After several weeks of other things coming up in real life, the instance group was at last able to get together in Middle-earth again.
This was the first time I had been out with the group on the new machine. It was actually assembled and running the last time we played, but I had not yet loaded up LOTRO onto it. So that was the last run with the old machine and this, the first run with RAM happy DX11 goodness.
Unfortunately, the DX11 goodness is somewhat moderated by LOTRO grabbing screen shots and then compressing them pretty heavily in jpeg format.
I’m going to have to get out FRAPS or find some other way to take higher quality screen shots.
Not that DX11 improved everything. Sure, the landscape and lighting effects look great, but the character models, which I am sure a lot of people find one of the low points of LOTRO graphics, don’t seem much improved at all.
On the bright side, actually taking screen shots is much quicker. I don’t know if the faster processor sped up compression, the additional RAM gave the game more in-memory space to work with the screen shot, or if the faster drive allowed it to be written to disk more quickly that had the biggest impact. But rather than going from a second or so delay when taking a shot, it is now pretty much instantaneous.
So we had that going for us.
We got on and headed towards Ost Guruth. We were working on Volume I, Book 2 of the epic quest line and had some running about in the Lone Lands to get done. The team for the night was:
- Earlthecat – level 28 dwarf Guardian
- Garfinkel – level 29 elf Minstrel
- Sigwerd – level 30 human Champion
- Enaldie – level 30 elf Rune Keeper
And the first thing we had to do was pick up where we left off a few weeks back, wading through the knee deep swamp of Halroeg.
We still had a few additional quests queued up along with the epic quest line, including a second pass at the three repeatable quests that offer up trade skill related rewards.
We were able to head off after some trolls, including a named troll for a warm-up.
The running about in the water under the trees also let me see a bit more of the DX10/DX11 video effects that are in LOTRO and which are all now available to me with the new machine.
While the screen shot does not really do it justice (damn compression) you can see the reflections of the trees in the water and the effects that light shining through them, and the shadows that causes, enhancing the depth and feeling of the location.
I started talking about this and Earl, who updated his system earlier this year and has at least DX10 effects available, agreed that the the swamp looked very nice. Of course, Garfikel and Enaldie had to take our word for it. I tried to not babble on too much about the graphics, but at a few points I slipped and gushed a bit.
We knocked off the requisite trolls, along with swamp flies, crawlers, and mushrooms, then made our way to the corner of the swamp where the subject of our investigations dwelt.
This was a solo level quest though, so he died off rather quickly when faced with our full attention. Still, I managed to at least get a screen shot of his location.
I should of asked him, before we did him in, where he got torches that burn the same color as black lights. Too bad these torches pre-date the invention of dayglo colors in Middle-earth. Or maybe not. Interesting place to hold up though. Looks like the bedrooms of a couple of people I knew in the 1970s.
Having finished up our initial quest target, we had to rewind back to Ost Guruth through the various quest givers. We all picked up the trade skill reward quests again along the way, just in case we ended up back in the swamp for some reason. The recipe rewards are generally less than optimal (I never get the metal smith tool recipe I want, and don’t get the cook in group started on his lack of recipe rewards), but they give experience, a little coin, at the ingredients that you get have some value.
Back in Ost Guruth it was time to head out with Radagast at last.
While this was the last quest in the book, it was also a fellowship quest and at our level. Given how much of a challenge Retaking Weathertop was for the four of us at level, it seemed like it might be a stretch for us.
The evening was still early however, so we decided to give it the old junior college try. We told Radagast we were ready to travel now.
Here we ended up in another swamp… drainage is an issue in this part of Middle-earth I guess… with Radagast. All we had to do was follow him around while he… and I am not kidding about this… while he spoke to a fox, a frog, a rabbit, and a squirrel.
There is a reason other Istari make fun of Radagast.
Oh, and we had to keep him safe from the elite trees and wights roaming the swamp which, in true escort quest form, Radagast seemed drawn to like marinara sauce to a white shirt.
And these mobs came in groups. Of course they did!
The first group was just one elite huorn and a pack of minions. I thought we had half a hope at least. But we managed to survive.
More than survive, we were in good shape after the fight.
Unlike back at Weathertop, I think we were coming into our prime class-wise.
Earl now has enough aggro generation to keep most things focused on him. Plus my metal smith has been keeping far enough ahead of the group to festoon Earl in purple gear. Better armor has to be helping a bit.
Garfinkel has a lot of moral boost in his tunes, without having to generate too much aggro, thanks to a class trait.
Sigwerd, he just slices and dices.
And Enaldie… I’ll just say that Runekeepers were officially voted “OP” in our fellowship. The lightning bolt offense was one of my favorite spell effects in the game… until she started casting that firey fuel-air bomb area effect spell. It is like napalm on the tree line… literally in some of our fights… both devastating and awe inspiring.
Yeah, yeah… more magic in one fight than the combined Istari ever cast in all Tolkien’s books… but it is still pretty cool. I’ll swap a bit of lore purity for that I suppose.
And so, to my surprise, we managed to hack and cast and strum our way through the first part of the encounter while Radagast collected up his animal friends.
Then we turned our attention to an outpost that was besieged. We fought our way there through an army of wights to relieve them.
Then Radagast was suddenly eager to finish things off, so rather than his usual meandering way, he headed out with purpose. More elite wights and then we were facing one last big bad guy. Radagast was warming up for him.
But the bad guy, Ivar or some such, was having none of it. We were there ready for one last epic battle and he got up and left. We won by default.
And that about wrapped things up for us in book 2. We had to run around and turn in some quests, but otherwise we were pretty much set.
There was still a bit of time left in the evening so headed back to into the Red Pass, picked up a pile of quests from the outpost there, and then headed into Agamaur.
While these quests were of the solo variety, they are of the sort much more easily done in a group than solo, especially since a couple of them involve fighting through a few elite mobs.
It was out there that we ran into rare elite master huorn, Dour-root, that walked into the middle of one of our fights. That might have been the toughest fight of the night. We suffered our only defeat when it went after Garfinkel. However, his morale was quickly revived and we went on to victory.
We finished up our pass through Agamaur, turned in the quests that we had finished, picked up the next round, then called it a night.
An good evenings adventure was had.