The Road to Mordor: On the cusp of Helm's Deep

The Road to Mordor On the cusp of Helm's Deep
This is it, my friends. There's no going back. In just a couple of short days, Lord of the Rings Online: Helm's Deep will launch, and we'll be forging ahead in unexplored territory.

Some of that territory is the game world itself, with the second half of Rohan being rolled out to much anticipation among the antsy level-capped community. Some of that territory is a radical change to the very foundation of LotRO itself. It's safe to say that while the former is welcomed, the latter is causing no end of controversy, anxiety, anticipation, delight, and horror.

I'm right there with you. I'm in the trenches, polishing my Captain's armor and getting ready for her next journey across Middle-earth. So before we saddle up and ride into Helm's Deep, let's go through what you need to know, to prepare, and to accomplish on launch day and beyond.

The Road to Mordor On the cusp of Helm's Deep
What you need to know about Helm's Deep

If you've been only half-heartedly following the news of the expansion or are otherwise only scrambling right now to figure out what's going on, I've got you covered. Helm's Deep will continue the Rohan storyline as LotRO goes deeper into The Two Towers territory. Not only will it cover most of the western half of Rohan (with some areas left to add in later), it'll also advance the story to when Theodin King is rescued from Wormtongue's influence and decides to take his countrymen to the shelter of the Hornburg. It's important to know that in a change from previous expansions, Turbine is not giving the epic story books to everyone this time around, just to those who buy Helm's Deep.

There are five new sizable zones coming with the expansion, a level cap increase to 95, a brand-new epic battle system (revolving around the Battle of Helm's Deep), and a rather sweeping class overhaul. Here are what I'd consider to be the top six posts you're going to want to read right now to get caught up on what the expansion offers:
  1. The determined defense of Lord of the Rings Online: Helm's Deep
  2. A wounded land: The sights of West Rohan
  3. Thirty thousand Orcs and you: A LotRO epic battles story
  4. A foundation for future growth: Examining LotRO's class restructuring
  5. LotRO devs answer "super-sized" Q&A about Helm's Deep
  6. LotRO drops Helm's Deep NDA -- In particular, you're going to want to click on that link to the player guides to the class updates.

The Road to Mordor On the cusp of Helm's Deep
What you need to do to be prepared for Helm's Deep

Whether you're just now coming back to the game or you've been playing faithfully, there are a few steps that you should take to get your affairs in order so that the transition into the expansion will be as smooth as possible.

First of all, you'll need to decide whether to buy the expansion now or wait. Pre-ordering gets you a few goodies that you'll miss out on otherwise, such as mounts and a leveling token. You could wait until afterward to see how the expansion shakes out, of course. I have several friends who are more hesitant to jump on board from day one this time around, so I wouldn't blame you. You also might be waiting to buy if you're going to do so with Turbine Points. Whether or not to get the premium edition vs. the standard one is up to you, but I don't think the extras are worth that $20 price bump.

If you're in the mid-levels or are just starting out, you might want to hold off on Helm's Deep right now and instead purchase the expansion bundle. It's the same price ($40) and will flesh out your adventuring experience nicely with every expansion through Riders of Rohan.

So what else should you be doing? The Bounder's Bounty event will be wrapping up with the expansion's release, so make sure you spend those tokens in case the vendors vanish. And although there are only a few days left of the 100% XP boost, there's no reason not to milk it like crazy, especially with the leveling contest that's going on as well. Sometimes a good marathon session is the best way to get ready for a release!

Personally, I spent an evening clearing out as much of my bag space as possible, making sure my legendary items were up to par, and tidying up my quest log.

Above all else, you're going to need to mentally prepare yourself for what is to come. The class changes, welcome or not, will represent a significant shift in how the game functions. Every player will be affected, and from what I'm hearing, it's best to go into this with an open mind instead of freaking out prematurely.

The Road to Mordor On the cusp of Helm's Deep
What you'll want to accomplish on launch day and beyond

Whether or not you choose to buy Helm's Deep, chances are that the first thing you'll be doing when you log in on November 18th is to get acquainted with your class' changes and the new trait tree. I'm putting aside that evening to doing just that because I don't think it's something I'm going to want to rush.

The question is what to do next. In the previous expansions, I always focused on picking up the new epic storyline, since it is designed to lead you into the new area anyway. Once I get to the first hub, I'll abandon the epic book while I test drive my new character build(s) and check out the standard quests. Personally, I'd leave epic battles well enough alone for a while. From what I'm hearing, they still require a lot of work, and even with scaling, they're not the most lowbie-friendly feature. I'd rather initially experience them through the natural course of the epic story and leave repeated grinding for down the road.

In the coming weeks of this column, I'll be charting my course and observations as I go through the rest of Rohan. I'm trying to go into this expansion with as unbiased an opinion as possible. I know there's a lot of hysteria out there, but I'd rather take this expansion at face-value and report my independent findings. No matter what, it's going to be an interesting journey over the next few months!

When not enjoying second breakfast and a pint of ale, Justin "Syp" Olivetti jaws about hobbits in his Lord of the Rings Online column, The Road to Mordor. You can contact him via email at justin@massively.com or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.

This article was originally published on Massively.