Moe: Everybody is going to family restaurants these days. Seems nobody wants to hang out in a dank pit no more.
Carl: You ain’t thinking of getting rid of the dank, are you, Moe?
Moe: Ah, maybe I am.
Carl: Oh but, Moe, the dank! The dank!
-The Simpsons, from the B story in episode 3F02, Bart Sells his Soul
I made it to Mirkwood. I left behind the 2007 base game content and the 2008 first expansion content and am now getting stuck into the content from the third expansion, The Siege of Mirkwood, which came out in 2009, almost exactly six years ago today! (US launch was December 1, EU launch was December 3.)
That was back when the Domion expansion came out for EVE Online and changed how null sec sovereignty worked, a system CCP started revamping more than a year ago.
At this rate I may make it into content from this decade before it comes to a close in a few years!
I am actually pretty happy about this. I’ve felt a bit guilty about not getting there since… well… since they announced the expansion. But now I am on my way. I made it to the river in Lothlorien, found the quest that directed me to the boat that would take me across the river to Mirkwood, and started on the quest chain there.
On the far side I picked up the quest chain, which seemed to take place mostly in the dark.
Yes, I know, this is Mirkwood. It is supposed to be dark. Bilbo’s descriptions of the place in The Hobbit still stick with me, it being dark and oppressive and, well, dank. But this was some old school, EverQuest with the gamma at default, running around at night dark. Even when things got a bit lighter, or I got near lit encampments, it was still pretty dark.
If it hadn’t been for name plates above mobs, I wouldn’t have been able to find much of anything, stumbling about in the dark dark in between the somewhat lit dark of camps. The daylight part of the cycle was still pretty dark. Dark orcs on a dark background blended into the rather sparse woods quite effectively.
Gaff reminded me that somewhere along the line… I’m going to guess when Mirkwood was new, because Moria was never this dark… Turbine added in a personal light that you can turn on with the Alt-F10 command, if I recall correctly. That was actually a nice addition, as I could at least see where I was facing and what I was standing on during the night cycle.
Not that I am complaining. It is Mirkwood, so dark is to be expected, and it certainly sets a mood. And the quests themselves seemed to be decent. Certainly an upgrade to the somewhat meandering lot presented in Lothlorien. The opening set at least had a unified focus set on defending the bridgehead in Mirkwood. Lots of orc to kill, siege equipment to burn, a gate to jam, and eventually a boss orc to slay.
That last one was a bit of a challenge. Gaff told me he had to take a few runs at it before he was able to get past the boss. I went in as buffed up as I could be… so many little scolls and potions have accumulated on this guy after logging in every so often to make sure I got my Turbine Points and to collect the silver and gold reward box while I was there… that I had some choices on that front.
And things started off well. You are with a group of NPCs and have to fight your way through a fort to get to their leader. Once at the leader, an… um… elite… is elite the right term here… mob, that fight started off pretty well too. Things seemed to be very much under control, I was able to keep my health up, I used an athelas potion to supplement between my own heals. And then, as victory seemed within my grasp, his health down to the last bits, he summoned a group of adds, seemed to go into an enraged state, and really started beating me down. My heals were on cool down and I had used a potion already, so I tried to ride it out, but was defeated.
First defeat in Mirkwood.
Seeing what I had to face I headed back to the NPC who sends you on your way to this instanced encounter, buffed myself back up again, using up more scrolls and potions, swapped heralds for something that would buff me, as opposed to the archer for DPS, and went back in expecting to have to restart the whole thing from scratch.
Instead, when I got there the place seemed empty. I made my way up the path into the fort where all the previous NPC groups had been, but nobody was about. I figured maybe Turbine was being kind and I would only have to re-do the boss encounter. But the NPC group I started with was all standing around at the top of the platform waiting for me, no boss in sight, and the burning ring above the quest giver indicating that he had an update for me.
Apparently my posse finished off the boss as I sat there in that wobbly state of defeat, so the quest was complete. That opened up the zone to me. The starting story limits you to the Mirk-Eaves, but once that was complete the whole map could be explored.
All good. There was a bit more running/sailing back and forth between Mirkwood and Lothlorien and a epic quest tale about exchanging an orc for a dwarf and the ego of the dwarves themselves.
Not exactly the most engaging quest chain in the epic series. But we’re in Mirkwood, which is a secondary theater in the war. We are here to clean up the flanks and keep busy as the fellowship has its little trip down the river and its big breakup scene, which is the climax of the first physical book.
I suspect we won’t be running into any of the original fellowship, the nine walkers… erm… eight walkers now… seven when we get out to the other side… or will it be eight again by that point… until we get to The Rise of Isengard, the 2011 expansion. Not the first time we’ve been sent off to secure the salients.
I will admit, once I got adjusted to the lighting and the dank, that the zone so far isn’t all that impressive. I realize that this is 2009 level tech. But looking at the trees and the ground and the textures, it doesn’t feel like it is a decade beyond EverQuest at launch. Yeah, the ground texture isn’t as bad as the horrible old linoleum prints in West Karana, but it appears to be the same leaves on the ground pattern everywhere, only broken up by the occasional rock sticking up or path through the forest.
And then there is the forest itself, which certainly doesn’t live up to the tree density as described in The Hobbit. Yes, more technical limitations… Turbine has to limit how many polygons they throw at us… and we all know what I get the urge to do when there are too many trees in my way. So maybe it is better this way.
Of course I am only into the first area in the expansion. Perhaps it will be like Moria where it improves dramatically as you move through it.
Maybe I will even find some NPC to deal with my legendary weapon every time it needs to be reforged. Going all the way back to the far side of Lothlorien is becoming a bit of a pain. And are task boards no longer a thing after Moria? Can I just sell all these junk drops that promise they can be turned in for experience and rep?
Onward into the forest.