Poll: What Score Would You Give Helm’s Deep?

LOTRO Players News will be reviewing Helm’s Deep on January 4th and want to know what score LOTRO PLayers readers would give Helm’s Deep.  Please do not vote if you have not completed most of Helm’s Deep.

Also, please leave a comment saying what score you gave and why you gave it.  The LOTRO Players News team plans on reading some of the responses on the show.

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12 comments

  1. Celonglir /

    I can only give a B+ because the Epic Battles are awful, especially for someone who mainly solos, like myself. Storyline gets an A, Scenery gets an A+.

  2. Erkiloz /

    BB prevent you f room playing your toon and are boring, useless treats from them too. No new instances or raids, crazy for an expansion. No end game armour besides crafted and rehashed old instances. Cosmetics…. What cosmetics, even the levelling gear was crap.

  3. Graphics and environment were quite good as usual. We got to see a lot of places and events from the books.

    Quests were okay. Epic Story was decent. Big Battles were a good idea, though the initial implementation is rather buggy.

    Trait trees probably had to be done, but so much changed it’s very difficult to get back into any of my alts. My burg isn’t as versatile and my warden feels crippled – while captains can solo 6-man instances on-level.

    Overall, it was fun. But the content is way too easy to be considered a challenge at all. We’ve been 6-manning skirmish raids easily; gets kind of boring.

  4. AnUnexpectedVidcast /

    I really like the Big Battles – I’ve only played them in a duo but find them great fun. The scenery is fantastic, as is the legendary quest. There were some negative comments about the music but, whilst I wouldn’t listen to it on a CD like I would the Chance Thomas soundtrack from RofR, it fits in game perfectly. All in all, it gets an A- from me.

  5. Amandakay /

    The scenery is amazing. I really enjoyed the quests with respect to the stories. If you had solid level 85 gear going into HD, you generally replace it around level 90, which seems reasonable. I was not happy to continue seeing solo only instances as part of the story-line, as I generally duo while leveling. The Big Battles are interesting to me and fun to duo, though I would have liked all of the battles to scale to 3, 6, and 12 man size, and that lower level characters can run these with others. I do like the cosmetic look of the new gear in general, and that all of the “teal” level 95s can be respectably mixed and matched, though I’d like to see some armour sets. It is lacking traditional instances, which bothers me, the launch felt a bit rushed, and there were some significant bugs, but many have been since fixed.

  6. Great work on the actual HD content (quests, scenery)

    However, they seem to have forgotten play testing combat at all. There isnt a challenge for anything or perhaps that was the idea to make the game easy for everyone. Some complexity and challenge are part of the fun.

  7. I am also one who really likes the big battles. They are definitely different however from the typical instance. I gave the expansion an A on how it is now…..not the bug infested product that was released to start with. I thought the storylines were good and the scenery was excellent. I know I have heard some complain about the music but I generally have that turned down anyway. I would have given a higher review but most definitely classes are overpowered (and I have played every class at least some since the release date).

  8. Fredelas /

    Here’s how I feel about the Helm’s Deep expansion. I beta tested it for two months, and have now played completely through it on two characters since receiving it as a gift. This contains many critical opinions, so if you’re sensitive to that kind of thing, you may want to put on some rose-colored glasses before reading further.

    To summarize, I think the expansion should have had two more months of alpha testing and at least one more month of beta testing before being sold at this price. Turbine had ambitious (and worthy) goals for this expansion, but not enough developers to pull it off in such a short period of time.

    Paid Features

    Epic quests: It was nice to interact some more with prominent characters from Tolkien’s works. However, when Turbine announced the epic quests would no longer be free to ANY players (after being free to EVERY player up to this point), I honestly expected more. Having played through it several times now, Turbine’s insistence that it was no longer possible to separate the epic story from the surrounding landscape quests and epic battles seems to be just a lazy excuse for poor design decisions. The story itself is as good as most of the stories we’ve been part of in the past, and better than some. But that does little to soothe my disappointment in how Turbine has chosen to implement it. We didn’t even get a cinematic conclusion until a month after the expansion had launched.

    Regional quests: It was evident that different content designers worked on each area of Western Rohan. This gave each area a nice change of pace from the previous. However, as a result, the quality of game play in a few areas was dismal compared to the others. The almost completely linear flow also meant that phasing and timing errors (which Turbine should have learned to avoid by now) left more than a few players banging their heads against a wall. Two of my friends just gave up and said maybe they’d come back in March. After not receiving any support for his questing issue for more than a month now, another one recently asked for a refund. When he was denied, he just walked away completely last week.

