Posted in Lord of the Rings Online

LOTRO: Bear moon rising

With all of the LOTRO anniversary gifts given out this season — seriously, I still can’t get over how *much* stuff SSG just handed out — perhaps the most significant for me was a trio of Valar boosts. There were two higher level boosts that went to the retail server, probably never to get used (but who knows). However, the level 50 one landed on Treebeard and gave me a intriguing yet agonizing choice. Who to use it on?

I mean, if you’re going to use a 50 boost on Treebeard, now is as perfect a time as any. We’ve got a month-and-a-half until the next expansion unlock, so a level 50 has plenty of time to get through Moria. Since my Minstrel is pretty much all done with content (save for Yondershire, which I’m planning on doing soon), I figured that the boost was best used to establish an alt.

And therein lay the conundrum. By the talk of my kinship, I wasn’t the only one of us who was chewing on nails trying to settle on a decision. It’s a one-and-done item, so if you pick badly, oh well, that’s that. I didn’t want to blow it on a brand-new character, as I wanted to have a connection with that toon. So that left me a trio of options: the Lore-master, the Captain, or the Beorning.

After some consideration, I sent it to my level 35 bear and brought her up to 50 in the blink of an eye. No regrets about this, either. I’d already invested a lot of time into her — not to mention several milestone travel skills. And playing a surly bear felt as good of a change of pace from a Minstrel as any. There wasn’t an awful lot I wanted to do in the 35 to 50 zone anyway, and the boost gave me enough bonus virtue XP to make up for her core five virtues.

But here’s the thing with the Valar boosts — they don’t do everything for you. Probably the biggest gap is with class trait points. You have to earn those, and you only get a (large) fraction from leveling. So before I went into Moria, I spent an evening or two backtracking to pick up trait points from the class quests. It wasn’t too onerous, and it gave me time to pick up the feel of piloting a big bear butt once more.

Now, it’s Moria time for her. As an alt, I don’t feel pressed to power her through like I did with the Minstrel, but it gives me something to do when there’s nothing else on the docket.

Posted in Lord of the Rings Online

LOTRO: Lore-master of the universe

Playing a Lore-master these days kind of feels like you’re deliberately choosing the hard mode for an MMO. It’s a squishy class without a lot of “oh crap!” buttons, most of its skills require you to stand stock-still for a casting animation, and the skills themselves feel scattered and thematically detached. Yet I can’t help but love having a pet and the overall look of a gal running around with a staff and flinging embers everywhere.

I spent a whole lot of time in Evendim this month with her, trying to get the bulk of the 30 to 40 leveling done. I figured that if I did that, then I could skip the normal progression of zones and do Wildwood and Angle quests instead to get her up to Moria.

Yet I started to feel a little burned out on her after a while, which happens from time to time on characters. The best thing to do there is just mothball the toon for the time being, perhaps come back in a few weeks and see if my temperature has changed.

Meanwhile, I’ve been logging back on to my main Minstrel to keep rounding out her character. If anything, the biggest point of contention I have with her is that I’ve yet to fashion an outfit that I love so much that I want it to be her regular look. This is mostly due to a lack of acceptable cosmetic pieces that I’ve found in the early part of the game.

But hey, at least I’m doing more guild dungeon runs as of late! I’m no powerhouse or anything, but I can pump out some good damage if a tank clusters up bad guys. I love doing these more as a sight-seeing expedition than a hope of getting gear upgrades — but hey, if an upgrade drops, I’m not going to complain!

Posted in Lord of the Rings Online

10 silly yet useful features Lord of the Rings Online should add

I’m sure we all have ways that we occupy ourselves when we’re going back through content that doesn’t require, say, our full and undivided attention. When I get into part of LOTRO like this, often times my mind turns to thinking of little fun features that I think would be a net positive for the game.

