About Last Night

December 22, 2009 at 5:30 pm | Posted in LotRO, Minstrel, Mirkwood | 1 Comment
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Wotcha everyone,

Last night I went into Dol Guldur.

I’m not sure that I really should have been there.  I started off the night a quarter of the way into level 63, and I am woefully under-geared.

Yes, I know I keep saying that one of the things I love about Lord of the Rings Online is that it isn’t gear dependant (apart from the radiance gated things that make me look like a farty-poo-pants liar) but I don’t think I suffered *too* much from being woefully under-geared.

Apart from being inspected to death upon joining my lovely kin-mates at the entrance, that is.  It was a tad embarrassing being informed that some of the gear I was wearing dated back to level 40s, but in my defence I’d not realised how old some of it was.  It was a useful experience though, and I did get the offer of a new set of assorted geegaws and baubles, which is a bonus.

And I do realise that whilst the game may not be as gear dependant as some, good gear does make a difference, and whilst it may not make hard content a nice stroll through a park on a balmy summers’ day, it does make life easier.

So, yet another reminder to improve my gear.  This time, it was similar to being told by a doting parent to go and put a warm jumper and scarf on, because it’s cold outside.

Kinships.  Sometimes they’re like families.

As to the instance itself?

Well, I don’t want to ruin the sense of discovery for anyone else, so rather than comment on specifics, I’ll try to keep to concepts and themes.  I may well put in a more detailed post some point in the future, when I’m less likely to spoiler the ares off someone else’s fun.

Big fun.  Admittedly, the rest of the group I was with had faced these bosses previously, and had figured out how to defeat them, so I just had to follow instructions and stand in the right places.  But I had big fun. 

Visually, Dol Guldur is dark, gloomy and depressing.  Sort of like Preston but with orcs.  If anyone’s spent any time in Preston, they’d agree with me.  The only thing Preston has of note is a really, really big bus station, and Dol Goldur reminds me of that bus station at 6:30 in the morning. 

I think what surprised me most is that someone had taken the time to make the Trash fights interesting.  I hope that this is a purposeful thing, as opposed to random accident. 

As it was, many of the fights seem to have been designed to be more technically interesting.  Positioning, even as a healer, was more important.  It wasn’t a case of me hiding at the back and spamming the big heal on the tank; there’s a measure of Area Of Effect damage and some fun interrupt abilities being thrown out by the monsties that made life interesting, to put it mildly.

It’s as if Turbine want us to feel like it’s the whole experience of the instance that counts, and that’s more than a little refreshing.  With each fight feeling a little like a mini-boss encounter, it makes travelling through the tower feel like a journey, rather than an exercise in time-wasting thanks to a procession of Tank’N’Spank time-fillers.

We faced off against three bosses.  I’ve no idea how many bosses there are in the 6-man instance, but they were tough challenges.  If I’m completely honest, I’m a little relieved that I wasn’t high enough level to be a part of the learning process, because they are technical fights, where I found myself going through a lot more skills than I did even in The Rift.

It was only at the third Boss that we wiped, and after a second attempt and wipe we called it a night (it was bed-time for Minstrel Hawley), but in that time I’d gained an insight into Dol Goldur.

Maybe it’s the novelty that makes the place seem really cool, and that familiarity will dull that excitement; I’ve been informed that multiple runs will be needed to get armour sets.

But it looks promising.  In a way that Preston Bus Station doesn’t.

Cheers,

Hawley.

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Whee! Mirkwood!!

December 3, 2009 at 4:27 am | Posted in Mirkwood | 1 Comment
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Wotcha everyone,

Excited?

I am.

The release of Siege of Mirkwood comes at a busy time for me, socially.  But I’m still really looking forward to spending some time in a frenzy of discovery, as I get to find out what this latest expansion brings to my favourite MMO.

And there are so many aspects of Siege of Mirkwood that I can’t wait to hurl myself into; skirmishes sound fantastic, Mirkwood is a vivid memory of reading The Hobbit at a young age, and the prospect of booting down doors in Dol Goldur is quite possibly the coolest instance and raiding prospect since someone pointed to The Rift and said; “Yeah, there’s a balrog at the bottom”.

Just the notion of adventuring through Dol Goldur really whets my appetite.  The name has a resonance that other games just can’t match;  Ulduar was fun to wander around, but it was only ever a place to grab trez and have a laugh.

Dol Goldur is a place of shadow, perverting the nature of the land around it.  It’s more than Sauron’s home-from-home.  It’s just… epic in nature.

I appreciate that I’m frothing like the worst sort of fan boy, but this is cool stuff here.  The prospect of taking on the Lieutenant of Dol Goldur is one that’s as exciting as taking on a balrog.  We all know that raids are there so we can get the phattest lewtz, but sometimes it’s fantastic to be going there because it’s somewhere that just makes you want to squee! in excitement.

