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Why you should be playing Lord of the Rings Online: The Warden

Tateru Nino

"Why you should be playing ..." is a free form column from intended to inform you about our favorite parts of our favorite games. We want you to know why we play what we do!

The Warden class in the Lord of the Rings Online (introduced with the new Mines of Moria expansion) is, all things considered, a blast to play. A capable jack-of-all-trades class, rich in tactical options. Not a class for those who prefer their combat to be a bit mindless, the Warden keeps you thinking.

The biggest downfall of the Warden is probably hubris.

You see, the Warden is capable. Very capable. Durable in a fight, with a mix of melee and range attacks, and a variety of support powers, when they come up against opponents without special attacks (poison, stunning and so forth) such as orcs or brigands, Wardens can quite comfortably take on foes up to five levels or so above their own. The downside of this is that it can often lead you into trouble.

Read on to find out why I love the kind of trouble the Warden offers.

A Warden is a medium-armor user, and as they become accustomed to taking on foes well above their own level, well ... when things go wrong for the Warden, they can go wrong very quickly. An unexpected extra foe or a creature with an unexpected attack ability can spell swift defeat for Wardens who are overreaching themselves.

Primarily focused on spear and shield combat, with a javelin for ranged combat (a sort of roaming hoplite or lone phalanxer), the Warden excels at both defense and damage. Somewhat like a tank archetype, they can soak a fair bit of damage, but unlike most tanks they can also dish it out. The Warden can also be capable with clubs and swords, but realistically, they're best served ignoring those weapons entirely in favor of the spear.

As the Warden advances, they can move with stealth, heal themselves (heal-over-time for short periods), boost their defense, apply damage over time, or increase their threat (in short bursts, or over time) in order to pull rude strangers away from beleaguered companions.

The Warden's Ambush ability allows them to strike and daze a distant opponent. It also boosts their run speed so that they can rush to close combat range and deliver an extra-damage Critical Strike to stunned foes.

The core of Warden combat involves Gambits, which are essentially a sort of finishing-move. The Warden's spear, shield and taunt attack abilities when used in certain combinations enable them to trigger the Gambits they've learned. Gambits are powerful and versatile, at the cost of requiring two or three preceding attacks to enable.

There are a number of Gambits to keep track of, but they're doled out to you at a measured pace as you level up, so if you can manage the first three or four, it is unlikely that you'll be overwhelmed (though perhaps some gambits might go forgotten at times). Initially these gambits require only two moves to unlock, but higher level gambits can string together three-four-even five moves before completing.

The level-15 class-quest for the Warden is appropriate, and well-thought out. Go well-equipped, though, because it is a tough one, but definitely worth it for the skill award and powerful shield reward.

Despite that, at higher levels, the Warden becomes something of an answer without a question. As a jack-of-all-trades they become increasingly outmatched in each field by the specialist classes. While a Warden is an asset to virtually any unbalanced fellowship (teaming well with most other classes and bringing something unique to the table), in a group that already has a balanced set of classes, the Warden can seem like a bit of a fifth wheel.

Unless you're always playing in a balanced and regular play-group, however, the Warden finds a workable place in most fellowships, as well as kicking several kinds of butt in solo play.

Overall, the Warden is a lot of fun to play in a group, a lot of fun to solo with, and unlike some classes, they click almost right away. Don't be surprised to see quite a few Wardens dashing about Middle-earth at the moment. Within your first few levels, you'll know if the class suits you. They're full of deliciously surprising abilities as they level-up.

If you like the idea of a more cerebrally managed ass-kicker, the Warden is worth your time to try out.

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