Well so far I have done a handful of solo skirmishes, some 3-man, some 6-man and one 12-man skirmish. My thoughts so far. The 12-man was excellent. I loved the accessibility. One moment I was in Mirkwood, the next fighting in Bree. And then, after leaving the group, I was back in Mirkwood. The wide level band the skirmish was set to, meant that we could have a mix of levels; we had one 55 with us and at least one at 65. I could see that once our soldiers were trained up, they would help compensate for class imbalances making it even more accessible. There was no radiance gating so even though we had a raid-sized group tacking raid-type bosses, we could bring along a group, mixed in experience and equipment. No doubt a fully geared up and experienced group of raiders would have fared better (we wiped a number of times on the last bosses before finishing), but the important thing here was that we now had the choice to bring along anyone who wanted to come. The 3-man and 6-man ones were fun too; pulled together on an impromptu basis. Lots of racing around and mutual soldier mockery; I can see already my Protector, Pompy, is not a natural fighter.
Now, I’m a bit more neutral about the solo skirmishes. They are fun. I can see that I will be busy playing them to improve my skills and to level up my soldier and of course to earn skirmish marks to spend. But do I prefer them to solo questing? I’m not so sure. Would I rather be doing skirmishes on my own or running about in Middle-Earth seeing the world? I know fears have been expressed; will skirmishes result in an empty game, with everyone tucked away in skirmishes? But LoTRo, with it’s rich tolkienesque world and bias towards PvE, has attracted a specific playerbase, so I think that these worries are unfounded. Instead skirmishes will provide just something extra for people to do, more oportunity for social grouping, and the basis for future content and game development.
Skirmishes are one of the main innovations in the new SoM expansion pack. Up until yesterday I had done a couple of solo skirmishes but last night I took part in my first 12-man. And it was a blast!
I had done the initial skirmish quests, finding my war orders and target list for my higher level characters; guardian, hunter and minstrel, and the tutorials. I chose a herbalist for my guardian, a protector for my hunter and a warrior for my minstrel. I’d t tried out a solo skirmish for each one, selecting Tier 1 at the default level. They proved a fun challenge for both hunter and minstrel. However, my guardian breezed through the Ford of Bruinen. He is now raid equipped including one piece from DN. Of course I only tried out the one skirmish and it could well be tougher on another with no or squishier NPCs, but maybe I’ll move the level to Tier 2 for that one.
But anyway, the 12-man. In our kin we have a late-evening group called the Night Owls and last night was skirmish night. Seven had already signed up but the call went out on kinchat for more. I missed this first because I was helping a couple of kinmates catch up on some quests, but then, oh joy, I managed to grab a spare place just before the final boss. Oh alright, before the fifth attempt at the final boss.
And was that Boss tough! We’d chosen Thievery and Mischief set to Tier 1 and already reduced to level 58. There were four altogether with numerous debuffs, attacks, self-heals and banners. I went in with my hunter first but then switched to my guardian as some serious tanking was required (yay!) which allowed us at least to get the first boss down and make a good attempt at the next two. I would say they were easily as tricky, certainly, as many Raid bosses.
The soldiers added that extra something! Half the group seemed to have herbalists, no-one had had enough skirmish marks to change their appearances, so the central Bree battlefield was full of identical women in sensible blue dresses, blonde hair tied neatly up in buns. Add to that a fair number of white bearded dwarven protectors running about somewhat out of control and you had a pretty wild field of combat.
After our final more successful attempt we decided to call it a night but are all raring to go again. I’d joined using the skirmish panel; now I simply left the group and there I was, back in Mirkwood. So simple. Nice.
A casual musing; just picture a 12-man skirmish with 12 captains each with a herald and of course their skirmish soldiers. Mayhem! Or a dozen lore-masters, each with a pet along with their military companions. What a lot of people.
More information emerges about SoM. One snippet I’ve caught via the Turbine forums is this:
apparently the Epic story for Book 9 will not have any group instances but instead will rely on the Skirmish system. So, whereas before you had to group up for certain chapters, in Book 9 you can choose to go solo, in a 3-man, a 6-man or a 12-man group.
I can see positive points about this. Finding groups to complete chapters is not always easy, especially for those coming up later on. People are having serious issues completing the books in Volume 1. Introducing an option to go solo can only be good for this reason. There is no mention of extending this system to earlier books, I’d imagine it would be technically very difficult but what is seems they are doing here is making some group chapters easier to solo. Finally, giving players more choice over how they wish to play the game, surely this is good too.
But, I do have a small niggle. With the option not to group, will people not bother? Will it then become difficult to find a group for a chapter because everyone has done it solo?If you can do it on your own why bother to get 6 or 12 people together? Yes, that would be more fun, but I can see it happening once, and after that more rarely. It may be that extra elements will be introduced to provide incentives to group. I imagine there would be. There is talk about incremental rewards related to group size within the Skirmish system but I wouldn’t think these could be too different since that could penalise those unable to group. Some of the best rewards come from completing the books and that can’t/shouldn’t really be changed for any player, in a group or solo. Perhaps we just have to hope that group options are such fun, we will want to play them again and again.
Anyhow, despite my grousing, I feel that making the Epic story easier for all players to complete is probably the right decision. Many players play LOTRO specifically for the story-telling, that Tolkienesque essence, and are less concerned with beating bosses and honing their skills. Making chapters of the Epic story, which is a fundamental part, difficult without a skilled group is a bit of a disservice to these players who may then find themselves unable to complete.
In the absence of any new information about Siege of Mirkwood, I’m going to chew over some of what we do have.
One of the things that has made me go “Ooo” about SoM is the the proposed skirmish system. Unwize wrote in his blog how he’s appreciated the social aspects of the Book 8 bounty hunts. And I hope, like him, that we will have further opportunities for social grouping in skirmishes.
I’ve felt that in many ways MoM has discouraged casual and social grouping. Some of the earlier instances such as Mirobel and the Forgotten Treasury are fun and allow anyone who is about the right level to join in. But the radiance instances, because they are so goal orientated, create a tendency for people only to seek others of a particular class (people become wary of experimenting with class mixes because they don’t want to risk losing the coin/crystal) , or level of experience, or gear and for people to want to get through them rather than enjoy them. And these are the majority of the group instances.
It looks like skirmishes will allow anyone on-line to just grab each other and get on with something. Good, good.
Another aspect I picked up on was that apparently skirmishes, or at least some, are open to groups of different levels. For instance, one skirmish based on the defense of Weathertop will accept players from level 30 to 65.
I think that this is great. One of the biggest problems I’m finding in the kinship is how to involve new members at lower levels. The journey up to level 60 can be a lonely one for those attracted by the social aspect of a MMO, and with many high levels focussed on the radiance grind rather than their alts perhaps, these players can feel left out. So either
1) tired of soloing and seeing all the big boys and girls apparently enjoying the party without them, they gradually stop logging in and fade away
2) they power level madly missing out loads of content, end up burnt out at level 60, wipe in their first radiance instance, then give up the game in an existential crisis.
A call for a group in kinchat that anyone from 30+ could answer would be excellent. Everyone could muck in together. I want this more. Feel that kinnie love!