Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Dungeon: the Gimmick

Now that we're finally ready to start drawing the dungeon, it's time for a last essential part: the gimmick.


A gimmick is something that defines your dungeon. It's a mechanic that caters to the player and usually sets your dungeon apart from the others.
It can be as simple as 'straightforward monster-killing'  to a more complex puzzle or trap.
Your gimmick can tie into your goal and theme and it helps if you think about the aspects of them, but it doesn't need to. Sometimes, the gimmick is the goal.

As my own dungeon is made of glass and it's the ruins of an ancient settlement, you can see the clear route of having a puzzle using the intrinsic qualities of glass. Glass can be seen through, but it also reflects. This means it'll probably have some reflection puzzles but why stop there? What if the whole dungeon was reflected and you could switch to the mirror version?


As you can see from my example dungeon, the gimmick sometimes already shapes the dungeon, as the mirroring means that my dungeon will be largely symmetric.

Multiple gimmicks are possible as well. You might want to ride steaming jets with a mine cart in a volcanic area for example.

Examples of gimmicks:

 -plain hack 'n slashing
 -the dungeon is the boss
 -mine-cart riding
 -weakening boss by using items
 -reflection
 -diving
 -big moving puzzle dungeon
 -several traps
 -plenty more


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Wíli: A great mystery

If you go into Moria, you are sure to meet this dwarf. A lot of dwarfs seem similar, but this one usually catches people's attention. Who is he? Where did he come from? Where will he eat? An analysis on an extraordinary dorf.

Wíli in all his glory

Mystery 1: It takes 2
First thing to note: there're 2 Wíli's! That's right. Another dorf of the same name walks the halls of Moria. He is the stable master in Thorin's Gate and looks quite alike.

Wíli 2
He seems a bit skinnier, but the most important thing to note is that he has the same style of beard! Do they go to the same beard-dresser? Is it fashionable to wear your beard like that? Indeed the mystery deepens.
He also features in the dwarf prologue.
Here's Wíli 2's dialogue for the Prologue: Wisdom of the Trushes:

Wíli: 'Well met, <name>. If ever you need to travel at speed you should come to visit me or whomever the closest stable master happens to be.'So Dwalin sent you to me to purchase passage to Noglond did he? Well it's a good thing he did considering how far away Noglond is.'Simply speak with me about renting a horse and you'll be able to purchase safe passage at speed on one of my finest mounts.'When you get there be sure to look for Rothgar, I expect he'll have some taks for you.'

Apparently, he heard about Rothgar having some dirty chores and considers you for doing them!

Mystery 2: Spelling problems

Anyway back to Wíli. Another weird thing is the name. What's up with the apostrophe?

According to wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C3%8D

Í, í (i-acute) is a letter in the Faroese, Hungarian, Icelandic, Czech, Slovak, and Tatar languages, where it often indicates a long /i/ vowel. This letter also appears in Catalan, Irish, Occitan, Portuguese, Spanish, Galician, Leonese, Navajo, and Vietnamese language as a variant of the letter “i”.

Wait, so what nationality is he again?



Mystery 3: Voices
We come to another great mystery with his voice. What's with his accent? As one GLFF'er was so kind to note (slightly edited):
"It seems like a kid won a contest or something."
The best way to check on this is by entering the Defence of the 21st skirmish. Just listen to how he says "Baruk kazad"! Some people cringe every time they hear him speak.


So who's Wíli?

Excerpt from Lotro-Wiki:
Wíli is a dwarf working in Moria. Together with Stilling he aids Bori with his plan to drive out the White Hand from Moria. He also leads the Battle of the Twenty-first Hall.

Wíli appears in quests in Vol II.

2.3.6: 
Wíli: 'I will follow my lord Bósi's son into battle, and gladly! The White Hand's time in Moria will soon be at an end!'

Wíli is one of the few dwarfs who agree to take part in Bori's plan. He seems to be quite eager to go into battle. Maybe a bit too eager. What is the reason of this zealotry?

2.5.5: 'The Twenty-first Hall must not fall to Mazog!'

'We owe you more gratitude that can be expressed in words or salutations. The Twenty-first Hall still stands, and my folk remain upright to cleanse the filth that infested these slumbering halls!'What a day this has been! From retreat and dishonour springs glory and triumph! Let Mazog cower before the Dwarves of Khazad Dûm!'

Nothing out of the ordinary here, it seems. Wíli features in command here though. Being part of the raid on Ashpar seems to have been fruitful for him.


2.Epilogue: Zigilburk Returned:

Wíli features minorly in this instance, where he and Stilling reminiscence about their successful assault back in 2.3.6.

Of note is: "We performed enough great feats that day to keep a dozen bards busy for a fortnight, didn't we, Wíli?"

Apparently they fought quite the bit. Wíli must be a great warrior.



