Archive for the Isengard Category

Trecentesimus (That’s 300, in Latin)

Posted in Isengard, LotRO, Online Gaming, Skirmishes on December 13, 2011 by koljarn

My 300th post.  I was torn between using a edjamakated and fancified title or using a 300-related movie reference (Madness?  This!  Is! WordPress!). Obviously, I chose the former.

Fortunately, there is a little substance to this one as well.  Update 5 hit the servers, and it has brought the half-baked instance finder, new instances, and a new barter currency system with it. I tend to skirmish a great deal – when you get an hour here or there on a weeknight, that’s the best you can do – so I’ll pay the most attention to how the barter changes affected the skirmish vendors.

Last night started with an amusing diversion (amusing if you like tech issues).  I was updating the LotRO client, when all of a sudden it errored out and my second hard drive vanished.  Nifty trick, eh? Turned out that it wasn’t a software problem – the SATA cable had a bad connection.  Irritating, since the sables are stretched pretty tightly in my case.   Just to be on the safe side, I ordered some new (longer) cables.  They’re pretty cheap. Anyway, after getting the hard drive operational again, I went back to LotRO.

Update 5 applied pretty quickly, and I logged in to find a “treasure hunt” event underway. It appears that it was linked to the lottery or something along those lines, which means I won’t get getting involved. Since Turbine has had so many security issues, I just don’t trust their LotRO community site.  I know people whose accounts have been hacked multiple times, and they’ve never found any security issues on their home systems – they did, however, log in to the community site.  Maybe I’m just paranoid, but a little paranoia is good for you. Anyway, if you play the LotRO lottery, then you might be interested.

I had a limited amount of time last night, but I managed to do two of the repeatable quests in Galtrev, looked around the new Isengard instance hub, and checked out the skirmish camp. The Galtrev repeatables remain the same, except for the “Defence of Galtrev” quest. That one offers some new titles for legendary items.  I’m not sure about how desirable they are, but it bears looking into. The Isengard instance hub appears to be accessible by a hidden entrance near Quickbeam’s grove.  You’ll get a free port to the hub the first time via a quest. Not much to see, there; class-specific NPCs, standard NPC merchants, and the barter merchant for the Isengard raid.

Which brings us to my focus – the skirmish merchants.  You will find that all of your campaign marks and First through Fourth marks have been converted to the new standardized currency – plain old “Marks.” Superior Fourth marks may be converted to either Medallions or Seals at your discretion right now.

It may be worth your time to take the Medallions, but I chose Seals. If you didn’t buy your armor before Update 5 went live, you’ll find that you need to do a lot more work to get it – a Superior Fourth mark only nets you two Seals, and armor costs over 150 seals. I suppose Turbine didn’t want people stockpiling the old currency and grabbing a handful of new gear.  If you’ve been unlucky enough to not get any cracked sigils, you can get them from the Crafting merchant in the skirmish camps.  However, I found them to be needlessly expensive. Still, if you have more  Marks than you can spend on other things, you may want to buy sigils.

Lastly, Scrolls of Greater Empowerment and Greater Scrolls of Delving are available.

These, I like.  They will cost you some Marks and Medallions (though you can spend Seals, but I think that’s a waste). Medallions are pretty easily found, so you will be able to rank up the tier on your level 75 legendary items with a little effort. More worthwhile than the sigils, in my opinion.

Ugly Finish and Uglier Weekend

Posted in Isengard, LotRO, Online Gaming, Skirmishes on November 28, 2011 by koljarn

Burhhelm finally has four pieces of the Draigoch armor set. That’s likely to be about as much as he ever gets – there are Draigoch raids all the time on Vilya, but they only have openings for Captains and Burglars.  Speaking of which, why haven’t developers learned that requiring a certain class to complete an encounter is a bad idea? Other games have done it, and it become an exercise in irritation – I remember a WoW encounter that required a mage, and I (playing a mage) got so sick of it that I refused to keep going there (Gruul’s Lair mage tanking).  Thus, other people were unable to do what they wanted simply because one player got burned out on a single encounter. Bad design.

Anyway, armor objective achieved.  I had to go on a solo skirmish marathon (about 5 hours) in order to get enough marks to upgrade the final three marks – all the raid skirmishes being run were one of the five or so that I had done on Thursday.  Needless to say, I got tired of skirmishing.

The LotRO portion of my weekend had to be cut short, though.  One of the friends with whom I frequently play the game got hacked (his account, not him personally).  We have some thoughts about why (more on this later), but we have nothing concrete.  This happened fairly early on Saturday, so Turbine ignored him over the rest of the weekend. Not exactly the best customer service – it makes me wonder why a large company like Turbine doesn’t at least run a call center so people can open tickets with them via phone.  You can open a ticket through their website, but you’re never sure that the case will even be looked at – electronic communication is sketchy on feedback.

