Sunday, December 13, 2009
I've been spending a fair amount of time with LOTRO's new skirmish feature this weekend. This may seem strange in the context of my previous complaints about repeatable content in general, and in LOTRO in particular. What about randomized scenarios that differ only in the random bosses makes them any different?
The best answer I can come up with at the moment is the ability to customize soldiers. If you look at, say, running random dungeons in WoW for gear, you aren't really getting any fundamentally different rewards. Each upgrade adds an incrementally higher number onto your existing abilities. By contrast, LOTRO skirmish soldiers act very differently depending on how you have chosen to upgrade them.
Options for a Champion
As a melee DPS/off-tanking class, I immediately went for the healing specialist. After finishing a few skirmishes and upgrading my soldier's abilities, I suddenly found myself with a powerful ally, capable of keeping me alive as I waded into large packs of foes. On the downside, enemies do not necessarily die very quickly. Champions have a decent AOE rotation, but I'm still trying to beat down a pack of 3-5 mobs with one character's DPS.
Instead, perhaps I should go with a bannerguard, a soldier type that offers offensive buffs, melee DPS, and even a minor heal over time spell. Alternately, I might take one of the two ranged DPS soldier types. I don't know that I'd want to use the tanking soldier for lack of any way to keep them alive, but I guess I could imagine a scenario in which the tank could let me switch to my most offensive-based stance and wail away.
Finally, you can get cosmetic traits to determine the race and appearance of your soldier. This is more fun than you might expect, in that you can create characters who look like your present/future alts. (All of your LOTRO alts on a server share the same house, so it's fair to assume that they know each other, and would fill in the skirmish soldier role accordingly.)
Other skirmish incentive impressions
There are other perks to the skirmishes as well - instant, scale-able access, and the ability to purchase just about anything that you might be having trouble obtaining (such as rare random crafting materials, reputation tokens, or items from the group-only level 50 class quests).
There are also drawbacks to the system - soldiers become available at level 30 now that Mirkwood has arrived, but players who were already level 60+ when the expansion arrived can expect to find their new soldiers starting significantly behind the curve. Finally, the lore behind these things is singularly bizarre - in a game that doesn't like teleportation, I can instantly teleport to the Shire to fight off an orc invasion that never really happened in the lore.
Perhaps the system is going to start getting old once I've had the chance to take the other types of soldiers for a spin, especially if it turns out that the healer is far and away the most effective choice I can be using. Even so, it's an interesting way to re-customize your character and playing experience without actually starting over from scratch. Skirmish soldiers are a lot of fun, and I look forward to seeing what Turbine does with the system in the future.