Conclusion

There's still a lot not known to us about Wíli, but despite his funny voice, he must be a great warrior who deserves our respect.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Interlude: 10 things to do Before entering the Gates of Moria

I decided to write this little article as I've come to a natural point in my reviews for it.
After finally reaching the level for Moria, you'll want to make sure you prepared well, so you don't run into nasty surprises once inside.



1) At level 45, get your legendary items
Finish the first book of the 2nd volume at level 45. This will get you a legendary weapon and a legendary class item. Both will probably be ridiculously more powerful than your current equipment, especially once leveled.

2) Grind out rep in Sarnur.
Time to return to Ered Luin to grind out Thorin's Hall rep for the goat. I don't care that you get one from the quests in Moria. You'll want a goat that can stand a few hits. (Especially if you're like me and like to rush out towards stable routes for efficient travel.

3) Get to level 50
That's right, get to the minimum level of Moria beforehand. You'll thank me.

4) Finish the first volume
Finishing up the first volume should get you at least more than another level. Aside from that, there's good loot and a nice painting for your house.

5) Quest a bit more. I try to get to 53. Some people go higher, some lower. 53 is a nice level for moria, keeping the quests slightly below your level at the start.

6) Grind those deeds. If you're still running around with rank 2 virtues, stop. Get them to about min. r4, maybe higher. Zeal can be lower, because it's hard to get.

7) Craft: Well, only if you're into that. But while you're travelling all over, you might as well gather resources and craft a bit.

8) Clean your inventory and bank. Get rid of anything not worth stuff. This can be difficult, but with all the li's and other items you're gonna find, you can use the space. Also, the bank is in the 21st hall which you might not reach fast. (Though you can reach it without any mobs to speak of.)

9) Do anything else you feel like doing.

10) Get your bearings. Some people don't like it, some do. With good preparation, you're less likely to hate it. It's not that bad as some people make out. I thought it was awesome and wouldn't hesitate to play another character through it.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Quest Pack Review: Eregion

The door to Moria is near. Don't go in yet, because it's time for the last bits of light before the darkness.




Most people will come to Eregion at level 45 to get their Legendary Items. This means you can already access Moria. Hold on though, because first we can quest in Eregion. This zone officially starts at 45, but you'll want to wait until about level 47-48 before actually questing here.

Quests here flow from quest hub to quest hub, so no complaining here. There're quite a lot of quests and doing them should get you a few levels above 50. Most quests here involve thwarting the orcs and their brood-lizards and driving them from the elven ruins.








The spies of the enemy are many and a lot of animals serve the dark lord. While there's always the more boring stories around, you do get to see some things that happened after the fellowship passed. The Caradhras is still angry and filled with snow and Bill the Pony is out there.





Scenery here is peaceful yet with a strong nature and the melancholy of the elves is everywhere. Their ruins dot the landscape and their dried-up canal splits the land in the south. For some people this is the last light they see before they go into Moria (though I wouldn't recommend it yet). Enjoy it while it lasts.

There's 2 instances here and both are still being run. (I've even had luck using instance finder) Both are 3-man instances.

Library at Tham Mirdain
and

School at Tham Mirdain
I'm putting both of these together as they're quite short and quite similar. You'll head into the ruins of the building, kill the mobs, find some artifacts and kill the bosses.

School is an open atrium where you go in, kill the mobs along the walk ways, kill the mobs in the centre, then head up the stairs and kill more mobs and a boss.  Bosses are tank-and-spank mostly.


Lib is again 2 floors featuring trash on the 1st and mini-bosses on the 2nd. The bosses are mostly tank-and-spank.


Price/Value: 3.5/5 (This pack is highly optional, though it gets you an easy headstart for questing in Moria. The 2 instances are still run.)
Storyline: 3/5 (Quite average on story. Some stuff relating to the books.)
Quest Progression: 4.5/5 (Can't complain about this. You won't have trouble finding quests here.)
Atmosphere: 3.5/5 (As with all regions, there's some boring zones and some interesting ones.)

Overall: 14.5/20
The price is a tiny bit higher, but with decent content that gets you well into Moria and 2 instances that are still being run and drop decent levelled loot, this pack isn't a must-buy, but it's nice to have.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Quest Pack Review: Angmar



North from the North Downs, you suddenly find yourself in a bleak arid land. Dread fills you as you realize where you are. The land of Angmar, home of the Witch-King.



There're 3 ways into Angmar. I recommend taking the middle one, which is monster-free and takes you to the first outpost. The earthkin village quests immediately show what makes Angmar different. The quests are harsh at times and a fellow is always welcome and sometimes even needed. Angmar probably features the most fellowship quests in the game. The mob density in some regions is also greater, meaning you'll take a lot more unwanted aggro.