And on that note, this brings me to my suspicions on how my friend’s account got hacked. Since the Turbine forums were compromised a few weeks ago, I changed my password to a 16 character melange of partial words, gibberish, numbers, and special characters. I had been unable to log in to the forum pages to enter the lotteries for any of my characters since that time, so I opened a trouble ticket with Turbine.  They finally got back to me with their solution – change my password to a shorter one with no special characters.  After I stopped laughing, I decided that I could live without lotteries. If the forum site requires a short, non-complex password, then your password can be brute-forced. My friend and I both think that this is exactly what happened, since he did use a shorter password.  He too is willing to forgo lotteries in favor of a secure password, now.

Anyway, since my friend was unable to play LotRO, I fired up Minecraft and that’s how I spent the weekend.  Minecraft is up to version 1.0 full release – no longer beta – and it’s a fine way to pass time.  I don’t know if I could play it for an extended period of time, but it made a nice distraction.  It’s no threat to MMOs, though. Just something different.

The Clock is Ticking

Posted in Isengard, LotRO, Online Gaming on November 22, 2011 by koljarn

OK, so this post is a bit alarmist. Consider yourself forewarned.

Part of Update 5 will be an overhaul of the various instance tokens and skirmish mark systems presently in place.  There is going to be a three-tier system put in place with different currencies dropping from skirmishes and other instances based on size and difficulty.  Okay, that will cause issues by itself, but I’ll get into that in a little while.  Some people have been saying that the rate at which you earn marks in the new system is completely out of whack. While Update 5 is still in beta, this should make you sit up and take note. From that thread and other reviews of Update 5, I have formed the following opinions:

  1. Better the devil that you know: The present system for earning marks which you can turn in for gear is a grind.  There is a serious potential for the system after Update 5 to be even more of a grind. My thoughts are that people should go earn as much gear as possible right now, do not wait.
  2. By their gear shall you know them: There will once again be a distinct division between raiders, instancers, and solo players.  Raiders will have the best gear, instancers will have the second-best, and solo players will have the trash that no one else wants.  The biggest problem in this stratified model is that it is nearly impossible to move up the ladder.  Instancers don’t want you around unless you are geared for instances, which you cannot do unless you get invited into an instance group.  Get it?  This happens in every MMO which features raiding in an exclusive manner, and there is no reason to expect that human nature will be any different in LotRO.
  3. Time to punch in: The reward to cost ratio for skirmishes is absurd, at present.  It is being looked at.  Let’s hope it gets serious revisions, or skirmishing will literally be a second full-time job if you want to get anything done.
  4. It’s just a game: This simple fact is getting lost in the shuffle. LotRO is an entertaining game, but it is only a game – Right now, it is relatively casual and relaxed – something you can do to unwind after a day of work. Hopefully, it stays that way and doesn’t turn into a grind-fest.

So, there.  I have vented and don’t regret it. I am whole-heartedly subscribing to item number one, though. So, if you’re looking for me, I’ll be trolling the Unite channel on Vilya for skirmishes and instances.  Burhhelm needs some new pants.

Fervant Fervour User

Posted in Isengard, LotRO, Online Gaming, Skirmishes on October 28, 2011 by koljarn

Just for grins, I have respecced both my class traits and my weapon legacies to a Fervour-heavy build (with a few Ardour legacies remaining, just in case).

Red Traits:
Vicious Strikes
Deadly Strikes
Flurry of Blows

Yellow Traits:
Swift to Anger
Winds of the Storm
Stalwart Blade

Very much like my pre-ROI build; single target damage with a touch of AoE. I loved the Ardour build, but too many quests and skirmish events require you to take out a single tough enemy. The Ardour build is probably better for grouping, though, as I rarely grabbed agro.

My weapon legacies were similarly adjusted:
Major weapon:
+ Wild Attack damage
+ Remorseless strikes damage
+ Crit magnitude
Minor weapon:
– Fear Nothing Cooldown
+ Sudden Defence Duration
+ Horn Damage

The level 65 rune I use is still better than the level 75 ones available. I adjusted it to:
Major class item:
-% Blades Power cost
-% Power Cost for Swift Strike
– Ardour/Glory Pip Interval
Minor class item:
-% Strikes Power cost
+ Ardour/Glory in-Combat Power Regen
– Heroics cooldown

Skirmishing with this Fervour build seems to work at least as well as the Ardour one. The fact that I’m still decked out in level 65 armor is an issue, but that will change over time. While I may miss dishing out the AoE spam, there’s something to be said for devastating a mob with a combined 3k+ Remorseless Strike.



