The Eyes and Guard Tavern
LOTRO like many other MMOs has a test server. Players can transfer existing characters to Bullroarer when it is available and preview all aspects of any new content that is being beta tested. If you do not wish to or do not have a level appropriate character available to transfer, you can create a new one and then visit The Eyes and Guard Tavern in Archet. This hostelry hosts a range of NPCs that can advance your alt through content, bestow deeds as well as upgrade virtues and traits. Effectively, you can gain everything that is available in the game from level 1 to the new cap of 120. It is therefore an invaluable in-game facility. If you wish to visit the latest zone, then you can jump to level cap and port directly to the region. Min-maxers and those who have a penchant for build experimentation can spend hours perusing new gear and such like. However, despite being a beneficial facility, The Eyes and Guard Tavern is a somewhat blunt tool.
First off, if you transfer a character from the live server that is already progressing towards level cap you cannot use the appropriate NPC at The Eyes and Guard Tavern to advance straight to 120. I spent an hour tinkering with my build tonight with a level 40 hunter, before I realised my predicament. You can only take advantage of level advancement if you create a completely new character. Starting from scratch then comes with further problems. Adding all the games’ different aspects to your build, such as reputation and completion of the Epic Story, takes time. A lot of time. Furthermore, if you decide to flag all of the Epic Story as completed, the NPC will often port you to different locations in Middle-earth as part of that process. You then have to make your way back from Angmar, Edoras, or Anorien to the The Eyes and Guard Tavern, multiple times.
Creating new legendary weapons and fine tuning them is another very complex and time-consuming process. As is selecting your gear and applying appropriate essences. Re-learning all your crafting skills adds further time to this “work in progress”. Simply put, if you wish to create a level cap character with the best of the best gear, that has all rep and has progressed through all of the game’s story, then you can expect to spend three hours or more on such an undertaking. Again, I would like to make it clear that for some players, this prospect is a pleasure and not a chore. But for others, who simply want to visit the new region and may be try some of the new quests, such an investment of time is prohibitive. Another consideration is that to access the Bullroarer test server, you have to download and install a completely separate client. For those on slow internet connections or with data caps, that is another hurdle to overcome.
I have written in the past about the “average LOTRO player” and fully understand that those who play casually are not necessarily the core demographic of those accessing the Bullroarer test server. Hence the services available in The Eyes and Guard Tavern although lengthy and convoluted, are tailored to the liking of a more “involved” group. However, it would be beneficial if Standing Stone Games could add some additional facilities that met the needs of intermediate players who primarily want to visit Bullroarer test server to access the new zones and their respective quests. The provision of cookie-cutter endgame builds, that could be applied with a single click via an NPC is one example I can think of. Or if a player wants to be just a “virtual tourist”, perhaps some sort of temporary invincible mode could be made available, where you do not aggro the mobs and can explore freely. This facility already exists in (to a degree) when you use the stable service to travel between zones.
Overall, The Eyes and Guard Tavern is a functional and multi-layered service. To get the most out of it, be prepared to invest an considerable amount of time. If you are interested in accessing the Bullroarer test server and have not transferred an alt before or used the The Eyes and Guard Tavern, then I would recommend reading the official LOTRO guide that is buried within the official LOTRO forums or alternatively, read the helpful FAQ over at LOTRO Players website. As SSG is endeavouring to tidy up numerous outstanding “loose ends” in LOTRO, perhaps this service will have some “quick” options added to it in the future or they’ll find a way to streamline the services provided.
Bullroarer Update 23 Preview #2
Despite some set backs and the loss of time, I did manage to create a new alt that was sufficiently specified to visit the Grey Mountains and The Iron Hills. The second preview of Update 23 has made further revisions to the new zone. I explored the Withered Heath and the expanded areas of Erebor more thoroughly this time and returned to The Iron Hills during daylight. The new region looks detailed and more populous this time round. The gallery below has a selection of images from the new areas. As ever, remember that this is still content that is under development and it may be subject to change.