A special advance excerpt from the upcoming hit musical, “The Xur Siblings”:
Voontak: It’s 106 miles to Orthanc. We’ve got a full bag of horsefeed, half a pouch of pipe-weed, it’s dark and the hobbits aren’t wearing shoes.
Vraeden: Hit it!
So on Sunday night, almost two weeks after RoI opened up, I finally got my minstrel to level 75. I know there was at least one person on Elendilmir who got to level 75 after about 20 hours. One of my kinmates got to the level cap on Tuesday night (it was Wednesday morning for he and the Aussies and Kiwis in our kinship). I thought about trying to powerlevel, but decided against it because 1) I have a job and with the end of the fiscal year coming up, my boss wasn’t in a leave-granting mood1, and 2) I thought for my first toon through, I should stop and see the sights, smell the flowers and crush every orc in sight.
So here are my thoughts on the ROI expansion, mostly as they relate to my play time on my minstrel. These are just some thoughts as they come to mind; I’m probably missing a bunch of stuff I meant to include in this post.2
There is a lot to like about RoI. Visually, it’s stunning. The level cap went up. They didn’t drop a bunch of new skills on us to take up space on our hotbars. Much of the new gear is cosmetically awesome. The epic quest line rocks3. There are taskboards in Dunland and the Gap of Rohan. The Culling Pit is a lot of fun. Much of the feedback I’ve read has been generally negative (and there certainly is enough to rightly complain about), but for the most part, I feel like I’ve gotten my money’s worth out of it. Some of the changes have been unsettling, but I think it’s more a matter of me needing to move with the cheese than something that is actual poor execution.
And then there is this, which is the greatest quest completion message. Ever.
Every time I complete the Daily Wood Shipment quest, I feel like I should get a high-five, cigarette and/or a happy ending.
Lag and layers
The lag is awful. I don’t know if this is a function of all that’s going on in certain places (ie-Galtrev), or just the fact that a lot of people are in the game where they may have taken a break and are coming back to check out the new content. I know of many players who let their accounts lapse to F2P (or have lifetime accounts) and quit playing over the summer to go on vacation or try out Rift or play Mass Effect 2 and have just come back to LOTRO for RoI. I think in a couple of weeks, things will die down and the lag won’t be so bad.
I’ve got a reasonably good video card in my computer (1.8 GB nVidia GTX 260, which was top of the line a year and a half ago when I bought it) and I run the game at the ultra-high settings. Galtrev is the only place where I get a lot of lag. However, I can see how people who play on computers with low or mid-range graphics adapters would be frustrated to no end. My advice: dial back your video settings if you can or only go to Galtrev if you absolutely have to.
Another related issue is the dynamic layering. Most of the time you won’t notice, but if you’re doing the Galtrev lumber camp daily, you might find yourself moved to another layer just as you’re about to mine some ore, pick up a stack of wood or even if you’re in the middle of combat. This is especially frustrating if you’re about to tag a bad guy to go towards your daily count and he suddenly disappears.
I actually like that they are requiring your tier 7 crafters to have made it to Dunland and done some of the quests in order to open up certain recipes. By making some (but not all) tier 7 components and recipes dependent on reputation, they’re eliminating low level toons from fully utilizing all of the Master Westfold craftsman recipes. They tried this back in the day when they had the crafting quests you had to complete in a high-level area, but it became very easy to get a kinmate or friend to escort your level 12 tailor to Angmar or the Trollshaws. I say this as someone who had a level 17 Supreme Master Tailor and a level 15 Supreme Master Woodworker (they’re level 67 and 42 now, respectively).
On one level it kind of stinks if you just wanted to have a toon in every guild and wanted to concentrate on one or two “main” characters, but on another level, I don’t think that a character should be a top tier crafter if they’re also not at least mid- to high level. After all, it’s very easy once you get a couple of max-level toons to have them feed materials and money to your scrubs so they can make jewelry, food and scrolls for your other toons, and it just doesn’t strike me as right that a toon who can’t even skirmish is a kindred supreme master crafter.
When I get some more play time in this week, I’m going to spend a bunch of time crafting and trying to figure out how to get the best bang for my buck with the tier 7 recipes.
Bugs and such
To expect an expansion to not be buggy is unrealistic, even with beta testing. Accept it, move on. Thankfully, I’ve encountered very few actual bugs and glitches, the most notable being the plugin thing and the 36/37 quests in Trum Dreng. There have been a couple of times when I went to start a solo instance and got a “General Error” with some code that prevents the instance from starting. Each time, I’ve fixed this simply by logging that character out and logging them back in. I’ve heard of other people having larger issues, but (thankfully) that has not been my experience.
Into the Dragon’s Maw
If you get a quest in the Gravenwood to find orders on some white hand captains, two of the accompanying quests will send you to one area, and then you’ll probably be killing orc captains left and right looking for the orders. You’re in the wrong place. Go to another camp (where you will have more quests in a little bit) and kill a captain or two there and the orders will drop. The correct coordinates are 80.1s, 13.4w.
