Late last week, I had the opportunity to jump onto the test server for Turbine’s Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar with a couple of developers to check out the content that will be added when the company releases Book 12: The Ashen Waste.
When it launches, the free update will add some interesting new content to Middle Earth: new areas to explore, new quests including the continuation of the game’s Epic Quest line, a new Player vs. Monster Player area and more. Still though, the major focus of The Ashen Waste (and the focus of the first part of this preview) is the detailed player customization that is being added.
One of my biggest personal complaints about Lord of the Rings Online was the fact that my Champion, as he progressed in levels, started to look more and more like some kind of circus clown. While all of my armor pieces were statistically on-par with one another and with me, it looked like I had fished them out of the sale bin at a used armor store. This isn’t a gripe I’ve had specifically with LotRO though, it’s a common problem in many MMOs, and Turbine is addressing it.
Throughout these Books (this is the fourth free update, for those keeping score at home), the developers have done a great job of not only adding quest content and fixing bugs, but also of adding features that make Middle Earth a little bit more real and immersive. In the last book, it was the addition of player housing (which we’ll touch on a little bit later). In this book, it’s the ability to make your character look any way you want them to, accomplished by adding a clothing layer that serves no statistical purpose, but allows players to have their characters look any way that they see fit. Don’t worry though, my Champion’s mis-matched, clown-like (but very effective) armor will still be providing all of the stats.
When Book 12 goes live, players will notice a small but very important change to the character sheet User Interface (UI). The UI has been changed to include two new tabs along the right hand side of the picture. These tabs represent the two different cosmetic outfits that are available to players. The implementation is pretty simple… click a button to have your character wear the outfit.
Along with the new outfit system, the developers have also added in 55 new cosmetic items that can be found as drops, purchased from vendors or even crafted, though I am told that dropped items and crafted items will be “cooler” than those purchased from a vendor.
Still, while there are those who say that clothes make the Man, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it’s the beard that makes the Dwarf, and in the name of customization and visual control, Turbine is also adding a barber shop feature that will allow players to change their hair style, facial hair and even facial detail (scars and such), for a price.
Barbers will be located all over Middle Earth, in the population centers. For example, you can find a barber hanging about in the Prancing Pony. The system itself is pretty straight-forward. You talk to the barber and the option comes up to make a number of cosmetic changes. This isn’t a free service though, and will cost the players for each change they wish to make.
There was one little piece of information that I wanted to save to the end. Mostly, it’s because there was one aspect of this improved customization feature that amused me and that was alternate tools or weapons. Along with the new clothing and the new looks that are available to characters, Turbine has also added new items that can be held in the hands (other than just your weapons or tools). Instead, for aesthetics, players will be able to hold pitchforks and the like, along with my personal favorite… a beer stein. Unlike the outfits though, these items have to be equipped instead of your regular weapon, and I am told that as much as you might want it to, a beer stein just won’t cut it in a fight with a boar.
Just in case you feel that paying later for something that was already available to you in character creation, Turbine has added over 50 new hairstyles (including new beards) that will be available through the barber shops.
That just about covers the personal customization additions that are being made for Book 12: The Ashen Waste. In the next part of this preview, we will be looking at some of the other additions coming, including PvMP, housing, and more.