They say that as you get older, time seems to pass by much more quickly. Perhaps that explains why 2023 feels like it’s been breaking the speed limit. It’s certainly not slowing down if you’re a fan of Lord of the Rings Online, that’s for sure.
This past week, the studio pulled the trigger on pre-orders and a whole lot of information about what we can expect in the month to come. For starters, the Mariner class — which received maybe a week of public testing — is now live in the game for those who pre-order any of the three editions.
I rolled up my newbie River Hobbit Mariner a few nights ago to start putting this nautical-themed class through its paces. Its abrupt arrival caught a lot of us who were expecting far more testing off-guard, so we were sitting in chat theorycrafting its talents and virtues while trying to wrap our heads around the Mariner’s unique combat flow. I mean, this arrived so quickly that the class’ LOTRO Wiki page was struggling to catch up and had placeholders.
I’m going to have to save my impressions for a future column, as any thoughts that I have about the Mariner are pretty premature at this point. I will say that it’ll be interesting to see how popular they become once the shiny newness factor wears off.
Beyond that, though, we got a lot of other pieces of information about Corsairs of Umbar:
- It’s aiming for a November 1st launch but may delay as late as December 1st if the studio needs that time.
- The expansion’s raid and instanced content is expected to come next year by “the end of March.”
- The standard edition is $40, with $80 and $130 editions offering more goodies for the whales among us. Since you get all the content and the new class with the standard edition, it really comes down to niceties rather than necessities. There is no VIP discount.
- LOTRO will sell the expansion and Mariner separately for LOTRO Points next May.
- The expansion contains 350 quests, 85 deeds, and four new zones: Western King’s Gondor, The Shield Isles, The Cape of Umbar, and Umbar itself.
- Also expected with the expansion is the major crafting overhaul and reworks to the Hunter and Lore-master classes.
Generally I’m pretty OK with the whole announcement here. Yes, the CE and ultimate bundle are stupidly pricey, but I feel the $40 price point is a good one for an expansion, class, and extra character slot. And I am glad that SSG is doing better about telling us when and for how much we can get this content for LP (in the past, the studio never used to tell us in advance). The six-month window seems to be the standard waiting period, as we recently saw with the River Hobbit release.
And I am seriously excited about getting my hands on a heaping of high-level content to enjoy for the late fall. The last two years have been a bonanza for early game players, but for those who’ve had characters at the tail end of Gundabad, it’s been quite the waiting period.
The previews of the new zones are pretty cool, too. I think it’s a great idea to push south and go to a vastly different biome than we’ve seen in the game so far. The Mediterranean and African influences are a welcome change of pace, theme-wise, and the story teaser that SSG gave us with King’s Gondor earlier this year has me champing at the bit to see what kind of threat and culture we’ll be experiencing in Umbar.
My concern and my hope is that SSG can land this expansion without breaking off the wings and landing gear. As I said up at the top, all of this is coming at us incredibly fast during a year of already rushed development. A month doesn’t seem to be enough time to thoroughly test four zones and the other changes, even if SSG does get the test realms up and running.
This frantic push to get releases out the door has always made LOTRO a crapshoot. Sometimes everything arrives more or less intact, and we can enjoy it while the devs patch up the problems on the fly. But sometimes we get, say, the Forester Crafting Event that wasn’t ready to go live and had to be yanked from the schedule several times.
A bad expansion release sours relationships with paying customers and gives naysayers more ammunition to attack the game. A good release would be a clarion call to return to Middle-earth at the tail end of a pretty great year for this MMORPG. I honestly have no idea which way this is going to go, but if testing isn’t going that great, I would much rather see that delay to December than try to force it.
Is SSG ready? I have no idea. Are we ready? In a sense, we’ve been ready for a while — but it’s coming at us rapidly even so. Best to strap on our swords, pack up some Lembas bread, and get ready for another grand adventure.