Crashes and Festivals

Posted in Isengard, LotRO, Online Gaming on October 24, 2011 by koljarn

My Kindred got together and had a little gate crashing party at Isengard. Actually, it was a lot of fun, like a raid-sized skirmish. Ultimately, our superb healers carried the day and allowed us under-geared folks to take out the two War Trolls and claim the title of Gatecrasher.

In other news, the Fall Festival has been going since last Wednesday.  I rather like the Fall Festival, it’s a casual event where you can pick and choose your activities and still get enough tokens to buy whatever you like. Even better, from Burhhelm’s perspective, the Inn League lets you drink yourself into a stupor for free! As you may note in the screenshot above, Burhhelm is in the land of the short and hairy-footed.  Given enough alcohol, he can even tolerate Hobbits.

They Like Me! They Really Like Me!

Posted in Isengard, LotRO, Online Gaming, Skirmishes on October 17, 2011 by koljarn

Finally, Burhhelm has maxxed his reputation with the Riders of Theodred. With the Pit of Iron hopelessly bugged at the moment (you fall through the floors to your death), you have to do tasks and daily repeatable quests in Isengard in order to fill out the last level of reputation with the Riders. I’ll pull no punches with this statement: these quests suck.

Specifically, finding the mobs that you need to kill sucks.  Additionally, some of these mobs have extremely healthy morale totals and throw extremely unhealthy debuffs on you – not a big deal, if you do these quests with at least one other person (I duo’d these with a friend who plays a Guardian), but doing these solo will be slow going.  My hints for dealing with these issues: first, keep yourself fully stocked with wound (red) potions at all times. Second, you need to sweep entire ares of all mobs (except for the wandering war trolls) and return in a minute or two to check out the respawn. That’s the way that we forced the annoying Apprentices of Sauruman to appear.  Cherry-picking individual Apprentices will get you one or two kills, but clearing an area of all mobs is the best way to get more. Oh, and I mentioned the war trolls already – stay off of the roads, and look both ways before crossing them.  Seriously.  Unless you’re in a large group, these trolls will flatten you.

Don’t forget to turn in the tasks for scabbards and shields in Forthbrond – the orcs you kill will drop heaps of these.  The extra reputation you earn through tasks will mean less hunting for Apprentices.

I didn’t mind the reputation quests in Enedwaith – there were lots of them, allowing you to vary your routine and choose what quests you enjoyed the most. There are only four repeatable quests in Isengard.  You’ll end up doing the same four again and again, and it gets to be taxing. This seems to be the major flaw in the Rise of Isengard expansion – the endgame is nothing but repetition. 

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to repeat the same skirmishes again and again in order to collect Superior Fourth Marks. Did I mention that the expansion involved a great deal of repetition?

At the Cap and Still Going

Posted in Isengard, LotRO, Online Gaming on October 11, 2011 by koljarn

Over the long weekend, Burhhelm managed to claw his way to level 75. I know that many people have complained about not enough quests to make it all the way to the level cap, but I hadn’t found that to be the case.  I did, however, find that the quests that did exist had little overlap, and things were more obviously linear than usual.  They need to add a few quests in the 73-75 range, just to spice things up a bit. Still, it was enough to get there, so I had to allow Burhhelm a moment of celebration.

Burhhelm has a good yell after making it to 75

There, now that he’s done gloating…. Some other issues with the expansion and being at the level cap.  First, the epic quest line just leaves you hanging. While it was satisfying enough to throttle a few traitors, it feels as if a few months more of writing and development were needed to make this expansion stand out. It’s like listening to an orchestra play music and reach towards a crescendo, and stop just short of getting there. It’s a bit frustrating, but at least it’s mostly free of bugs.  Mostly.  The Pit of Iron is notoriously bugged, and Turbine is well aware of it.  Hopefully, this will be remedied in the future so that people can explore it. Finally, at 75 you begin the same old legendary item grind.  That’s really getting old – I wish Turbine would write a quest so that you could upgrade your existing legendary items rather than simply destroy them and start again – after all, they are supposed to be legendary.  There’s no great legends behind swords that were used for a short time and melted down to be re-used. I want to wield Anduril, Sting, Anglachel, or Guthwine, not a weapon made from pieces of other random items.

So, I suppose it’s off to skirmish for a month or two in order to earn enough marks to upgrade my new legendary sword and my armour. See you in the Galtrev skirmish camp.

