I’ve been making my way through the Update 6 content over the past couple of weeks, and have finally finished off the epic story and got enough of a handle on the rest of the content to give my impressions of it. Overall, I really like what they’ve done with the Great Rivers content, including the Roots of Fangorn instance, although I am certainly hoping that Update 7 has some more raid content to tide us over until RoR because I ultimately find repeatable rep grinds fairly unsatisfying as end game content.

Epic story and landscape quests

The 6.3 epic book certainly lives up to the high standard that Turbine have set for themselves with the epic storyline. It hits you right off with a fantastic surreal dream sequence and usefully, if somewhat implausibly, shuffles you off into a part of the world that will segue very nicely into the RoR expansion. My first impressions of the Great Rivers content were just how good looking it is. Turbine have really been outdoing themselves with their landscape and general graphic design recently. Everything from the flowing water, to the reed covered banks, to the random interesting locations to the beautiful map of Stangard has been excellently crafted and is really the highlight of this expansion in my opinion. I loved exploring the landscape and experiencing the new locations.

Unfortunately, Turbine don’t seem to be interested in setting any new standards for landscape quest design. Apart from some interesting-in-concept but actually boring /emote quests at the start, the quest design continues to be of the form “go to area X to do something and then turn your quest in then go back to area X to do something else then go off to area Y, rinse and repeat” with the odd time-sink “run off to a very far away place then run to another far away place” type quest thrown in. I’ve probably been tainted by my experiences in SWTOR, and single player RPGs in general, but I’m really finding this “get as much value as we possibly can out of every square inch of the landscape” to be wearing very thin. It is possible to have more engaging ways of developing quest chains – in fact some of them have been used in LOTRO already (eg. the use of journals/whistles as mobile quest givers in the eregion revamp, or the infamous tracking the old goat quest chain) – but for whatever reason Turbine seems to be persisting in continually throwing a lot of needless time wasting travel back and forward in their landscape quests; needless from the user point of view anyway, making content take longer to complete has obvious benefits for Turbine.

Also, to make another possibly unfair SWTOR comparison, I think Turbine could really take a leaf from Bioware’s book and up the ante on epic region-wide story telling. While they are definitely trying to tell an overall story, I feel like the actual quests get too caught up in minor little details in multiple disjointed locations and at the end of the day you’re still relegated to playing very minor bit roles. There’s nothing like the superb epic zone-wide storytelling that you get in STWOR zones like Balmorra or Tatooine where everything you do is directly feeding into a broader story and you ultimately having a really meaningful role in it. In LOTRO quests you end up feeling like a very passive participant. This is probably a function of your character never actually speaking, half of your ‘involvement’ in the various stories is sitting and watching other people have conversations. Anyway, that’s a long way of saying that while I love the zone from a design and exploration perspective, actually playing through all the quests, especially without the traditional questing carrot of levelling up, got fairly boring for me.

Limlight Gorge

The Limlight gorge is an inspired concept. I reckon Turbine saw how often Throor’s Coomb dailies in Enedwaith got run at level 65, even though at the end of the day they had pretty mediocre rewards. People just really enjoy having that sort of casual landscape grouping option, it’s fun, it’s PUG-gable, it gives kinships something to do together every day no matter how few people they have online. Limlight is like Throors Coomb on steroids, with the power level of the rewards dialled up to 11. The only complaint you can have about the Limlight loot is that it’s actually way too good – it’s almost universally over the power level of anything else in the game at the moment, including Draigoch and T2 ToO loot.

