Epic battles seem to be a dividing topic in the LOTRO community as they stand. Some players love them, some players hate them and other players tried the battles and don’t care for them. I find myself somewhere in the middle. Epic battles in groups are enjoyable but I think they need a lot of work to come close to other end-game content. I decided to suggest some changes that I think would greatly increase my interest in the epic battle system.
1. Give Players Importance
When I play an epic battle, I feel like just a number. This was my biggest fear of the system going into the expansion and it came true. While yes, the side missions do give players some importance, they are just that, side missions. For the majority of fights, I feel completely insignificant.
Enemies very rarely do damage to players and when they do it is only for a few seconds. That is, unless all the soldiers are dead already; then the player can get great agro, and feel really important. This is not ideal though, because you likely are about to lose a hero and the battle as a whole.
How can they add importance then? That is the question I hope Turbine employees ask themselves before sleep each night.
In my opinion, they can do this by adding resolution to the battles by building waves of enemies that increase in repetition and difficulty culminating in a boss fight or one final push.
Also, I think by making more enemies hunt down players, there would be threat and importance in the battle. In Orcs Must Die 2, there are enemies that hunt down players specifically no-matter where you hide on the map. This would really help the player feel special knowing that they are so important in the battle that enemies actually want to fight them. This would also keep players from being overwhelmed with enemies on them as it wouldn’t be constant. Right now I just feel ignored and therefore, insignificant.
Finally, I think by making players have main mission objectives to protect a certain hero at designated points in the battle could add depth and importance. Imagine a huge wave of enemies flood at just you and Aragorn. You both are all that stands between the orcs and the Hornburg itself.
2. Change to Positive Scores
“There is a basic dichotomy in games: When you reward players for winning a war and give them 100 gold pieces, the player never really questions rewards. If something bad happens, if there is a setback to the player, they react much differently. They complain the game is broken, the AI is cheating, or something in the game is wrong. You have to be careful with setbacks. It’s important to explain why these things happen, and how to avoid these things in the future. If gamers believe the game is cheating, if you haven’t explained something well, they will leave. I see a big value is replayability. Whenever there is an opportunity to plant the seed of replayability, you’re on your way to a satisfied customer.”
“If they (players) feel insignificant, or there is too much random play, then the players will somehow come up with the most paranoid and worst possible explanation of the game’s reasoning.”
-Sid Meier (Civilization series game designer) from 2010 GDC Speech
I believe this quote gets right to the heart of the problem with epic battles. Epic battles penalize the player with major negative rewards instead of positive. The system makes me feel paranoid that if I do anything wrong, I will lose rewards.
Why not flip the scale and reward players at the end of battles with a bar that grows as it factors in the amount of soldiers that survive. Don’t take away score for every single soldier that dies and every banner that falls. Those things should happen. After the battle is over, there are a lot of dead men of Rohan. If anything, facing such great odds as 30,000 enemies, they should be glad if even one soldier survives. Rohan is glad just to still be alive.
Epic battles seem to almost make a mockery of the truly dire situation by not allowing us to lose any soldiers without being penalized. This would be a fairly easy change that could cause players to feel much better at the end of a fight.
3. Offer a Hard mode
I think that it would be good to add a hard difficulty for players who really want an extra challenge. With the amount some of the upgrades players can get in the epic battle trees, the battles can become fairly easy and right now there is no way to change the difficulty.
4. Provide Better Rewards
It is kind of ridiculous that all the battle of Helm’s Deep gives players is a big pile of jewelry. Give more rewards to players so they have a reason to run the content.
5. Make a Better Tutorial
Considering players can enter at level ten without even knowing how skirmishes work, I can’t even imagine how complex the system would seem to them with the current tutorial.
The tutorial in place for epic battles doesn’t put players in a battle. I would like to see a similar model to the skirmish system applied to the epic battle tutorial where you actually fight through modified battles to learn how the system works. Teach new players to the system about the side objectives, waves and all the new systems that were introduced with epic battles.
6. Build More Sizes
Really? Only one 3, 6 and 12-man? These are epic battles! There should be lots of players trying to cordinate strategies. I really like the raid sized epic battle and I think Turbine should really focus on adding sizes to increase the replay value of the system and also make the raiding community in a better mood.
7. Fix the Vanguard Line
I think the biggest weakness of the Vanguard line is that it seems to not understand how epic battles work in practice. Many of the soldiers do such a great job that the player rarely has to be involved in combat. In addition to that, the Vanguard line gives damage classes less damage than their other skills. I think an easy way to improve this line is give a horn skill similar to the one the champion has to stun enemies and also make all the skills have wide, large area of effect damage.
Until they improve the strength of this line in relation to epic battles, I don’t see the benefits for any player to go in this line.
8. Add a Feel of Scale to Epic Battles
I know there are technical limitations that prevent epic battles from allowing players to actually fight 30,000 enemies at once. That is not how the battle should work anyway. That being said, only fighting around 30 enemies or less at a time with the help of all the soldiers makes the battles feel anti-climactic. Where are the archer volleys firing at the orcs below? Why are there no NPC’s on the catapults, batiste, or any of the siege equipment? They just stand on the wall. Sure some of them might be too old to wield a bow, but really? Add little details that make us feel like some of the NPC’s are actually trying to defeat enemies before they get to the wall.
Do NPC’s not know how to knock down ladders? I know there are a lot of technical limitations, but help players feel like everyone is fighting and doing everything they can to prevent the orcs from coming on the wall. At this point, I would even be fine if the extra fluff doesn’t even hurt the enemies. Make players feel like they are in a real battle even if they are not.
How would you change epic battles? Let us know in the comments below!