Halfway There

Posted in Isengard, LotRO, Online Gaming on October 8, 2011 by koljarn

Burhhelm has been steaming right along at a steady pace through the Rise of Isengard content, and he has just reached the first camp of the Riders of Rohan. I’m in no rush to hit the level cap, but it will happen soon, anyway – I’m playing this for the quests, and there are so many that I can’t help but level up.  I understand that the number of quests was a problem to some of the players, but I happen to have skirmished for a week before digging into the expansion itself.  Perhaps I inadvertently gave myself a buffer, as I went into it at level 67.

The writers worked very hard at trying to make the Dunlendings more sympathetic.  As presented in the Lord of the Rings books, all we knew was that they had a history of conflict with the Rohirrim, and were linked in some way to the Oath Breakers.  Turbine successfully makes them the lesser evil, compared to Saruman.  Still, I’m more than a little ready to meet the Riders.

Oh, and the highlight of the expansion so far? Slaying Bugan Hobbits.


How do you like THIS pie?

Weekend Post-Mortem

Posted in Isengard, LotRO, Online Gaming on October 3, 2011 by koljarn

I’ll be the first to admit it – I was getting tired of waiting.  Thus, when one of my friends suggested that I head into Dunland to try out the new zone over the weekend rather than wait for Monday, I didn’t resist too much.

The new zones are still populated pretty heavily, but many folks have moved on from the two areas where you can start your journey into the expansion.  You get asked to chose one path into Dunland to begin with – my advice is to try whatever sounds good to you, as you can get quests in the other area when you complete your first choice.  It sounds like a mechanic for splitting the player population between two mini-zones, and it’s a good idea.  Story-wise, I found the Bonevales storyline to mesh a little better with the existing Enedwaith content, but the Trum Dreng quests are quite fun on their own.

I finished my weekend in Galtrev, the regional banking and crafting hub.  Imagine the Twenty-First Hall on one of it’s more crowded days, and that’s Galtrev.  Even with dynamic layers, the place lags like a dog.  On top of that, there are a bunch of quests in Galtrev that you need to do in order to advance the story. Of course, where there are lots of people, there are always a few jerks hiding in the crowd – be prepared to put a few on Ignore, just to save yourself from the rudeness and the chat spam.  Business as usual.

Burhhelm is getting close to level 70.  Skirmishing gives good experience, but the rapid fire chain of quests in Dunland give even large blocks of experience.  On top of the quests, there are tasks which you will inevitably complete, because they entail collecting items from mobs that you will have to go after anyway.  As I level up, I’ve found that Burhhelm’s level 65 gear (Annuminas armour and a crafted 2nd age legendary) is starting to get long in the tooth, but it is still better than the crafted stuff available at level 70 or any of the quest rewards I’ve run across so far.  I’m keeping my eyes open for any upgrades, though.

Is the Grass Greener?

Posted in Isengard, LotRO, Online Gaming on September 28, 2011 by koljarn

Decisions, Decisions….

Last night, I tinkered around a bit more with different Champion builds. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the new treatment of Ardour – it works well for me, as I always enjoyed mowing through the trash mobs. However, I was not yet ready to dismiss Fervour without giving it a fair shake.

Using a build with Blood Lust (F), Deadly Strikes (F), Deep Strikes (F), Vicious Strikes (F), Eye of the Storm (A), Stalwart Blade (A), and Winds of the Storm (A). It’s a straightforward DPS build, and it worked just fine. Naturally, it dealt better with individual and small groups of mobs, but it was far from useless against larger numbers. I had no power problems, but I still think that this build would work best with a 2H weapon. This build is probably best suited to solo grinding – in my experience, the single-target DPS for a full Fellowship has usually been supplied by a Hunter. It was still fun to play, though, and that alone makes it a viable build.

After some advice from other Champions, I also tried an 5-Ardour build in order to give Improved Great Cleave a try. The traits for this test were Battle Acumen (A), Eye of the Storm (A), Stalwart Blade (A), Swift to Anger (A), Winds of the Storm (A), Controlled Fury (F), and Bountiful Mercy (F). I found the cooldown on Battle Acumen to be too long to work into a regular rotation – it seems best used right before pitching a few AoE moves in a row. So, I replaced Battle Acumen with Improved Rend, for the armor debuff. I was ready to dislike this build. I had played a Fervour-heavy Champion since I started playing LotRO, but I was pleasantly surprised. Even skirmish boss fights were just fine, so long as I shifted from Ardour to Fervour for the encounter. I’ll use this build for a while, and see how it works out in the long term.