Monday, 16 September 2013

LOTRO: Should you pre-order Helm's Deep?

In Helm's Deep, even hobbits can be fearsome

I was startled by the announcement that LotRO's newest expansion, Helm's Deep, will be released November 18th. With the Beta only started a few weeks ago, I was hoping the devs would take some extra time to polish the new expansion. Especially since I sometimes get the feeling that Helm's Deep will make or break the game.

Dooooom and stuff

As an active LotRO player since the game's launching year, 2007, I can say that the in-game world of my server Gilrain hasn't been as quiet as it is now. The autumn days of the Mirkwood expansion was the last time I experienced something like this, but then Free-to-play managed to save the game from its difficult situation by attracting many new players. Nowadays, I'm not only bothered by the 'Snowbourn movers' (people moving to that higher populated EU server) and the silence in the world of Middle-earth, but also by the online silence in the blogosphere. Over the last year, I've noticed a massive decrease in active LotRO fan blogs, not to mention its largest, A Casual Stroll To Mordor, changing its title into Casually Strolling Through MMOs. I don't want to be overly negative here, but let's just say Helm's Deep better be darn good.

Anyway, if you haven't seen it yet, here's the official Helm's Deep video:

I personally had to giggle a bit at the "Batman style" voice over and music combined with the kinda cute old style LotRO design there. Oh oh, trailer designers...


Now as some of you might know, I've lately been playing LotRO on a casual basis only. Hence where my question last year was what I was expecting of Riders of Rohan and whether to pre-order the expensive legendary edition or the cheaper version of the expansion, I now find myself torn by the question if I should buy Helm's Deep at all.

Okay, let me clarify here, this doesn't solely have to do with the prices (which are once again very steep). The pre-order options are more or less the same as they were with the Riders of Rohan, with similar prices for a legendary and a basic edition ($59.99/€53,99/£44.99 and $39.99/€35,99/£29.99 respectively). There's a good analysis here on CSTM that I'll point to rather than just replicate the content of the editions here. It suffices to say that the fluff mostly consists of the Amour of the Hammerhand and the Steed of the Hammerhand of which you see the pictures in this post.

My hesitation to pre-order has to do with how much of a Turbine fangirl I am (not so much one).

There will be content that I will certainly enjoy: I'm sure the landscape will be beautiful once again, there will be new quests and a good epic story line. The developers have never let us down there. But do I want to spend so much money just for that? There is something else that has been bothering me.

End game

With Riders of Rohan, we got a raid cluster that felt like a skirmish to me. Sure, it had challenges, but the total absence of any trash mobs and the fact that you just got ported to another place right in front of the boss without any common 'main dungeon' for all three instances made it not feel like real raid for me. Somehow (and I still don't completely understand why) the Erebor raids weren't engaging for me and it was the same for a large part of my raiding kinship, which became less active as a result. This is extra sad because my kinship is one of the main raiding kinships of my server since the days of Moria, with many server first take-downs.

To my fear, Turbine has declared that Helm's Deep's end game content will consist of 'Big Battles', which sound like huge skirmishes to me. In addition there will be far stretching class changes. While I like good changes, the devs' talent for buggy content makes me very weary. Generally, I get the impression that Turbine has looked at where most money comes from, concluded that it is from casual players, and is now taking the game in that direction. Which is fine if you're a casual player, but for me as an end game player this diminishes my interest in LotRO.

Should you pre-order Helm's Deep?

When thinking about all this I realized that there were so many different things to consider.

And then, oh dear, I got a creative attack and had to abuse my Bamboo tablet once more. So here is your very own Horse of Wisdom to determine whether or not to buy Helm's Deep:

Now I'm sure not even this Mearas steed is perfect, but I'm still very much curious as to what decision you ended up with. Me, it was "No, but consider buying with release". Even though that pre-order armour looks so darn sexy (and that on a hobbit).

Although the direction LotRO is heading might not be very pleasant for me personally, I do still feel curious as to find out what Helm's Deep will be like. I might spend my hoard of Turbine Points on the expansion rather than real money. If I'm unlucky and end game and class changes disappoint, I will at least be able to complete the epic story and explore the new landscape.

Many thanks to my friend Ger from Gilrain for offering his services as a handsome hobbit-mannequin-in-armour.