Death beyond this point
You'll want to do the first part of Angmar after doing Evendim as the armor set from passing the rites is decent for most players at this point. Quests in this first part are perfectly doable and I'd recommend doing every solo quest and trying most of the fellowship quests before taking a break from Angmar.

The reason for this is the Watching Stones. This line of statues will kill everyone who isn't past Vol. 1 Book 6 in the Epic Story. I've usually found myself slightly under lvl for that part on most of my times through so I left Angmar for another zone to come back later.




The storyline in Angmar mainly focuses on the hillmen tribes in the first part. A new force seats in Carn Dûm and not every tribe wants to swear allegiance. As you progress further, you'll be helping the rangers who travelled deep within Angmar to stop this new steward of Angmar and the legions of orcs, ready to assault the lands of the free peoples. This is one of the few packs that feels truly epic at moments, where you feel like you are truly battling the forces of evil to defend all that is good and right in this world.




Quest progression is nicely packed into hubs though sometimes you'll have trouble getting further if you can't get a fellow to help out now and then. Some quests also require you to head deep into mob-infested fortresses and can be difficult. In the end, progression is decent though and there's enough content to get quite a few levels.

Atmosphere is depressing, which is to be expected from a barren land as this and sometimes it even feels post-apocalyptic. (Considering some of the monsters, I'd believe it.) The looming fortresses around and the truly messed up sky really oppress you more and the various dread effects all around finish things off. This is a land of despair and Turbine managed to capture that very well. (According to some, too well. Another reason to break things up with another pack.)

Angmar also features a lot of instances. I won't go into much detail about them for spoilers and article length.


Carn Dûm


Dun dun dun
This fortress of the witchking is one of the 2 instances you'll want to run for the class items dropped by the bosses inside. Due to various keys that drop, it's possible to skip certain parts the 2nd time around, but most groups do it completely to give every class a shot at their quest items. This instance features several bosses, some of which are unique battles and others who have tricks up their sleeves. This instance can take a long time to complete so don't be surprised to have members drop halfway through. The instance is still run because everyone needs their items.


Urugarth


Second of the instances that drop the class quest items, this fortress is the breeding ground of the dark armies. Again quite a lot of bosses that sometimes require interesting tactics. This instance is slightly shorter than Carn Dûm . This one is also run now and then for the class items.

Barad Gúlaran


A shorter instance, though a full clear still takes less than 2 hours without wipes. Again boss battles are interesting. Note that 2 of the bosses drop items that help in defeating the other bosses in the instance, so be sure you know who has them and examine them thoroughly. This instance doesn't drop class items and thus isn't usually run in public.

the Rift of Nûrz Ghâshu

I've never ran this raid before, but only saw footage and went inside briefly to take a look. Presumably one of the best (the best according to some) instances in the game. It just isn't run anymore due to the low reward/time ratio, which is sad because most people'd probably like to run it. I've heard it has some of the most difficult battles in the game, the location is spectacular and the bosses featured are highly interesting.


Price/Value: 4/5 (More expensive than other packs, but the amount of content is big and the instances are some of the best in the game.)
Storyline: 4/5 (War is brewing and you get to battle the forces of evil on their own ground. Epic with moments.)
Quest Progression: 3/5 (Quest progression can be difficult because of the Watching Stones, but once unhindered flows decently.)
Atmosphere: 4/5 (The grey plains don't seem that interesting, but the fortresses and evil aura are awesome.)

Overall: 15/20
Despite the high price, this pack is huge, featuring 3 fellowship instances and a raid, loads of quests and great atmosphere. This is another pack I'd recommend.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Quest Pack Review: Misty Mountains


We're getting closer and closer to Moria and we get to see mountains this time. Mountains, Gandalf!



Beyond Rivendell, you'll enter this mountainous area. Goblins have swarmed the place and have made their camps throughout. Giants have their own playground here and in an ancient dwarven ruin, you'll encounter an undead [I won't tell you]. Oh and guess what! The Dourhands are back.

As you enter, immediately make a turn left and towards Balin's camp. These first quests are 40-43 and are mostly slaying and collecting quests.There're about 3 fellowship quests here that take you into the giant zone. Giants are strong and like to throw you to other giants, so make sure to bring a fellow.

Quests here flow from 40 to 50, but has few actual quests at some levels (example: 44). Other times, you'll be stuck with only fellowship quests. This means it's hard to level depending on this zone, so you should see it more as bonus content you could run.

The story lines involve the general killing and collecting quests, though there's quite a few quests that are slightly different.
Placing warning signs and searching for a treasure to relief a dwarf guardian's duty is nice to do.
As you progress, quests will take you to Goblin-Town.



