallout or anything, it’s just that over the past year, I realized that I didn’t know most anyone in the kin as my friends had left, and it wasn’t quite as active as I’d like. I figured that it was time for a fresh perspective with a new kin, especially as I headed into the expansion.
So I applied and got accepted into The Lonely Mountain Band, as they have a pretty good reputation on Landroval for friendliness and organized group activities (they’re the folks that put on Ales and Tales and Weatherstock). The application and interview process was a little longer than I normally care for, but if it pays off with a great kin, then it was worth it. So far, everyone’s been welcoming and the chat was absolutely bustling last night as regulars, returners, and new folk heeded the expansion’s siren’s call.
I’m formulating my first impressions of the expansion for a piece on Massively, so suffice to say that the combination of new kin, new lands, and class overhaul have gone a long way to making LOTRO feel fresh and exciting once more. I honestly didn’t want to log off — Rohan is drop-dead gorgeous and I didn’t get that much time to test-drive my new class builds.
Sometimes when you’ve been in a rut so long that you don’t realize you’re in a rut, you have to take bold steps to freshen things up and get a new perspective.
The Secret World
First of all, hilarious detail in the Mansion scenario that I noticed last night. In the upstairs survivor room, there’s a little section that they’ve walled off with the sign “Occupied.” If you look behind there, you’ll see a homemade chamber pot.
Poop jokes! You’re never too old for them!
We had another good group scenario night running solo and duo elites with full groups. That feels like a good difficulty balance, especially since we were able to walk away from them with most survivors still standing. Lots of augment drops too.
I was particularly happy because I got enough oreos to put me over the top for my Tokyo certification. I guess now I can start saving up for that purple shotgun!
Lord of the Rings Online
As probably everyone knows, Turbine delayed the Helm’s Deep launch until tomorrow. That sucks a little bit, but oh well, it’s just two days and I know a lot of people still needed to get a pre-order or use their Bounder’s tokens. It’s not all about me, so if it’s helping others, I’m happy.
I logged in to make a new outfit for my Captain. Man, I should’ve taken a picture of it. Oh, coulda woulda shoulda. It’s awesome. You’re going to have to imagine it: Think of stuff all over my body except I’m a female and it’s all blue and swirly and there’s a cool cape and some metal. Got it?
Why is Neverwinter so dang compelling these days? Maybe it’s just what I needed right now, a stress-free romp through unspoiled content. I’m cooking up an article about things I’m finding attractive here, but suffice to say that it’s kind of the Cryptic formula: fast leveling, easy entry, and fun little systems.
The Secret World
Our cabal is under a general consensus that Issue 8 will drop sometime this week, if only because Halloween is next week and, y’know, Cat God. In the meantime, I ran the latest 5-person instance stage of the Whispering Tides event (honestly, the whole thing has felt meh and grindy, so that’s why I haven’t been talking about it).
On my own, however, I’ve been filling in the gaps that I left with my first playthrough on Yeti. I realized that I didn’t have 100% exploration and 100% missions, and that’s a shame. So I’m working my way back through the game methodically, using the achievement panel as my guide. Last night I did a few Orochi quests in Egypt, which all revolved around corpses and crashed planes because, y’know, Orochi.
Lord of the Rings Online
The 100% XP boost is nice and all, but what I’m really enjoying is reconnecting with my kick-butt Lore-master as she whizzes through Moria. The revamp is really nice and keeps progression flowing forward, and I just love how the LM plays. It’s a good diversion for the month before the expansion, and I kind of want to just keep playing her. But man, there’s a long road ahead to get her to where my Captain is.
Guild Wars 2
Over the weekend I finished up my October monthlies, and I’ve tried to be diligent about doing dailies as of late. I’m getting pretty good at figuring out prime spots to go when I need to fulfill a certain achievement.
I also finished the Halloween meta and the final instance. It was… okay, I guess. Story-wise, it wasn’t much of anything. Oh, the Mad King has a son. Oh, I have a candy corn elemental (?) that will put him back in his coffin. Oh, that’s it. Seriously, that’s story?
Mostly I just spend time working on my Ranger and kicking myself for not spending each play session finishing up the world exploration for my Engineer. WvW is not a fun place to visit when you’re just trying to hit vistas and POIs.
Right now this game is vying for my attention really hard, and I’m not really doing much of anything super-interesting. I’m in Odenville, another low-level town, sort of doing quests but mostly just harvesting and crafting. There’s a really great field of nodes surrounding a cemetary that also has a lot of enemy NPCs to kill. I’m just raking in the mats left and right. I also built a new rifle to use that is a really nice improvement over the starter version.
What’s nice is that, for whatever reason, I got a month of subscription in the mail. So that lets me harvest faster and queue up 20 crafting recipes instead of just 3 at a time. I figure I might as well use this initial month to get a jump-start on my crafting — the quests can always wait.
