To keep your current customers happy, you've got to provide new content
to them on a regular basis and few companies manage that task as well
as Turbine, the company behind The Lord of the Rings Online. It seems
like just a few months ago we were bringing you preview screens for
Volume II: Book 7: Leaves of Lórien. Oh wait, that's because
it *was* only a few months ago. Not content to sit around and make
their players wait another six months for anything new, the team has
been hard at work on Volume II: Book 8: Scourge of Khazad-Dûm.
Last week, Aaron Campbell, the Live Producer of LotRO was kind enough
to give me a sneak peek at some of the things they've been cooking up:
Two 3-man instances, one 6-man instance, and one 12-man instance. For
most companies, that would be more than enough to justify a "release"
but as I mentioned earlier, the folks at Turbine don't take on anything
lightly. Not only did I see some of the new instances, but Aaron also
told me how they'll be releasing a completely upgraded crafting system
and giving some older areas in the game a bit of love as well.
With the release of Volume II: Book 8: Scourge of Khazad-Dûm,
players will be introduced to a new mechanic in the instances I got to
see. Every mob (not just bosses) has its own set of corruptions (or
buffs). Some of these make them highly resistant to melee, ranged, or
damage by magical means. While providing an added challenge, this new
system should also make combat more interesting for players as well.
Those "trash" mobs you were used to beating the snot out of with little
thought on your way to a boss will now require a little more attention
in terms of tactics.
The first instance Aaron brought us to was, a 3-man instance called The
Mirror-halls of Lumul-nar. This isn't the first time the LotRO team has
created an instance designed for a smaller number of players than most
MMO veterans are used to. Since they've proven to be quite popular with
their player base, the team decided to create a few more. It's another
example of how a company can cater to the wants of its customers
without losing that intense sense of adventure found in areas requiring
larger groups. Not only does it take less time to gather a group of
three players, but it also ensures that the entire group will be
engaged with what's going on.
Harkening back to the dungeon crawls of old for Pen-and-Paper RPG
players around the world, your party is going to have more than just
the monsters of the Mirror-halls to worry about as you attempt to make
your way through. Scattered throughout the dungeon are massive mirrors
on rotating stands. You may not have to use *every* mirror in the
halls, but you will be required to have that first beam of light you
discover in the beginning travel the full extent of the Mirror-halls.
Just as there should be with any puzzle of this nature, there are
multiple ways to accomplish this goal. It should provide a good
challenge for any group daring to risk its dusty hallways.
The next place we went was another 3-man instance, called The Water
Wheels: Nalâ-dûm. Similar to The Mirror-halls of
Lumul-nar, this is an area where players will have more to worry about
than just keeping their hide in one piece. Along with the need to have
the water flow through the entire instance (by the use of *huge* water
wheels), players will also have to do a bit of jumping.
Why do I get
the feeling this is going to hurt?
As someone who has spewed forth countless curses at that evil plumber,
Mario, I can assure you that you do not need to be any kind of Nintendo
master to accomplish this. While designed for players to generally be
able to just walk off of an edge at a given point, there are plenty of
opportunities to jump too far, or just fall off a walkway. Fighting on
the edge of a 200-foot drop will make anyone pay more attention to his
or her surroundings.
Speaking of paying attention to your surroundings, Aaron and I (with
the help of some "you can't kill me powers") got to take on a boss
within The Water Wheels: Nalâ-dûm called Caerlug.
While he was more than dangerous enough by himself, we also had to
contend with these enormous stones hanging from the ceiling that would
randomly come crashing down. If you could simply stay in the middle
while attempting to slap Caerlug around, this would not only be easy,
but boring. Thankfully, Caerlug has a nasty habit of striking out and
sometimes sending you flying backwards. You'd better be aware of your
positioning and quick on your feet if you want to avoid getting smashed
like a cupcake. It made for an engaging encounter while avoiding the
need for the "everyone has to jump 36.7 seconds into combat to avoid
uber-nuke X"-type of mechanic that seems to be so popular in the MMO
genre today. It's a welcome change to be sure.
