So, the NDA has been lifted but the closed beta is ongoing. I’m just going to write a brief post about this and point to some linked further information.
So let’s start with the positives. The landscape is stunning as usual, Aldburg was a particular highlight for me and there is varied, gorgeous terrain across the whole region. The tombs are very well done, Edoras has a very horsey feel to it and Meduseld is beautiful with some amazing tapestries. I recommend keeping an eye out for the little details – the whole area is very well realised with themed but varying styles across Rohan. The screenshots I saw prior to beta did not do justice to Helm’s Deep. Although the stonework and colour is not quite how I imagined it, I had always imagined the fortress as being rather dark and grim, rather than how it was portrayed in the movie version. The walls are very high and the fortress is a maze with a stunning interior. The layout seems dead on though. The epic quests are very well done also.
So on to the other features…. Class changes and Epic Battles. I recommend reading the player-created guides to the changes. I can only speak for the lore-master but given that these trees are going to go live and the old system is going, I kinda like them. There is some loss of flexibility, however you do have basic heals, cc, power share and debuffs across all three builds. The blue line is now a viable solo and single target dps build, with added pet-dependant group bonuses (such as bear: – inc dmg, lynx (I think that’s the right pet): +inc tact dmg) and Sic ’em is a lot of fun. I still hate the name though. I’ve heard its also a good line for moors but I don’t pvp so… The red line is pure aoe damage with some new skills and effects added. The yellow line is the more traditional support line combining cc, power share, heals and debuffs. There have been some interesting effects added to debuffs (e.g. gust of wind spreading debuffs, types of damage adding a different debuff). There are a couple of things I don’t like at the moment but as beta is still ongoing and changes are still being made I don’t want to discuss that here.
and… Epic Battles… these are quite a strange beast in many ways. It is not what I would consider end-game content but it does fit the nature of the expansion. I do have some doubts about the direction end-game is taking in Lotro but I’m not sure if I’m just too old school or too jaded to currently form an objective opinion (and that’s MMOs in general, not just Lotro). OK so good points about the battles is that I do find them fun, they are atmospheric and they have a chaotic, overwhelming feel to them which feels appropriate to the story. Being able to include varying levels is also a big plus for our kin, although lower levels will want to stay away from the actual fighting. Points to note: you play your role (officer, engineer, vanguard) more than your class really, you feel quite useless until you have built up some points into the respective trees (officer and engineer are particularly interesting to me), I would recommend duoing them at first rather than soloing.
*edit* I knew there were more links… Lotro Players #Helm’s Deep – lots of videos re: class changes, epic battles, landscape areas 🙂
So yes, I have pre-ordered, I might have waited and bought with TP had I enough but I don’t so… 🙂 I’ve pre-ordered because I know my friends and my kin will be playing and because I will enjoy playing this expansion at least for a time, although I am expecting to go back to having a MMO holiday come spring (especially if the Elder Scrolls Online is released :P)