You have to imagine that there’s some frustration over at Standing Stone Games this past week. The studio wants us all to be focused on Lord of the Rings Online’s fall update, but along comes a leak about a new class for 2021 that stole all of our attention. Honestly, I think that’s a bit of a referendum on how unexciting War of the Three Peaks looks that we would be glad for any distraction that actually raises our hype level.
In today’s column, I’m going to be sharing my thoughts and vision for this new class — along with some of the problems of adding to the game’s roster in its 14th year of operation.
A small class size indeed
Bringing in a new class into this game is more of a momentous occasion than you might expect if you’re coming from some other MMOs. Historically, LOTRO’s kept its class roster fairly stable, adding only to it on two occasions following the game’s launch. The Warden and Rune-keeper classes were added with the game’s first expansion, Mines of Moria, in 2008, and then the shape-shifting Beorning class and race was introduced in 2014.
That’s it. So when the Brawler arrives, it’ll be the first new class in seven years. And unlike racial variants, which SSG has been experimenting with over the past few years, a new class actually has a great impact on gameplay. It changes the composition of groups, it offers a different playstyle, and it gives been-there, done-that players a reason to experience the journey all over again.
The more I think on it, the more I am surprised that SSG is attempting this at all. A new class is a huge undertaking for such a small studio when you consider all that has to be included in the game to make it work. I’m not just speaking of its animations and skills, although those are substantial in and of themselves. I’m talking about adding in class deeds, possible class quests, specialty gear rewards, and legendary item support.
There has been some concern in the community over a new class, with the most common argument being that the game’s current roster is neglected and in dire need of a good balance pass. Is it really wise to bring in a new class if your house isn’t tidied up? I can see the logic of this argument, yet I also can’t deny that the Brawler will do a lot to draw attention and excitement to the game next year. Even if they’re needed, class balance passes don’t tend to be headlining events, you know?
Imagining the Brawler
Since SSG isn’t quite ready to talk about the Brawler, let’s embark on a journey of assumptions and imagination regarding the class. I think there are a few points of speculation that are fairly safe to make, here, starting with the notion that the class is going to be a major tentpole feature for next year’s Gundabad expansion. It’s always good to have some sort of new playable option, be it a class, race, or feature, that allows people to experience the game in a different way, and this would certainly fulfill that requirement.
Let’s just hope that SSG doesn’t make the mistake it did with High Elves and Mordor by not including the Brawler in the base edition of the expansion, eh?
The next assumption is that the Brawler class is tied into the current storyline, which is “Dwarves vs. Orcs.” We already know that the War of the Three Peaks and Gundabad are both heavily Dwarf themed, so it makes sense that the Brawler will also be tilted in the direction of the Dwarves. I hope it won’t be a Dwarf-only class, but you have to admit that the name “Brawler” does fit well with a stocky, muscly Dwarf who wades into battle with fists full of fury.
My final point of speculation is that the Brawler will be LOTRO’s equivalent of a martial artist or monk. These types of classes eschew weapons for hand-and-feet combat style. In a way, that might solve a problem with creating a new class, as SSG wouldn’t have to worry about weapons so much in conjunction with a class that prefers to pound and pummel its opposition with bare hands.
Where would the Brawler fit?
The last big question for the Brawler is what kind of class roles would it fill. The Beorning, the most recent class addition, attempted to offer tank, healing, and DPS options, all in one package, depending on how you spec’d it.
However, I see the Brawler being somewhat more simplistic and straight-forward, a DPS melee class or tank that wades into the fight and gets down and dirty with enemies. It would be great if it had a fun twist to it, to be sure, but no matter what, a melee class like that is going to need some survivability on hand — especially if shields are not part of its kit.
I could see SSG perhaps giving the Brawler a talent tree that messes with the enemy in some regard, either as a debuffer or a crowd control expert. Think “intimidation” here, a fearsome warrior who makes enemies freeze in their tracks by sheer force of will alone.
So am I excited about the Brawler? From a fan of the game as a whole, yes. It’s definitely a thrilling development that could positively benefit the game and boost engagement. I’m not entirely sure if what I’m envisioning here is the type of class that I would play for any great length of time, but I surely would give it a shot.
How about you? What do you see the Brawler being like, and are you interested in rolling one when it arrives?