Goblin-Town


Goblin Town is a public instance like there are in other quest packs, but this one deserves special mention because of all the lore. Collect Bilbo's Buttons, help the captives in the slave-pens and find special locations such as the Goblin-King's Throne Room and  Gollum's Cave! Quests here are usually fellowship quests so bring a friend along. The area is packed with mobs and some of them are running around, so get used to fighting 3-4 mobs at once. There's also an instance here:

Goblin Town: Throne Room


First thing you should do before starting this one is get the quests for it. No auto-granted quests here yet. This instance's goal is mostly: kill stuff and complete the quests. Nothing else to it except killing the bosses for some loot. Boss tactics are mostly tank and spank, so don't expect any special stuff.
One thing to note is the scene that ensues if you leave the emissary alive for a while. Watch it.

Helegrod


This and Goblin-Town are the main reasons you'd get this Quest Pack. Helegrod is a 24-man instance cluster, featuring a certain undead foe from the Epic Story and a certain well-known entity of ancient times (not really though). It consists of 3 wing instances that, once completed, grant access to a final wing.
This is one of the better instances in the game, so it's sad that, due to the difficulty to get 24 people together, it's rarely run these days. The boss fights are epic and the story is decent enough. Maybe if it'd be scalable, runs would start again.


Price/Value: 2.5/5 (MM is a bit more expensive than other qp's while only really offering 2 incentives.)
Storyline: 3.5/5 (The low level quests aren't interesting imo. In the higher range, there's some gems.)
Quest Progression: 3/5 (There's some tiny points in the range where you'd need to fill a gap.)
Atmosphere: 4/5 (The mountains themselves are sometimes not that interesting (depends on the weather).
The Goblin-Town and Helegrod areas however are nice.)

Overall: 13,5/20
Unless you're filling out gaps, I wouldn't recommend getting this pack. The level range is annoying to quest through and the quests aren't all that unique in the end. The atmosphere is free anyway.
Get it after making a path to level cap.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Quest Pack Review: The Trollshaws


There's multiple quest packs in the level 30-50 range and you'll want at least 3 of them to make it. Trollshaws is one of them. It's name isn't for show though, because there's trolls out there!


East of the Lonelands, over the last bridge, you'll come to the Trollshaws. This rocky forested region is home to what its name implies: Trolls. Luckily for you, they turn to stone in daylight, so consider questing at day when you first enter (or when you make a run for Rivendell).

The biggest flaw of the Trollshaws is its level range, as the quests start at 33 (which is just after the Lonelands range), heads up to about lvl 36 and then makes a jump for lvl 40-45.


No chance at waterhorses here.

This means you'll need to bridge that gap somehow. Most of the storylines aren't all that interesting though there're highlights in the White Hart questline (where you'll meet a familiar face), Bilbo's riddlequests in Rivendell and one quest where the story of the Hobbit is involved. One questline in Rivendell is part of the Evendim Questpack and others are part of the Misty Mountains Questpack.




Getting here is what it's about

Atmosphere is the true strength of the Trollshaws. Sights are amazing at times, the Last Homely Home is one of the highlights on the journey east and one could stroll for hours among the ridges of the shaws.
The soundtrack (outside of Rivendell) is one of my favorites and really captures the beauty of nature well.



Price/Value: 2,5/5 (I wouldn't recommend getting the Trollshaws. There are better packs out there that run more smoothly.)
Storyline: 3.5/5 (The low level quests aren't interesting imo. In the higher range, there's some gems.)
Quest Progression: 2/5 (The quest range has a glaring gap in it.)
Atmosphere: 4.5/5 (I really like the music here and the landscape looks dreamy. Rivendell is a nice place to hang out as well.)

Overall: 12,5/20
Unless you're filling out gaps, I wouldn't recommend getting this pack. The level range is annoying to quest through and the quests aren't all that unique in the end. The atmosphere is free anyway.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Quest Pack Review: Forochel



For levels 40-50, you'll want more than one quest pack because neither of them covers the range completely. If you like to solo, Forochel is one to get. Frozen wastes and tundra will make you feel alone as you never have before.


The icy zone of Forochel is the home of the Lossoth, the snowmen (Not that kind). They have survived in these cold wastes and have several camps, which you'll gladly visit for some warmth.
Not a person within miles
Entering from Evendim to the south, you'll get to a small closed off frozen lake and the bitter cold doesn't seem that bad. The Lossoth aren't that keen to strangers, so you'll have to do a bit more to befriend them. (Good thing their rep items drop more than others.) Snowy grims and hungry wolves make the place unsafe so there are a lot of opportunities to prove your strength to them.

Once you've done the initial part, it's through a frozen cliff and a windy cave into the real tundra. Players new to this zone will soon find their defenses weakened by the cold and would do best to find the first Lossoth camp and a warm camp-fire. It marks a special feature of Forochel where you'll want to keep close to a fire (or bring a friendly hunter!) to get rid of that debuff.

You'll also get to start on a quest to help out a scattered Fellowship, where each character will grant you some special items that grant you a use of a special class power. For example a trap from the Hunter and a summoning horn from the cappy. All of them get into some funny situations and you get to help them out. (No spoilers tho.)