You know what’s worse than no information at all? Giving only sketchy details about something people are already nervous over. Half-information leads to wild speculation, and when that’s aimed at a major change, the results can be a stampede of panicky, anxious gamers.
That’s what I feel may be happening in Lord of the Rings Online right now. There’s a LOT coming with next month’s Helm’s Deep, but when you look at the forums and read the comments sections on related news posts, the subject everyone keeps bringing up are the sweeping class changes. People are nervous and scared about massive changes to their beloved classes, and the way Turbine is handling it isn’t helping at all.
In short, Turbine is doing two things that, coupled together, spell disaster:
(1) The studio keeps trumpeting these huge changes through glossed-over dev diaries and a somewhat defensive post about its reasons for these changes.
(2) The studio is not, however, simply releasing the full trait trees and specifying what skills are going to be consolidated.
Now, I know that we’re in beta with a month to go before launch, and since things change all the time in beta, the devs could be holding back the specifics of these class overhauls until testing is complete. But it’s a mistake to do so because it’s freaking people the heck out not knowing (unless they’re in the beta, of course).
This makes Syp feel dismayed. I’m actually really excited for class changes because they’re things I’ve been asking for for years: fewer skills, faster combat animations, and more defined and interesting builds. But when you say “Massive changes are coming but we’re not going to specifically tell you what those are yet, you just need to get on board!” it’s too little to avoid tipping the scales from “excited” to “fearful.”
I’m not saying the community should panic, riot, or trample over Farmer Ted and eat his blueberry pies. Calm and patience are always in short supply, but oh-so-needed. I am saying that the best thing Turbine could be doing right now is to stop pussyfooting around these changes and give us solid, specific details.
For weeks now — months, even — I’ve been promising myself that this would be the night that I’d finish Wildermore. Yet it still keeps on going, long after I’ve completed the epic storyline, and I have no idea how much longer I have left. I would like to wrap it up, not just to get ready for Helm’s Deep, but to give myself a month or so to reconnect with my Lore-master.
Anyway, my adventures last night picked up in Balewood, where, y’know, orcs and trees and angry trees and sentient trees were proving that a viable symbiotic ecosystem can be established with a maximum of bloodshed. While I am a huge fan of Fangorn (no sarcasm), talking with Ents kind of makes me feel like I’m speaking with the Pakleds from Star Trek. They make things go. I mean, how can you go wrong with a slow-talking tree species that can’t make up its mind without a long rambling speech and a lot of intermissions? That Tolkien, boy was he onto something!
The Ent Barallas takes me on an interactive tale to show how the Ents first became aware of the stone giant Nurzum — the big baddie of Wildermore. After watching an ever-so-thrilling boardroom meeting between the trees, I’m tasked with seeking some more of them out and giving them a hand.
I do a little of CSI: Fangorn Forest for a while, tracking down Nurzum bolders and leavings and whatever else the quest requires. Then I’m sent to find the one Ent who tried to do something about him in the first place — Duskleaf — and when I do hook up, he’s maddened and tries to stomp me. Listen, you don’t have to go far to convince me to attack Ents. Any excuse, really. It was my pleasure to mercy-kill this guy.
So you know how people like to boil down all MMO quests into kill/Fed Ex? I don’t agree with that. I think there’s more variety, especially if you like coming up with fun terms and like to nitpick semantics. So this is the rodeo round-up quest, where these NPCs are purely incapable of communicating with each other because of reasons, so they ask you to be the sheepdog who rounds everyone up and keep them away from wolves and in their pen.
I’ve done this for the Rangers in LOTRO more times than I can think of — those guys are especially helpless baby chicks who just cheep at you loudly until you pick them up and do their bidding. So why not Ents? Nothing but a forest full of trees to slam into while I’m trying to ride my mount at 30 mph to keep this dream from being a reality.
Yeah, it wasn’t a very memorable questing night. There were a lot of smaller quests sprinkled in, but the storytelling was pretty flimsy and the objectives dull. In the end, however, I got all of the good, non-Syp-killing Ents in a circle where they’ll catch their breath for the next 50 years and then probably send me to make a sandwich. That’s time well spent.
My kids love this “Little Engine That Could” movie where the caboose is voiced by industry vet Patrick Warburton. At one point in the movie he’s moaning that they’ll never find their lost friends and right away one of them pops up. He then quips, “Look at me, instantly wrong.”
I feel like that sometimes, especially in trying to predict this industry. Anyway, so I guess Turbine isn’t slowly ramping up to a Helm’s Deep expansion launch for LOTRO — they’re going full steam ahead for a November release. This is a two-month beta, so that’s… that. I guess it’s enough? I’d be more comfy with three or four months, but Turbine’s not been doing long tests of any of the recent updates, so either they don’t care or they’ve got a system down to expedite the process.
