I’ve been intrigued by the reports of lowbie zone retooling, so last night I started up an elf warden and ran him as far as Gondamon/11th level before hitting the hay.
Overall, I think the trend of changes was good, especially for new players. However, upon reflection, I think it may have been made a little too easy, or at least, easy for too long. In an effort to prevent people from having to “run around too much” (a worthy enough goal), you’ve ended up funnelling them from Point A to Point B to Point C in a very railroadey fashion that rushes them through and seems to discourage exploration.
A few more specific points:
- Starting in Edhelion post-instance: Good. Having the meat of the story begin right there helped you feel like you didn’t have to go hunting for it, although keeping both the Edhelion area and the area at the top of the ridge as activity hubs seemed a little odd, and I notice that the Silver Deeps got dropped all together. There was no real reason to spend any time at either one once you finished the 5-10 quests they gave you, tho, and so there was no real sense of connection to either place.
- Quest-giver being different from award-giver: Mixed. Like I say, I felt like I was being rushed along from one place to another — “Hurry up, get out of here, get to the good stuff up the road.” But all of the game is “the good stuff!” A bit more of leisurely approach would be appreciated. Certainly running all the way from Frerin’s Court to Edhelion more than two or three times could get tiresome, but not coming back at all? Made me feel like I was being kicked out when I just got there.
- Caves and “deadly bloom” plants being moved: Meh. I liked having to fight my way through the goblins. Makes you learn to watch your step.
- Lost Lore quest edited out: Not so good. One of the treats for me when going back to replay some other class is seeing how different bits of story tie together — encountering the troll turned to stone in the cave as an elf, and then going back and SEEING the troll get turned to stone as a dwarf was one of those moments, now gone.
- Super-fast combat: Not so good. Creatures died so fast that my little lowbie warden barely got any gambits off, much less learned which ones where good for what. I started deliberately aggroing groups of monsters just so the combat would go long enough for me to check for myself that the fist gambit bug had actually been fixed. I’m worried that this will lead newbie players to develop poor playing skills, or at least lead to frustration later on as the difficulty of combat rapidly cranks up. (”Whoa! I turned 20th and suddenly combat takes FOREVAR.”) It’s fine in the starter instance — people expect a tutorial there anyway — but once you actually get out into Ered Luin, the challenge needs to go up a notch or two with every level of creature so that players will learn to use their skills.
- Brothers Heading West subplot: Wow, this was really gutted. I didn’t like this change at all, especially having the quest to find the leaf of the red tree edited out completely. Yes, going back and forth from Duillond to Celondim was a little tiresome, but it wasn’t that bad. The two towns are barely three minutes’ run away from each other! I always thought this quest really captured the feel of Middle-Earth beautifully, and I hate to see it being slashed just to hurry players on to the next hub a little faster. Please consider undoing this particular change.
- Stable at Thrasi’s Lodge: Good. Adding a vendor there would not be amiss, either.
- Shuffling NPC positions in Gondamon: Buh? What was the purpose of this?
I guess what it boils down to is that I see what you were aiming for, and I think generally it’s a good idea, but it went a little overboard. Spoon-feeding is good at the very start, but it needs to be ended as quickly as possible so that the process of actually learning how your character works can start — and it definitely shouldn’t come at the price of losing the exploratory and storytelling aspects that make LotRO so distinctive. The starter areas aren’t just where players level up in order to get out, they’re also where you need to hook them and make them interested in the world and the plot. Right now both of those aspects are suffering as the newbie character is herded rapidly from place to place with no reason to do anything but chase the next ring.
PS: Love the new warden backpack, which has nothing to do with newbie zones, I just wanted to mention it.
PPS: I also love that the songbird now actually sings.