Change is a-comin' to the Lord of the Rings Online. The November update, with the clever and apt official name "November Update" (the name personally chosen by Aaron Campbell, Producer for LotRO), goes live Monday, November 29th on North American servers, right after American Thanksgiving. European servers, which are still in launch mode for free-to-play, will see these changes "a couple of weeks" later, according to Adam Mersky, Director of Communications at Turbine. This will be LotRO's first update since free-to-play launched in September, and f2p players are certainly in for a treat. So is everyone else, for that matter.
To start off, on the f2p front, Middle-Earth will be greatly opened up. All of the epic book quests are now free content, available to any and all. Free players will be able to explore the depths of Moria and the dank gloom of Mirkwood without having to purchase the expansions. They will still need to buy quest packs to run quests in these areas, the same as anywhere else in the game, but access will no longer be restricted.
Even better: the level cap has been lifted from 50 to 65 for everyone across the board, f2p and Premium alike. So if you're a f2p player who has been drolling over the legendary weapons wielded by the great and powerful level-capped legends showing off in Bree, you can wipe that spittle off your chin, go out there and get one of your very own, free of charge.
Changes to the System
Icon-only Vault 3.0. Click for expanded view.
Text-label Vault 3.9. Click for expanded view.
Updated crafting panel. Click for expanded view.
Recipes and ingredient packs in LOTRO Store.
Recipe for Hunter potion. Click to see the item.
Lore-master talisman and the new skill it grants when used.
Responding to the raving, unruly hordes of the disgruntled visual sorters who loathed the revised "all in one giant box" vault system, the dev team has done some retooling. The new, improved vault system has been very much reworked, allowing players to sort their stashes into separate containers, which can all be seen at once but which are clearly separated and distinct from one another. Chests can be renamed, and stored items can be viewed by name or in the old-school icon-only format. Handy tabs along the side allow the player to view individual chests, and search filters allow the player to see all items of a given type. Also, the vault panel can be expanded horizontally AND vertically, so if you're a hoarder like some of us, you can see all your stuff at once on a giant panel instead of having to scroll up and down a long, narrow wall of item names.
The wardrobe system works pretty much the same, with some minor tweaks here and there. It can also be expanded 2-dimensionally and has search filters and the like.
One handy, all-new system being implemented is the barter wallet. This is a compact, separate storage space for all those coins, marks, tokens and medallions you have taking up precious, precious vault space. Eventually, anyway. In its current state on the Bullroarer test server, it only accepts skirmish marks, campaign tokens and "special" marks like the ones from the Annuminas, Helegrod and Great Barrows instances.
Also seeing some drastic change is the crafting system. The first thing you will likely notice when first opening the crafting panel is the new, bigger, easier-to-see-stuff layout. Basic recipes now appear in the same space as the crit component - no more tabbing around and then forgetting what it was you needed. It's all right there. The new crafting panel is considerably larger than the old one - roughly double the size - and allows you to see more of the recipe tree at once, plus the whole recipe. This is similar to some of the better-designed custom UI skins. As an added bonus, there is no longer a need to wait for those rare recipe drops. There's a button for that! Crafting recipes can be purchased at the LotRO Store by clicking the "Get Recipes" button in the crafting window.
Additionally, there's another new crafting mechanic coming into play: store-bought crafting mats. You want to craft that sweet sword from that recipe you just found but don't have the inclination to run out and compete with 15 othere people for the ore? No problem, there's a button for that. Click the store button, open up the LotRO store and you can buy an Ingredient Pack that automagically contains all the ingredients you need for one item. The cost for these packages is quite small, but keep in mind: that 25 points can represent a lot of deeding, and buying multiples can really add up. Harvesting nodes the old-fashioned way is still going to be the most economical and practical method to level crafting, but if you want something RIGHTNOW, this new way works just fine. Another thing to keep in mind: items crafted with LotRO Store-bought mats are bound to the player's account and can't be sold at auction or given to friends.
More crafting fun: there are scads of new recipes. New class consumable recipes can be purchased from class trainers. Hunters, for example, get Potions of Focus, which can be made by scholars. These potions are rather like Moloko-Plus, instantly increasing Focus and sharpen the Hunter up, making him ready for a bit of the old ultra-violence (by increasing Devastate magnitude.)
Lore-masters get a couple of new toys; the old pet-appearance-changing necklaces are being scrapped and replaced with single-use talismans, so the Lore-master can now wear the same necklaces as everyone else and still summon cooler-looking pets. Using these talismans grants the Lore-master a new skill - it does not simply slap a cosmetic on the pet summoned with the original skill. Also, pets that didn't have extra cosmetic appearances before get a bit of love - sabretooths now come in colors besides white. This means the Lore-master can build up a massive Pokemon collection by collecting all the talismans. Just be prepared to run out of quickslot space if you decide to do this.
Additionally, attentive Lore-masters can now feed pets other than bears with the addition of new pet foods. These items can be purchased from the LotRO Store or crafted by cooks, and come in a variety of flavours for all the different pet types.
In With the New
Re-naming a character costs 995 points.
Some of the new cosmetics.
Some of the new dyes as seen in the dressing room.
Task bulletin board in Esteldin.
Revised quest dialogue panel.
