Sunday, 26 October 2008


I suspect that the design success of the three Battleground Instances has gone largely unappreciated and unnoticed, buried to some extent beneath the grumbling about the poor drop rate of the chest rewards and the silly linking of the three, whereby Rhunendin cannot be accessed until the first two have been completed at least 20 times each – which might be OK, if the whole sequence didn’t keep resetting at unknown intervals.

Anyway, I would be happy with these instances even without any rewards; they are fast (average time for a good team should be 30’, 35’ and 60’ respectively), increasingly challenging and place a premium on tactical thinking. Indeed, I would argue that they are perhaps the first instances in the entire game to require true tactical thought (Annuminas perhaps excepted). Both Helegrod and above all the Rift have a steep learning curve and demand experience, careful timing, discipline and a very precise sequence of moves by the raiders – but these are not purely tactical considerations. Rather, they require raiders to have knowledge of often very particular circumstances, and act accordingly; you have to know what happens in specific cases (for example, what happens when Barz shouts “I’ll gnaw your bones!”), and your options are thereafter very limited indeed.

On the other hand, the Battlegrounds present players with an essentially tactical challenge: you must defend, or defend and attack, often simultaneously and with limited forces, and all against the clock. There are several ways of achieving this, depending on the makeup of the fellowship, and all have a chance of success; and you can and indeed must vary your tactics as the logistical situation changes. There are clear trade-offs: you can play safe at the probable expense of speed, you can balance the (eventually critical) loss of NPCs against a faster rate of enemy attrition (i.e., you gamble on killing them faster than they can kill you), you can form a weak defence and a strong offence team, or vice-versa.

Whoever was behind the design of the little gems, I very much hope we’ll encounter more of their work in MoM.

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