The Man from Annuminas

In preparation for the coming Mordor expansion, and specifically what plans our potential group should have come the launch, I have been back and playing in Middle-earth.

It is the usual mixture of wonder and exasperation.

I got out a champion in our guild who was in the midst of Evendim, one of my favorite zones in the game.  Sigwerd the man champion, for men are men and human isn’t a word of Middle-earth, still dressed up in a selection of cosmetic gear from past expansions and the Lone Lands.

Sigwerd in Evendim

The chest piece is clearly from the Lone Lands… dyed olive green… but I cannot remember where the hooded fur cloak came from.  Just don’t tell PETA, they’ll sue me claiming the former owner of the pelt holds its copyright.

Anyway, the idea was manifold.

I wanted to get back into the game itself, with its various quirks.  I wanted to get a feel for the state of the game.  I wanted to try out a class I might play going forward.  I wanted to work with the new talent tree thing.  I wanted to get a sense as to how quick levels were given that one of the possible plans was essentially “walk all the way to Mordor.”  And I wanted to enjoy myself.

It is no doubt a telltale of my somewhat conservative nature that I like to go back and run through enjoyable zones and quest lines.  As I have noted in the past, nothing makes you feel more like a ranger… or in this case a champion… of Middle-earth than going through a zone like you own the place.  This is as opposed to wandering about the place half lost with the map up and muttering something about, “If that is the goblin camp over there, then the wolf den must me off to the left.”

I must have more than a dozen characters beyond level 30, so the Lone Lands is like a second home to me, with Evendim not far behind.  Once a zone known primarily for the amount of swimming you had to do in order to get around, it was revamped and given a boat transport system and a re-work of quests, all of which turned it into a great zone.

Looking out on the lake

I picked up where I left off with Sigwerd… left off about six years ago… with him picking up the quest trail in Ost Forod.  He was level 35, so ready for the quests there.  I ran through those, then the quick set on the island of Rantost, then up at the north end of the lake, before picking up at Men Erain and what I consider the start of the grand finale of the zone.

Evendim map

Men Erain starts in with tombs of the Kings of Arnor and leads you into Annúminas, the highlight of the zone.

The ancient fallen city, once the capital of Arnor, is such a great area.  When you arrive there are not many quests handed to you, just a couple of general ones that will take you about the area.  But one of the quests teams you with the ranger Orchalwë.  He travels the ruins with you and, as you reach certain points, give you additional quests as well as assisting you when fighting.

Sigwerd and Orchalwë in the ruins

The whole thing is so organic in its way that really puts me in the game.

And you need the help of Orchalwë.  Many of the mobs you face are elites.  While they aren’t too tough… you can solo one, though it takes some effort… they often come in groups of two or three and singletons wander about leading to surprise adds.  Three at once was a tough fight for me, even with Orchalwë throwing me a heal now and with me having taken the Martial Champion spec, which is a damage dealing tank.  Any mistake and the wheels come off.

However, the elites do not become locked encounters, to use the EQII term, when you tag them. (Also similar to how WoW handles named mobs in Legion.)  This is very handy as it encourages casual group efforts.

Sigwerd versus an elite

At a couple points I was standing, looking at an objective when another player of showed up, their own copy of Orchalwë in tow, and we were able to take on the area and finish the local quests.

The whole thing is so well done, perfect for a small group like our, it makes me wonder why more of the game isn’t like this.

Not that there are not flaws, the first of which is that Orchalwë goes away if you finish his main quest, something that left me in the lurch before I was done with the zone.  That is the reason I am soloing the elite in the screen shot above.

Finishing up in Annúminas, though without having hit all the possible quests, left me almost level 41.  I learned a few things along the way.

The first was that after picking a spec I really should have assigned points to the skill tree.  That would have made life easier.  Still, I managed to muddle through with a small set of default skills.  Once applied my available points my options on the hot bar expanded.

Champion skill at level 40

The icons haven’t changed much since I made my humorous/mocking post about them over eight years ago.  They are still hard to see and when I can see them they still don’t tell me what a skill really does.  The one with the box communicates, as does punching Amy Tan, but the rest still could mean any number of things.  As I understand it, the fact that I have what might be termed a “vintage” monitor means that it isn’t as bad as it could be.

And second, don’t hit the “x” key or your camera will lock in on whatever you are targeting.  I did this by accident during a fight and spent the next 30 minutes trying to figure out why I had lost control of the camera.  I had to Google the issue to fix it and then unmapped “x” from that function.

On the key mapping front, I had to map both “b” and “i” to open my bags because by this point I can never remember which game uses which and my brain seems unable to cope with this.  LOTRO uses “i” by default, but I kept hitting “b,” so I changed the key… and then I kept hitting “i,” so clearly I have some bad wiring as well.

However, I remain impressed how often I end up getting LOTRO Points for completing deeds.

Hey, more money!

But while the world is still quite worth touring, I did run into more graphical glitches than I expected.

The haunted pixellated forest looms!

More on point to planning, I did get a bit of a feel for leveling up.  With VIP blue bar daily and a 25% experience booster from a past expansion in the pocket equipment slot it was easy enough to get a level a day with a reasonable play session of about an hour.  The blue bar goes away pretty quickly, so doing two levels a day means more than double the play time.

Also, I did this under ideal circumstances.  As noted, I feel like the hero in Evendim and I know where to go for any given quest more often than not.  So, operationally, I was very efficient.  That efficiency drops off considerably past Evendim however.

That means going will be slow, or slower, past a certain point.

I think we could, as a group, power on through to level 50 by doing every last thing in Evendim, including the three person version of any instance, picking up the latter half of the Trollshaws, and then pressing through the Misty Mountains.  The last has Goblin-town, which is another ideal place for a small group.  We’d still probably need to hit Angmar or Eregion to get to 50.

At 50 we could decided to try Moria or get a discounted Blessing of the Valar boost to level 95.

Going much farther than 50 however means postponing Mordor for a long time, and getting there through all the content between there and where we stand would likely test our stamina as a group and the life expectancy of the game.  There are a lot of zones between us at level 40 and Mordor.

And even the ten levels between the Blessing of the Valar and Mordor might be a challenge.

Anyway, the plan is still under discussion.  We have at least another week before the expansion lands, and maybe a bit longer given the tentative launch date given with the pre-order.  I likely won’t feel pressed to buy anything until this coming weekend.

Voice your opinion... but be nice about it...

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s