Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Features of LOTRO's Update 5

LOTRO's Update 5 rolled out this week, containing a number of new features and the new group content for the expansion (which was technically launched in September).  The update reminded me that I haven't been in to check out the new Enedwaith and Isengard content I picked up on super-sale for Black Friday, and I'm been impressed with what I've run into so far.

The big feature is the new instance group finder, which does approximately what we've come to expect out of this feature.  Probably the biggest innovation in the system is the decision to include solo skirmishes in the queue.  This may seem funny - you get the message that you have entered the queue and then are presented with a ready check to jump into a solo skirmish you could have started yourself - but it's actually really clever. 

Because content for larger groups award more marks, I might be tempted to click the higher group size buttons.  If there's no tanks or healers available, no harm, it can just dump me in the solo skirmish I would have done anyway.  If it happens that there are players available, it's an easy way to lure solo players into group content, in a game where frankly I've done very little group content.  Not a bad trade in exchange for using this system to mediate the old daily rewards for running skirmishes. 

Fourteen different rep items that had been cluttering my bank
Elsewhere, the update features good quality of life improvements.  Items whose sole purpose was to collect 10 and turn in to an NPC for reputation have been changed into consumables so you can use them immediately to get the appropriate amount of rep (e.g. 30 rep for an item that used to give 300 for a stack of 10).  This allowed me to clear 14 different types of tokens out of my bank, all of which were there because I either needed more for a complete turnin or did not want to travel back to the NPC who wanted them.  LOTRO still has way too many currencies that don't go in the currency tab - e.g. tokens for Lothlorien, the Malledhrim, the Grey Company, and probably more in Isengard - but at least this is one type of item that's not taking up space. 

In another change that Doc Holiday posted, old Moria class quests that required group content no one does anymore are now optional.  Previously, you had to run a dungeon or do without the capstone class trait for your class.  Now, the trait is automatically granted for the second to last stage of the quest (the final solo step), and I immediately received 20 TP for the deed upon login. 

One unfortunate Uruk got stuck between my Champion and most of the Grey Company
These changes aside, I've been forging into the content of Enedwaith - a zone added during the free to play rollout last year which I declined to purchase at the time because I was already level capped.  I definitely do not need this content for the exp - I'm already level 67 having barely started the zone - but I'm glad I decided not to skip it (as I was considering).  I play LOTRO for the story, not necessarily for pushing the envelope on gameplay difficulty (though LOTRO supports that too, with the option to scale Skirmishes up above your level).  I've been enjoying the content greatly, and it would have been a shame in hindsight to waste it.  Meanwhile, I'm also likely to complete a few deeds for TP and traits while working on the epic storyline in the zone, and I would not have received credit if I had not purchased the content pack. 

In any case, things in Middle Earth seem to be going pretty well.  There is an argument to be made that they should have held the expansion until this update was ready, but it does seem that longtime players have gotten good use out of the portions of the expansion that were done in the mean time.  This game has never been especially competitive on quantity and that does not look to change, but the quality remains superb.  If they can keep making small but steady improvements to quality of life, coupled with the superb storytelling the game is known for, LOTRO will likely continue to hold down a niche for a while to come. 


Carson 63000 said...

I also got a new trait and TP for a chain that was up to the Moria instance step. And I also cleared a bunch of half-piles of rep items out of my bank. Good times!

Haven't had a chance to play a long enough session to try the instance finder yet. Looking forward to doing a more-than-solo skirmish for the first time.

Yeebo said...

Wow, that's an oddly glowing preview on this site ;-) I enjoyed the single player stuff they rolled out earlier quite a bit. However, I'm backing off of LoTRO to play SWTOR soon. But I looked forward to messing around with the new content once my SWTOR addiction fades a bit (I give it until some time in February).