After a couple instance hops, it was time to check out the Dwarf races
they have for an upcoming festival. In the past, players have only been
able to get a festival mount by participating in the horse races. This
time, the team has expanded the ways players can be granted such a
mount of their very own. By playing in various games, players can earn
tokens that can be turned in for a festival mount token. You'll still
need to be level 35 to get the riding skill, just like you would for
your normal mount, but adding multiple ways to complete objectives is
something that’s welcome in my book any day.
The concept of the dwarven races is not only funny, but also more than
a little fitting for such a prestigious race. Rather than making the
event some mad dash to the finish line, the dwarves (which you get to
pick one of to win) run to a number of different ale stations set out
along the course. Completely by random, your dwarf's ale may invigorate
him with a burst of speed, slow him down to the crawl of a new born
babe (or a staggering drunk), or some speed in between. Needless to
say, I think my buddy Lars kept drinking more than his fair share
because he lost and lost badly. It was a fun event though and I'm
looking forward to seeing some of the others that will be taking place.
After watching my dwarf Lars lose so horrifically, it was time to see
what the team had been working on in Barrow Downs. Some of the mobs in
the area have been made a little easier while others have had their
challenge increased. Be aware that Fetid Rat that used to be little
more than a nuisance may not be quite such a pushover the next time you
set foot in there.
Aside from doing some revamp work with the local inhabitants there, the
team has been creating new quests for the area as well. Unlike the
majority of quests created for the adventurers we're all so familiar
with, these quests are designed for the crafters in the game. Every
crafter needs to have the ability to defend himself and help with
culling the local inhabitants if the need arises right?
come in and join us?
There will be a number of bounty missions given in the Barrow Downs,
completion of which will net the player a rare crafting recipe. Once
again, it's about providing players with the ability to choose multiple
ways to go about getting what they want. Aaron stated the effort in
Barrow Downs is an experiment, but with any luck, the players will
enjoy the new changes and thus will be able to see other areas receive
a similar treatment in the future.
With a magic snap of his fingers (at least that how I imagined it
happening), Aaron whisked us off to the Halls of Crafting, a 6-man
instance. Any time I witness something in the game created by the
dwarves, I'm always amazed at the job the art team has done. The size
and scope of these places are absolutely massive and with their
towering ceilings and creepy lighting, they *always* give me an instant
sense of just how ancient the place I happen to be standing is. It's a
testament to just how far a determined team can utilize size and space.
The Halls of Crafting are a perfect example of this. These are the
ancient crafting halls of the dwarves where some of their greatest
artifacts were created within the great bellows. The rooms are
staggering in size, so be prepared to do some running. One of the
bosses we battled, named Thaguzg, was one seriously ugly mob.
Unfortunately this ugliness doesn't just stop with his looks. As his
minions rush from all corners of the room to aid him, he gains more and
more buffs. The more minions that make it to him, the more buffs that
start to stack. Let’s just say it was really clear that you
do *not* want to let all his friends get to him or you can kiss your
sweet caboose goodbye in a hurry.
Lastly, we went down into the depths of Moria, in the Foundation of
Stones zone to find the entrance to the new 12-man instance,
Dâr Narbugud. The evils from the depths below are ready to
reach out and take a greater role on the surface and it's up to you to
stop them. Dâr Narbugud is the capstone to the entire
plotline for this, so be prepared for a significant challenge.
The monsters within Dâr Narbugud were a treat to witness for
sure. They may not have been utilizing a new engine in the instance (I
had to ask), but the art team has been slaving over their desks and the
results are obvious from the moment you enter Dâr Narbugud.
With the use of some new textures, they've created some of the most
interesting and detailed monsters I've seen in the game yet.
That may have concluded my tour of Dâr Narbugud but even all
that didn't include everything you'll see with the upcoming release of
Volume II: Book 8: Scourge of Khazad-Dûm. Thanks to Aaron and
the team at Turbine for giving us a sneak peek. I for one can't wait
for the new content to hit the live servers.
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