The rollout of LOTRO's Isengard expansion is a bit unusual in that the level cap increase in included for all players. As a result, all of the left-over content that I never finished in Mirkwood was now worth real live exp towards my next level (66, which I snagged tonight). In the process, I also capped out the Malledhrim faction (the reputation of Mirkwood), which snagged me some Turbine points, a title, and the right to purchase a skill that teleports me back to Mirkwood once I earn enough daily quest tokens to do so.
In an earlier post about the expansion pre-order plan, a commenter asked what the point would be of obtaining the ten additional levels in the expansion if you were not going to purchase the content that you would experience with these levels. My answer would be to see the epic story, which is open to all players (provided you can attain the appropriate level). The finely crafted story instance content - which does occasionally pop up in regular quests, but is primarily seen during the epic story - is one of the places where LOTRO shines. The regular quests, which had my Champion greatly exceeding Legolas and Gimli's combined kill counts at Helm's Deep through sheer grinding, is less inspired.
Ironically, I might enjoy the new portions of Middle Earth more if I did NOT have access to the epic story, so that I would just leave the uninspired kill ten wargs/goblins/orcs quests behind their paywall and only do the quests that matter. Unfortunately, this does not look like the most practical option. Turbine originally announced a cap increase of five levels, and doubled that to ten levels during the development of the expansion, I'm guessing in part to deter players from doing just what I'm suggesting.
Detour to Enedwaith?
As an interesting side note, I'm faced with a choice of what to do next in game. There was one new zone prior to the expansion, Enedwaith, which I declined to purchase as a non-subscriber because I was already at the level cap. Now that I'm at level 66 and halfway to 67, there is a case to be made that I should just skip the entire zone, other than the epic quest line that runs through it, so that I don't hit Isengard content even further over-level whenever I decide to pay for the new expansion. Then again, this would mean skipping a large chunk of content - the only content that was added in nearly two years between Mirkwood and Isengard - and missing out on deeds that I could be getting credit for as I work on the epic story anyway.
If I did choose to stop in Enedwaith, there'd be a second choice - how to pay for it. I could pay for a permanent unlock as a Premium player, which would cost me 695 Turbine Points ($7) before sales. This would allow me to experience the content at my leisure, including the right to go back and complete kill deeds (though I haven't done this for large amounts of older content that I can currently access, because it's more boring than it's worth). Then again, I have no intention of ever getting a second LOTRO character high enough to do this zone a second time.
As a result, this may be one of the cases where paying for a single month of LOTRO's subscription might actually be a better deal. For $15, I would get rental access to the following for one month:
- The Enedwaith zone, including the ability to complete any kill deeds that I start but do not complete. Unless this zone is much bigger than I'm expecting, a month should be plenty of time. (Value: 695 TP)
- Crafting Guild progression. I currently have enough crafting rep to reach the new tier, and I would be able to keep the recipes after dropping back down to non-subscriber status - as the system currently stands, I wouldn't need to get access again until the next crafting cap increase. (Value: 295 TP for "permanent" access to something that I may not need again for years)
- 20 slots of cosmetic wardrobe storage. If I understand the system correctly, things I put in the wardrobe would remain there until removed, even after my subscription lapses. This would clear a fair number of items that I don't expect to need again anytime soon out of my bank and house vaults. (Value: 495 TP grants permanent access to 10 slots worth of cosmetic storage, but the real value is getting this stuff out of my bank without permanently destroying it)
- Rested exp - I had some on my character for some reason and was allowed to "spend" it, but my understanding was that ONLY subscribers are allowed to earn additional rested exp. (Value: unclear, I guess I'd have to price it versus some sort of exp boost potion?)
- +500 Turbine Points (monthly stipend)
I don't think this is something I'm going to do in the short term until I'm ready to pull the trigger on Isengard, but it's interesting that there is a scenario where the subscription may still be useful. I still think that LOTRO's subscription is not a great idea for long-term players, because you're re-paying every month for stuff you could unlock just once, but apparently even a high level player can find some value out of a single month of VIP every now and then.