I did indeed buy the $40 edition of the Mordor Expansion, and boosted a Hobbit Minstrel from level 24 to level 105 so I could actually play said expansion. (Folks on Twitter seemed to think Minstrel was a good solo class to play.)
Once again the gear you are given looks awful, like a suit of white underwear. I guess they really want people who use level boosts to look like total newbies compared to the people have been playing all along, which I suppose isn’t entirely inappropriate. At least this time they gave me a neat-looking pony, though it is literally only like 5% faster than the blond sorrel pony I had at level 24.
My level 105 experience began with Book 8, Chapter 1, “No Other Way.” This is one of those “scenarios” where you experience a piece of the story from a different character’s point of view. I had never seen these until late in the Volume 1 Angmar story, when my Hunter was over level 50, so I was glad to have that previous experience. I imagine someone brand new to LotRO or someone who had never leveled beyond the 20s (a popular place for people to fizzle out of LotRO–or at least that’s where most of my characters fizzle out) might be a bit confused about what was happening to them.
It was a neat little story section but it was also entirely expositional. No combat, just reading text and walking around as Golum. Possibly not the greatest way to begin the expansion.
Then it was on to the Black Gate, and a tense attempt at parlay. (I did not remember this from the story–seems like a silly idea to try to negotiate a treaty with Sauron, but I guess it was mainly just an attempt at a distraction.)
Then on to the Battle of the Black Gate aka. the Battle of the Morannon. This battle was just amazing. If my wiki research is correct, this was added in the previous Update 20. I can’t believe I didn’t hear more people raving about how amazing this battle was. (Perhaps this is why the game nearly died.) I was blown away by how much LotRO managed to deliver with its creaky old game engine.
It was really laggy and slow, but it was worth it. None of my screenshots do justice to all the activity going on around you. Archers firing, people getting shot by arrows right in front of you, cavalry riding into battle, big ogres knocking people high up in the air, fires burning, Nazgul flying around, bombastic music blaring in the background: I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.
Book 9, Chapter 1, which I think is the official beginning of the Mordor expansion, didn’t start until the middle of the battle. It was not long before the Ringbearer completed his quest and the battle ended. I hope that’s not a spoiler. :)
It was so quick that I thought it was actually a bit anti-climatic. One minute we’re wandering around Mount Doom to find Frodo and Sam, and the next minute the eagles arrive and everything’s over and we’ve won the day.
That’s about as far as I got as of this writing.
I really enjoyed the Black Gate battle but I honestly don’t feel much burning passion to continue beyond that. As a newbie outsider to LotRO, it feels like it’s “over” now. I know, I know. I remember hearing a number of people talking about how there would be more to Mordor than just Mount Doom, and that’s pretty clear, considering that three chapters into the expansion, we’re all celebrating our victory over Sauron, so there must be something else beyond that. But I personally have no idea where they can go from here, and the game itself has not yet introduced any compelling new storylines for me to follow. My knowledge of Lord of the Rings lore is not that great, but I think there is something about The Shire and sailing west to the New World to discover America. We’ll see.
P.S. Apparently there are tons of bugs in this expansion and it was rushed out the door too soon but I haven’t seen any of that. I’ve seen some strange quirks with people appearing and disappearing around quest givers but that’s about it. I would have just chalked that up to an old game engine and the fact that LotRO has always had strange quirks.
Personally I think this expansion controversy illustrates just how close LotRO was to shutting down forever. SSG is apparently so desperate to keep this game alive that they have no choice but to rush out a substandard expansion. I know a lot of people are upset about it but I personally don’t blame them for it. At least they’re trying.
I will also add that there aren’t many people playing this expansion. I’m on Brandywine, which I thought was one of the more populated servers, and these zones are dead as a doornail. There are none of the crowds you’d expect to see at the start of an expansion. (Granted, I’m five or six days behind, but still.) Not to be pessimistic, but this does not seem to bode well for the future of this game.
Update: Finally wandered beyond the Black Gate into the first Mordor zone. Lots and lots more people there. Not as deserted as I first thought. No need to panic. :)