Tag Archives: Minas Morgul

Comparing Four MMO Expansions

I originally sat down to write about pre-orders being available for the next EverQuest II expansion, Blood of Luclin.  However, aside from the addition of the Friends & Family option, it isn’t all that different from the last few times I’ve written about EQII pre-orders.  And even the new F&F bit is similar enough to the EverQuest version that I was feeling little dull.  Also, I am sick right now and going through that chart in detail was making my headache worse.  You can check out the details here, but I won’t be going through them with a fine tooth comb.  I’ll probably regret that in a year, but I’ll live.

You can buy it today

Instead I started listing out different aspects of some expansions.

We have a few expansions that have been at least announced.  Minas Morgul just went live for LOTRO, EverQuest and EverQuest II both have expansions in the offing, and at BlizzCon we heard about Shadowlands, the next WoW expansion.  In laying out some details for comparison I don’t have any real key points to highlight, but sometimes just the comparison is enough to make you think about what is going on.

How far in advance did they announce an expansion?

  • WoW – Maybe as much as a year in advance
  • LOTRO – About two months
  • EQ – About three month
  • EQII – About three month

WoW has a tradition of getting a lot of details announced at BlizzCon about nine months ahead of when an expansion will ship.  Way more details than we got for the other three just months before their planned launch.  However, EQ and EQII do yearly expansion, so a year in advance they’d still be patching the current expansion rather than the next.

LOTRO though… I guess SSG just doesn’t like to spill the beans too far ahead.

When were pre-orders available?

  • WoW – Maybe as much as a year in advance… like now for Shadowlands
  • LOTRO – About two months ahead of launch
  • EQ – About a month ahead launch
  • EQII – About a month ahead launch

With SSG and Daybreak, pre-orders seem to be offered pretty close to the official expansion announcement.  With Blizz there used to be a fair gap between the expansion being announced and pre-orders being available, but at this past BlizzCon we saw pre-orders go live coincident with the expansion announcement.

Expansion tiers and pricing

  • WoW – Base $40, Heroic $60, Epic $80
  • LOTRO – Standard $40, Collectors $80, Ultimate $130
  • EQ – Standard $35, Collectors $90, Premium $140, F&F $250
  • EQII – Standard $35, Collectors $90, Premium $140, F&F $250

The new “Friends &  Family” packages are outliers.  But even if we leave those out it does strike me as a bit odd that WoW is not the most expensive in any category save for the base expansion, and there it is tied with LOTRO.

Should the base expansion include a level booster?

  • WoW – No
  • LOTRO – No
  • EQ – No
  • EQII – Yes

I am a bit surprised that EQII is the outlier here with its level 110 boost.  LOTRO offers a level 120 booster with the two higher tier packages, as does WoWEQ though… as I noted previously, it is in a strange place.  It offers a booster with its more expansive packages, but it is still the now more than five years old level 85 boost.  This, for an expansion where the level cap is going from 110 to 115.  My “WTF Daybreak?” opinion of that remains.

Key items from upgraded packages

  • WoW – Mount, pet, cosmetics
  • LOTRO – Mount, pet, cosmetics, titles, various booster potions
  • EQ – Mount, pet, mercenary, cosmetics, house item, bag, various booster potions
  • EQII – Mount, pet, mercenary, cosmetics, cosmetic house item, teleporter to new expansion house item, various booster potions, and an trade skill insta-level boost to 110

I left out the level boost obviously, as it was covered above, and ignore the F&F packs, as they are strange new beasts.

EQII is really the standout in piling things on here, including even a level booster for trade skills, though EQII trade skills have the same level cap as adventure levels, and are earned more like adventure levels than the skill point upgrades in the other crafting systems.

WoW effectively gives you a boost into trade skills since they split trade skills up per expansion with BFA.  But you get that no matter what.

As I have said before, if I were a dedicated EQII player, I could see being very tempted by one of the more expensive packages… relative to EQ especially, which has the same price points… despite the high prices.

Anyway, I thought that comparison was mildly informative.  You can find all the order pages below.  I’d be curious as to how these four games compare to other MMORPG expansion, though I don’t keep a close enough eye on anything else to even know who still sells expansions like this anymore.

Is it Minas Morgul Yet?

It is kind of a busy Tuesday.  On to my third post of the day.

Back in September when Standing Stone Games announced the Minas Morgul expansion the target date for launch was October 29th.  That was last Tuesday, and it clearly did not come to pass.  Unfortunately I put the target date in the title of the post I linked there.  Oh well.

Perhaps I should have been more cautious.  SSG certainly left themselves something of an out in the fine print, declaring October 29 as the target, but allowing that given any delay you’d certainly have your expansion and goodies by no later than November 30.  A month wide launch window there gave them five target Tuesday in which to go live.

Anyway, while they missed their initial planned date, the word from SSG is that the Minas Morgul expansion will go live today.

As always, the expansion promises more things, more levels, more quests, more dungeons, more raids, and even a new race and an additional character slot per server.  That is the base package, but as I covered in that previous post, there extra special versions of the expansion, with extra special prices, available with even more goodies.

SSG has a page dedicated to the options for the expansion as well as a FAQ.

Tipped off by a comment on the October in Review post, I see that the FAQ has a brand new restriction at the top in regards to purchasing the expansion with LOTRO Points, the in game currency.

CAN I PURCHASE THE EXPANSION WITH LOTRO POINTS?
The Minas Morgul expansion will be available for Store Points in March 2020 and will be priced as follows:

-Base Edition (includes the Minas Morgul Region & Instances only): 2495 Points
-Stout-axe Dwarf: 1000 Points

That is a bit of a “screw you” to those sitting on a pile of said points.  Money talks and virtual currency walks, or something like that.  I am reminded, once again, of one of my early concerns around virtual currencies, which is best summed up by a scene from The Simpsons episode Itchy & Scratchy Land:

Homer: One adult and four children.
Woman: Would you like to buy some Itchy and Scratchy Money?
Homer: What’s that?
Woman: Well it’s money that’s made just for the park.  It works just like regular money, but it’s, er…”fun”.
Bart: Do it, Dad.
Homer: Well, OK, if it’s fun…let’s see, uh…I’ll take $1100 worth.

