LOTRO: Pilgrims in a Barren Land
I bought the Mordor expansion for LOTRO in August but apart from playing through the prologue, I made no further progress. I was getting somewhat burnt out with MMOs at the time, so I decided to take a break and pursue other games. I was prompted to return to the LOTRO today by the recent Executive Producer’s Letter from Rob Ciccolini and the announcement that Update 22, coming in 2018, takes the story to Northern Mirkwood. Iconic locations such as Thranduil's Court, Dale, Laketown, and Erebor will feature in the epic story. Looking further ahead another future destination is Minas Morgul and a showdown with Shelob, who so far, we’ve only met briefly from a first-person perspective in a cut scene. Naturally I’m interested in where Standing Stone Games takes the story next, so I need to ensure that I have reached level cap by the end of the year, which isn’t that far away. Hence, it’s back to Mordor. Shame I don’t like Mordor.
My problem with Mordor is that it’s perpetually dark, extremely convoluted to navigate and filled with a high density of mobs. It certainly looks the part and the various storylines are as creative as ever but it’s a tough grind to slog through. The enemies are difficult to kill and if you’re playing solo, every kill takes twice as long as normal, until you upgrade your gear with that which drops. Now I realise this is a deliberate design choice by SSG to try and encourage group play. However, I don’t like being dependent on others and often play at very late or early hours, thus missing those in my kinship. Let it suffice to say that at present I have to play through Mordor in short burst because otherwise I get bored and frustrated with it. Mercifully, I still have quests to complete in the Drúadan Forest, Beacon Hills and in Ithilien and the Wastes of Dagorlad. These don’t offer such good XP now that I’ve tipped over into level 106, although they do provide a welcome break and an alternative means to reach the current cap. I think tackling some of these Mordor quests above level will ease their difficulty.
It would appear that there is a significant increase in gear stats as you progress through Mordor and of course there is the buff/debuff of the Light of Eärendil versus the Shadow mechanic. All of which offer a “challenge”. If you’re the sort of player who likes to be tested and enjoys MinMaxing then Mordor is certainly a suitable environment for such tastes. I however, like to approach matters in a more pragmatic fashion. I like to be overpowered and to “steam roll” my way through the opposition, in a “shock and awe” manner. To achieve this, I have currently switched to the blue trait line for my Lore-master, relying on my more robust pets to do a lot of tanking and aggro holding. It appears to work so far, although you do have to selectively summon and dismiss your pets to avoid pulling too many mobs and getting swamped. If things really do get out of hand in a combat situation I do use my Landscape Soldier, although this can sometimes cause more problems than it solves. To date Landscape Soldiers are still very difficult to control and have a habit of stationing themselves a little too far away, often straying into place you’d rather they didn’t.
Finally, SSG are currently tinkering with Update 21.3 - Beta #4 on the Bullroarer test server. It looks like they’re looking at reducing the level that Ash of Gorgoroth can be obtained via both the landscape and instances. Ash is required to barter for top tier gear. Let it suffice to say, that it would appear that this change is being made to try and “encourage” players to buy the Gorgoroth Steel-Bound Lootbox, which will be the only other alternative means of obtaining it. Need I mention that this proposed change has not been well received by the community. Given the current debacle regarding lootboxes in Star Wars Battlefront II and the fact that such gaming mechanics are now coming to the attention of the legislature both in the US and Europe, is this really a wise move by SSG? Is the need to push lootboxes an indication that the game is not meeting its revenue projections. This is certainly a subject to watch in the weeks to come, while I grin my way through the barren land of Mordor.