The first obstacle was figuring out how to get to this new Thunderhoof Hills zone. After a bit of searching and asking, I found a new NPC next to the teleporter in Aoutulia Volcano. Aotulia is level 55 and up. Yes, 55 was the level cap, but Aotulia had previously only been fully explored by the better geared players. I myself am a level 54 knight feeling a bit under geared in the Savage Lands because mobs are a lot tougher and take longer to kill. That hopefully gives you an idea if you want to try and reach the new continent of Zandorya.
If you can reach the NPC, simply talking to him warps you smack in front of a giant dragon. I was taken off guard but quickly saw it/he/she was another NPC. You'll immediately start getting some new lore before winding up amongst some ruins that don't look much different that in the Weeping Coast.
There's a clear shot to the first town with only some non-aggroing deer roaming about. The first town is small and compact but buzzing with NPCs. It felt very alive to be there, even when I didn't see another player. After running around the neighboring waterfall and looking at all the nearby scenery, I tried out some quests. It turns out that the first handful of quests don't require much killing or venturing amongst nasty mobs. Unfortunately they don't last long.
The quests I was able to do quickly ran dry as I made my way into the sprawling city of Dalanis. I think the city is very awesome. Its stone facades remind me of the Obsidian Stronghold, but the narrow winding streets, many districts and large underground taverns gave me much more to explore. The first part of the zone and the city of Dalanis is all very well made and barely scratches the surface of what there is to see. I'm already working on giving readers a more in depth look at the Thunderhoof Hills, but I need to explore more of it myself.
The many new features and details can be read in the patch notes, but there are a few systems I had a chance to look into.
Frogster and Runewaker added a new ancient memento token system. It's very neat and surprises me because it seems very unlike what a free-to-play game would want to add. Ancient mementos are tokens you can now earn by downing dungeon bosses and later use to buy some really nice armor from new NPCs. It's specifically a PvE element to aid players who do multiple dungeon runs and still end up without any good drops. As long as you kill or aid in killing a boss, you will always get tokens. I was really pleased to see a system that added the ability to get ahead in RoM without a new need to run to the Item Mall. Whether or not Frogster later adds these tokens to the Item Mall or some other related purchases is yet to be seen, but it's the in-game-only option that has me smiling. As of now, these tokens can only be obtained in Heart of the Ocean and Hall of Survivors, both within the Weeping Coast.
Ever since I saw the blurb about dungeon difficulty settings being implemented, I was excited to see what it could mean. Dungeons can be a sticky situation requiring certain armor and weapon modifications to ensure you don't get killed by the first hit from the first mob you encounter -- and that's on dungeons rated to a players level.
Dungeons and raiding are definitely one part of RoM where the call of the Item Mall is much stronger. As it turns out, I haven't had first-hand experience because the difficulty settings are currently only working for Heart of the Ocean and Hall of Survivors. I may be level 54, but if I want to get geared for those dungeons, I'm going to have to start back at the lower level Cyclops Stronghold and work my way through subsequent dungeons first.
The difficulty settings allow the party leader to set normal or easy. Normal is just the current state of the dungeons and easy will give you less mobs and bosses with a weaker punch. Rewards are less and have been divided between what players have come to call clean and dirty items. Simply put, a clean item has really good yellow stats on it while a dirty item may have yellow stats but also a green stat, or maybe only a green stat.
I really hope both the token and difficulty systems are expanded to all the dungeons. I know it would make life a lot easier for a more casual gamer like myself to experience more of what RoM has to offer. The patch has been live for a bit now, and I'm very curious to hear what players have to say about these and other new systems.
If you've had chances to test the differences in dungeon difficulty or earned enough mementos to buy gear, let me know about your experiences in the comments. Also, if you have any questions, suggestions or tips you'd like to read about in future columns, email me at jeremy [AT] massively [DOT] com.