Remember back when you were first picking a name for your new toon and you thought it would be high-larious to name him after a part of the human anatomy? Remember how grumpy you were when someone took offense and /reported it and it got changed to RenamedXX, and now it looked like you belonged to some kind of silly club? Or how you labored and struggled to come up with The Perfect Name and were perfectly happy with it until you discovered that you had made a typo? Or how you thought up a pretty good name that had some kind of appeal at the time but now you're embarrassed to play the character because the name is no longer funny or awesome? GOOD NEWS! There's a button for that! Redeem your shame for 995 Turbine points and give your character a brand new name and a new lease on life.
Also new with this update are cosmetic satchels for Runekeepers. If you're tired of that boring old brown bag hanging from your hip, get yourself a snazzy new green one with red dragon wings, or a matched pair for ultimate symmetry. There are other new cosmetics for everyone else, too: hauberks and helms and a whole slew of new cloaks, hooded and hood-free. And scholars will be delighted to see that there are a bunch of new dye recipes: Rose will probably be a hit with the ladies, and Ered Luin Blue and Crimson will be popular with the fellas.
Though cosmetics are a nice touch, it's the new quests that are going to really matter. Enter the new Tasks system, a supplemental sub-quest pack for characters of every level. Tasks are essentially bounties that can be accomplished while deeding or running other quests; the player collects base "vendor trash" trophies from common creatures and turns them for XP and rep. Tasks are 100% free for all players, available for most level ranges. Tasks are very tightly level-gated. They do not become available until the player reaches the required difficulty level, and are only available for 5 levels. For example, a level 15 player can start doing level 15 Tasks and repeat them over and over up to level 19, but at level 20 those tasks are no longer available. Tasks do not count towards regional deeds, but have their own deed with unique rewards. They have a daily limit (five a day), but this limit can be increased by completing deeds or by purchasing increases at the LotRO Store.
A couple of caveats about Tasks: though they are claimed to be "infinitely repeatable," there are limits to the number of times they can be done. The quota of 5 per day can be increased to 10, and this number can be reset up to 5 times per day with a token earned by deeding or purchased from the store. Doing the math, that equals 50 times per day, which is a lot. Generally, if you do 50 quests, you gain some levels... which may bump you out of the level range for the given task. So the number is, in actuality, technically finite.
Secondly, tasks offer no cash or item rewards. Pawning vendor trash is a steady and reliable source of income at lower levels, and advancing through the levels rapidly can leave a character constantly broke. Since these Tasks use this vendor trash as quest tokens, this (admittedly small) revenue stream is narrowed even further. Players will need to find a balance between rapid leveling and earning enough money to buy skills and other needed things. Keep in mind, though that this system is in beta, and is subject to change according to player demand.
The deed log is expanded once again, this time with a new Reputation tab. Reputation deeds (all of the Known to the X deeds) have been moved from the Race and Social page to a brand new one, and new deeds have been added to the roster, with new rewards. Earning Kindred status with Rivendell, Galadhrim and Malledhrim factions, for example, earns the character a handsome reputation mount. Quest dialogue windows also got a bit of tweaking, making them wider and more book-like, with more visible information in the dialogue box. The core objectives and quest rewards are on the right-hand "page" and the bestowal text is on the left, so you can see what the quest offers as a reward without having to scroll all the way down to the bottom of a long, wordy request. And when you click on an NPC with multiple dialogue options, there are some handsome new icons to help you select the desired option.
Class Changes and Area Revamps
If you play a Lore-master or
Runekeeper, you've probably already heard about the changes coming for
these two classes. Each class gets a few new skills, and a few old
skills get some tweaking. The scope of these changes is somewhat beyond
this article, so for the sake of brevity and clarity, the dev diaries
can be found here:
Most classes get a bit of reworking in this update. Burglars will (finally!) get some much-needed HIPS surgery, and the changes made to this skill also apply to the Warg Stalker's skill Disappear. Everybody gets a few new class consumables, all of which can be made by crafters or purchased from the LotRO Store. Again, there are really too many to mention in detail in this article, so read more about them on the developer diary.
Mounts have also gotten a nice upgrade. Earlier plans called for characters to be able to block, parry and evade while mounted, but some issues came up during beta testing and this feature is currently unavailable. However, reputation mounts get a big morale boost to 250, so riders are much less likely to be unhorsed when barreling through enemy territory.
One of the more drastic changes in this update is the revamping of Ered Luin. The starter areas for dwarves and elves has undergone a rather dramatic overhaul, with the Dourhands making some sweeping and horrible changes to the landscape. While the new introduction may have rather more empty running and boring resource-gathering than some players will like, the latter half of the intro is much more action-oriented and dangerous, with a more urgent feel. The Dourhands really feel like bad guys now, and the changes they have wrought to the landscape of Thorin's Gate are an enduring testament to their villainy:
The Dourhands are ushering in a new era of industrialization and hard-core necromancy. This is looking up toward Mirkstone Tunnels. Click for larger view.
The heartbreaking aftermath of the Dourhands' brief-but-not-brief-enough rule of Ered Luin; this is in the main part of the game, after the introduction is finished, looking down from the Arming Cave. Click for larger view.
The November Update is looking like a good sign for the months between now and the release of Rise of Isengard in next fall. Check back soon to see what Aaron Campbell, Producer for the Lord of the Rings Online, and Adam Mersky, Director of Communications for Turbine, had to say about what's in store for the rest of 2011.