  1. Well.. there are some beta testers that are breaking their NDA as they're pretty unhappy at the moment. They say the feeling of the beta forums is mutinous at the moment and that's because of the class changes. Apparently they're that bad. No one's even seen Big Battles yet. One person shared some comments from the beta forum:

    "its killing me not to be able to tell anyone to just stop and wait to see it first. All my kinmates and friends.. ugh...

    Like I prefaced before, the changes had been made. They never asked for help changing the classes, they never wanted that.. just feedback, probably to see how it would be received by the masses."

    "I'm saddened and frustrated about how I feel Turbine is deceiving its playerbase. I feel so helpless because I can't say anything to the players who are purchasing this expansion right now out of excitement, ignorance, and good faith."

    "That's the position I find myself in. I feel like Turbine's promotional materials are somewhat misleading and I want to fill in the omissions, but my hands are tied by the NDA I agreed to. I won't break the NDA. But I can't help feeling that I'm part of the deception now - I don't like that. Please excuse me, I must wash my hands again. "Out damned spot! Out I say!"

  2. Then a bit more specifics:
    "Big changes I can remember. Anti-stun being locked so deep into blue line that that you need to trait blue line currently to have access to it. WotC has been removed, as in gone totally. Lot of CC can only be accessed by chasing down yellow line, same with debuffs. Few new skills added, a couple which are fairly decent in their ideas - one to summon all your pets at once (bar bog lurker) is quite good fun. Ancient Master line is a bit of a mess, but in fairness there's been some good feedback given which has been taken onboard. But if the basic premise is borked, you're polishing horse droppings.

    For most classes, it's mainly been about removing the 'utility' and forcing them down what seem to be very simple builds.

    The response in Beta has been around 90% pure outrage and 5% 'you're doing it wrong' and 5% player council members whose ideas have gone down like a lead balloon but seem determined to defend them. The one who got called out for spending all her time roleplaying when she was trying to discuss endgame raiding with a cappy and the one who got called amongst the worst 10% of players on his server have been particularly amusing highlights. Bear pit in the beta forums currently. Would be surprised if the loudest voices got an invite for the next round. Odd how 'luck' works like that.

    What a mess it is though. On the upside, it's far more polished than Rohan was at this stage - but then the response from beta was horror at what a shambolic state mounted combat was in. On the downside, yeah, if this goes out without a radical rethink on what classes should be able to do then Lotro is going to bleed players at an even faster rate than it seems to be doing.

    One kinsmate's first response to me on Bullroarer was 'Have they ****ed up your toon as much as they've ****ed up mine?'. It's that level of anger from endgame raiders who were already seriously considering moving on after the tedium of Rohan. Turbine need to seriously think about how willing they are to roll the dice on this one. I can't believe they're doing this with a game this old to begin with."

    Turbine quite frankly isn't being completely honest about their upcoming class changes. They aren't telling people that the skills they're used to having access to at all times won't be available all the time anymore.. it will be impossible to get them all. (like a captain won't have access to noble and telling mark at the same time, champs won't have bubbles unless they trait tanking, etc.)

    So.. to pre-order HD or not? Well, if you only plan on being a very casual player who mainly sightsees, doesn't care so much about how your class plays and reeeaaally wants those cosmetics? Go for it. If you're not, for me personally I'd say most definitely not! Either buy with TP later or wait and see if you can deal with the class changes or until the NDA is lifted and you can hear honest and open feedback.

    1. Hi Lothirieth, and thanks for your elaborate comments! I'm not in the Beta, although I'm still magically aware of the Beta changes (not going to explain that here as long as the NDA is still there), but as you noted there's still an NDA active and I thought it would be be kinda stupid to post a whole article with stuff that's under NDA on my public blog. :D

      Even though probably nobody reads a small blog like this anyway, I know...

      So yeah, it was kind of a split for me to write this article without mentioning the Beta but I had to try anyway. I might buy the expansion with Turbine Points and try to get mentally ready for the possibility that LotRO will get a very, very casual character. And I don't know if I will still play it then (but let's face it, I don't really play it more than casually as we speak either). You know, when I was playing back in 2007 I wouldn't even have minded, but then I didn't know how much fun raiding was and what the possibilities of classes are.

      So much more I want to say now, but I feel I really cannot... hope you understand. Gotta go now, but hopefully more later.

      PS What happened to the pretty Lothirieth icon?

    2. Well neither you and I agreed to the Beta NDA, so personally I have no qualms over talking about what's been written elsewhere by others who have made the choice to break the NDA. But you can delete my comment if you like.. though all this has been on the Lotro community forums for a bit now. It's like they're not even trying to keep things under wraps outside of their own forums.

