Saturday, March 15, 2008

LotRO Book 12 Review

Book 12 is here, woo! The latest free expansion, Book 12 offers a number of changes in the game including clothing, housing items, Angmar changes, new quests and more. They started with Book 9: the Shores of Evendim. Then came Book 10 with its expansion of the epic books and some more questing areas. Book 11 brought us the new areas in the Trollshaws, housing and the Gollum quests along with Goblin Town. That’s a lot of updated content being churned out and I for one appreciate the expansions and the care with which Turbine releases them.

So what’s new in Book 12 and what do I think about it?

Clothing Changes
The first thing I did was check out the character tab. There are now, at level fifty, three tabs for appearance. The first tab is my equipped items tab – it’s the standard paper doll showing the items I have in my toon’s head, shoulder and other equipment slots. The second and third tabs are outfit tabs. To load an item into the outfit tab, simply drag an item for the into the appropriate slot on your paper doll. You will also need to select the radio-button to activate whichever outfit you want visible. Once you select an outfit to display, the items you have in your outfit paper doll will override any other items in those slots. It’s also worth noting that some outfits have overrides within them. One suit-looking chest piece I got as a rep reward from the Mathom House, for example, overrides gloves automatically as well as adding shoes. Items can be made visible / invisible by using little click-boxes next to those items.

I liked the variety of the clothing items available. New NPCs called “Outfitters” are available near where many of the other standard vendors are in major towns (Michel Delving, Bree, Rivendell, Celondim, Thorin’s Hall, etc). You can purchase a number of hauberks with different patterns and default colors. You can also get simple clothing items like coveralls for the farmers out there or a simple suit or robes, etc. All of the clothing items can be dyed to different colors if you wish as well as remove dyes with a dye wash available from suppliers in towns. (Note: dyes have become VERY expensive with the clothing changes.) Also available are backpacks: a day pack is available from most of the outfitters above and also a prospector’s backpack from the Michel Delving vendor. To get a quiver of arrows for your character find the Outfitter in Rivendell in the marketplace there or the one in Trestlebridge in the North Downs.

In addition to the standard, vendor-purchasable items, you should also swing by any areas where you have reputation points. There are a number of new clothing items (hauberks, suits, dresses, etc) available from the reputation factions. For example, there is a suit available from the Mathom House group (at Kindred, I believe). There are also a number of backpacks available – one from Thorin’s Hall and a couple from Breeland rep that I’ve seen thus far.

The new clothing options are very well done and I’m enjoying the changes. The outfit system hearkens back to my City of Heroes gaming days where you could modify your appearance separate from your stats. Nice work, Turbine!

To see pictures of the different clothing items, you can visit Vonabor’s guide on the subject.

Housing Changes
Housing changes were less pronounced than the clothing changes. You can now rotate free-standing items 360 degrees. I changed the position of my cushioned bench so it actually faces my fireplace. I’ll experiment some more with positioning in the future. Another nice feature is the ability to actually light / extinguish the fireplace and candle furniture items. You can click on the item, go through an animation and the object will light if it’s not lit or visa versa.

I haven’t seen any new furniture or furniture recipes yet. There is a Spring festival coming up and a continuation of a Pirate quest line in Western Breelands that may expand on the current offerings though. Of particular interest are the trophy items available from bosses. I don’t have a comprehensive list but there is a helm from Sambrog (sp?), a tentacle from Helcham (sp?), a banner from Ivar and a dress from the Red Maid in GA.

I can’t say I’m a fan of the boss trophies. The Sambrog’s helm is too small (but the smoking effect is cool). The banner from Ivar is a corpse on a stick (we have jokingly begun referring to it as “Corpsie” in our kin). Helcham’s tentacle is bizaar and the Red Maid’s dress is just … disturbing. I mean, we, the heroes of Middle-earth, defeated one of it’s evils and then, in a display of our righteousness … stripped her dead body? Eeeeww! Did we at least put a towel over her after we got the dress?

Tally thus far: cheers on clothing, /shrug on the housing stuff and a resounding ‘meh’ for the boss trophies.

One housing point of interest: when you buy a house all of your alts get a fast travel skill to your home. That’s a cool change – all of my alts can now enjoy the neighborhood discount.

Angmar Revamp
The map and quest structure in Angmar has been revised. I didn’t have much of a chance to go over the changes, however I did head over to Himbar in the North-East of the map and took a walking / sneaking tour between there and the camp in the far South-West. One point of interest: there are now horse paths from Himbar to the dwarf camp in the South and over to the South-West camp making the entire zone MUCH easier to get around in. The Himbar horse path is rep-related however requiring riders to at least be an acquaintance (the lowest rep level) of the Council of the North. The topography of the zone has changed somewhat and there is a new dwarf camp in the center of the map near Imlad Baratheon (sp?) above where all the wights and skeletons are walking around. Gone are the boars but still present are the stealthed wargs, drakes, neeker-breekers and other common mobs from the original. I’ll be spending some more time on this map in the near future.

Class Changes
My burglar got eleven new skills to the tune of two-plus gold. Ouch! One of the changes was a new burglar stance called Mischief which keeps the burglar from stealthing but significantly reduces the power cost of tricks. There are a couple of new abilities tied to this stance such as an aoe damage over time effect with a nice stun once the dot disappears. There’s also a new ability, similar to Touch and Go which, instead of increasing my evade abilities, adds damage when I get hit. I’ll have to do some playing around with the changes as my toolbar is now filled with icons that are unfamiliar to me.

Champions and Guardians also received an overhaul in the latest expansion. Initial reactions from friends of mine that play those classes have been favorable though training was also pricey for them.

Book 12 Epic Questline
Another installment of the Book quests! A group and I had a chance to go through this. There is a new feature in this set: insta-travel to where you need to be. Rather than having to trek all over the place to get to the place where you can start, you are teleported there in the regular game world so you can start fighting. The teleport changes vastly reduce travel time and are much appreciated! The quest line itself is also interesting including a screenshot-worthy finale for us RP / Lore nerds! I won’t spoil the details but the story which really got going in Book 9 is getting better and better. There are some very nice items available for completing the quest line including a neat teal cloak from Elrond at the end.

While the boss trophies are kind of a low point in the expansion, the rest was excellent. If Turbine follows it’s usual MO, there will be several non-expansion additions to the content they already added to this expansion (more clothes, more furniture, more trophies) before another expansion (which I believe is set to be a paid one).

Other Expansion Stuff:
In this expansion, Turbine apparently decided to update to the latest OpenAG dll [????] This is the dll file (or one of them) that affects in-game sound. Some folks were getting BSOD in Windows XP and had to do some odd things to their sound to get the game to work without crashing for certain sound cards. Well, they fixed it … and broke the sound for my card. I was in Helegrond and ended up getting three blue screens before I decided that it was enough for one night. Situations where I got the blue screen were times when I was grouped with other people and there were a lot of in-game sound and animations occurring at once. I was also in Vent during the crashes. The solution, on my PC anyway, was to enter the game and change the sound settings to all generic instead of using the FXI sound card which was the default. I haven’t crashed since and, at least to my undiscerning ears, the sounds were about the same. I also switched the driver for my Vent settings to be on the safe side.

Another change I haven't looked at much is a new instance in the PvMP zone. You can check out more information about it at the Book 12 site, however, I haven't been there and really can't comment on it much.

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