LOTRO Legendarium: Is Mordor too difficult?

If there’s one topic of discussion that I’ve been hearing a lot in world chat, on the forums, and among my kinship, it’s about Lord of the Rings Online: Mordor and its huge jump in difficulty.

It is pretty much the first thing you notice when you head through the Black Gates to the land beyond. Mordor is waiting there, ready to chew you up and spit you back out. Until you start getting the new quest gear rewards and bump up your Light level with it, progress is agonizingly slow. And even after a zone or two, it’s far from a walk in the park. Mobs hit hard, have deep health pools, and often are packed together so that pulling just one is an impossibility. I’ve probably died more times these past few weeks than the last two years in LOTRO.

It’s almost like I’m playing a different game. Once or twice, I’ve rested my forehead against my desk and typed out in frustration, “It feels like this expansion wants to abuse me!” And I hear nothing but sympathy in response from those feeling the same.

Challenge? Bring it on!

Let’s take a step back and acknowledge the obvious. Mordor is supposed to be hard. It’s the very stronghold of the most dire evil that Middle-earth has ever known, and even with Sauron’s downfall, we all expected to encounter a harsh landscape and nightmares made flesh (or fire). If we walked in there and saw nothing but tumbleweeds and one goblin picking its nose, it would be both anti-climactic and a laughingstock.

Some players have embraced the difficulty increase with gusto. To them, LOTRO has been a cakewalk for years now out on the landscape, and that ease has made it both boring and insulting. A stiff challenge wakes people up, they say, and it provides a feeling of accomplishment when overcome.

I can’t entirely refute this. Apart from certain areas of Gondor designed for group play, my Lore-master all but breezed through the last few zones without a care in the world. Her lynx would shred the enemy camps into little pieces, and I would happily loot what was left. The Wastes was a bit more difficult, but certainly nothing I couldn’t handle.

But I’m having a hard time welcoming Mordor’s design in this respect. Increased difficulty was to be expected, but what I keep asking myself is, did the developers overdo it? Is landscape questing too hard, too frustrating, and too slow?

I fear that it is.

The tipping point

I do not envy devs and their monumental task of creating world content that is somewhat balanced for players of varying skill and gear levels. Make it too easy, and players get apathetic and drift away from your game. Make it too hard, and players pound their keyboards and ragequit.

I would assume that the general balancing principle for landscape questing is to assume that a bulk of your players — especially in Lord of the Rings Online — are decked out in standard quest reward gear. That’s the baseline. If some players have better gear due to rep grinding, crafting, or instance farming, then they’ll have it a bit easier as a reward, but everyone else should be experiencing the game more or less the same.

My character has mostly quest gear with a few rare random drops thrown in. I’m level 112, my Light level is at 70, and I’m working my way through Talath Úrui. And it is seriously kicking my butt. Normal, non-main-storyline quests to head into an enemy camp, kill however many things and loot however many whatsits, are proving to be absolutely brutal, especially solo. Time-to-kill on a single mob is far longer than I’ve ever experienced in the landscape to date, and too often I find myself swarmed and executed without a way out.

As an MMO player, I am no stranger to difficult games. Probably the most challenging I’ve played in recent years was The Secret World, an MMO that seemed to revel in beating you up and making you inch toward progress. Yet as long as I see a way forward, as long as there’s some way to accomplish my goal, I’ll grit my teeth and soldier on. It’s when a game stonewalls me with near-impossible content and takes on an unfair attitude that I find myself seething with anger and frustration.

You see, there’s this tipping point between fun and frustration that happens when an MMO becomes unbalanced in its world questing. I recently encountered this in RIFT: Starfall Prophecy, as a matter of fact. I love that MMO, but the devs vastly overtuned mobs and densely packed them in with this expansion as a response to player complaints of the game being too easy. Instead of careful, measured adjustments, a wild swing the other way happened and I was left with an unfun slog through otherwise interesting stories and areas.

I’m concerned that Mordor has tipped the other way here. I can get over the oppressive nature of the country (that kind of came with the territory, if you’ll excuse the pun). I find the lore and “off-road” storytelling pretty fascinating so far. But I’m starting to dread logging in at night to do these quests because I just don’t know if I’ll be able to do them. They’re not enjoyable and that’s a problem.

A light in the darkness

This isn’t to say that all questing has been the pits. Actually, because of this increased difficulty, there has been a noticeable spike in spontaneous formation of player groups around some of the trickier areas. Some of the best fun I’ve had in this expansion has been hanging out with groups of other players, turning the tide on the enemy and finishing quests with ease.

And again, I know what you’re thinking. “That’s the whole point of MMOs! Social bonding! Working together!” We can debate that later, but the problem here is twofold: This standard content should be soloable if desired, and finding a group in LOTRO is not always easy.

