Can LotRO’s Helm’s Deep Bring Fresh Blood to the MMO?

The Lord of the Rings Online game devs at Turbine have been executing a careful balancing act as they have progressed through J. R. R. Tolkien’s epic story. Not only have they tried to be true to the books, but to also add memorable cinematic moments from the film trilogy as well.

And this has never been more evident than with their efforts to convey the enormity of the battle of Helm’s Deep with its 30,000 orcs, epic moments on the battlements and widely-known outcome as the centerpiece of it’s upcoming fifth expansion. But their work is threatened by the sheer weight of older progression features and now all new ones.

Yesterday, the LotRO devs gave me a tour of the massive battle systems they have created and how they have integrated the player who is clearly not the hero of the battle according to the source material. What I saw were new systems of progression, talent trees and item acquisition. There’s even a feature that allows players as low as level 10 to participate so new players have a reason to get in on this expansion.

Though I did not see them all, the expansion also introduces 5 new solo instances: Helm’s Dyke, Helm’s Coomb, Deeping Wall, Glittering Caves and the Hornburgh. Helm’s Dyke is also available as a 3-man instance, Glittering Caves as a 6-man and Deeping Wall as a 12-man.

After having seen what the expansion has to offer, it strikes me that all of these features share something in common: they are all Turbine’s attempt to keep its aging and complex game relevant in a crowded MMO market. This isn’t to say that Turbine hasn’t had a long history of making entry into the game smoother as time has gone on. From reworking the Epic quest lines to be soloable to revisiting the leveling paths to switching to a free-to-play model, the game developers have stayed nimble in keeping the game attractive to new players over the years.

But the new features in this expansion feel like the most blatant grab at new players. For example, not only can all this new content be accessed by level 10 players who get upscaled by the game, but it can all be completed solo. And who can blame Turbine for these decisions?

It’s been six years since the title’s launch, with its fifth expansions soon under its belt and countless competitors all vying for the limited playtime of MMO enthusiasts, Turbine needs to make moves to keep the game fresh and easy to get into. Which is why I’m surprised they are introducing yet even more systems into the game which already has (arguably) too many.

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12 Comments on Can LotRO’s Helm’s Deep Bring Fresh Blood to the MMO?

Palpatine

On November 1, 2013 at 10:00 am

Great review! This is the first honest review I’ve seen about HD.

I don’t see old players returning back though, they won’t get many new players either. This doesn’t even count as an expansion. Just HD themed new skirmishes for 40 bucks… Yeah, good luck selling it to players.

Comstrike

On November 1, 2013 at 12:28 pm

I hate to say it, but he is right. Too many “new” systems, not enough polish of old systems. I have yet to chew through most of the game, much less want to deal with the rest of this stuff.

Altreg01

On November 1, 2013 at 4:14 pm

Great article, finally something written by the reviewer, and not for the reviewer by Turbine. Replacing traditional raids with glorified skirms as endgame has to be suicide. Its quite obvious that they have sold out and have no interest in retaining older players and are more interested in grabbing the f2p buck. Its a shame, lotro was once the best game out there, now its junk. In no way shape or form is HD worth $40, heck even $19.95 is steep. Im glad I have enough TP to buy this, days of Turbine getting real cash from me are long gone. If they ever put out real content again Id consider opening my wallet, but we all know what the chances of that are.

Lori

On November 2, 2013 at 12:01 am

Finally, a truthful review if LOTRO. Thanks for that. Well said.

LotRfan

On November 2, 2013 at 1:22 pm

Thank you for this honest review, the first one I’ve seen on the ‘net so far.

You’re absolutely right by saying that Turbine could’ve done so many things that would be benefitting for the game, but instead they’re grafting another (unpolished) systems on top. I get the strong impression that no-one of the old development/live crew is still on board, or has any influence any longer, while the inexperienced newly-hired young bloods don’t dare to touch the old code, unless it explodes. Everyone could see what happened when the Mounted Combat system of RoR, with its much higher/dynamic movement rates, hit the antiquated network code. Kludge much? Absolutely!

Anyway, I’m a Lifer, and even though I wouldn’t have to pay $$$ for HD, I will neither buy it nor play it. There are many other games where the love and care of the developers shines through. LotRO has become a shameless money-grab.

degu

On November 4, 2013 at 6:17 pm

Haven’t played for a long time, but occasionally follow the development of the game. I have to agree on ‘feature fatigue’ in a way. I could return to the game, but it just feels like it’d be more of a hassle than something fun.

I’d have to re-learn how gearing up works now (I left during Mirkwood, after quitting in Moria because of the radiance hell-grind, just to find that it had been replaced by some cluttered, headache-inducing token system), grind up and throw away who knows how many LI (or do they still do that?), blah blah blah. And now apparently they have a revamp of class traits or something. If it was just a matter of exploring, doing quests and leveling I wouldn’t care as much. I feel the same way about returning to DDO.

