Lord of the Rings Online: Book 12 Preview

Dana Massey | 12 Feb 2008 23:43
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Aside from customization, Turbine put a lot of time into the new monster vs. player PvP dungeon, Delving of Frór, an overhaul of Angmar and special tweaks to the Champion, Burglar and Guardian classes.

"The biggest piece of content is what we're calling Delving of Frór," said Steefel, "which is this big series of caverns, mines underneath the Ettenmoors, presumably were used in ancient times, by Sauron, Dwarves at one point were using it and now Angmar is basically been pushing the baddies in there to see if there is ways they can go and exploit it."

Delving of Frór takes a page from "Darkness Falls" in Dark Age of Camelot, as it combines a player vs. environment epic dungeon, with a competitive player vs. player tug-o-war that can spill into actual combat inside the dungeon.

In the Ettenmoors, players can take their usual characters into PvP combat, or choose to play as a monster character. The competition is fierce, and Book 12 adds five control points to the battle. The side that controls the majority of these control points gains control of the Delving of Frór dungeon. The inside provides more than just fun gameplay; it opens up all sorts of chances for loot that can benefit the side that gets their players equipped. When the balance of power shifts, the other side gains access, but those already in the dungeon are not kicked out. This leads to some intense PvP, surrounded by high level monsters.

"The whole purpose of it is, though, an extension of something we started to do a little bit in Book 10," said Steefel. "To give monster players in particular, but really anyone who is in the PvP environment on either side, more opportunity to get really cool stuff, to engage in with each other in different ways and to give [them] lots more replayability and variety in that experience."

Gaergoth the Unbound
Gaergoth the Unbound

The dungeon itself has five epic encounters and will require a group of top end players to advance through. In our demonstration, we ran through (cheating enabled) and met up with Gaergoth the Unbound (pictured). To reach him, we had to fight our way through a number of regular enemies, a task that, if done without god powers, would have taken quite some time. He is just one of five major encounters, which made the scope more impressive. Despite being three completely tricked out high-end characters, we didn't even make a dent in him without the aid of cheating.

The urban renewal of Angmar is a less publicized, but highly important, part of Book 12. As emphasized by the game's title - Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar - this land houses important antagonists for players of LotRO, yet Turbine felt that its gameplay was not as structured as other parts of their world. As such, they overhauled the quest structure to provide better quests of a more consistent difficulty in a more organic way. We barely sampled the results during our demonstration, but Turbine appeared happy with the outcome.

Finally, Turbine continued their habit of class tweaks with Book 12 and looked at three classes.

The Burglar was tweaked to emphasize his trickiness and bring it back on par with his rogue elements. This mischief mode, which kicks in at level 20. "It's basically a new play mode that emphasizes tricks and crowd control," explained Steefel. Many players had expressed how much they enjoyed the non-traditional elements of the class that included riddles and the like as skills. In Book 12, there is much more of that available and creates a distinct line within the class between stealthy and tricky Burglars.

The Guardian had his Guardian-ness enhanced to make him more effective at what he is meant to do. The changes were not as dramatic; for example, they made two handed weapons a more viable route, which creates another fork in the road for a class who has been primarily focused as a defensive tank. "It's really focusing on the Guardian's DPS and giving him more reasons to use two-handed weapons," he said. Now, with two-handed weapons, players are free to choose a more offensive route.

"One of the most talked about things was the repair costs for the Guardian," Steefel added. They've addressed this through a combination of repair price cuts and some buffs that preserve their items a little more readily.

The Champion had already been the focus of revision shortly after launch, so its tweaks were less disruptive than its two previously unrevised brethren. "People were complaining about the cost skills and power and fervor has these huge penalties for the Champion, so Ardor gives you a little more punch basically," noted Steefel. The Champion previously had two stances, the offensive Fervor and the defensive Glory. In Book 12, they get Ardor, a lower level stance that is a happy middle-ground between the two, a popular request among the players.

That Turbine has released four major content upgrades since launch just under 10 months ago is a major achievement. Fans still await the game's first full expansion pack - rumored to be coming later this year - but in the meantime, they've been shown a tireless dedication to the live product, the results of which easily equal at least one traditional retail expansion free of charge.

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