    Epic battles: I don’t think anybody was clamoring for a completely new kind of instanced combat experience. I think the five battles introduced with Helm’s Deep could have been implemented equally well as traditional instances, raids, or skirmishes. I know that we’re not meant to be the heroes of these battles, but I don’t see how that necessitates the invention of three new roles, especially at a time when every class is being revamped. After the introduction of mounted combat, Turbine should have learned that players like to feel like they’re playing their own class. Most solo players I’ve talked to find the experience confusing and counterintuitive, even after repeated attempts. I do like the general idea of the rewards system, with visible progress toward a goal. However, that can make finally getting a random reward even more frustrating if it turns out to be useless. And despite level scaling, they’re really not much fun at level 10.

    Free Features

    Landscape design: This is really top notch, and is the best feature of the entire expansion in my opinion. I imagine that the artists had already begun work on Western Rohan before Eastern Rohan had even launched. The team took what had worked earlier and improved on it even more. Each town has a distinctive design and really seems to fit within the surrounding landscape. The iconic locations in Western Rohan got extra special treatment and detail, which I really appreciate. Helm’s Deep itself doesn’t exactly fit my imagination of it, but it is very well done from a technical and artistic perspective.

    Sound design: I find the soundtrack for Western Rohan to be a depressing follow-up to Eastern Rohan. Just riding across the Entwade is an unpleasant surprise. It sounds like Turbine is still using virtual instruments and software from 10 years ago. (One Turbine employee remarked on his personal Facebook page that there was no budget for the sound design.) I wish Turbine had saved half of Chance Thomas’s awesome score from Riders of Rohan to use for this expansion.

    Class revamps: Throughout beta testing, some of the class lead developers displayed a troubling lack of familiarity with the classes assigned to them. (One of them even completely disappeared for 5 weeks.) Despite this, the developers were open to listening to feedback from testers and incorporated many suggested changes, sometimes even dramatic ones. However, what most classes worked with on Bullroarer was alpha quality at best, and what we have to play with on live is something I’d describe as early beta. Regardless of how players feel about trait trees, the resulting effort fell short. Turbine put some lipstick on this pig by drastically increasing DPS, survivability, and healing at the last minute prior to launch, thus hiding some of the shortcomings of the design choices. These revamps should have received at least another two months of alpha testing and another month of beta testing. Now we’re stuck with these changes being live, and players not being certain where Turbine’s future intent lies in terms of player power.

    Monster play: This is something Turbine admitted in writing was “low priority” and “an afterthought”. Yet playing as a freep in the Ettenmoors is the ONLY benefit in the game that absolutely requires a VIP subscription. Why isn’t any of this subscription revenue being used to improve PvMP? There wasn’t even level 95 armour until a month after launch. And the new creep corruption set benefits have turned out to be laughable, in the cases where they actually work as described.

    Itemization and loot: I’m extremely disappointed in this area. LOTRO has never really had a good coherent system for the stats on gear. While they’ve attempted to solve that in Helm’s Deep, the enormous discontinuity in item levels has further contributed to the explosion in player power. The loot appears to have its stats assigned in an Excel spreadsheet. Even worse (strictly from my perspective), so have the names.

    Housing storage: This change was well-intentioned, and Turbine clearly had some experience in this area from transitioning players’ vaults years earlier. However, beta testing revealed an important flaw regarding unique items that Turbine failed to address before launch. (I personally only know one player affected by this, but she still hasn’t gotten her unique items back.) And the price of storage upgrades is ridiculous, especially for kinships.

    Crafting: I applaud the addition of processing recipes for lower tiers of crafting. However, scholars, farmers, and cooks are still left with a huge array of ingredients. I know that crafting in LOTRO has never been exciting, but if Turbine is going to make it more boring, they should make it more boring for everyone. I’m also confused by the reduction in reputation gained from crafting guild items. To me, this seems like engineering a new inconvenience into the game. It’s faster than ever to level up a profession, but slower than ever to gain reputation with a crafting guild. It might not be a big deal for crafters already at tier 9 and with high guild standing, but for new characters, it seems like a clear push to purchase reputation accelerators to mitigate this new inconvenience.

    Mithril coins: The introduction of the new Mithril Coin Trader NPCs to starting areas is even tackier than ever. While I like the convenience of Mithril Coins, I hate that there is absolutely no accountability for how they’re gained and spent. If half my Mithril Coins disappeared, I’d have no way of documenting this for Turbine. Mithril Coins are good for Turbine in almost every way. They’re bound to the server you get them on. There’s no record to review spending habits. There’s no clumsy LOTRO Store window to navigate. There’s no transaction fee to PlaySpan. They’re spent in smaller quantities, which makes purchases feel cheaper, even if they end up costing more.

