Thursday, 4 February 2010


I've spent the last few weeks exploring Mirkwood, leveling up my main character, replacing old legendary items, collecting new ixp runes, acquiring the +25 radiance armour pieces, running skirmishes and pioneering the new Barad Guldur 12-man raid with my kinship. In other words, it's been busy, and in that time I've sampled pretty much everything that's available in Siege of Mirkwood. So? Personally, I think this has been the best expansion since before Mines of Moria - in fact, the best expansion since the one which brought us the Rift - and I believe it vindicates those of us who insisted that the game would eventually get its act together again.

First of all, the visual design is absolutely brilliant. The various regions of south Mirkwood are all different in interesting ways, both visually and in terms of content, but they all share a common eeriness. I was particularly impressed by the way that the woods are, well, murky... In other words, they're not pitch-black, causing you to keep walking off cliffs, but actually communicate the feeling that something could be lurking in the gloom just a few yards away from you - as, in fact, it probably is. Actually depicting gloom rather than darkness is no mean feat, graphically, so congratulations yet again to the landmass designers at Turbine.

The skirmishes are fun. They are quite fun to run solo, but they can be a real hoot in groups of six or more. The devs, wisely to my mind, effectively decided to make skirmishes largely irrelevant to a character's progress in the game, so that the skirmish marks you accumulate are largely employed in increasing your soldier's abilities. There are two exceptions to this rule. One is that skirmish marks can be exchanged for class quest items, some of them once extremely rare and valuable; I'm not entirely certain I approve of this, as it obviously tends to devalue wonderful old locations like Carn Dum, but I can also see how this could come as a relief to new players who may be having a hard time getting fellowships together for the tougher mid-level instances. The other exception, which some players may not have cottoned onto and which is a very good reason for high-level players to keep running instances, is that 1,950 skirmish points will buy you a Scroll of Empowerment with which you can upgrade any legacy on a l.65 legendary item by one tier. This makes it possible, and even feasible, to boost all your legacies to the maximum.

The three and six-man instances in Barad Guldur are well-designed and intelligently plotted, and have considerable replay value. They are also very different from one another, meaning they don't necessarily all appeal to the same player. The least popular appears to be the Dungeons instance, which involves a considerable amount of trickery and sneaking about, plus a hefty dose of luck, but it makes a good pendant to Sword Hall, a fast, purely combat-oriented instance. Judging by looking for fellowship requests, the six-man Sammath Gul instance is by far the most popular, partly of course because the major boss fight here is the game's only source of the rare Symbol of Celebrimbor, without which no Second-Age l.65 legendary can be crafted.

Ah, those legendaries again... Well, the facts are straightforward: to begin with, your old, much cherished l.60 First-Age weapon is pretty nearly useless, as in DPS terms it can be trumped by any new l.65 Third-Ager. So break it up, and dry your tears. Next, while Third-Age LIs are pretty easy to find or buy, Second-Agers no longer drop from anywhere and are now genuinely rare. They can only be crafted, and crafting requires the aforementioned Symbol of Celbrimbor, whose drop rate seems to be very roughly 1:10 - so even at this point in time, not many players have even one Second-Age l.65 item, let alone two. On the plus side, your chances of getting good legacies from the start have increased dramatically - it's still a gamble, but no longer a virtually hopeless one. More interestingly, you can now effect changes to your LIs yourself; Scrolls of Delving will increase an item by ten levels, to l.70, and as noted above, Scrolls of Empowerment will upgrade one tier. You can also choose to replace a single legacy with a new one which will increase a basic ability.

As for the new 12-man raid, I can confirm that it is difficult - very difficult for the average kinship and, I would say, not even worth trying with a PUG. This is not so much a matter of design trickery, just that even after you have learned the tactics (and there seems, mercifully, to be more than one ideal tactic for each fight), it calls for considerable precision, speed and accuracy - Barad Guldur is very unforgiving. Need I mention that in the first boss fight, every player death gives Dûrchest a 17.5% melee damage buff, and that after he reaches 130k morale, every death heals him for 190k morale?


Yeebo said...

Wow, that is a pretty thorough write up. I really had a blast with Mirkwood as well.

Dreadhed said...

Awesome post. I had not been running skirmishes, but that was because I did not know about the scroll reward. I had been running SH to earn coins for that scroll, takes 75! I think 1600 skirmish marks might be easier...maybe.

Thanks, great overview. Don't think I will be doing the 12man anytime soon. My kin is just now started to have success running turtle...and at that usually an hour or two before I log in.

Kairos said...

Scrolls of Empowerment can be had for either 75 Mirkwood Medallions in Emyn Lum, or for 1,950 skirmish marks from a Legendary Items dealer. The latter is definitely easier, particularly once you've run enough skirmishes to start earning the 50 and 500 mark deed bonuses for killing Lieutenants.