So a day after the fact, I was finally able to sit down with LOTRO’s Update 6 and start wiggling my way through the changes and additions. A lot of this will go into my weekly column for Massively, so I’m going to just share with you today one aspect of my adventures.
Now with Update 6 came the expansion of the skirmish soldier system, in which the game will let you take your soldier (read: companion/minion/hero-type assistant) out of its former confines of skirmishes and assist you in the world. It sounds pretty cool, but this is Turbine we’re talking about, so it’s also needlessly complex as well. You not only have to pony up the cost (either in real-world money or through skirmish currency) to buy a one-hour token, but as I discovered, it’s kind of useless if your skirmish soldier isn’t trained up all the way.
I have no idea what most people in LOTRO do with skirmishes. Some dedicated souls probably skirmish quite a bit, but I’m going to assume a lot of people are like me: We tried it at first, occasionally pop into one, and did them for the epic storyline. It’s a side system that usually takes a backseat to questing, is what I’m saying. And as such, there’s a good chance that (like me) players may not have been gathering up enough skirmish marks to train their soldiers up to level.
See, this is where Turbine’s “needlessly complex” attitude comes into play. Yes, it’s cool that we can customize soldiers and make them fit our needs and play style, but the method in which it’s done is very non-intuitive at the start and is messy all around. Instead of being an elegant talent tree system, you have to buy skills (with skirmish marks) from one vendor, personal traits (such as looks and race) from another vendor, then slot them on a third vendor. There are four sections that all beg for your attention, and they are all very, very hungry for skirmish marks.
Back to my adventures! So I logged in with the intent of bringing up my soldier to par, and after looking at her, I realized she needed a lot of work — which meant a lot of skirmishing. And since I was using the skirmish marks to bring her up to level 66 (where my Captain is), I couldn’t be wasting them on the landscape soldier tokens to take her out into the world. It felt like a little bit of a Catch-22 circle, in a way.
I guess that when she’s at level across the board, I’m going to need to remain vigilant and keep leveling her up every time I do. Will it be worth it for the extra assistance here and there? Probably not, but I’m always interested in gaining an edge when I can get it.