I think the number of solo-only instances is exceptionally high. It doesn’t bother me so much, since I’m mostly a solo player (odd hours and insomnia compared to my friends), but if you habitually play with a spouse/partner/friend/sibling, it can by very annoying to have to drop group at every fifth quest to advance the story.
The way the quest hubs are set up also irritates me. I dislike how you have to complete quests in hub A before the quests in hub B open up. What happens if you’re in a group with a friend who is further along than you? For instance, if you’re in the North Downs and doing the Trestlebridge quests, if a friend sends you an IM and asks, “Hey, I’m doing quests in Othrikar; want to come with?” and you say “yes”, then you go to Othrikar and all of the quests are available.
I was running around the Bonevales when a buddy sent me a tell and asked if I wanted to quest along in Starkmoor. I said okay, because I always like to do quests that are yellow or orange, but when I got to Avardin, there were no quest rings for me. I can see why they set it up this way, but it means that if your regular adventuring buddy is offline one night, you’re going to have to do the same quests the next night to catch them up instead of just moving on to another area.
I cannot express just how much I detest this area. For one, there’s no map. What the heck?4
Secondly, whoever wrote the code for the some of the scaffolding put the image of a path, but forgot to code it as solid ground. So you’ll be walking along and then suddenly fall ten stories to your death.5 It seems that they wanted to recycle some of the Moria tiles, but didn’t think it through or test it very thoroughly.
My advice: stick to the cart paths and bring lots of tokens with you.
I think this is the single worst area in the game because of its design flaws, which Turbine apparently knew about before RoI went live. Some of my kinmates said they reported all sorts of bugs in the Pit of Iron during the beta, but I guess nothing was done. I’d have thought that if they knew it was as bad as it is, they’d have closed the area and fixed it in the next patch/update.
There are many things to like about the new expansion. As with most things, it will be easy to find thing that are wrong or poorly-executed. However, I also think that when something goes right, we (the consumer) just take it for granted. For every area as bad as the Pit of Iron, there are half a dozen other quest hubs where everything goes off without a hitch.
I give the whole thing a 4/5 rating.
I have yet to heal a full fellowship instance or a raid. I did, however, heal a group in the Culling Pit. I re-traited to the blue line and did pretty well. If you haven’t done the Culling Pit before, it’s basically 4 battles against increasingly-difficult mobs. I solo healed the first three, then we wiped on the fourth. Fortunately, another group came through to do the Pit after us and while waiting their turn, and on our second attempt, they started shooting from the “gallery”. I know that’s probably cheating, but when it was their turn, we stuck around and helped them out with their fights.
As far as minstrel healing goes, most of the healing skills did not change, so my basic healing rotation stayed basically the same. One thing to note is that Improved Chord of Salvation adds a group heal over time, as does Fellowship’s Heart. Speaking of Fellowship’s Heart, they reduced the cooldown to 10 minutes (yay!), so I’m not so afraid to blow it in a boss fight leading up to the big boss fight now.
There is a little bit of adjustment to be done when considering ballads. You can have three ballads active at the same time (minor, major, perfect) and if you stack the same ballad two or three times, the bonuses increase for whatever it does. I’m still trying to sort out a good rotation for anthems and codas, but I’ll have to run the dragon raid, GB or some of the other instances/raids before I find a combination that works for me. If you have any tips, please leave them in the comments below.
One thing I did notice is that I seemed to be sucking down power at an increased rate. Maybe it was because in the DPS races of the Culling Pit, you’re in combat for the whole time, but I found myself asking for an all-blue CJ on several occasions. Now that I’ve gotten my minstrel to level 75, I’m sure I’ll be spending a lot of time running the level 75 instances for Superior Fourth Marks, so I should either find a healing rotation I like, or my kinmates will start asking me to level my captain and RK.
As always, if you have any tips or advice, please leave it in the comments below.
And as a bonus, another excerpt from “The Xur Siblings”:
Esmerelda Burrows: May I help you elves?
Voontak: Got any lembas?
Voontak: I’ll have some lembas, please.
Esmerelda: You want butter or jam on your lembas, honey?
Voontak: No, ma’am. Dry.
Vraeden: Got any chicken pie?
Esmerelda: Best damn chicken pie in the Shire.
Vraeden: I’ll have four chicken pies and a honeybrew.
Esmerelda: Do you want that with white meat or dark meat?
Vraeden: Four chicken pies and a honeybrew.
Voontak: And some dry lembas.
Esmerelda: Ya’ll want anything to drink with that?
Voontak: No, ma’am.
Vraeden: A honeybrew.
- I know enough doctors that I could have gotten a note, but my boss plays another MMO (I won’t say which one, but it rhymes with “cow”), and would see through my BS immediately. ↩
- You know what they say: As you get older, your memory is the second thing to go. ↩
- There will be no spoilers in this post, but there is a point in the epic quest line when I wanted to call up the devs and give them high-fives because of the turn the epic story took. You know the one I’m talking about. Please, no spoilers in the comments. ↩
- You know “heck” isn’t the word I want to use. ↩
- It’s a good thing that my wife and granddaughter were asleep while I was doing this area because my “favourite” curse word got a lot of use that night ↩