Need a group to help you in a very specific area? LFF, the group finder, and even shouting into regional chat has provided me nothing in this regard. The only way I have ever found a group in Mordor to date is to keep my eyes open for another player heading in and frantically tossing him or her a group invite to see if they might want company for self-preservation. That’s the only way. And that is so unreliable and low-tech that it makes me want to scream.

Maybe it gets better. Maybe when I hit level 115, have gear to match, and have essences up the wazoo, these mobs will become manageable. That’s my hope, at least. For now, the slow slog through ash and brutality continues. And for this, I paid $40.

Every two weeks, the LOTRO Legendarium goes on an adventure (horrid things, those) through the wondrous, terrifying, inspiring, and, well, legendary online world of Middle-earth. Justin has been playing LOTRO since its launch in 2007! If you have a topic for the column, send it to him at justin@massivelyop.com.
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styopa
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styopa

I first did Mordor with my sons. We have an optimal group – myself as a tank-specc’d Warden (I drop into dps spec for most questing, etc), a hunter, and a heal-biased RK. It wasn’t…terrible. The fights were a little more challenging, mostly just slower. We rolled the zone without really any trouble at all.
Mostly we spent the time laughing about how impossible this was going to be for me solo.

See, I have another toon, an ancient toon, a Champion that I’ve been solo’ing up since the game released. Pretty nearly no self-heals, and LotRO doesn’t have bandages of any substance (healing pots heal ~3000 hp at the top, and my champ has 27000 hp; my warden has 65000….the healing pots are ridiculously useless).

And we were right: I did *every* flipping thing I could level my champ before Mordor. I did ALL the Minas Tirith hobbit-quests (which made me want to burn that city as badly as Sauron did). I walked into Mordor with lvl 112…and got WRECKED. OK, I apparently needed more finesse…buffed that in my gear, restarted with 35,000 finesse….and got WRECKED. Oh I could manage a single forgemaster but two? Dead. Even one I would end up at 50% hp or lower, meaning my downtime was stupid, making a dull zone (with long times-to-kill) even slower. Woo. (Finally, at 114 I just ground my ass to 115 by doing festival quests and enjoying a 100% xp weekend.)

The worst sin? Mordor was dull as shit. Lhingris? Oh look a “bug” zone. Yawn. Agarnaith? Possibly one of the most boring geographies of any zone in any mmo ever.

Sorry to be blunt but fuck Mordor.
Fuck their reinventing-the-Hope/Dread-mechanic as light of Earandil (why? Why not just use dread? It was already in the bloody game!).
Fuck their stupid ash-grind for gear, and signets that give you nothing except crafting patterns.

Really terrible, depressingly terrible expansion. Almost drove me away from the game.

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Simple Rick

The game isn’t hard, it’s tedious. Yeah, make some mobs harder, heck, have some that do more serious abilities that we can’t dispel with the click of a button, but every mop being tougher is just a boring ass slog. It’s not interesting or engaging to have to fight a single mob for two minutes. If you think that’s an actual challenge, well…you ain’t much of a thinker.

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Alex Malone

This almost makes me want to reinstall the game! I’ve not played since Isenguard – I left for swtor – but I’ve kept an eye on the game since. The removal of raids, the dumbing down of classes, the simplification of combat and mounted combat all put me off in a big way.

Now we have mordor. They’re bringing back raids. Content is getting harder again, requiring some skill. It still sounds like it is probably too easy for me (seen some comparing it to Moria, but Moria was really easy to level up in) and all this talk of “light gear” sounds awful, sounds like radiance 2.0.

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Me Snow

Mordor is challenging – and it should be! It takes me back to when I started the game and had to walk from Bree to the Forsaken Inn because you didn’t get a horse until level 15 and you could not in any way use a stable you had not yet already been to. You had to use strategy and changing traits for different mobs (and BTW, you had to go into a town to change your traits). You could not simple walk through Moria (when it first came out it was so dark you would fall off the cliffs) slaying mobs. And then use the same skills over and over on the mobs you met in Mirkwood. And very often you needed assistance. LoTRO was, afterall, not designed as a solo game.

So, I may be in the minority as a casual player over many years, but I love Mordor as it is. I love the challenge of retraiting and trying new mixtures of the lines; is it better to kill faster or to live longer?; mix my skill chains; select my armour and jewelry carefully (I carry 2 of some jewelry ppieces to use as needed for mobs); figure out how to make it work. I want to craft for a purpose again, and Mordor forces that to get Ash and to help level to new armour. I want to fill a bag with consumables I may need. I do not want to finish Mordor in a few weeks, I want to enjoy the challenges of the journey.

