For me Update 11 has been a bit of a mixed bag.  There are a number of cool little things they’ve put into the game and of course the new epic story line, but I can’t help but be overly frustrated by the lack of quality and revision control that Turbine continues to show with its launches.  There’s also the slightly shadier aspect that I’m not sure I like or dislike, and that’s the continual push to have players log in every day.

Let’s start with the good parts, I’ve already talked about the zone and it really doesn’t disappoint from a visual perspective.  The whole footprints in the snow things is pretty darn cool!  I like the new housing tweaks, especially being able to pay for 20 weeks up front, in case you know you’re going to be gone (or forget) and that 5 weeks just isn’t long enough.  Foreclosure doesn’t impact me at all, but I think its a good middle ground way to get out of the corner they backed themselves into.  While the launcher has had issues, I do like the fact that it FINALLY respects your default browser when clicking links from within it.  I’m also quite happy with the way the epic line (not that I’ve done that much) mixes in your story with session plays to allow you to flesh out the rest of the story and allow us to check in on other areas.  The LOTRO story is quite geographically diverse, and this tech is a great way to show what’s going on without forcing us all other the map.  They also added in new craftable items for those who have maxed out not only their crafting skills, but their guild reputation.  I’m quite happy these don’t require any other reputation (like Wildermore) as it allows for folks with lower level crafting alts to still make usable items for people at the end game.  These items are a touch better then the Hytbold items, and offer quite a bit of flexibility with their multi-output options, so they’re definitely worth a look.  One other thing that I haven’t checked out, but was mentioned in the LOTRO Reporter interview was mounted fishing, and while you may or may not like the idea, the technology and concept behind it is quite intriguing and points to further growth and flexibility of the game engine, which is always a good thing.

Somewhere in the middle between the good and the bad is this whole new alerts panel thing, I’m actually ok with it, but that’s mainly because, thanks to the folks over on the LOTRO Google+ channel, I found out that you can individually scale the size of the alerts panel in your UI settings.  Without making it really small like I have, I think the cartoonish nature of the button would really bug me, but since it is now super tiny (yet still findable to click) it is one of those “out of sight, out of mind” updates.  They did add in some warbands and some other stuff for mounted combat, which while I agree is a good thing, but I still don’t think enough was done to make it anything more then a fringe side-game.  However, I have yet to see or read if any of the new warbands are challenging, or if they’re as much of a pushover as the others.

While there’s a number of pretty cool things in this update, sadly there’s also a LOT wrong with this update.  I’m still quite puzzled how this whole patcher thing wasn’t caught, but it still isn’t completely fixed – perhaps relying on the ancient .net 1.1 for so long and making such a drastic jump was just too much to pull off successfully.  There’s also the potential that there’s some nastiness that they had to code in to make the dreaded Pando Media Booster work with 1.1 that’s not playing well with whatever version of .net they’re using now.  Whatever the issue is, the fact that is has taken this long (3 days to patch) and it still isn’t resolved isn’t a good thing for Turbine.  The next big issue with this update are the broken quests which block you from proceeding in the story, there are now 2 that I know of with one being fixed.  Please make sure you check out this post such that you don’t get stuck in a position where you can’t advance further.  While I really appreciate and enjoy all the tricks and things they can do with phasing now, it seems like they forgot to put the proper checks in place to make sure that you can’t accidentally phase out someone you need for quest turn-ins.  Also, the music system is now broken, and this is troubling for two reasons:

  • timing is close to WeatherStock which is one of LOTRO’s biggest events that is noticed and picked up by media outlets outside of the gaming world
  • this happened when there were no updates to the system, meaning they don’t have a good system of regression testing to make sure that what worked in previous builds still works in current builds.

Finally, this update has once again brought us back to the time (Isengard did this too) where we no longer get virtue rewards for deed advancement or completion.  I really wish Turbine would just pick to something and be consistent about it, but all of the flipping back and forth on this in conjunction with the increase in available ranks just doesn’t sit well with me.  It is starting to seem like they are purposefully leaving options out of the game in order to drive folks to the store.  And let me be clear, I don’t have a problem with them having traits available in the store (I have bought them) but when you don’t include them in entire regions when they are in others (they’re in Rohan and the Great River, but not Isengard or Wildermore), it appears shady to me as if they don’t want too many options for players in game.

The other aspect that rubs me the wrong way is this shift to not only reward players for logging in every day but in some ways penalizing them for not.  Penalizing may be a strong word, but there are certain very clear advantages to logging in every day now that just weren’t the case prior to Update 11.  And I’m not just referring to the Hobbit Presents, which are just another addition along the same lines as festivals in that there are just certain things that are on a daily timer.  The big shift that I’m refereeing to is the new “VIP Perk” that is the change to rested experience.  Prior to update 11 you could “store” up to 20% of a level per day up to a cap of an entire level’s worth as rested experience, but now with Update 11 that cap is at 33%, but it can be refreshed daily and applies to all experience not just monster kills.  So this is really only a perk if you’re able to actively QUEST on a daily basis on whatever character you want to work on.  I’d suggest if you really want to take full advantage of this “perk” make sure to try and get in some good quest time on your alts, perhaps run a skirmish or two on them to get not only monster kills but quest xp.

Overall, I still think this was a pretty decent update for LOTRO but the bugs and lack of regression testing could pose some huge problems when they do their class overhauls with all these instance options and technologies as something is bound to break, and who knows when Turbine will not only catch it but be able to fix it.