I’m going to mull over what this all means and the particular offerings for the two versions of the expansion, although the premium edition doesn’t seem quite as tempting as in previous years. Personally, I’m glad I don’t have to wait until next year to continue my journey through Rohan. My Captain’s roaring and ready to go, so I’ve got two months to polish off any remaining quests, clear out her inventory, and make sure I’ve got my 16 virtues across the board.
It’s becoming a rather dry season for LOTRO as of late. I don’t want to get into a cycle of cynicism and depression over it, but it’s been a long stretch of nothing-very-exciting about the game. For new high-level content, Wildermore only lasts so long, even if you ration it out to a handful of quests a day. The festivals are… well, once you’ve really dived into a given festival, I think you’re much less likely to do it on any subsequent year. And even the thought of investing into one of my alts seems to have lost its appeal.
So I’ve been playing more or less on auto-pilot. Log in, do some quests, but feel like I’m running in place. I’m not leveling up, I’m not moving on to new lands, I’m not gearing up, and I’m barely pushing the story forward. It also just feels quite lonely as of late, but that could be my fault for not seeking more out.
I’m a little concerned about the fact that Helm’s Deep just went into beta this past week. In the past couple of years, September was “new expansion month,” but obviously this year it’s not. We haven’t had details of the expansion to rally around until just recently, leaving the summer to dry up and wither interest.
Perhaps Helm’s Deep will release later this year, but I’m guessing more of an early 2014 window myself. Yes, there’s a lot of content incoming for it and I am quite happy with what I’m seeing with the class changes. But there’s a part of me that worries that the embers of my interest — which have unfailingly flared up into excited stretches of play in the past — have cooled too much during the drought. Perhaps it’s because we are seeing less chatter about LOTRO in general these days.
Perhaps I’m just a little tired and need to rest until a second wind picks my spirits back up for the next stretch of road.
Via LOTRO Players and a couple other sources comes the news that Turbine’s doing a major forum/website update on the 29th. The big plus here is that we’ll get a convenient all-in-one community page with relevant news and the forums should be much improved.
However, I’m quite sad to hear that Turbine’s discontinuing both the Lorebook and player blogs. The Lorebook was a useful secondary source of in-game info (after the LOTRO Wiki) and its loss will be felt. Even more so is the puzzling demise of player blogs. I don’t know how many people used them these days, but they used to be somewhat popular. I know that if I had invested time into writing one and the studio just up and killed it, I’d be a little miffed. I guess that’s a good reason why you should never, ever trust a studio’s own social or community network instead of a third-party source.
I’m in a weird spot when it comes to Lord of the Rings Online these days. My desire to alt it up has simmered down, leaving me to focus on my Captain’s journey through Wildermore. I don’t know whether it’s the game’s long, long loading times or the zone itself, but I haven’t been too on fire for what I’ve seen.
Wildermore is a nice addition. A solid addition. A straight-B student who does the AV club and has a plain but funny date to the prom. But it’s not blowing my skirt up, gentlemen. I think that this is partially due to the fact that going into the zone I’m at the level cap and have little to gain other than a little LI and steed XP. It’s something to *do*, all right, but every time I log in I’ll spend a half-hour going through the motions and then logging out feeling as though I ate a bag of rice cakes. I remember chewing, but my stomach doesn’t feel full at all.
It feels lonely in the zone, for some reason. Enedwaith and the Great River — the last couple “intermission” zones released between expansions — were hotbeds of player activity in the past. Yet I hardly see or hear other players in my journey.
The storyline is neat, I suppose. It’s got a big foe — this ice giant guy who’s causing it to be forever winter and never Christmas — and a mystery surrounding the whole thing. Then there’s the intertwining elements of your personal story, where your fellowship is starting to come back together after being somewhat fractured at the end of the previous book. I am starting to roll my eyes a lot at the will-they-or-won’t-they romance of Horn and Nona. Either kiss or shut up, is my opinion. Stop these moony eyes and flowery words and passive-aggressive moves.
It’s stranger because my mom insists that her grandkids all call her “Nona”, so I keep thinking of this character as an elderly grandmother.
To continue my somewhat negative tone here, I’m starting to get worried for Helm’s Deep. Apart from the initial announcement, Turbine’s been pretty mum on the next expansion. This is very strange considering that in the past two years, by July we’re hip-deep in pre-orders, previews, and beta testing. My guess is that it’s taking longer than normal to develop and we’ll probably see it pushed to late winter or early 2014.
Anyway, I know that this is how it goes with LOTRO and me. Sometimes I’m on fire for it, sometimes I’m cooling my heels on the whole thing. I just hope that the class revamp, housing revamp, and expansion do a lot to reignite my passion.