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Paragon Lost

Want to add that it seems that Justin did do the zones out of order and leaped to the higher level zone instead of the lower level zone.

https://lotro-wiki.com/index.php/Zones_by_level

Came back to post this because I was listening to his comments this morning on the Podcast when I realized that he didn’t go…

Plateau of Gorgoroth, Udun, Dor Amarth, Lhingris, Talath Urui…

Sounds like he went

Plateau of Gorgoroth, Udun, Dor Amarth, Talath Urui, Lhingris,…

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Vladimir Vladimirovic

LOL he plays Talath Urui with 70 light and he cries how hard it is …. good job son .
I’v done TU with 120 light without breaking a sweat,you can;t go in basically naked and then accuse the game of being too hard .
In udun foothold camp you have barterer for very good lvl 112 10 light per piece gear,and you should have enough ash at this point to get it ( not even all pieces are necessary to have more than enough light for entire mordor ) .

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Coldin Torrence

Definitely feels like it’s tuned a bit too hard, especially in the first zone. Feels like it was designed more for people who had maxed on raiding gear and not just quest gear.

Probably hurts more on my burglar since we’ve been a red headed step child for quite a while now. Don’t have the high single target damage of a hunter, but also don’t have any AOE to speak of. Makes tightly packed groups pretty difficult to deal with.

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Kevin

I will agree that the mobs health might be a bit over tuned, atleast for a Guardian. It takes bloody forever and a day to kill a pack of two or three enemies, more so then it has in the past for me, and that’s saying something, considering Guardians are already the slowest when it comes to killing things.

But difficult? ..Eh… I’ve watched DPS classes melt mobs as they plow past me in their quests, I’ve even seen Ministrals gallantly sally forth, singing songs, and making multiple Orcs explode in the time it takes me to kill one.

Some of the landscape dungeons are certainly challenging, but that’s what groups are for. But the landscape quests themselves, however? No, I wouldn’t say they’re challenging once you get over the 105-106 hurdle in Udun. I don’t feel like mobs are too densely packed either, outside of Lhingris (Which was kinda that zone’s gimmick). I rarely have problems pulling enemies back if I don’t want to pull mulitple, or sneaking through enemy camps to destroy things if I don’t want to kill stuff.

The problem in a lot of peoples struggles in Mordor, I think, is that they’re not actually bothering to relook at their Traits, Virtues, Legacies, and even Essences. Up until Mordor, I litearally just dumped everything in my Blue Line on my Guard, because nothing was a threat. My Virtues were all over the place, and my Relics were…bad. When Mordor came, and I struggled to quest in Udun, I took a step back, revaluated my build, and have been having no troubles since. Because the Landscape has been *so* easy up to this point, I don’t think many people bothered to look at things like their Traits, or make a synergetic build.

Mordor requires that, and I love it for it. Mordor feels like what an expansion to Lotro should be – or any MMO for that matter. Challenging, but fair. It requires you to play a character with a working build, even for questing, rather then slapping points wherever you want. And that’s a good thing.

I do still agree that Mob health is a bit inflated, but my opinion on that might change once I hit 115, and have a full set of 326 gear. But besides that? Mordor is great, the challenge is perfect, and it encourages players to play smart, even out on the Landscape, something Lotro has been missing since Moria.

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Glen

Have you considered using a landscape soldier? Perhaps an herbalist.

mosselyn
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mosselyn

You can’t really say it is too hard without getting shouted down, at least on SSG’s forums, but yes, IMO, it is both too hard and unnecessarily grindy, even by Lotro standards.

I main an RK and have been playing it since 2009. I’m a casual, not a pro, but I have at least some clue how to play my class. I have been literally unable to progress without playing most of the public instanced content and a good bit of the landscape content in a duo, even when I’m a couple levels above the quests. It’s not for lack of trying: I think I died and ran back in Barad Dur about 20 times. In one play session.

I am all in favor of increasing the difficulty level above where it has been in recent years. I mean that sincerely. However, if I am level 115, doing a level 113 solo quest, and my kinmates tell me I need to work on getting some of the level 115 BiS gear first, something is wrong with the difficulty level. I’ve been duoing with a kinmate’s Guardian, and he, too, has said it’d be impossible for him to solo some of this stuff.

For an example of grindiness, consider the end quest in Naerband. It is solo ONLY. If you die, you get resurrected on the opposite side of the zone. Of course, I died. After riding all the way across the zone, you have to fight and/or sneak through an orc camp, and then through a couple floors of the instance, just to get back to the quest giver. Then slog through the story instance to get to the point of failure. Time to get back to that point: Roughly half an hour. In what universe is that run back fun or even challenging? It’s just pointless tedium.

I think Mordor is really well done in many ways. They’ve done a fantastic job with the landscapes (as usual). I’ve enjoyed the Black Book story telling and several of the quest lines. (We won’t talk about the end of the epic.) However, unless this has become a group-content-only game, I think it is over-tuned right now.