This exchange is followed immediately by this visual.

Where can I spend my LOTRO Points?

So here we are again.  If you were holding on to your LOTRO Points in hopes of buying the expansion, you get to wait until March.  Also, due to the rather opaque nature involved in selling LOTRO Points, where different price points get you varying amounts of currency in return in an attempt to get you to buy more.

Current LOTRO Point pricing

Given that chart, a LOTRO point varies in range from 1.3 cents per to .86 cents per point, making the cost of the equivalent to the base expansion (content plus new race) somewhere between $28 and $45, compared to the $40 price if you pay in real world money.

Of course, if you’re like me and you’re getting a month 500 LOTRO Point stipend due to being a subscriber (lifetime, in my case), you may feel that you accumulated currency has very little value.  And since SSG won’t let you spend it on what you want, it probably feels like it has even less value at the moment.

This isn’t a big deal to me.  I plan to sink some of my LOTRO Points into the expansion when it becomes available in the cash shop, but the likelihood of my ever actually getting into the content is pretty small.  I bought the Mordor expansion the same way and barely got anywhere with that.

But if you are a long term player and subscriber who had earmarked their saved up LOTRO Points for the expansion, I feel you pain.  SSG would like cash please.  It is at moments like this where I wonder how involved with SSG’s operations their “publisher,” Daybreak Games, are.

LOTRO Minas Morgul Expansion Coming October 29, 2019

Minas Morgul will take you on an expedition deep into the Morgul Vale in search of answers to a mystery that spans three thousand years. The words of the shade of Isildur will unearth secrets and visions of the Second Age that have remained untold until now, revealing playable landscape and new adventures from a crucial time in Middle-earth’s history.

-SSG description of the Minas Morgul expansion

I must admit I wasn’t sure where Standing Stone Games would go after the Mordor expansion was announced back in 2017.  That is pretty much the big finish for the story and much of what happens afterwards, in the book at least, is just cleaning up and accounting.

But where there is a will… and a loophole… and a need to keep things going… there is always a way.  And so after the Mordor expansion the game will… stay in Mordor I guess, since that is pretty much where Minas Morgul is right?  I mean, it is on the boarder, was part of Gondor, but fell under the control of Sauron and was inhabited by the Nazgul.

Anyway, it is the Minas Morgul expansion! (With expansion FAQ here)

I do wonder if the fact that the URL for the expansion page resolves to “Minas Ithil” rather than “Minas Morgul” is a spoiler or not.

When you buy the expansion you unlock the following content:

  • Level cap raised from 120 to 130
  • Over 250 New Quests
  • 7 New Instances
  • Updated Crafting Guilds
  • Black Book of Mordor Storyline – clean up post-Sauron
  • New Shelob Raid and more!
  • Stout-axe dwarf race
  • Additional character slot
  • 100% XP Boost Scrolls (1hr) x5
  • Reputation Supply Boost x5

That is what you get with the Standard Edition of the expansion, available for $40.

There are, of course, upscale options.

The Collector’s Edition, which runs $80, adds in the following in addition:

  • A Character Level Boost to 120
  • Cosmetics of the Great Alliance – Exclusive armour and cloak
  • Shepherd dog pet
  • Mount of the Great Alliance
  • Two Exclusive Titles – “Hero, Past and Present” and “Heroine, Past and Present”
  • 10 Scrolls of Empowerment

And the Ultimate Fan Bundle, which checks in at $130, add the following on top of the Collector’s Edition:

  • Cosmetics of the Dead City – Exclusive armor and cloak
  • Harnessed shepherd dog pet
  • Mount of the Dead City
  • Cosmetic Weapon Aura – Aura of the Dead City
  • Additional Exclusive Title – “Ablâkhul”
  • Equippable XP Accelerator for all characters
  • Exclusive Housing Teleport for all characters
  • Three Relics for all characters
  • 5000 Virtue XP
  • 10 additional Scrolls of Empowerment

I am glad to see that Standing Stone Games is expanding the world of Middle-earth and that they have the wherewithal and rights to continue to do so.  The new race, the Stout-axe dwarves, strikes me as a bit of padding.  Did the game need more dwarves?  I guess we could have asked the same thing when the added in the High Elves as well.  But otherwise it seems like a solid chunk of content for the money… at least at the Standard Edition level.

There is a trailer for the expansion.

 

The trailer gives such a brief glimpse of thing of things that I would call it more of a teaser.  The graphics they show look good, at least in the scope of LOTRO graphical fidelity, and the peek at what I assume is Shelob in her lair at the end was neat.  But nobody is going to drop something like Black Desert Online for this due to graphics quality.  Turbine’s awkward look is still present.  It isn’t a problem for Middle-earth enthusiasts like myself, but it does make the game feel a bit dated.

As noted in the headline, the target date for the expansion is just about a month out, October 29, 2019. [Edit: Well, they missed that date, but November for sure!]

I couldn’t tell you if Minas Morgul is in my future.  I have a lifetime subscription to LOTRO, own all the expansions up through Mordor, and was playing earlier this year.  On the other hand, nothing past Mines of Moria has thrilled me, coming back to a game so many expansions deep is always such a chore, the awkward legendary weapon system is repellent to me, and in the autumnal nostalgia season this easily ranks well behind WoW Classic and potentially EverQuest II.  But it will be there if I want to give it a try.