LOTRO Legendarium: Exploring Before the Shadow’s new starter area and skirmish

    
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You know that agonizingly delicious sensation of encountering an MMO drop that has so much stuff to explore that you hardly know where to start? That’s exactly how I’m feeling with Lord of the Rings Online: Before the Shadow. This patch changes the game in more ways than one and has something for almost every type of player.

It’s such a meaty update that deserves to be examined in slices, so that’s exactly what I’m going to do. In this column, I’ll be checking out the new tutorial village and skirmish that arrived with the mini-expansion.

Mossward village tutorial

One thing that you will really want to note is that new LOTRO characters have a slightly easy-to-overlook choice for the tutorial experience. It will default to the old Shadows of Angmar version if you don’t do anything, but if you click on the panel option, you can select the Before the Shadow edition or even skip the tutorial entirely.

Mossward is a small frontier village that looks more or less like your typical Bree-land homestead. It’s still kind of charming, especially with the chill new soundtrack lulling me into a false sense of security.

I did notice that almost every NPC line uttered here is voice acted, which — as we all know — is a spotty thing for the game. I definitely like it, as it made the enfolding scenes much more dramatic.

The atmosphere doesn’t stay quiet for long, however. After your meeting with the town’s blacksmith and transient (former) ranger, Mossward comes under attack by Orcs. It’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it battle, however, and within a minute, I was given my first milestone and shoved out of the door and into the Mossward of the game proper (at level 1, I should note). It’s easily the quickest tutorial of the game yet, merely a short instance to serve as a prelude to adventuring in Swanfleet.

Mossward starter area

This means that both brand-new characters and already established ones can head to Mossward (check out any major stable master) to get in on nearly the ground floor of questing. And boy howdy does this village have quests! It’s stock-piled with a wide variety of them running the full gamut of LOTRO-style adventures.

You have your standard “go and kill this big bad wolf” quest, but there are also assignments to pet cows, take sharp swords away from kids, race to various landmarks, uncover mysteries, and heal injured townsfolk.

One quest that you’re definitely going to want to do here is “A Little Extra Never Hurts Part 2” from the blacksmith Skardi, as this grants you a free mount and riding skill.

Coming from years of playing in starting zones with strong cultural identity, I think Mossward is a refreshing change of pace. It feels more like an outpost on the fringe of the wild, with a nice-looking landscape and some picturesque ruins surrounding it. Of course, nothing around here is going to be particularly challenging in terms of navigation or combat, so you can enjoy taking your newbie out for a stroll before leaving this relatively peaceful corner of Middle-earth for more dangerous climes.

Doom of Caras Gelebren skirmish

One last thing I wanted to check out this week before dashing off this column was the Doom of Caras Gelebren skirmish. Hey, we don’t get new skirmishes in this game that often, after all!

And this one is a strange addition, make no doubt. The concept is pretty neat: It’s back in the Second Age, and you’re helping a group of elves defend a city from Sauron’s personal forces. Initially it was a little goofy, as I’d win every encounter only to have the cowardly elves demand that we keep falling back. I even laughed out loud when one boasted, “That gate will keep them!” while he looked straight at wide-open gates that couldn’t keep a one-legged sloth from coming in.

But it does get a lot more fun and hectic as it goes along. Toward the end, wave after wave of mobs keep crashing down on you, and I could only hold out so long. I think I made something like 8 or 9 waves before getting killed so many times that I couldn’t protect the Head Elfy Dude (that’s an official Tolkien term). I wasn’t sure if this was how the skirmish was supposed to end, being overwhelmed and all, but I don’t think so as I didn’t get any rewards when I was kicked out.

Next week I’ll be, ahem, delving into LOTRO’s new system to see how many other exciting ways I can die!

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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