While the Allegiance system will give you story quests to accomplish, and there are plenty of daily quests to do to further your standing with the faction, in practice it really just feels like fluff. You’ll unlock more portions of the story arc as you level up, but I find it somewhat disappointing that story is being locked behind a system instead of being tied to your normal progression. To level and allegiance, you have to obtain Relics of the Last Alliance, which are given as rewards for quests and other deeds you accomplish around Gorgoroth. Joining a faction does give you access to their Allegiance Halls, which remind me of the Crafting Halls from earlier Lotro days. They are impressive looking, though, especially The Hall of the King and Court of Celeborn.
“Slowly his hand went to his bosom, and slowly he held aloft the Phial of Galadriel. For a moment it glimmered, faint as a rising star struggling in heavy earthward mists, and then as its power waxed, and hope grew in Frodo’s mind, it began to burn, and kindled to a silver flame, a minute heart of dazzling light, as though Eärendil had himself come down from the high sunset paths with the last Silmaril upon his brow. The darkness receded from it, until it seemed to shine in the centre of a globe of airy crystal, and the hand that held it sparkled with white fire.” - The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers “Shelob’s Lair”
The Light of Eärendil has been added as a mechanic in LOTRO, reminding me of the old Radiance mechanic the game did away with back in 2011. Light is accumulated via armor sets you can trade Ash of Gorgoroth for, or if you’re lucky, enemies can drop weapons which carry the Light stats. As you go further into Mordor, the “Shadow of Mordor” (read: Gloom) begins to work upon your character, and the “Light of Eärendil” (read: Radiance) works to combat against it.
As you venture farther into Mordor, this shadow becomes more oppressive and can stack debuffs on your character which reduce incoming healing, increases damage being done to you and decreases the amount of damage you do. While Radiance was limited to dungeons back in the day, this will be found on the regular landscape, and if players don’t want the oppressive Shadow to overwhelm them, farming for gear will be a must.
On one hand, some players really do like the idea of grinding for the best gear. However, while Lotro has always had some pretty great armor sets for raiding, PvMP and so on, in my ten years playing the game I never really found it a necessity to move about the world. When Radiance was a mechanic plaguing Middle-earth, I worked with it in order to run dungeons with my Kinship, but at the end of the day it really didn’t affect the rest of the game. It’ll be interesting to see how Shadow and the Light of Eärendil works out in the coming months.
It also makes me wonder why the Dread/Hope system in the game wasn’t good enough to use instead as well. Instead of creating a whole new system that gives veteran players flashbacks to one of the game’s more infamous mechanics, why not use the system the game has had since day one? Why not have dread become higher as you quest through Mordor, and combat it with the highest tier Hope Tokens? The developers, instead of expanding and adapting a current system, created a whole new mechanic that seems vaguely familiar, hearkening back to one of the worst systems ever put into the game.
The real question though is whether all of this content justifies the incredibly steep price point? There are three tiers to Lotro’s Mordor expansion: the lowest costing $40 and the highest reaching an absurd $130. Nothing is physical here, everything you get with the Collector’s and Ultimate Fan edition are fully digital, which is a shame considering it reaches price points seen by other games that offer great physical perks (and more digital items) such as statues and other items. With the lowest price only the Mordor expansion is included, the High Elf race and the cosmetics are reserved for the middle tier version, sitting at a whopping $80. A $40 difference for a race and a few cosmetics isn’t cheap by any means. It’s quite literally twice the amount, but not twice the value. It’s also insulting that the price of the high elves in the LOTRO store - 1100LP - comes to about $10 worth of points. So why are players being forced to drop $80 on an edition to play a race that Standing Stone Games feels is only worth ten bucks in the end.
The problem when you ask for this kind of money and you’re competing against lesser priced games on the market - yet are more modern, you really need to back up that asking price. Everything about Mordor’s presentation seems stuck in the early days. Cutscenes are so horribly rendered in-engine and look like they came out of the Playstation 2 console days that the game is showing it’s age - and not in a good way. For $130, you should expect and receive better production value out of your investment. To be frank, $40 is the perfect price for this expansion - High Elf and all, and it’s a travesty that it’s not being offered as such. Hopefully this is rectified moving forward and the High Elf is added to the standard edition soon.
The Lord of the Rings Online: Mordor brings a lot to the table, although it’s apparent it’s a mixed bag. On one hand, Mordor itself is a triumph in design and incredibly engaging to explore and quest. The stories being told in Mordor really remind me of the old LOTRO stories that were not tethered to the Ring. The writing team could flex their writing muscles and bring players original stories in the iconic world of Middle-earth. And the High Elf intro area really is a treat to play. Conversely, though, the High Elf does seem somewhat out of place this late in the game to be launching, and the way it’s being handled in terms of Lotro’s pricing is absurd. In fact, the SSG’s entire pricing approach to pricing The Lord of the Rings Online: Mordor is a travesty, and one I hope will be rectified as the weeks go on. Additionally, while it’s nice to have new systems introduced with Mordor, such as Allegiance and the Shadow of Mordor/Light of Eärendil mechanic, they simply feel too similar to past systems to make them feel unique and new.
The Lord of the Rings Online: Mordor is good and full of great ideas, iconic moments and intense hours of questing. But the expansion as a whole is dragged down by its own weight, making the whole package feel a little lackluster in the end.