This last week I finally found time to play through the latest update in Lord of the Rings Online: Battle of the Black Gate. It took me a couple of sessions to play through the latest story books of the Epic quest series.
Having spent time recently on early game stuff for the anniversary Tales series of quests, it was quite the contrast to be back in the thick of the war against Sauron’s forces in the East. The new zone of Dagorland is suitably grim considering its proximity to the blasted evil of Mordor.
The quest chain was very enjoyable, and I had no problems on my badly geared and optimised Champion in completing all the steps solo. Admittedly I’m naturally a bit cautious in LOTRO, I have deep memories of nastier spots in the game and how I’d have to “champ stealth” my way past stuff by hoping they ignore me as a crept along a wall or hill edge. I imagine in some areas you could still come a cropper as there are elite mobs around.
The narrative sections were interesting, I’m starting to wonder if I should have reread the books as there are details I do not remember at all. Then again why read them when I can have the odd moment of surprise in-game?
Like previous updates the game features a phased battle version of the zone. I really like how LOTRO handles these. It offers a way to tell very dramatic moments in the story without denying the MMORPG realities of the game. I can be immersed in the story as much as I want as I race around the battlefield lending my swords or bolstering morale, but there remains a quick-travel option back to the pre-battle zone to give me access to a stablemaster, vendor, legendary item forger and other services that the gameplay mechanics and other game activities require.
Unlike the Big Battles, that while indeed grand, I’ve found to be slow and annoyingly unintuitive in gameplay, this style of presenting a large battle through normal questing within a phased zone I find to be very effective and fun to play.