Now, not every player is max-level, so I can understand those who may grouse about the lack of additional lower-level dungeons with this update, but we have to be fair. It's not as if pre-65 characters are without any instances at all, and they can also have plenty of content to advance through. Level 65s who've finished Enedwaith have been twiddling their thumbs in frustration for a few months now, so I'm totally cool with giving them a platter of five new instances to explore.
I also appreciate that Turbine's mixed the instances up, both between indoor and outdoor experiences and in size. Not everyone's into raiding
, so it's certainly nice to have those three- and six-man dungeons for more casual dungeon-diving. I think there's a lot of expectation that players are bringing to these instances, knowing that they'll most likely have to tide us over until Rise of Isengard
Finally, I really love the themes here. These five instances are diverse in tone, but they're also tied together by the Gaunt-lords looking to spread mischief and get revenge. I relish being able to explore a good Forochel dungeon, and the Hobbit one looks equally fun. There's also a neat little quest arc that leads you through all five, so hopefully players will be cajoled into giving them a go.
Volume II solofication
One word: heck yes! Well, it's one word when I say it, kind of a "heckyessss!" In any case, I know I haven't been alone in clamoring for a revamp to Volume II like the one the team gave Volume I, and it's great to see Turbine come through on this. The epic storyline's always been one of the key features of the game, so it was disappointing to get stuck on fellowship-level chapters just because you couldn't find a group. Nobody likes reading a good book and being told that he can't go past chapter 5 unless he finds four other people reading the same book at the same place.
So now soloers should be able to go all the way through the epic storyline, from the prologue all the way up through wherever we are in Volume III. And, of course, they can do it whether they are subscribers or free players.
Volume III, Book 3
And for those of us who've made it to the current stopping point of the epic storyline, this update keeps the good times rolling with Book 3. Continuing the story of the slowest road trip south ever, Book 3 keeps the Rangers in Enedwaith as they investigate a library or somesuch. Also, there may be echoes. OF THE DEAD.
But seriously, new books in the epic storyline are always the first things players demand with any new update, so bully for Turbine for including it. The stories get better and better as we go along, and I can't wait to see what Isengard brings.
Monster Play updates
I've never really been into the PvMP side of the game, but I know that those who are
always feel that Turbine gives short shrift to PvMP, and they certainly crave more, more, MORE! With Echoes of the Dead, Turbine's implementing a two-pronged approach to getting more people into LotRO's
PvP. It is providing additional incentives for Freeps to join in the battle and is also helping new Creep players by buffing up their characters and explaining the systems a bit better through an improved tutorial.
This all isn't enough to really tug at my interest and pull me over to the Ettenmoors, but I have to get past my own self-interest to realize that there are plenty of players who dwell here exclusively and have been dying for improvements. So enjoy your Middle-earth pillow fight, PvMPers!
Legendary Item changes
As cool as the Legendary Item system is -- and I firmly believe it's an excellent addition to the game -- it really did need an attentive hand to fix a few parts that have been cruelly broken since Mines of Moria's
launch. Happily, with Echoes of the Dead, players will have a lot more control over shaping their LIs by being able to pull off and replace legacies in order to make the item you wanted instead of rolling the grind dice and hoping against the odds.
All in all, I heartily applaud this. LIs should be a blessing, not a curse, and it looks as though this update is a definite step in the right direction.
Character panel overhaul
Man, this new UI element looks sexy. LotRO's
UI always seemed a little too small and cluttered for my liking, so I appreciate the sleeker, bigger look that the character panel takes on with this patch.
It not only looks cleaner, but Turbine's adding three more (unlockable) outfit slots, which is a huge boon to people like yours truly who can't stop fiddling with how their characters look. Of course, give us five slots and we'll want 10, but that's just how it goes.
Hunter, Burglar and Minstrel improvements
With each of these big updates, Turbine's been working its way through the class roster, examining what works and what could be better and buffing things up to spec. I know many Minstrels who are jittering with excitement over this update, and I imagine the other two classes are pleased with the love as well. Sometimes all it takes is a new skill or fixing an underpowered one to make your day.
And the rest of the bag...
Of course, it doesn't just stop there; Echoes of the Dead has far more changes than I have space to discuss in this column. Radiance removal
. Transforming Moria battle instances into skirmishes
. Crafting improvements
What always makes a great update in my book is the dev team putting together content that appeals to a wide swath of players instead of just a select few. Echoes of the Dead seems like it has something for everyone, unless you're just impossible to please even if your friends spent all day shopping at Sharper Image. Dude, those massage chairs are heavenly