From a lore-master’s perspective, you’ll be making the choice between the Menders and Sage’s set for your Great River rewards. To unlock these, you need to get some gold tokens (mainly from Limlight quests) and grind to kindred rep level with both the Riders of Stangard (for the bracelet) and the Heroes of Limlight (for the earring). You can get the pocket pieces as quest reward at the end of the line of quests in two zones – Brown Lands for the Sage’s and, in theory, Thinglad for the Menders – although I think the latter is bugged at the moment. You can also buy the pockets for gold tokens in Stangard. Each of the pieces also has an upgraded version which you get by trading the basic item in along with an unhatched egg from the Roots of Fangorn final chest

IMO the choice here is relatively clear – the sage’s set is more relevant for us. You can see a total set stat comparison below (total morale includes the morale given from vitality):

Will Fate Vit Finesse TactM Crit Tot. Morale
Sage’s 409 32 64 1020 336 1008 361
Mender’s 409 95 0 0 336 672 507

I certainly value the additional chunk of finesse and crit on the sage’s set over the 140 extra morale on the mender’s set – especially as the value of that extra morale is offset somewhat by the increased resistances you get from +vit. The 30 extra fate on the sage’s set only gives you an extra ~50 crit chance and a negligible amount of ICPR.

Each set also has a 20s clicky effect on a 5min cooldown if you equip three pieces – +105 will and -15% skill inductions on the mender’s set and +105 will and +5% critical hit chance on the sage’s set. While the skill inductions sounds very attractive, these effects have such a short uptime that they don’t factor much into the overall value of the sets. Plus, you’ll arguably get more benefit from the 5% critical hit chance anyway given that you really can’t do that many useful inductions in 20s and a decent chunk of your damage comes from inductionless skills and DoTs anyway.

My only real criticism of the Limlight Gorge is that Turbine haven’t done anything to try to break the mould of boring, grindy, repeatable daily quests. Surely someone could come up with a better system by now? How about having a bunch of different quests that rotate daily on a random basis (sort of like the moria instance ones in the 21st Hall)? Or have tiers of unlocking quests which have enough overlap with the previous tier that it wouldn’t matter much which tier people were on, but which at least could give you something different to do? Or why not throw some random spawn elite mobs or even full-fledged world raid bosses out there, with quality loot tables, to give people a rare and surprising challenge? There’s so much more which could be done than having people go in and kill the same ~10-15 mobs each day to complete the same quests on what ends up being a fairly long reputation grind.

Roots of Fangorn

Finally just some quick notes on the lore-master’s role in the Roots of Fangorn instance. I won’t be writing a complete guide, both because there’s already a pretty comprehensive guide on the forums and because the final fight is changing drastically on T2 in 6.1 with stacking DoTs from the spiders. At the moment the fight is relatively easy as long as you get the tank very quickly picking up the venemous spider spawns; that’s going to change dramatically with the next patch as it’ll become a much more hectic target swapping fight.

Overall, the instance is fun and a great one for the lore-master to shine. Throughout the instance there are some very nasty wounds and DoTs – all of which do about 400DPS to their target – so you have to be on the ball with your curing. During the first half of the instance including the first boss fight, there are a number of nasty stun effects done by the orcs so you want to be keeping stun immunity up on your melee targets. I’d even consider traiting dunedain learning given how frequent and nasty the stuns can get. On other trait choices your biggest consideration is whether your group needs extra healing. For the final fight you definitely want to have at least one main and one backup healer. If you don’t have a cappy or green-CJ popping burg then you’ll probably want at least three blue traits (healer, light of hope, improved flanking) along with the eagle or bog guardian pet. The increased healing througput you get from that setup will be of great help to your main healer. Mezzing is optional, but it can be a bit of help on the orc shamans and venomous spiders during the trash and, to some degree, the boss fights – and if you’re traiting 4 blue anyway (the healing ones + dunedain) then you might as well use it.

On the first boss fight, you definitely want to be laying down tar and getting your LoTRD/Test of Will ready in anticipation of the goblin runner – he moves seriously fast. Save your ents go to war up for the bosses final “everyone come out” callout – hopefully you can get all three mobs caught in a nice 6sec stun, ready for a lightning storm burst. The eagle is a decent pet choice throughout the instance here, along with good flank heals, it can help interrupt shamans and the boss during this fight and also the final spider boss. As for the final boss, just keep your debuffs up, heal and share power as needed and DPS the boss down. As for loot, the T2 bracelet is pretty nice, and definitely an upgrade from most of the skraid or ToO bracelets.