Turbine had a bad habit of introducing stuff just to let it rot in favor of the flavor of the day later on. Hobbies and housing stick out as a couple examples from the early days.

MonsterMash

On November 6, 2013 at 3:33 pm

Asking Turbine to devote time and resources to actually make the game better?? They’d rather devote time and energy into designing an in your face in game slot machine system with an alert that won’t go away until you click on it … each and every day you login. Apparently Turbine is convinced that grabbing new players and getting them addicted to the LOTRO store is more profitable than devoting any energy to keeping existing players. Turbine well knows that systems like the legendary item system are dragging the game down and disenfranchising many players such as the author. What is worse is that they do not fix these systems because they would rather exploit them as a means of funneling people into the LOTRO store (crystals of remembrance, relic removal scrolls, etc.). People that sit around and say, “Well you don’t have to buy anything” don’t realize that they are just contributing to the problem. It should be little wonder that at some point players like the author and myself eventually get tired of it and throw in the towel.

Taryn

On November 21, 2013 at 5:22 am

Very on-the-money review. From my perspective as an existing (or maybe I should say *previously* existing) Lotro player, now that the Helm’s Deep expansion has released, I am dismayed at the amount of work — and research into the new and changed mechanics — that it appears it’s going to take me to bring each of six different characters back up to merely being playable.

Being somewhere in-between a casually-committed enthusiast and an obsessive gamer, I’m not sure I want to invest that kind of time in a game that I could play comfortably and enjoy two days ago without major effort, but no more. Sure, the lore is great, and the environments awesome — but studying up on the changes to playstyle, they have the overall feel to me of further reducing the need for real-time tactical thinking and skill during play (which I happen to enjoy), and conversely, increasing the amount of research and thought needed, not only to reconfigure my characters initially just to get back into playing the game, but potentially every single time prior to going into different kinds of battle scenarios. I can’t help but see this as bad news for old and new players alike, and ultimately, for Turbine. Time will tell.

Maharani

On November 25, 2013 at 7:23 pm

I played the Beta Helm’s Deep. I hated it. I had hoped that all the negativity would have stopped this expansion in its tracks. It was so bad, I played like two days of Beta and played it no more. Release day came and went. Servers had crashed. The release day was pushed back….BAD SIGN. Downloaded Helm’s Deep, and guess what? All the bad stuff was kept. The expansion wasn’t even a challenge. Mobs were so easy to kill. The EPIC BATTLES at the end, OMG, they suck. I remember watching a behind the scenes show on the making of the movie, Lord of the Rings (Helm’s Deep battle too!!!!). One of the “orc” extras stated that he’d been killed like over a hundred times……The epic battles felt like that too me….killing the same thing over and over and over. Add in a new system of “merit” and medals and I was about to pull my hair out. Oh, and that was on top of them changing all the classes and introducing a trait tree….Heads need to roll at Turbine, starting with the Team managers. And, if Sapience keeps hiding the critical posts on the forums, he needs his ass run out of there too. The game can’t improve if the company doesn’t know that the game sucks……

K

On November 25, 2013 at 11:11 pm

well my comment will be different than the others, i like lotro, and i am old returning player. the expansion made me return, and i like how its made, yes its to complex, yes they could have polished other things, but yet again if they did not do it complex people would wine re its to easy and not complex … so there’s the other way around as well. Yes its very hard for me to get in to the game right now, everything is reset and i get a lot of new things to learn, but i kinda like it, taking it slow, going to all other old stuff again, and coming to the new ones slowly. I did not buy the expansion yet, but i still have some questions for riders of rohan, then i will buy the HD with the Christmas 50% off.

Anyhow … i like lotro, some one below said that there are tons of new games out there, but i have been looking around after i quit wow, been playing gw2 and many others … honestly the story line sux in 99% of them, the game play sux in almost 99% of them again, and there is almost NO solo game out there or 3 man or 6 man game … its ether high end raiding or no raiding at all …

so whatever any one is saying i like LOTRO :)

AFK

On November 27, 2013 at 1:55 am

Great review the truth about LOTRO is that it was too big of a change for a game in this stage of it’s life as others have mentioned just too much hassle now tailoring your toon for people who have played this game for years.

Roldan

On February 19, 2014 at 11:22 am

The answer usually lies somewhere in between opposing points of view. If the question is about quality of end game, then yes, it is inadequate! But if the question is about the game as a whole, how on earth can someone dismiss the entire game because of this recent expansion. And then there is the person who comments about the game, even though they have not played for years! Ludicrous!