holiday season comes earlier and earlier each year as lights are
strung up and store shelves flooded with merchandise and
decorations. Some gamers are preparing for an early Christmas
as developer Turbine gets set to launch the newest expansion for Lord
of the Rings Online, The
Siege of Mirkwood, but are fans of the series
getting their hearts desire or just another lump of coal in their
The expansion launches with a scripted event that takes the players to the shores at the edge of the forest once known as Greenwood the Great. This looming and ominous forest has been corrupted over the years by Sauron’s taint and is now an almost visual representation of the fiend’s heart, black and twisted. Once you help the elves establish a beachhead it becomes the introductory quest hub and the launching point for the adventure into the forest.
Quests in Mirkwood are plentiful and story driven and they range from the typical kill and gather to keep sieges with NPC assistance. Questing here does a great job of pacing you through the game and moving you along to the next area or part of the story and while most of it has been soloable thus far on my hunter, I would have liked to have had a fellowship to tackle some of the more intense quests, but I am getting well acquainted with the various respawn graveyards throughout the area, so I guess there is an exploration upside with that. I was a relative late-comer to beta so I didn’t have the advantage of a larger pool of same level folks to explore and quest with, but the community is amazingly friendly and I have been able to take advantage of their knowledge base and tips to help balance out the lack of comrades.
I haven’t been able to hit level cap yet, so I have little experience in the new instances, but I did get to run through them with a game developer a couple weeks ago in our live preview of the content, and they look awesome. With only a couple weeks left in beta I am scrambling to hit the cap to run instances with a fellowship. Long time players will enjoy the new dungeon without a doubt, and top end players will enjoy the hard mode versions of these encounters. Hard mode is initiated, in the three player instance, by lighting a challenge brazier in the corner of the room. Lighting the brazier calls forth all three of the bosses without any trash waves, but you face all three bosses at the same time for an intense fight that tests your strength and coordination as a group.
Besides the heavily story driven quests and raids, there are two other main focuses of the expansion, besides the obvious five new levels and accompanying traits, and they are the Skirmish system and a revamp to the legendary item system with a new way to earn slots for the weapons. The more important of these two is the Skirmish system, as it can be game changing depending on your playstyle. And while the item revamp is a welcome change, it isn’t as groundbreaking for LotRO as skirmishes are.
Perhaps I have developed an acute immunity to the normal detractions of beta tests and the expected amount of bugs, glitches, oddities, and trivialities no longer register on my radar, but I have found this beta to be surprisingly fun to play and have never experienced the sense of tedium that I normally associate with play testing. The enhancements to the game, the further deepening of perhaps the deepest story in MMOGs to date and the introduction of the skirmish system have given me new hope that LotRO can remain a viable player in the MMOG scene and perhaps even transcend its past accomplishments with renewed popularity much like DDOU and AoC are experiencing.