So what does this game update mean for you? That's a good question, and it really depends on where you are in your leveling journey. New players won't be fazed by it whatsoever, but both mid-game and endgame adventurers are going to have some new (and reworked) content to devour. I am heartened that Turbine doesn't have tunnel-vision for the endgame and is still willing to go back and examine what does and doesn't work about its earlier content.
So let's walk through the major highlights of Update 7: Shades of the Past and give it the ol' Road to Mordor analysis, shall we?
Endgame players who are tired of Limlight Gorge dailies at this point have a new shiny distraction: Storm on Methedras. This actually opens up at level 20, although I imagine that it's the endgamers who will be most appreciative of its inclusion. Actually, I bet many old-timers who are running up alts through the levels will most certainly be glad for a third skirmish at level 20. Skirmishes all around!
By all accounts, it's a snappy, 15-minute run that keeps the action going. Since it'll be free for VIPs, only F2P customers will need to weigh whether or not it'll be worth the purchase.
In my book, new skirmishes are always welcome; I've come to quite enjoy running them in groups (but definitely not solo). It's not going to have me spinning in a chair yelling "WHEE!" or anything, but I'm not going to buck it, either.
This is where my opinion of Update 7 went from "meh" to "oh yeahhh... that could be rocking!" Moria gets a lot of mixed reviews from players, including me, who want to love the setting but find that the extended stay underground, mob density, and gloomy vistas combine to create annoyance instead of joy. It definitely needed a revamp, and if I were in charge, these are the exact changes I'd suggest.
Although this is just the first half of the overall update (Moria is, after all, a huge place), it's going to be very welcome by those going through it for a second (or seventh) time. The devs are rejiggering the quest flow, adding better lighting, and making travel much easier. It's all small, quality-of-life stuff, but it's sorely needed.
If nothing else, I definitely applaud the addition of a reputation-free purchasable goat from the get-go. It was kind of stupid for players to earn a goat right when they were ready to leave the one place in the game where goats are needed for travel. Here's to hoofing it underground without getting knocked off so frequently!
I've never run Fornost, nor did I have any interest in doing so, but if it's joining the more modern instances with faster run times, I may have to check it out. It's not a huge selling point for me with the update, but as with the skirmish, I'm not going to complain because it gives players four scalable instances instead of one giant, ignored relic of the past.
Oh, you just knew this was coming, right? I mean, it can't be an update without Turbine's adding something to clench our butts with controversy, so Star-lit Crystals get the honors this time around.
I imagine that my reaction upon hearing about this additional layer of legendary item customization was similar to some others out there: "Why do we need this? At all?" Or as one player put it, "Are you guys seriously sitting around thinking that the LI system wasn't already grindy enough?"
It wasn't helped by the fact that these crystals were shrouded in vagueness and a lack of initial communication by the devs. By the time that Sapience showed up to add some info, the public opinion against the system was in full swing.
From what I can tell, Star-lit Crystals are rare items that drop from bosses (and sometimes lieutenants) in instances. They can be used to slot a new section of the LI interface that goes from zero to three stars. The more crystals are slotted, the more an item's base damage and ratings are increased. I've seen some preliminary stats that players have posted, and it looks as though Third Age LIs get a larger benefit from these crystals than First Agers (perhaps to narrow the gap?).
I'm not 100% sure what the end result of this change will be, and I'm 0% sure why Turbine felt it necessary to complicate an already complicated system. I'm at the point that I firmly believe that the LI system needs to be scrapped and redone from the ground-up. Who's with me?
Oh, and if you're curious: The crystals will be sold via the LotRO Store at some point. Because money.
New inventory bag (eventually)
I saved this for last because I didn't want to end this column on a bitter note: Update 7's bringing us a sixth inventory bag! Well, not really, but the promise of one! Isn't that great!
So apparently the team has figured out a way to finally, finally expand our standard inventory space (which has been set in stone since launch) by adding a sixth bag. While we won't be seeing it until a later point, Update 7 will change the UI to reflect the additional bag slot. Turbine has told us that the bag will be part of the Riders of Rohan pre-order.
This definitely is great news because inventory is always at a premium in LotRO. My level 74 Captain runs with 2.5 bags constantly full even if I've just sold all my junk and deconstructed junk LIs, and I don't anticipate it getting better from here. Even if it's just the hint of the change, I'll take it gladly.
So that's it: a skirmish, an instance revamp, an area revamp, a new grind, and a phantom bag. What do you think of all this?
When not enjoying second breakfast and a pint of ale, Justin "Syp" Olivetti jaws about hobbits in his Lord of the Rings Online column, The Road to Mordor. You can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.