Turbine/Codemasters inevitably annouced the next LotRO expansion/DLC pretty much the moment I walked out of the door for an internet-free weekend on Friday. There is lots to take in, but on the whole I am feeling pretty positive about Siege of Mirkwood. Some initial thoughts:
- Increased level cap to 65. I like level cap raises. I like questing, levelling up and replacing all my gear, and I love the cries of anguish from achiever types that all their ‘hard work’ has been invalidated. Great stuff. Also, an increase of 5 levels hopefully means at least 5 levels worth of levelling content, which somewhat allays my fears about only getting one new zone.
- Southern Mirkwood looks like a decently sized zone with a fair whack of content. Ok, it’s not Rohan, but heck, Mirkwood is still cool and we’ll get to Rohan eventually. Jeffrey Steefel hinted in the TenTonHammer PAX video that with the Hobbit movies coming out over the next couple of years, there were exciting opportunities to head into Northern Mirkwood etc. I think we should take this as a pretty solid confirmation that Turbine are definitely looking to cash in on the movie hype.
- The new 3 & 6-man instances and the new raid sound interesting. The mentioned radiance requirement for the raid is likely to be highly contentious, and if several DN pieces are required, they are going to see a very unhappy bunch of players. On the other hand, The Watcher and DN will be significantly easier at level 65 than at level 60, and this should facilitate ‘catch up’.
- Skirmishes, if sufficiently fun and rewarding, sound like they could offer a social-orientated filler activity for ad-hoc groups. I very much like the idea of having my own levellable companion NPC tailored to my specifications. On the surface, skirmishes sound like a really great addition to the game.
- The ‘Enhanced Combat Responsiveness‘ sounds great. One of the biggest complaints about LotRO from the ignorant and unwashed (i.e. players of other MMOs ;)) is that the combat feels ‘unresponsive’. This should address that complaint somewhat. Essentially, auto-attacks will now be interruptible by skills, meaning the only delays players will now experience should be the trailing animations of skills they have themselves triggered. This should make combat feel closer to global cooldown-based combat systems like WoW.
- Horses being changed from items to skills, and the introduction of account-wide storage, just seem to be part of the trickle of new features and polish that can be expected in a maturing MMO. Basically just Turbine trying to keep up with the Joneses, or in this case, the WoWses. Storage especially is a growing problem in LotRO and anything that frees up a few more bag slots is a very welcome addition. And yes, it will be nice to be able to zone and speak to NPCs without dismounting, although this is something that took me a while to get used to when I spent some time in WoW earlier this year!
- We’ll probably need to hear a few more details about the Legendary Item system revamp before deciding whether it is much of an improvement or not. Being able to somewhat customise the legacies on crafted weapons will be a huge improvement, and the introduction of a 4th runic slot, possibly crafted if I heard Mr. Steefel correctly, will add some more depth. My guess at this stage is that we’ll have to replace our level 60 weapons with level 65 ones and it is these that will be levellable to 60 (for the uninitiated, LIs have an associated player level restriction, e.g. 60, and this is distinct from their own level range, e.g. 1-50).
- Despite being a mini-expansion, the price point of $19.99 sounds very reasonable, and I’d be happy to pay up to £20 when Codemasters announce their pricing. As an early lifetime subscriber, I’ve only actually paid £20 in the last 2 years, and would actually quite like the opportunity to hand over money on a more regular basis, especially in response to substantial content updates like this.
So in summary, my initial impressions for Siege of Mirkwood are good, though no doubt I’ll be coming back to exercise a few ‘detail devils’ in the weeks to come.