Another thing you have to take care of here is the water (that which isn't frozen). One step into it usually teaches you to think twice before being tempted again to go on a swim.

Further on, this zone features a dwarf outpost that'll get you some more Thorin's Hall rep and an additional method of farming it. (In the cave where you go get the tome for the epic story.)

The last thing I'll mention is the camp method that is the same as in Annuminas. Only here, instead of a bonus to rep gained, a freed camp will spawn Lossoth that give repeatable quests for a nice chunk of additional rep. Note that even at a high level, this will be tough as the respawn rate of the mobs is ridiculously high and you need to clear them all to take over a camp.
Some small additions to the atmosphere that deserve mentioning are the mammoths, northern lights and what is affectionately known as Forochel pea-soup (the thick fog and storms that make your vision close to nil).

There is no instance here (except the in their absence one that's with Enedwaith) so there's not much grouping time here, but there's a good chunk of xp that's nice to have in what is considered by some to be a tad difficult for leveling. Combined with another quest pack and maybe Eregion, you'll get an experience that's as smooth as possible.

Price/Value: 3.5/5 (There are multiple choices at this point and Forochel certainly ain't the worst of them.)
Storyline: 4/5 (I'll never forget some of the quests here. Helping a man steal a wife never bores.)
Quest Progression: 4.5/5 (Quests here have a nice flow to them. Together with another pack for the early levels, you can easily get to 50.)
Atmosphere: 3.5/5 (Getting lost in an icestorm is always interesting and the barren frost desert has its charm. Also, mammoths!)

Overall: 15.5/20
If you're a solo player, I'd recommend getting this pack. Though it's somewhat out of the way compared to the rest, it has some unique features that add some spice to this otherwise somewhat dull looking zone.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Quest Pack Review: Evendim



Evendim is the lake to the north of the Shire and is covered in half-sunken ruins of the kingdom of Arnor. Time for some treasure-hunting!



The most dominating feature of Evendim is the lake of the same name. A big mass of water, which used to give this zone the mocking name of Everswim. The devs revamped the zone in U2 (not the band) and made it into what is currently one of the best buys in game.

Entering from the south in Oatbarton, you'll find yourself in a region that looks exactly like the Shire, you'll soon find though that quest progression is quite linear and that the goals are quite different from usual though. Putting on streetlights, tasting tobacco, carrying buckets of mud. These are all things that break the usual fedex quests and you'll find them a nice change of pace after the more difficult GA quests.


Yes you can get on top of that
Northwards, you'll get into bandit territory, for they have taken over a hobbit village for their own and it's your task to get them out with official papers. Next is a white beach along the river Brandywine and then there's ruins. Getting rid of the tomb robbers is quite a task, but they're not the worst around. There are unique quests now and then (climbing on the colossus for instance) that break the usual pace and give some commemorate moments.

Once you're past the quests all around the lake where you'll be fighting tomb-robbers,  gauradan, evil plants (you'll even meet some entish figures!) and other creatures, you'll get to enter the grand city of Annuminas. This half-sunken city is the battleground between the wardens and the angmarim invaders, giving us a unique system of camps to take over and a portable quest dude. (Meaning you'll get an npc with you that gives quests at certain points in the city.)

The angmarim are all but driven out completely though, for apart from the epic story that visits here later on, there's also the Annuminas instance cluster.

A special mention goes to the reforging the sword questline that can be started in Rivendell, the Trollshaws, but is actually a part of Evendim. Don't forget to go pick it up from Aragorn.


Annuminas


The instance cluster of Annuminas features 3 6-man instances. Each scales to cap, just like GB. Glinghant is the most straightforward and the end-boss is mostly a dps-race. Haudh Valandil is a tomb-structure, featuring different rooms that have to be cleared and a duo boss-battle at the end with quite some flames.
Ost Elendil is short, featuring 2 boss-battles that are luckily more than tank and spank, requiring players to be attentive. It's the most difficult of the 3, so come prepared. The instances aren't run that much in public, but they're a nice bonus to have with this pack. Maybe they'll receive some love some day that makes them worth it to be run.


Price/Value: 4/5 (There's no way around it. Evendim is the best zone in its range.)
Storyline: 4.5/5 (Defending ruins may not seem like much, but if you read the quest texts, you'll find some jewels.)
Quest Progression: 5/5 (There's no way you'll ever find gaps in this zone and it's always clear where to go next.)
Atmosphere: 4/5 (The lake is big and offers some nice screenies. The sunken ruins only add to that.)

Overall: 17.5/20
Annuminas is the quintessential quest pack to get. Not only does it's level range adapt nicely to the free content, it features some of the best quests in the game that flow like nothing else. The lake is nice to behold and you'll often find yourself pondering back on the time you spent there. A must-buy.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Quest Pack Review: The North Downs


Now that I'm done with all the free zones, it gets more interesting with the paying zones. I hope this'll help you decide what to spend your hard-earned (or bought) tp on. The North Downs is the fallen kingdom of Arthedain with the old capital Fornost corrupted by the dark forces.