I jotted a bunch of these down, and so without further ado, 10 silly but useful features that I’d love to see added:

  1. Boats: Wouldn’t it be cool if we had rowboats or canoes as sort of water mounts that would help us navigate rivers and lakes faster than swimming? I think so.
  2. Quest objectives on the minimap: I don’t like having to repeatedly open up the zone map to look for the precise location of an objective when I know I’m close. It’d be nice if I had the option for that to pop up on the minimap as well.
  3. Housing decor crafting: Yes, I know that woodworkers can make a few items for houses, but let’s expand this and make it its own thing! I’d totally take up crafting if I could make cool housing items.
  4. Better legendary item reward screen: The one we have is just not good.
  5. Bigger text and icons: It’s beyond time that we get an upsize to the UI in this game with all of the bigger monitors out there.
  6. Smaller player houses: We don’t all want huge cavernous dwellings! What about some cool and cozy abodes like you see in Rohan?
  7. Gliding: OK, I know flight is straight out, but what about some way that we could fashion kites or gliders to help us safely descend from heights?
  8. Climbing: Game tech probably wouldn’t allow this, but man it’d be great if I had a way to scale cliffs and other annoying terrain.
  9. Hobbit Lore-masters: PLEASE let River Hobbits be LMs! Please! I won’t ask for anything else for Christmas!
  10. More anniversary scavenger hunts: These were such a terrific idea, yet the devs kind of gave up on them after the second year.
Posted in Lord of the Rings Online

LOTRO: An anniversary for the ages

Last week was the sweetest torture, waiting for LOTRO to come back up after an Update 33 bug prompted the game to be taken offline — on patch day! — for almost 24 hours. It wasn’t just that the game wasn’t available, but that this downtime was keeping us from Yondershire, the Anniversary content, and a TON of bonus goodies that SSG was throwing our way.

Fortunately, by Thursday afternoon I was able to get in and hit the ground running with the anniversary. First step? Check out my bags for the freebies! Everyone is so charmed by the little weird fat corgis, and I’m no different. I’m glad LOTRO is adding more doggos. The collector’s editions armor sets were nice, although they had a heavy plate look best suited for a captain, not a minstrel.

I got several carry-alls — the small one I made into an essence/tracery bag, while the medium one I went with housing decorations. Then I threw the rest of the goodies into shared storage, especially a gift of the valar that I’ll probably use on my Captain.

I was glad that the VIP subscriber buffs and services are now two weeks in duration rather than two days. That’ll save me a lot of trips back to the Shire.

The boar mount was another nice gift. 68% run speed AND it works in underground realms like Moria. I think it’s perfect for a Hobbit.

Then it was off to do 15th anniversary activities! I’m going to save Yondershire to mid-May, both to give me time to get everything done with the festival that I want and also to thin out the crowds somewhat. And I certainly have a LOT to do for this. I want to get all of the Eriador scavenger hunt series done, do the daily wrappers (so 7 anniversary quests every day) until I get the final big payout, and buy all of the cosmetics/pets/housing decor that I want.

Once I got dailies done, I started in on the scavenger hunts. It’s been a few years since I’ve done these — I think — and it was nice to return to them. I always found that they’re a fun tour around Middle-earth with a cheeky tone.

Posted in Lord of the Rings Online

LOTRO: Playing Bingo with my Minstrel

There’s something about hitting the level cap in MMOs that really takes the wind out of my sails. One minute, I’m all gung-ho for continuing this character’s journey, and the next, I hit that wall and stop enjoying level progression. Sometimes I find — like I did with my Minstrel — that I have to step away for a few days until my brain adjusts to this situation.

Of course, getting to level 60 didn’t mean I’m out of meaningful stuff to do with this character until Mirkwood releases. On the contrary, I have a pile of attractive options:

  • Do all of Lothlorien quests
  • Finish out the final book or two in Volume II
  • Get all of my core virtues caught up (I’m a few levels behind in some of them)
  • Start running dungeons with the kin
  • Ravish the anniversary content (when it comes)
  • Explore the new Yondershire zone (when it comes)
  • Decorate my Rohan house

But for this past week, I felt like going to my well of happiness, Bingo Boffin. I haven’t done this quest line on this character, and I wouldn’t mind getting some of those cosmetics, pets, and decor unlocked. So Bingo it was!

As I restarted this quest line, I was reminded about how slightly annoying Bingo is early on. You hear this complaint from a lot of players who take the advise from friends to try this out, because they start grumping about how Bingo seems useless, silly, and is always sending you back to get whatever he forgot.

According to the Bingo Boffin post-mortem, the writer of this series, Jeff Libby, realized early on that he was leaning too hard on Bingo being a doof and eased off. It really does get a whole lot better once you get into Bree-land and points west. And it’s a fantastic way to repurpose the zones for new adventures. I still love it, even knowing where it ends up.

And hey, more screenshot opportunities!

Posted in Lord of the Rings Online

LOTRO: Moria, glad to have known ya

I will say that if your only memory of LOTRO’s Mines of Moria is way back when it used to be a slog that would take months of your life to complete, then you really need to check it out these days. The devs have done a few passes over the years to streamline this expansion zone to improve quest flow, cut down on the mob density, and add stablemasters.

