Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Progress At The Level Cap

Due to the timing of Mirkwood's release, Allarond ended up with a fair chunk of unfinished content from the Moria expansion. Between this backlog and the new skirmish feature, I had already advanced from level 60 to level 64 - out of the new cap of 65 - before I made a serious attempt at the expansion content.

Now that I'm going through the new content to experience the new areas and storylines, I've noticed two things. First, the content is surprisingly hard given that I have 2-3 levels over most of the quests/mobs I've been completing. Secondly I feel that some of this content is slightly wasted on me because I'm already level capped.

I would easily have gained another level or more by now if there were more levels to gain. I'm occasionally finding a gear upgrade, but a single minor upgrade every few hours does not add up to an impressive feeling of progression. My legendary items are progressing at a decent clip, but I haven't found one that really replaces the ones I entered Mirkwood with, and I'm not going to put a lot of effort into looking until I figure out where to get the level 65 items. Even the quest deeds inexplicably cap out at 30 quests in the entirety of Mirkwood (which I had finished before I left the expansion's first subzone).

There is still progress to be had - I'm gaining reputation with the new expansion faction, and have a ton of their more common currency for whenever I find all of the reward vendors. (I want to know all of the choices before I start spending, to make sure I don't regret my purchases later. Doc Holiday posted the best list I've seen so far.) I'm also advancing the epic book plot, which may very well be the most impressive storyline ever crafted for solo players in an MMORPG. Even so, it feels like a part of the paradigm - complete quests, gain levels - is missing.

Next month's Volume 3 launch patch promises new content, and many players are expecting some new landmass as well. I wonder what Turbine can/will do with this new content, which clearly is not needed for leveling to the game's current cap, to make it feel like characters are advancing.


docholidayj said...

That was one of my biggest issues with SoM that many of us shared during beta, the lack of progressing our characters. The story progression is great, but it almost feels like our characters have stepped back relatively speaking. Turbine has done a pretty good job so far, so I'm hoping they have something up their sleeve for Volume 3 - which we should be seeing some teasers for shortly!

They've hinted that 1st agers are coming back sometime this year, but I think they'll need to do something with traits and/or equipment to allow us to grow.

Longasc said...

I believe the new endgame is gaining medaillons / skirmish marks to get legendary scrolls to up item level to 70 and increase the level of the legacies on the item.

And you are right, there is not much gear upgrades outside Barad Guldur and Sammath Gûl.

This was a gear reset, I suggest you get the Thalionhigil necklace from the Malledhrim, and maybe you like the Amulet with the massive +Melee/Tactical/Ranged Defense bonus.

The boots of the new 25 radiance set are quite good, but try to get all 3 parts before you break up the 4 part bonus of the still very good Moria set. The +15 radiance gear parts are actually worse, stat wise.

There are some nice offhand weapons in the instances. Besides that, I would not rush to upgrade to a 2nd age weapon. People pay crazy prices for symbols of Celebrimbor and fragments at the moment, I am swimming in money and expect that they will regret it soon. ;)

You will want to do the two quests that give the golden Malledhrim Star Tokens (no idea how it is called in English, sorry), to exchange them for the horse and the quick travel to Mirkwood ability.

Besides that, get ready to farm the Sword-halls, like everyone else. Fortunately Champions are in high demand for this particular task. :)

Longasc said...

I forgot something: An awesome +65 Might cloak drops in "The Stairs" of Moria. They definitely give us some incentives to do the old instances, too.

Brian 'Psychochild' Green said...

One problem with the difficulty curve is that some of the early stuff was hideously overcamped when the game launched. Some of the quests at "the landing" instance had multiple groups waiting for spawns. Turbine upped the spawn rate, but this made it a bit more dangerous. Our full group of kin members got wiped a few times trying to do some of the orc slaying quests because we were the only group in there; the spawn rate had obviously been adjusted for multiple groups. I can imagine a solo person getting absolutely mobbed in there and eaten alive.

Gear upgrades have been disappointing all around. On one hand I an appreciate not wanting to do the WoW thing where everyone is replacing raid gear with solo quest trash; we're already doing that with our legendary weapons. But, it seems the gear has taken a huge step backwards. Perhaps I'm lucky to have gotten my core set of four radiance pieces from Moria, but I haven't replaced anything except for my off-set helm and shoulders at the high end.

This lack of upgrades is perhaps best seen in crafting. The crafted Malledhrim stuff seems mostly inferior to the Lothlorien equivalents. The multiple output recipes are nice, but none of the stuff seems like a good upgrade. I'm currently using a dropped offhand club that does common damage on my Champion instead of any of the crafted weapons I could make. Seems a bit backwards to me.

Overall, I like the expansion. The big downside is it seems like there's more of a focus on grinding. Grind yet another rep for a new group. Grind items to turn in for stuff. Grind skirmish marks for items. Grind items or marks to get the legacy upgrade scrolls since legacy upgrades from levels were nerfed. The grind is definitely something I could live without.

Green Armadillo said...

I have literally zero interest in sinking a lot of time into improving legendary items that are designed to be replaced on a moment's notice (especially while I'm still using items from the previous expansion).

Quoth Psychochild: "The big downside is it seems like there's more of a focus on grinding. "

I'd argue that this has always been the case. Radiance gating happens because there isn't enough group content so Turbine has to enforce usage of the existing stuff. Legendary items happened they way they did to provide another time sink. Then there's the bait and switch of deeds that take like 60 mobs to complete in the early game and hundreds of mobs to complete later on.

I suppose the positive way to phrase this is that the biggest problem with LOTRO is that there isn't enough LOTRO, so Turbine had to cram in the grinds wherever they could think of a way to do so.

Brian 'Psychochild' Green said...

Note that I said there's more of a focus on grinding, not that it's new. To be honest, though, most of the grinding in the early levels didn't bother me. Having to run back to an NPC or grind another 300 goblins in a new area was annoying, of course. But, I was in a good kinship so I didn't feel that getting my four pieces of radiance gear was a horrible grind.

I think the grind is more obnoxious in the expansion for me because they changed the mechanics and legendary items for Champions so dramatically. The nerf of old items and how much more damage a level 65 third age item does compared to my level 60 first or second age is just frustrating. Adapt or fall behind, perhaps, but not exactly something that I relish when I'm paying a monthly fee for it. Renewal is coming up on my year's subscription, and I'm thinking really hard about if it's going to be worth it. I still am enjoying most of the expansion, but there are enough flies in the ointment that it's not all sunshine for me.

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