The North Downs is mostly a wide open zone, split in 2 by a mountain range where the rangers have their hidden encampment.
goblin
Entering from the southwest, you'll reach the town of Trestlebridge, which has the Trestlespan, a rather large wooden bridge, as its marking feature. Quests here will lead you to orc camps, either looking for objects or kills. The quests lead on towards a camp near the Fields of Fornost and towards a ruined watchpoint where the rangers have plenty of stuff to do. Then it's on to Esteldin, the main ranger base of operations and north to a dwarf encampment, south to an elven ruin.
After this, quests go to the east, towards an earth-kin village and angmarim outposts. Eventually, solo quests dry up and you get to quest in the big camp of Dol Dinen, be sure to take a friend with you here.

the ranger outpost of Esteldin
The biggest gripe with ND is that most of its level range is already covered by the free Lonelands, thus making this quest pack obsolete. The quests are plenty but usually lack originality. If you liked Breeland, you'll probably like this zone too and it's nice to get a break from the Lonelands after the umpteenth time through.

Get this pack to fill out the blanks in leveling or if you are an altoholic and get tired of running the Lonelands. However, this might get a tiny bit different with the revamping of Fornost.


Fornost


I'm gonna be honest. I've never run Fornost completely. I've been inside at higher level than supposed but that's about it. (Also, no screenies because it's closed currently.) The good news is that it's getting revamped for U7, so maybe I'll get a chance to get into a group. Then I'll rewrite this part and might give a higher score. The biggest annoyance I had with this instance is that the quests for it are spread all over the North Downs, so it's hard to get them.
the Fields of Fornost
(Note: Check the dev diary here: http://www.lotro.com/gameinfo/devdiaries/1990-update-7-developer-diary-fornost)


Price/Value: 2/5 (While this is a big zone, the level span is already covered by the free Lonelands.)
Storyline: 3.5/5 (You're helping the rangers and villagers for the most part.Dwarves and elves are around, but their quests aren't that special either. Fornost looks interesting though, but I've never had a chance to run it myself.)
Quest Progression: 3/5 (Nothing to really comment on.)
Atmosphere: 3.5/5 (The zone is large and you'll feel it in some points.)


Overall: 12/20
There's plenty of things going against the North Downs. Most of its level range is already covered by the free Lonelands and the excellent Evendim, the quests aren't all that interesting and quest progression isn't the best around. Not really a pack you'll remember. If the new Fornost will be run more, the score might gain a point ot 2.



Updated: 12.5/20
Adding Fornost into the mix, I've added a .5 score. The instances, while not run that much are kinda fun (though not the best). Read about it: http://gatetokadath.blogspot.be/2012/07/fornost-changes-review-update.html









Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Quest Pack Reviews: The Lonelands


The Lonelands, dusty road and being overlooked by the Weathertop, used to be a paying zone. A few months after lotro went free to play, so did the Lonelands.



The Lonelands are, in essence, a road from Bree, east to the Trollshaws, called the Great East Road. Don't worry, though, because there's plenty to do on the sides.

You'll first enter the Lonelands by the Forsaken Inn, the last old inn by the wayside. Quests here will take you north to the flanks of the Weathertop, where goblins and orcs have made their camps after the Fellowship passed through.
The road, essence of the Lonelands
After that, you'll go south of the road for some wargs, spiders and goblins. Quests here flow nicely but don't stray far from the usual.
Note that a lot of goblins also give Eglain rep, which most people will want for the return to Ost Guruth skill.
Landscape involves the Weathertop, a hill covered with the remnants of an ancient watchpost and to the south some general ravines with ruins.

Travelling east, you'll pass other ruins and come to Ost Guruth, a ruin inhabited by the Eglain and a more interesting person in the tower. (No spoilers though!) Quests here will take you west and south of it and then also southeast (to a ghostly swamp) and east, into Agamaur.
Agamaur's an entirely different view than the rest of the Lonelands. A bloody red swamp, sprawled with ruins, the dead and corrupted plant-life. I wont spoil the story to why it's so red, because you'll see that in the instances. The landscape portion of Agamaur is solo initially but dabbles into fellowship quests later on, as you go into Garth Agarwen.

Atmosphere in this area is kinda neat, as it's unlike any area you've encountered so far. The evil drips from the trees as you unfold the truth and meet a longtime enemy.


