When we get to the end of 2019 — which isn’t that far away, mind you — there will be some talk about the best MMO expansions this year. And there were quite a few good ones, from FFXIV: Shadowbringers to ESO: Elsweyr to SWTOR: Onslaught. In fact, lots of good word-of-mouth from many expansions this year. But what will probably be overlooked, both for the game’s age and the relative quiet rollout of the product, is LOTRO: Minas Morgul.
And the more I play it, the more I feel that this ignorance is a shame, because SSG’s content team really brought their best to this pack. The early Mordor Besieged bit was take-it-or-leave-it, in my opinion, but it really picked up when the expansion moved into Morgul Vale.
I think it’s a combination of factors that is making this expansion not just likable but much more player friendly than LOTRO has been since Mordor came out a couple of years ago. If I had to put my finger on it, I would say the factors were:
- A big bump in gear power, maybe the biggest I’ve seen from an expansion or epic story update. Getting up to gear level 400 makes a HUGE difference in time-to-kill of mobs.
- Fewer areas that are overpopulated with enemy mobs. This was a big problem in Mordor and even in pockets of the Vale of Anduin, where it would be impossible to pull a mob without getting an additional seven friends joining in the fight.
- A visually striking zone that, while “evil” and corrupted in theme, is still very interesting to look at and navigate, unlike Mordor’s oppressive gloom.
- Some very interesting quest lines that tell stories with twists and fun developments.
- Plenty of milestones and stable masters to aid navigation.
I can’t help but continually compare it to Mordor and find this expansion vastly superior in almost every way. About my only complaint is that the solo versions of the dungeons that are required for the quest lines can be lengthy and a mite bit difficult, although I haven’t hit a wall anywhere yet that has required an urgent SOS to guildies.
I’m going to reserve final judgment for the expansion until I get into the Minas Morgul city proper — I’ve been doing all of the “around” stuff first. As long as the city isn’t too difficult to get through with tight quarters and mob density, I think this expansion might well be the dark horse of 2019’s releases.