      But this might interest you if you're a Facebook user. It is legit (which is quite surprising!)

      I think if I use my google account (which links to the old blog) instead of name/url. Let's try that. :P

    3. Hm, nope, and wordpress option won't work.. so dunno!

    4. Of course I won't delete your comments. You're right, we didn't agree to anything, I just thought I'd avoid the wasp nest altogether in my article, at least when writing public posts. Also, I always try very hard not to make every LotRO post into a huge rant (it was hard, believe me!). Then again, news from Beta certainly has influenced my opinion about whether or not to buy. Maybe I'm also just too lazy to check what NDA-breaking people have said all over the internet... luckily there's you though! ^^

      And yay, the Lothirieth icon is back! Stupid that the Wordpress version isn't working though, almost as if Blogger is blocking it. :P Annoying enough that Gravatar doesn't work here either, Blogger comments could really use some updates (I once looked for HTML mods, but it was all very complicated and could remove old comments, which I really didn't want).

      I sent you a Steam request, don't worry if you don't want to accept it, I understand. But otherwise if you want we can always chat a bit more. :)

    5. That sounds like really juicy drama! Do you recall in which threads the council members called called out for being a roleplayer lecturing on raiding/bottom 10% of server pop?

    6. I understand.. in the past I've shied away from posting NDA-breaking stuff on my blog too. And yeah.. I definitely understand not making every Lotro post a rant.. it's simply why I pretty much stopped talked about.. and playing it for the moment. :/ Been months since I logged in and even before that I was only logging in for those horrid Erebor raids. And I bought Rohan with TP... that's not gonna change with HD as the situation is even worse.

  3. Don't forget that these were closed beta; NDA-breaking remarks and who knows what will change before the release date. When Helm's Deep goes open beta in the week before release, everyone will have a fairly good idea what things will look like and will be much better informed about whether or not they personally will want to upgrade or not.

    1. This is true, miracles happen. After all, the One Ring did get destroyed against all odds... ;)

  4. The all knowing horse totally stole the spotlight in this post. :P

    1. That's good to hear, there went a lot of time into that thing. ^^

    2. I agree, that was really funny!

    3. That horse is awesome! Just what I was looking for! :D

  5. Loved the all-knowing-horse! I ended up with No... but... which is accurate ;) The pre-order bonuses aren't particularly interesting for me, if I had a Rohirrim main they would likely be more attractive but I don't ;)

    I'm going to wait until there is more information about class changes and the big battles before I finally decide, if my friends / boyfriend are going to be playing though, so will I ;)


    1. For me, many of my kinnies are definitely going to return when Helm's Deep hits, so that's an incentive for me as well (aargh, another factor the magic Mearas missed). However, Tiger sounds extremely unwilling and negative and it's a bit contagious, so I'm not sure yet how everything is going to work out. In the end I do really love to spend in-game time with my boyfriend and it doesn't work to drag the other into something they don't like.

  6. The magic Meeras told me to buy upon release... I guess having not played in ages (and therefore having not spent Turbine Points) I could purchase the xpac with TP... then again, some of those pre-order items always tempt me! I so want to go back and log on to a full server of action-packed fun. Has Turbine considered server-merges? I know from forum lurking in the past that such an idea horrifies some and excites others. Did Star Wars mergers go down well afterwards?

    1. That's an interesting idea. I haven't heard anything recent about server merges, but then again, I'm not really following the LotRO news quite actively. The merges in Star Wars ended up alright, although there were some initial communication errors and minor annoyances for people who couldn't get their name when transferring because someone from the server they were merged with was already using it. I think most people are happy now with their well populated servers, at least I don't hear people moaning.

      I think there's a different kind of people playing LotRO compared to SWTOR, though. In SWTOR, the servers didn't really have a strong sense of identity, while in LotRO there are really server communities, which caused the resistance to the idea of merges. However, with so many people of the first hour gone or playing just casually, maybe this sense of community has become thinner and server merges might now actually be a solution. Who knows?

  7. Very creative I like your horse ;) haha
    I have no clue whether to go back to Lotro or not myself. Haven't played it for over 3 months now maybe more ? I dunno...
    It seems more and more people are leaving the game tbh...

    1. Glad you like it! Perhaps check in with Helm's Deep? For me personally the people I've been playing with have always been the largest incentive, and I know many are going to check in again with that expansion. It all depends on what the situation for you is like. :)


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