Garth Agarwen


Bloody red pools in Garth Agarwen
At about the end of the Lonelands level-range (about lvl 30), you'll get access to the Garth Agarwen instances. There are 2 3-mans (the Barrows can be hard, even at higher lvls) and 1 6-man instance. The instances have interesting bosses and some minor exploration in them, though the Arboretum has the annoying habit of forcing you to hug the edges to find hidden passageways. Lastly, for those having played the man prologue, you'll find a familiar face wandering among the Barrows.


Price/Value: 5/5 (Free)
Storyline: 3.5/5 (Garth Agarwen has a nice storyline and the traces left on the Weathertop are nice too, but there's also one in a dozen questlines around.)
Quest Progression: 4/5 (Quest progression is as straight as can be, though not the best around.)
The Weathertop
Atmosphere: 4/5 (The Lonelands has a certain Western feel around them that you wont find for a long time and the evil of Garth Agarwen looks awesome.)


Overall: 16,5/20
The last of the free content and about as good as the rest of it. Though the quests aren't all as original as they can be, the instances are awesome and it's sad they're not run as much in public, but rather in kins. Turbine did a good job making this one free so people trying the game out can see more of the game. Note that doing this quest pack completely to the end will get you to about lvl 34, which means you're ready to do Evendim.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Quest Pack Reviews: Breeland


This starting zone for Men and the place where every race gathers. Another free zone that'll take you the rest of the way to lvl 20.


Breeland is a crossroad. North leads to the North Downs, east to the Lonelands and west to the Shire.
(That's why you'll generally want to get the port skill from kindred Men of Bree.)

ruins and forests
Men starting here will find themselves in a familiar surroundings: the town of Archet. You can see Archet as a prelude to what else is before Bree. Towns where men and hobbits and the occasional dwarf live, some grass, a foresty region where bandits roam and some spider nests. Quests in this part before Bree flow nicely and at the end, you'll find yourself in Bree itself.

There're some secrets and lore locations in Bree itself. The Prancing Pony is a must for lore-fans, but there's also other stuff like the cat house. (Note that in U7, more interiors will be made in Bree which means more depth! Bree is the rp center. This means that you'll generally find yourself surrounded by loads of people in costumes riding around their horses (or goats). If you don't lag during prime time, you must have one hell of a rig.
the Prancing Pony!

Around Bree, you have some choice where to go and it may not always seem clear where to next. This bogs down the flow somewhat, but there's enough quests around to make it. Eventually, you'll follow the quests into the old forest and to the barrow-downs. While the old forest isn't for everyone, the quests in the barrow-downs prepare you well for the Great Barrow, the first group instance in the game (3 6-mans).

Quests range from the general fedex (kill and delivery) to more interesting dungeon crawls. The epic story keeps strong and provides some nice (though sometimes a tad difficult for some classes) boss battles.

the Barrow-Downs
Atmosphere is strong, especially in the old forest (where Tom Bombadil lives!) and the barrow-downs. The other parts are varied enough, with some rocky terrain and a swamp with annoying bugs. Bree looks bustling at some times and never really empties. (Make sure you're on a local server though.)

The Great Barrows


Once you get to lvl 20, you get to join the first instance of the Great Barrows: the maze. Try to get into a group for one, because it's invaluable grouping experience and later on, you don't want to ruin it. Once you've done the first 2 instance, you'll complete a key which will allow you to enter the third one.
The great Barrows is still run now and then and if you're in an active kinship, someone will surely guide you around and explain stuff.

Skirmishes


Level 20 also marks access to the first 2 free skirmishes (the others are either bought in the store or unlocked through the epic story in Moria and Mirkwood). Skirmishes are either offensive or defensive and provide decent xp and gold, while also giving access to good barter equipment for the next dozen levels.
They also provide some rep for the Mathom Society (shire) and Thorin's Hall (ered luin).
They can be run solo or with other people and are a nice way to bridge low xp moments.
(Note that these aren't included in the score as they aren't really a part of breeland.)




Price/Value: 5/5 (Yup, free)
Storyline: 3.5/5 (While there's good lines, there's also boring ones)
Quest Progression: 3.5/5 (Quest progression is good but gets in a little dip at Bree where you have to decide between Adso's camp, northern bree, southern bree. There's also some quests no one ever seems to find, like the dwarf east of Hengstacer's.)
Atmosphere: 4/5 (While the fields aren't spectacular, the old forest and barrow-downs are and Bree itself looks decent as well.)


Overall: 16/20
Another free pack and more good content. There are several hotspots every lore-fan should have seen. (I'm looking at you Tom.)  Enough content to easily get you beyond lvl 20 and the first fellowship instances in the Great Barrow.


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Quest Pack Reviews: The Shire


This second pack is, just like the previous and probably the 2 next ones as well, not really a pack you can buy in the store, but rather a region you get for free.


Ah, the Shire. A peaceful country where chubby hobbits fish and bake pies. (And you can too!)