So when you come to it today, it’s actually a very breezy experience. I slammed through Moria at the rate of one zone a day, and that wasn’t even pushing hard. In a little over a week, I was fully done with the place — including the epic story.

Moria’s not my most favorite LOTRO region, but there’s a lot to like about it, and there are plenty of opportunities for screenshotting. Hey, I have to amuse myself any way I can.

And one way that I amuse myself is by occasionally stopping to whip up a new outfit! I got the above lumberjack-style shirt and fell in love with it, so I was experimenting with different combinations that would work with it. No, I didn’t end up goign with those pants, even though they are striking.

My problem is that right now, my cosmetic options are limited. LOTRO’s armor design gets a whole lot better further into the game, but right now the Treebeard server is making do with mostly old stuff. It’s why I’m going to go bananas on the anniversary content to build up my wardrobe.

In any case, welcome Lothlorien! This was always a welcoming zone after the long trials of Moria (up until the snooty elves started shooting you with arrows if you tried to cross the river). For me, it marks the end of the road until Mirkwood unlocks at the end of June. Time for some alting!

Posted in Lord of the Rings Online

LOTRO’s Lore-master is getting a huge rework — is it time to come back?

One aspect of LOTRO’s Update 33 that Standing Stone Games isn’t trumpeting as loudly as, say, Yondershire and the business model shift is the fact that this patch is going to contain a whole bunch of class changes. Like, *serious* reworks of several classes, most specifically for the Brawler, Minstrel, and Lore-master.

From reading through the LM changes, it sounds like the class it going to play a whole lot differently due to these adjustments. SSG is trying to make the case that several of these skills were “causing performance issues” and so needed the changes, which is a suspicious reason for some of these huge course corrections. I’m particularly bummed that the blue tree cap, Sic ‘Em, is getting replaced entirely with a new ability (Murder of Crows), as I loved being able to unleash all my pets at once to take down some of the tougher packs of mobs.

Then again, there looks to be some strong DPS increases here — mostly for the red line, leaving the long-neglected blue line wanting for some love. I really have no idea how the LM is going to feel in combat until I get into U33, but I’ll at least give it the benefit of the doubt.

The strange effect of all of this is that it nudged the Lore-master on Treebeard back into my zone of interest. In the past few weeks since I got to 60 on my Minstrel, I’ve been toying with a lot of alts, seeing which one is worthy of being my Number Two. My LM was last played around Halloween and was sitting at level 20, so there’s lots of work to be done on her, but she may end up winning this alt battle. At least it’s giving me an excuse to work up some new outfits and romp around Bree-land with my Bog-guardian (which I guess now comes standard with the class?).

Playing a Lore-master always feels a bit perverse, with the lack of survival skills and the necessity to stop and stand still for many abilities. Yet the pets are a huge appeal to people like me, as is the flavor of the class. So I’m going to take her through Bree-land and Lone-lands, see how I’m feeling about her — and see how Update 33 affects those feelings once her playstyle shifts.

If I do stick with her, I’ll tell you one thing — I’m not doing Volume 1 again. It’s not necessary on this character and not worth all of the running around. I’ll just plug away at quests and deeds and jump in on Volume 2.

Posted in Lord of the Rings Online

LOTRO: Calling up a new Captain on deck

Considering both the pace of Treebeard’s unlocks and my current progress with my Minstrel, I estimate that I’ll be out of stuff to do (save repeatables, like dungeons) on that character well before more advancement and zones arrive. Most of my kin members have at least one if not more alts brewing to give them something to do in the long wait between expansions, and I figure that I should be doing the same.

I’ve actually spent a whole lot of time — usually while adventuring on my minnie — thinking about what class I’d really want to invest a lot of time playing as an alt. And while I did give a lot of consideration to some lesser-played classes for the sake of variety, I couldn’t resist going back to the tried-and-true well of class satisfaction. So I rolled up a new Captain and put her on deck for when things get slow.

I know it makes me predictable and boring, but as I’ve often said to other people, “You know what you like and you like what you like — so don’t be embarrassed about it.” And I certainly know, as I do with the Minstrel, that the Captain is a deeply fulfilling class for me. Pets, heals, tankiness, great group synergy, cool weapons, strong armor, a fairly simple rotation, etc. There’s nothing else quite like this hybrid, and I wouldn’t mind going through the game again as one.

