Right before all of the news this week got sucked into the gravity well of the launch of a certain MMO, Lord of the Rings Online made headlines by finally announcing the full launch package for Fate of Gundabad. In one fell swoop, we were given a whole lot of the information we’ve been craving for a while now, including the launch date, the feature list, the pre-order situation, and the names of the zones being added to the game.
There are right and wrong ways to make expansions. In my opinion, an MMO expansion fails when it’s just a loose assortment of content that’s piled together to make it look just big enough to justify a retail price. These lackluster releases do little to nothing to actually stir up interest among the playerbase or draw attention from the wider gaming community.
The right way — again, in my opinion — is to make the expansion an Event. It’s got to be a significant step forward for the MMO in some way with evocative theming, significant content addition, the promise of more character progression, and at least one big tentpole feature that has everyone talking. Using these criteria, I say that Fate of Gundabad has a real potential to be an Event expansion for the game (and well it should, considering how long it’s been in production).
The theming involves the culmination of this “Orcs vs. Dwarves” storyline that’s been going on for a year or so now. I’m sure this story arc has its fans — and I can at least say that I acknowledge it has its moments — but the general sense that I’ve gotten is that most people are lukewarm on this at best. It’s… there. For Dwarf lovers, it’s probably far more effective than the rest of us, who are simply glad that the storyline is about to conclude so we can go on to something else. So let’s chalk up the theming as the weakest part of the expansion.
As for content, Fate of Gundabad looks like it’ll eclipse Minas Morgul in terms of scope and size, and that’s great. From the description, it appears that there are six zones or regions that the game’s adding — and not all of them underground. I know that there was some concern that this would be “Moria 2.0” with a nonstop cavern experience, and it’s good to read that it won’t be the case. It’s kind of very interesting that we’ll even be going back to Angmar, sort of.
Character progression is present, too. After a lot of rumors of a level increase, we got confirmation that we’re getting bumped up to 140 with “new abilities” along the way. I definitely want to see what these new abilities are, as I think that the talent trees could use some fresh blood in them, so I’m going to keep my eye on the test realm. Another point of progression is the revamped legendary item system, which we’ve discussed before in this space. It feels a little disingenuous that this is getting lumped in as an expansion feature when it’s a task that should’ve been done a while ago, but whatever, I’ll allow it.
And the tentpole feature is certainly the addition of the Brawler class. It’s going through some pretty heavy testing right now, so it’s hard to say how this will shake out in terms of popularity and performance. I don’t doubt that there will be a lot of people rolling up one this fall, especially since pre-ordering gets you some measure of early access — October 13th according to the fine print.
It may not be a lock for MMO expansion of the year, but bowl me over with a feather if Fate of Gundabad isn’t looking far more robust than previously assumed. It needs to be, too, to justify the $40 price tag for the base edition (which, thankfully, includes the Brawler).
Of course, Daybreak’s doing the Daybreak thing of selling much more expensive editions ($80 and $130) for those who like to splurge on expansions. Both of those include a single character level boost to 130, and the $130 edition includes an earring that boosts XP gain all the way to the current level cap. I don’t see any of this as a must-have or a will-burn-to-miss, but it’s up to you to decide how to best spend your money.
There were a few additional details worth mentioning, starting with some sort of daily reward track that is going to tie into the legendary item/traceries system. That’s got a lot of people nervous due to the potential for daily grind, but we’ll see. There’s also going to be more dungeons and a raid with a dragon, because dragons rule.
Speaking just for myself, I’m looking forward to Fate of Gundabad after a nearly two-year wait for the pack. I like how much has gone into this expansion, and knowing that SSG delivers great zones and solid tales, I have every reason to hope that it’s going to be a wild time in Middle-earth come November 10th.