Sometimes you'll find npc's talking. Make sure to  listen to them!
Quests range from mail- and pie-delivery to solving mysteries and solving disputes between hobbits. Those that love some good brawling need not despair though. There are still plenty of wolves, goblins and brigands around. Quest progression seems spread out and not as linear, though most people will do the same pattern at the start.


The rolling hills of the Shire are really awesome. Lots of little details finish it off. One can run around all day discovering the little stories the devs made, ranging from people complaining to others having an adventure. (Preposterous!) Discovering a stone troll in the swamps, hunting ghosts and even dealing with a tenth Nazgûl!
Rolling hills.

Price/Value: 5/5 (Yup, free)
Storyline: 4/5 (There're some really funny story-lines around here)
Quest Progression: 3/5 (The quests send you all around so you go to a lot of places fast)
Atmosphere: 4/5 (The shire looks quaint, picturesque. If you're lucky you'll spot a rainbow!)



Overall: 16/20
Because it's free, there's obviously no choice in getting it. It's nice that this free content is (again) decent though.


Lotro: What quest packs to get

I know I'm doing full reviews of each separate zones, but for those who can't wait, here's the list of zones I recommend getting. Try getting them on sale.
If a zone is 50% off, consider getting it. 75% off (happens rarely) means getting it, even if it isn't one you'd need or want. At these low prices, just doing the deeds in the pack once gets nearly all your tp back.

30-40
1. 595 tp Evendim: One of the best zones and gets you from 30-40 easily. Must-have.


40-50
2. 795 tp Angmar: group content, some good instances

or

2. 595 tp Forochel: solo play

Get either one to lvl but get the other one when you have spare tp or when one's on sale.


(optional) 695 tp Eregion. If you find it on sale or you want to hold off entering Moria, get this one. 


50-60
3. 1495 tp: Moria: Must-have. There's almost no way around it.
   Get the quest-pack if you don't want the classes/character slot. Revamp coming up in U7.

60-65
4. 995 tp Mirkwood

or

4. 695 tp Enedwaith

imo: Mirkwood is slightly nicer to quest in, though Enedwaith isn't bad either. Just get whichever one's on sale first.

65-cap
5. 3250 tp Isengard

I recommend trying to get the expansion just so you don't need to buy the raise skirmish soldier cap and instance pack separately. However, with the RoR expansion this autumn, I might see this becoming skipable. 
Buy it if you're at cap together with the Great River Region.


For those going to spend anyway.
-Do the free zones
-Get Evendim
-Go through Evendim: by now, you should know if you like the game enough to spend
-You can:
  -Go VIP for a month, log into every character to get trait slots, bag,...
  -Buy Mithril Edition: http://mithril.lotro.com/
  -or the Isengard Edition: http://isengard.lotro.com/


(One day, I'm gonna turn this  into a fancy comprehensible picture.)

Friday, May 4, 2012

Pandimus: Blog Contest



I've started a contest on the Pandimus forums. 

Just been a while since the last post and wondering what's up?

CONTEST
-----------

A short time ago, I've started a blog: http://gatetokadath.blogspot.com.
I'm posting about general stuff like dungeon design and other stuff that interests me, including Pandimus.

I'm planning on doing a 'mysteries of Pandimus' blog post and other posts on my blog (might feature players and stuff) to spread the word a bit more.

If any of you got ideas for 'mysteries of Pandimus' and other subjects I could talk about (or if you wanna get featured or something) feel free to tell!

Because people are generally reluctant to post here, I'm offering prizes to the best ideas: (if anyone wants to donate prizes they're welcome)

(Note: Prizes have increased and places 3-5 get rewards as well)

1st: Naga Warrior - Dodge 25, Parry 25, Defense 25
+ 150000 gold (150k)

2nd: White Panther - 20 attack rating, 40 Holy Discipline, 20 power
+ 100000 gold (100k)

3nd: Dinosaur - Attack Rating 20, Armor 50, Provocation 40
+ 50000 gold (50k)

4th: Inferno Staff - Damage 140.4-171.6, Defiance 44.5, Attack Rating 22.3, Fire Dominance 22.3
+ 20000 gold (20k)

5th: Imperial Dagger - Damage 93.6-114.4, Combat Tactics 11.1, Anatomy 11.1, Close Combat 22.3, Fury Control 11.1, Tier 5
+ 10000 gold (10k)


END: 1st of June (unless there are not enough entries, then it'll be prolonged.

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Here are some of my own ideas for the mysteries of Pandimus to give a general direction. Note that it's about the mystery itself and not about the answers to it.

-What cheese does the rat in Morkha smell? Is there cheese somewhere? Is it your feet?
-Why are the goblins building a tower? Do they plan on living there? (morkha tree)
-What force mutated the gorilla and do I have in fact a banana? (Strong Woods)



Replies to the post or to the blog count. You can post as much ideas as you want, there are no restrictions.


UPDATE: Prizes have increased dramatically. 1 entry so far.