LOTRO Legendarium: Analyzing the first look at Brawler and Legendary Items 3.0

    
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Friends, I am genuinely so excited to be a Lord of the Rings Online player these days. It feels like this year in the game’s been on a steady rise in quality and communication, and we’re about to tip into the fall expansion, Fate of Gundabad. And while normally all we’d be talking about is the actual content of the expansion, SSG still hasn’t really told us much about what’s in it, and all anyone wants to know is what’s going on with the new class and legendary item revamp.

A whole lot of curiosity got sated this week as the Brawler and LI 3.0 went on the public test server. Immediately, fan sites and YouTubers descended upon it to mine the additions for every scrap of information — of which there is an awful lot. So I thought that today, we could do an analysis of the first look at both of these features. Are they net positives for the MMO or a step in the wrong direction?

Brawler

Let’s start with the flashy new kid on the block, the Brawler. A new class is a Big Deal for LOTRO because, to date, we’ve only received three past launch (the Warden, Rune-keeper, and Beorning). Not only is the creation of an additional class difficult in and of itself, but the developers have to draw it from Tolkien’s lore. In this case, the Brawler is based on Helm Hammerhand, a very punchy guy from ancient legend.

From all of the descriptions and videos I’ve seen this week, the Brawler isn’t what we’d call “complicated.” It’s a class that likes to punch (and sometimes kick) a whole heck of a lot, building up and expending Mettle for the purposes of damage, some off-tanking, and a bit of support. I still feel that this fills the role of a Monk or martial artist in the game, although the Brawler’s attacks are more down-and-dirty pugilism than anything else.

The look may be an acquired taste, but I kind of dig it. The Brawler gets decked out in heavy armor, with steel headgear and battle gauntlets to round out this image of a fierce front-line fighter. Yes, it kind of looks like an MMA fighter going into the ring or something, but that’s the kind of feel they’re going for with this class anyway. Someone who charges in screaming, flailing, and dominating.

What’s really odd about this class is that the third trait tree can’t be selected for specialization. Brawlers have to pick either the Fulcrum (off-tanking/support) or Maelstrom (DPS) as a specialization, and can then supplement that with the Fundament tree. It’s a little weird, but I guess it shows us that this class is so un-complicated that it doesn’t really have room for a third main spec.

I’m sitting back in my chair and thinking about how the Brawler is going to be received by the playerbase. I mean, with any new class there’s always going to be a surge of popularity for the shiny toy. It offers a bottom-to-top different way to experience LOTRO, and that’ll be very welcome for veterans who’ve done everything else to death.

And I can see the Brawler really appealing to people who enjoy that visceral feeling of up-close combat without a lot of fiddling around. I can’t say that the concept or description has hooked me yet, although I will withhold judgment until the final version goes live and I can roll up one and give it a good test drive.

Legendary Items 3.0

As apathetic as I am toward the Brawler, I’m practically jittering with excitement over the new legendary item system. Mine isn’t the only voice that’s been vocal about how obtuse, grindy, and frustrating the current LI system is. Honestly, I can’t believe we’re actually here looking at a new version considering how many years — literally, years — it’s been since the studio has promised a revamp.

Out of the gate, Legendary Items 3.0 accomplishes the task of being far more streamlined and simplified than the current iteration. Gone is the old LI panel with its many frames and level bars, now replaced with an easy-to-understand (if not very ritzy) item screen. In fact, the screen for an LI 3.0 looks a lot like socketable items we have in the game right now, which should go a long way toward making it instantly accessible.

So the idea as I understand it is that this system finally accomplishes the goal of giving us, the players, items that we’ll have for our entire journey from level 50 onward. There’s no more breaking down old LIs and replacing them — just two items per class that’ll be with you forever.

These items then have four categories of sockets that can be filled with “Traceries” (traceries are the new essences, I guess).

Each item has a heraldric tracery slot (for stat and damage buffs), 2 or 3 word of power slots (for damage and healing styles as well as utility), 6 word of master slots (which mod class-specific abilities), and 3 word of craft slots (generic stat increases). As the Legendary Item is leveled up, slots can accept higher levels of traceries. Additionally, traceries of various rarities themselves can be leveled up with enhancement runes.

I do appreciate that the setup here is straight-forward and allows for the option of infinite improvement as the game progresses. However, this system raises a whole bunch of questions in my mind that aren’t answered yet, such as:

  • How will LOTRO handle transitioning people from current LIs to these?
  • How do we get traceries in the game? How rare will they be?
  • Is there a grind hidden in this system that might conjure up thoughts of essence grinds that are in the game right now?
  • Will these Legendary Items be, on average, more than capable of helping players through landscape questing and content?
  • How much of this system will be tied into the cash shop?

Obviously, this is all an early look, but seeing as how LI 3.0 should be coming in the next couple of months, having these questions out there is unsettling until they’re answered. It’s also entirely possible that SSG makes further changes to what we’re seeing right now on the test server.

That said, I’m generally encouraged by seeing this. I can’t wait for a new system to replace Legendary Items — but I want that new system to be solid and fully functional. I hope that SSG puts this through a whole lot of testing and takes the feedback from the community to heart.

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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