Generally, grouping up for regular questing means that everything rushes by; mobs designed for solo players get eaten alive by two characters, but without 6 there’s no chance of an instance.  It seems that Skirmishes are the answer; scalable by player number, level and difficulty, they seem tailor-made to recreate all the fun of group gaming and instancing, providing a meaningful challenge, and without relying on any arbitrary player number.  And it has random elements, just to make it even better.

I’m really hoping it’s as Made Of Win as public quests were in Warhammer Online.  Which I miss.  A lot.

So, here I am; hopping up and down on my seat because I really, really want to play.

Cheers,
Hawley.

Bandwagons Part 2

September 15, 2009 at 5:21 am | Posted in LotRO, Mirkwood | Leave a comment
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Wotcha everyone,

For me, at a rather impressionable age, Mirkwood was one of the standout parts of The Hobbit.  Giant spiders (Arachnaphobic, me), dying of hunger, and escaping nasty elveses in barrels.

When I created Ataulf, I decided that there was absolutely no contest whatsoever; he just had to come from Mirkwood.

Yeah, I suppose I’m a Mirkwood fan.

So hearing about Siege of Mirkwood made me do a little happy dance.  But that’s not long and rambly enough for me, so here is some more rambling for you.  I’m only commenting on what stuck out for me, rather than every part of what’s been released:

The Price; To be perfectly honest, $19.99 will probably turn into £19.99 in Britain, thanks to the rather strange and arcane way that exchange rates sometimes work across the Atlantic Ocean.  I usually blame that Bermuda Triangle thingy, but I digress…  Twenty shiny pound coins for content that doesn’t signify a full expansion for many players?  It’s a bit of a no-brainer for me.  I really like the game.  I remember, back in the dark ages of the last millennium, paying £70 per month on new pc games.  These would be finished with one way or another by the next month, leaving me free to spend £70 on another two games.

MMOs give me a lot more lifespan to a game.  Scarily so.  And yes, we pay subscriptions, but the average subscription is going to be a fifth of what I used to spend.

An extra 20 shinies?  Well, that’s a plate of calamaries and a couple of beers in some European cities (guess who spent a long weekend in Madrid a couple of weeks ago?  Go on!  Guess!)  (You’re right!  It was meeeeee!), which just goes to reinforce just how stupidly cheap a hobby online gaming is.

Even when you factor in such things as buying an entirely new upgraded pc base unit every three years it is still, on a per-hour basis, the cheapest hobby I have.  And I have a lot of hobbies.

Add to that my recent addition of a lifetime sub, and currently Lord of the Rings seems like it’s paying me to play.  So twenty quid will be nothing for me; I have job, and that means being with salary.

The Mounts:  Yeah, whatever.  Because of previously stated ineptitude with in-game currency, Hawley only got his mount at level 46, and I’m still more used to running to places than in getting the horse out.  Cheaper horses would be better for me, but with the best will in the world, I hardly get excited about mounts in any online game.  Unless it was an Ent.  Oh, the happy dance that would be seen, if Ents were to be mounts…

I apologise to any lore-junkies that might be somewhat enraged by thoughts of Ent mounts.  Moving swiftly on, I have known more than one player who would give his or her mount a name, regardless of the fact that the game would not allow them, so this is, as far as I’m concerned, vindication for their efforts.  My own statement, when asked what my mount was called, was: “I never name anything I might have to eat”.  Might have to name it now.  Then again, food that used to have a name always tastes better…

Skirmishes:  Now this seems like it could be fun.  Warhammer Online taught me the error of my ways with regard to new concepts in online gaming.  Before release the Public Quest System just smelled of BAD, yet became one of my favourite things in the game.  I like to think that I can learn from experience, so I’m looking forward to something that sounds like a cross between PvP (just without the vP, and more of a vE), and the fabulous set-piece instances that Lord of the Rings does so well.

Hearing that we’ll be able to tailor these instances by level size and difficulty is really, really good news.  I look forward to trying all of them out at release.

The customisable soldier is something that really did surprise me.  I think they’re an astonishing idea.  I know that Guild Wars (of which, admittedly, I know little) has npcs that can be hired, but this sounds more like a modifiable almost-pet.  I’ve got this picture of a particularly aggressive tamagotchi in my head, but that’s probably not what they’re after.

I shall probably ramble more as we get closer to release, although I must admit there is a large part of me that is hoping that Arbitrary will do her frankly arcane, amazing and quite spookily fast job regarding links to juicy new information.

She really is splendid like that.

Cheers,
Hawley.

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