I tried really hard to give her a different look than my other characters (and other Captains, for that matter). I like the end result. She looks like she’s straight out of Sims 4 or something.

For leveling her, I will be going on “Dangerous” difficulty (mostly for the XP and virtue XP buff) and eschewing my usual account bonus items that grant gobs of extra XP. I won’t be doing full deed completion — just enough to cap her out on her five slotted ones — and I’ll be focusing on taking her time rather than power leveling up. After all, it won’t be until 2023 that we’ll be in Isengard, so there’s more than enough time to get her to 65.

Posted in Lord of the Rings Online

LOTRO: Delving deep into Moria

It’s certainly been a long time since I’ve been so gung-ho about logging on and playing LOTRO, but these days I’m practically unstoppable. I honestly feel bad for my other neglected games, but hey, they’ll be there when equilibrium is re-established.

So as I’ve gotten back into my Minstrel on Treebeard, I’ve kind of made a challenge out of seeing how fast I can catch up (while still taking the time to read and comprehend quest text, mind you). First step was to finish up Eregion and Volume 1, the latter of which is a tad long and twisty but has a great tragic conclusion.

As a “welcome home” present to myself, I splurged and bought myself a Rohan premium house. This time, I went with the house in the hills, which I love for the mountain ambience and pine trees. I haven’t had a whole lot of time to decorate it, but I’m sure it’ll come together.

Before long, I was charging through the gates of Moria and hoping that my enthusiasm would outlast the draining effect that constantly being underground tends to cause in this game. But I’d kind of forgotten that the devs did a rework on this expansion a while back to make the quest flow a lot better — and indeed, that’s what I experienced. I was blasting through a zone a day, which felt like a really good pace.

I had some fun, as I do, taking pictures of mobs up in their faces. These two goblins got stuck in a bunkbed (are they brothers?) and so I was able to talk smack to their weird cave eyes.

Then there was this lovely fungus-infested orc. He doesn’t look like he’s having a good time. Maybe some tough-actin’ Tinactin would help with that.

Even underground, Moria still has its fair share of breathtaking vistas. I still don’t get why people say that this game needs a graphical overhaul.

I found this named troll, who was dressed to the nines, and risked being stomped flat trying to take a good profile pic. He was cool about it.

Posted in Lord of the Rings Online

LOTRO: Growing a lush Treebeard

Thanks to the recent LOTRO producer’s letter, I got a huge mental boost of goodwill and excitement toward the game. Yet I feel like I’ve been dragging my heels in Gundabad for months now, not making much progress and not feeling very motivated to do so. A change of pace was needed, so for the first time this year, I returned to my Minstrel on the Treebeard progression server.

In a mild stroke of personal irony, when last I left her, Moria was about ready to launch and I had pushed hard to get her ready for it. Then it unlocked right as I bailed. So now I’m coming back halfway into this six-month expansion period — behind the crowd but with more than enough time to catch up before the goalposts are moved again.

It’s been absolutely fantastic coming back to Treebeard, and I spent all last week excited for the next time I could log into the game. Reconnecting with this character was nice, but nicer still was seeing that my kinship was still incredibly active, chatty, and running content all over the place. One of the reasons I want to catch up is being able to join in more group activities, and that’s going to keep me invested.

Of course, when you come back to a character it’s TRADITION to make a new outfit. I challenged myself to put together a look that was different than normal for me, and I ended up with this feathery waistcoat concoction. You can’t see it from this angle, but she’s also sporting a short-ish White Hand cloak that I think looks nifty. And, as always, I’ve equipped her with her trusty branch as a weapon. It never fails to amuse me when I run around hitting wargs and orcs with a stick.

There’s plenty to do, but having done all of this plenty of times before, I’m not worried. I spent last week finishing up several pre-Moria goals — Volume 1, Eregion, the new southern Trollshaws region — and got my first legendary items. It’s going to be interesting to keep these throughout her entire journey instead of replacing them.

As for the producer’s letter, I feel a great sense of hope for LOTRO in 2022. The business model changes, 15th anniversary, and the boost it’s sure to get from the upcoming Amazon TV series are all positive portents, as is EG7’s confidence behind this product.

I’m looking forward to exploring (and blogging about) Yondershire — more Hobbit stuff is good indeed. I am considering purchasing a premium house for this character, and I’ve even rolled up a Stout Axe Champion alt. So yeah, I feel like I’m surging forward in LOTRO once more.