We finally have an official realease date for Book 10: “The City of the Kings” – August 20th! Book 10 will be the second major content “expansion” or update to Lord of the Rings Online; the first expansion being “Shores of Evendim”. As a member of the LOTRO Vault staff I was asked to write a review on the positives and negatives of Book 9. Given that I was already working on a little piece to post here on our blog I decided to join the two entries. The result, I hope, is a decent read that will provide my readers a true opinion from someone who has actually experienced the content. I have not written something based on second hand information nor have I fudged anything along the way.
Along with this review of Book 9 I will be writing a preview for Book 10 detailing my expectations and thoughts on what has already been revealed to us through patch notes and other official sources. You can expect the Book 10 post tomorrow afternoon. I hope you enjoy this review and walk away with information that you can use to benefit your LOTRO gaming experience. Enjoy!
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It has been nearly two months since the release of Book 9: “Shores of Evendim” for Lord of the Rings Online. For those who do not play LOTRO or know much about the patching process, Turbine delivers a content update in the form of a “Book” every two months. Similar to other MMORPG’s these major patches contain large amounts of content for players to absorb. The Shores of Evendim, being the first content update for LOTRO, was highly anticipated by the community for a majority of reasons. From a lack of content in the mid levels and the need for end-game to a revamped music system, LOTRO’s first update brought a lot worth talking about. With Book 10 coming in under a week let’s look back on the Shores of Evendim.
The region of Evendim is located roughly about 100 miles north of the Shire. For players what does this mean? Simply put Evendim is located no more than a quick jog north of the town of Scary in the Shire. Players are also given the option to enter Evendim through the North Downs but from an experienced player’s opinion this is not the prime location to enter this region for the first time. Boasting over 100 new quests in the Evendim area players may wonder where to begin tackling this content and when exactly it would be worth the trip. Having levels two characters through the entirety of Evendim the adventure absolutely must start in the small Shire-like town of Oatbarton around level 28-30. From there, working your way north, your hand will be held as you are funneled from one quest location to the next easily giving you something to do until level 38. The quests themselves are actually quite well done. At first it appears to be nothing more than the usual kill quest or “fed-ex” but as you advance through the region the story unfolds and you gain a sense of purpose. If I can offer one piece of advice to any player in Evendim it would be to finish all the quests and bring a friend or two. Some quests will seem tedious and not worth your time at first but these are the ones that pay out in the end. Others say they are solo friendly but having a partner makes things not only more fun but less taxing on your time. Eventually as you progress through the region you will be sent to explore the Tomb of Elendil, where everything you’ve done comes to a head. Evendim itself is a beautiful zone with scenery like you’ve never before seen in a MMORPG; at least you’ll have something to look at while questing.
Before Book 9 the music system in LOTRO was phenomenal. Players could, through the use of keystrokes, create many of their favorite songs. But we all know that fixing something that isn’t broken always leads to something better, right? Well perhaps not always but this time it did. The new music system allows players to now play automatically their favorite songs or ones they have created on their own from ABC notation and still enjoy the system as it was if that is how they prefer it. Many new instruments were introduced to the game and the graphics for many of them completely redone. If sitting back in the Prancing Pony strumming your harp to the tune of “Always look on the Bright side of Life” is your idea of a great time then look no further.
Perhaps one of the more controversial aspects to LOTRO is the end-game. Up until Evendim players never had the opportunity to raid; the only form of end-game gameplay was 6 man groups doing instances such as Carn Dum, Urugarth, and Barad Galaran. Turbine had been saying for some time that a solution to the desire for raiders was on the way. Did they deliver? Many other MMORPG’s make the end-game raiding experience a boring and tedious multi-hour gear grind. However, in the form of Helegrod Turbine has delivered a unique and fresh experience for the self proclaimed hardcore gamer. Speaking from personal experience in Helegrod it is a very enjoyable and “acceptably” hard instance with intuitive and creative boss encounters. With only three minor bosses and one incredibly well designed encounter to defeat the final boss this raid need only take a total of 3 hours if done in one sitting. Suprisingly enough you do not absolutely need all 24 slots in the raid filled to complete much of this raid. On a regular basis the raids that I participate in have only had 18 players and we can have a great time clearing the three out of four bosses.
Boss kills aren’t the only enticing reason to venture into this snowy hell. From level 45+ many quests are revealed in the Misty Mountains and Rivendell area which send you back to many familiar faces in your LOTRO life. Remember Atli Spider-bane from Archet and Frederick the Elder from Lone-Lands? Turbine did a great job bringing the entire game into one fantastic circle of worthy quests. Completing each of the quests in Helegrod can not only earn you a great piece of gear but a title worth showing off to your friends. In all, this raid is worth doing and it can be done by the average guild.
With the addition of Helegrod Turbine has given players the opportunity to collect class specific sets of armor. Currently dropping randomly from any boss in the instance these sets of armor look fantastic. Currently the gloves and boots for each class are very common and within a few trips nearly all members of your raid should have these two pieces. There are however a few downsides to the armor sets and the instance in general. The loot simply isn’t that much better than what can be found outside in the 6 man groups and high-end group quests. If you spend the time and effort to gather 24 players to complete this challenging raid you might walk away a little let down that you don’t have more to show for it. This may not please those who can do Helegrod but it certainly makes a great majority of players happy to know that they won’t miss out on much more than a good time.
Let’s talk about the actual “Book” series that the Shores of Evendim introduced. Seperate from the original Books of 1-8 and as a much needed change of pace this entire Book can be done solo. I won’t spoil it for you but if you’re paying attention to the various stories and dungeons throughout the game prepare to be shocked. Yielding fantastic loot, story, and fun this is definitely the direction Turbine needs to take their greatest questing masterpieces in the future. If Book 10 is anything like this one then it will definitely be worth sticking around to see how the story unfolds.
Book 9: The Shores of Evendim may have been the first content update for LOTRO but it definitely has set a precedence for the future content updates this game will receive. Turbine will hopefully stick with this success and make it a regular part of their patching process to sustain this quality of content.. With an eye for detail and the necessary attention to the players’ needs Lord of the Rings Online has a great future ahead and players will find their time is well spent. I don’t know about any of you, but I’m ready for Book 10!