[CC] 99 instances – An epic big battle

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How do you write a story when you know you will be mostly defeated? Such is the meeting that happened at Turbine when they came to the moment of the Attack on Helms Deep. The players can’t really play a role where they will fail by default. This article will follow the players as they fight the battles of Helms deep, Pelagrir and defend Minas Tirith

Even has it it’s own category

A new type of instance

 

What Turbine decided in that meeting was what came to be the Epic or big battle system. Each part of the battle is played out by NPC’s where the player itself will fulfill a support role and earn points and gear based on his involvement in that and side quests. Developers diary

History – an expansion without a raid or instance cluster
While Riders of Rohan had a group of instances and raids that didn’t center around the expansion itself, but took us on a Road to Erebor. The Helms Deep expansion came with the big battles. This meant that for the first time a lotro expansion didn’t come with is considered a classic instance or raid. Turbine at the hand of the community manager Sapience had the development time needed for a raid vs the number of people who would use said raid was pretty lobsided. These resources could better be used in other places. This “drought” would last for several years during what could be described as the Gondor expansion and The battle of Pelenor mini expansion.

What do we do?

What do we do ourselves?
In each big battle we play the part of the defenders of the fortress of Helms deep or the city of Minas Tirith. In the battle for pelagrir we support Aragorn and the oathbreakers as they assault the city of Pelagrir to lift the siege and free up the soldiers for the battle of the Pelenor fields. The difference between offensive and defensive actions is what separates the big battles vs the instances and the skirmishes in the middle ground.
The bread and butter of our part is the sidequests, while in the group version the player certainly has to support the main fights for the best rewards, where you and others use your roles as an engineer, officer or vanguard to supplement your normal skills. Developers diary

 

Away from the battle
In the side quest you will counter an enemy attack  on a culvert, goblins attacking the cisterns or a battering ram assaulting the main gate for example. You will get support from soldiers that you can boost with your officer skills or use friendly catapults to batter the enemy forces. Depending on which big battle you do this will take you away from the main battle or you play a role that isn’t what your class normally does. In the end this is one part people often complained about. You have the choice of what to do, but you never feel like it’s what you want to do with your character.

 

 

The 3 different big battles eras
Instead of a start, then and now part, the big battles themselves came in 3 separate moments and each time they evolved a little with what the developers learned and adjusted for the new updates.

Shall i get you a box of powertools?

The battle of the 5 engineer armies – Helms deep
When Helms deep launched people were confused. It was a system like we never had. It was very technical, very buggy and a mess. Over time when people got the hang of the new roles it all seemed to boil down to putting your points you earned in Engineer and use the catapults, ballistas and barricades. Officer roles and Vanguard never felt like they really lived up to what Turbine had in mind. Most of the bugs and issues have been patched. But in the end the Helms deep big battles are still a great source of frustration and annoyance for anyone playing them solo, scaled up from anything below level 80 or any class that doesn’t use instantaneous skills like a loremaster, runekeeper, burglar or warden.
Other classes, higher level players on rank 6 engineers have a lot of time on their hand while they wait for the main quest to catch up with the finished sidequests.

Release the hunters

Retaking pelagrir by dps
One of the forgotten battles in the books was there. Right to be retaken by us. An offensive big battle where we sidetrack the corsairs so that Aragorn can arrive with the Blue man group. After a welcome by the sons of Elrond we defend 1 lonely guy cranking his heart out while we charge up our kill streaks. And use our engineer and officers skills to stop them from battering the poor guy.

The addition of side objectives as the back gate, balista and the Epic foe bosses in the middle part is one of the best additions to the technical battles from Helms deep. Depending on the gear and ranks of the rowdy crew it can be easy, but hardly is there a time to sit around in the 6-man. You can always attack some mobs, use skills or get ready for one of the side quests. Removing hooks to delay the epic foe or trusting your dps is enough to do the treasure seekers and the trolls at the same time adds a little dynamic to the runs.

 

Before Woodstock

Over-whelmingas-tirth
Over time the tactics of Helms deep were perfected and pelagrir became the preferred big battle to do due to the number of side quests and boxes to be gotten. Then the defence of minas tirith had arrived. Time was given to Turbine to make the perfect mix of epicness, story and engagement by the players. For the last two-thirds of the battles they succeeded in it. Gone were the wait times from pelagrir and the all or nothing ballistas from helms deep. The timing of the epic foes, side quests and the added siege towers mix great.
Alas the straight into action and the fact that the catapults can’t be used in Defence or of much in Hammer make s you wait for a while till the battle goes into overdrive on the first side quests. Specially the epic foes or side quests in the cistern being overwhelming in even the best setup for them. The final trolls in Defence are pretty big sponges of dps, but with the 1 extra player to be dealt a three-fold morale pool is really just too much.

A nice mix of dps and utility

The perfect mix
Each era of big battles builds upon their pFredecessor and knowledge the developers gotten after them. Would we get a 4th set of big battles soon? I’m not sure since Standing stone games already stated that it was an instrument in their arsenal they might use if they feel it would fit the best. For me the perfect mix would take the difficulty in groups of Minas tirith with the objective timing of Pelagrir. Do i find the Helms deep battles to be that bad? No, but nearly all of the battles has different flaws with a bad number of objectives and loot to be gotten. The best Helms deep ones don’t have any group versions. The perfect Helms deep would be a bigger version of Hornburg or deepening comb.

The best instances possible?
With the tweaks in the perfect mix i think big battles might be the best instances for grouping. The scaling loot, every level able to team up with your kinnies and having a version for 2-3 people is what keeps me bringing back to them. Every time and everyone that joins gets something out of it. Does that make it best instance? No, but the systems build inside are near-perfect motivation for repeatability as long as the barter items remain valid. And not be shoved to the side as with the Featured instances

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