    Ignored Features

    Mounted combat: This was a big disappointment to me. Turbine (and its players) just made a huge investment in this game system. It has received literally zero updates for Western Rohan. If there’s anyplace else in Middle-earth it should be important, it’s here!

    Virtue traits: Despite huge increases in item power since Rise of Isengard, virtues are still stuck giving us the benefits of a roughly level 54 item. As a result, their relevance decreases every year. This is something Turbine sells in the LOTRO Store, too, so I think that would be at least a small incentive to keep them relevant to the game. A good first step would be to have them scale in power at roughly the same rate as item levels.

    Deeds and titles: Turbine has not only abandoned good item names, it has also given up on interesting descriptions for deeds and the titles they reward. Words were incredibly important to Tolkien; sometimes he’d agonize over a word choice for months! All it would take is a few days for Turbine to show a little creativity here. It’s one little thing that used to set it apart from the competition.

    Legendary items: While I’m glad these items remain for the most part functional, their importance alongside the new class traits system remains confusing. New tiers of relics have been introduced with another huge cost increase, with a minimal increase in power gained from that tier. (The stats on relics suffer from the same issues as virtue traits in this regard.) This is something Turbine assured us wouldn’t happen again after the last revamp of LIs.

    Wildermore: Wildermore is still a level 85-85 region. It has nearly zero relevance for characters who are leveling up now. At best, players might swing through while doing the final free parts of the epic story. Turbine should have re-leveled it into a level 81-85 region, giving players a snowy alternative to the Eaves of Fangorn and the Sutcrofts before diving back into Western Rohan.

    Hytbold: Turbine should have changed the repeat timer on each area’s quests to 1 hour. (That’s how the formerly daily component quests in Wildermore work now.) That way, if players choose to spend many Mithril Coins, they can complete more than 15 or 16 quests for Hytbold in a day. It wouldn’t make Hytbold any more relevant, but it would at least provide an option so players who wanted to pay could finish in days instead of weeks.

    Item and skill icons: I know this is a little thing, but many of the new skill icons are wildly inconsistent with the style of the original ones. (They sometimes even lack the rounded rectangle borders that identify skills.) Crafting and trophy item icons are identical to the previous tier. It’s been more than a month now. Turbine couldn’t afford to pay a weekend of overtime for a couple of artists to at least give us something different to identify these things by? My pears are still cherries, and my emeralds are still garnets.

    Skirmishes: Players can’t rank their skirmish soldier up if they haven’t purchased the entire expansion. And even with the increased ranks, the power of skirmish soldiers doesn’t scale up at the same rate as player power. This makes skirmishes a less attractive alternative for leveling a character, especially for players who don’t own the expansion.

    • This is a great writeup. I have one question – when you say they ramped up player power (DPS, etc.) at the last minute, what period of time are you considering “last minute”? The totality of my experience in beta was with OP’d toons. I started in build 3, which was a good 4-6 weeks prior to release.

      • Fredelas /

        My lore-master and minstrel got huge DPS increases about two weeks prior to launch. You’re right though, my warden felt overpowered throughout the entire beta in terms of DPS and survivability. And my minstrel’s healing was ridiculously good the entire time.

        The point I should wanted to make is that rather than taking time to balance the classes against the 95 levels of existing content, they just buffed up the remaining weak classes to match the overpowered ones.

        I’d guess players are more tolerant of making things too easy than making things too hard. So with time running out, it was probably the only choice to make. However, this leaves doubts in players minds now. Is this how Turbine intends game play to feel going forward?

      • Kaleigh Starshine /

        I think at least part of this was that they did not put in the quicker animation times for skill until the very last beta update, and those were to intended to double (or thereabouts) DPS rate.

    • Fredelas /

      I forgot to mention, I chose my score based on the following assumptions:

      I compared the Helm’s Deep expansion to the features of previous LOTRO expansions at the time of their release. I did my best not to compare it to other games.

      I assumed the following scale: A = exceptionally above average, B = above average, C = average, D = below average, F = unacceptably below average.

      Despite all the criticisms I outlined above (which I hope can be viewed as constructive), the overall score I gave the Helm’s Deep expansion at launch was D+. Below average when compared to other LOTRO expansions, but not a complete failure.

      I’m not sure what assumptions other readers made when choosing their scores, so I’m not sure how mine would compare to theirs.

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