LotRO: the Endgame Experience

(One big difference between LOTRO raiding and WoW raiding is that although there now are some raiding guides and websites, those mostly didn’t exist when Arb’s guild did these raids. They had to work out these encounters for themselves, with a mostly casual player base. Even now, raid guilds are quite cagey about sharing their tactics for more recent raids …)

First of all, some disclaimers:

I’m in a fairly casual kinship in LotRO, but we’re big and we have a lot of players that enjoy raid content, myself included. We’re a mature bunch who’ve built up a certain level of skill playing together and we’ve always managed to clear endgame content just before a new addition to the game. Because we take it quite casually, we have a rotating raid group rather than a fixed one, where anyone who wants to (and who has the required radiance) can join the pool. This has worked in my favour and against it as we have had a fluctuating number of Captains, and somehow people still find Captains useful in raids ;p

I’ve been playing LotRO since just before the official launch in Europe. I don’t really like to alt, so I’ve stuck with my Captain throughout. That’s a melee secondary healer to you non-LotRO folks (and to many LotRO folks who don’t really pay attention to what Captains do much). We can heal, we can buff, we can use a get-out combination of skills which reduces damage across our entire group by 50% and takes it upon ourselves, coupled with a self-invulnerability which lasts a short time. It’s the latter thing we are seen as ‘essential’ for. We do a TON of other stuff, and contrary to popular belief we even do some dps!! But the heal/buff/last stand combo are the raid essentials.

I do also have a Minstrel (primary healer) which I levelled up purely to help with Rift raids in the early raiding days before the kin swelled a lot, but I never got the Minstrel any radiance or to level 65 – I’ve let it languish at level 64 out of pure stubbornness. So, I have a Captain.

Helegrod

thorog

Thorog

The first LotRO raid is Helegrod, soon to be scaleable, so everyone that skipped it can go back and do it in chunks at appropriate levels. The end boss is an undead dragon. It’s a throwback to the old days of LotRO, a raid designed for 24 with distinct ‘wings’ – the giants, the spiders, and the dragons, leading up to the big fight in the centre. Not a lot of casual kins did it because of the 24-man requirement and the end boss, Thorog, was a notoriously nasty fight that Turbine needed to tweak a lot, and which changed quite often. I’ve done it a couple of times and it holds a good whack of nostalgia for me, so I do look forward to returning to that one soon (with the Free-to-Play a lot of old content has been retooled and made scaleable and given radiance rewards, so you’ll be able to get your radiance gear from your choice of a variety of places).

The Rift

Then entered the Rift, so so controversial at the time for introducing Thaurlach to the world – a Balrog that /players/ could fight and kill. Well, with the help of a First Age elf to keep within the bounds of the Lore, but still. Wow, I remember at the time I didn’t like the idea one bit, and yet, for many of us the Rift represents the halcyon days before radiance gating made raiding in LotRO feel like a chore that only the select few who worked hard on their radiance to take part in.

The Rift is 12-man, and introduces the Eldgang (a slow and sonorous race, who’ve been a little conned by Evil), the fights are challenging, as any raid – and learning them certainly presented many months of week-in, week-out failures and little successes. Many of our amusing raid tales stem from the Rift; little slip-ups that became comical. And, through nostalgia, we forget the relentless depression of some of the wipes, the frustration over learning how to take on Thrang (second-to-last boss).

But, it was the taking down of the Balrog that gave me personally my first really excited/relieved/cheering moment in LotRO raiding. At the time we had a fairly fixed group with some revolving dps classes, and many of us went for every single raid. It was a big commitment, and it paid off. While we needed a big break from it at one point, I now really love going back there to show it to others, or just have a nostalgia kick with the benefit of some level 65s being along.

Moria, and Radiance Gear

With Moria, we gained a ton of new 6-man instances, all needed for radiance. Initially they had to be done a ton of times, now the process is streamlined, there’s also some 3-man radiance instances and as I said before, soon you’ll be able to get radiance from all sorts of places including the Annuminas instances which are a ton of fun – so I definitely recommend them, they were my favourite ones to work out the tactics for, and they’re not really done that much these days. Why back to instances from raids? Because with Moria we had radiance gating, something that separated those who COULD raid gearwise, and those who needed more gear to do so. We also got two one-boss raids; the turtle and the Watcher in the Water.

The turtle is a gateway drug raid. One boss, no radiance needed, but drops tokens and the occasional radiance piece. It’s a dps race, not THAT interesting or exciting, but it’s there and you can practise working as a 12-man group there. Once you get the tactic and you have a relatively decent mix of classes, you’re good to go. The last proper non-gated, ‘pick-uppable’ LotRO raid. The Watcher is a 3-stage raid, which is tough on positioning at first and then demands some element of focus and stamina and knowing how to play the raid. It’s short when you know it, but it’s caused more wipes because of its length than many!! Expect big repair bills. It also needs radiance, so you need to play other parts of the game to even get in there.

Dar Narbugud

Then the 12-man raid in Moria – Dar Narbugud. It’s dark and dank and takes place underground, working through corrupted orcs/goblins/many ugly pestilent thingies and it has some challenging and interesting encounters. It involves more radiance than the Watcher and has more bosses (6), leading to The Mistress of Pestilence (a giant slug thingie). I used to find it quite depressing and again, had to make almost every raid night as we were down on Captains at the time. But, when you get to the knotty bits of tricky fights, I enjoyed it again. Hell, now I’m almost nostalgic for the place, which just shows you how crazy our minds are.

Mirkwood and Dol Guldur

And Mirkwood, more radiance needed, more 3-mans and a 6-man to get you the higher radiance needed for the final LotRO raid of the moment; Barad Guldur in Dol Guldur, leading to a fight with a… Nazgul. Not as controversial as a Balrog, after all, there were more Nazgul in the books, right? And it needs the highest radiance, and is probably the least forgiving of any of the raids in terms of positioning, being on focus and lots of tricky tactics to take on board. Really, people should raid in the mornings not when starting to feel sleepy! Anyway, it only has 3 bosses, but you have to do them in both normal and challenge modes to really get all the gear/deeds from the raid. Which is actually kind of annoying, because the fights don’t change THAT much between the modes, they’re just harder/easier. For me, I think it’s meant it’s grown old faster than the old 6-boss content. We’ve done the first two bosses both ways, but inconsistently, and we just have the Nazgul left – it’s not a particularly enjoyable fight for me, but I have no doubt we’ll get it on ‘farm’ eventually.

High Points of LOTRO Raiding

Rather than focusing on the negative and my dislike for the radiance gating, I thought I’d end this piece with a list of my favourite raid encounters from LotRO so far:

  • the Barad Guldur non-stop fight gauntlet – I love the mania, and I feel I actually make a difference, but mainly I like the mania
  • the spider boss fight in Helegrod (I love being a poison bomb, honest!)
  • Thrang in the Rift (because I love the Eldgang dialogue during it, I adored working it out however frustrating, and it’s multi-stage flows really really well)
  • Istum in Dar Narbugud for.. the mania (work out a pattern here), well, it always feels like an accomplishment to kill him, however skilled and experienced we are – acid pools, exploding worms – what’s not to love?

It’s always great to get the end boss down, sure.. and I love the housing trophies they drop, but sometimes we forget the journeys.

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