To time to see what playing on Shadowfax is like.
One new thing added to the game is a way to increase landscape questing difficulty. I figured what the heck and chose “Deadly”, since that was the lowest difficulty that grants the “Disciple of …” title. Since I’ll be playing a Beorning, the title will be “Disciple of Claws”.
To be clear, that is simply Deadly, not any of the +1 to +6 levels of it.
In exchange for some xp bonuses, I’ll be taking more damage and also have the “Eye of Sauron” debuff. I wondered what that was, but it was not long into the game that I found out.
The Eye of Sauron gives a chance to spawn a column of fire. There’s large AoE ground effect warning a few seconds before, so if you are watching you can move out. However it also means keeping an escape avenue open during fights in case this debuff triggers. Keeps you on your toes, so to speak.
I don’t want to be one of these old-timer “get off my lawn” types, but Deadly difficulty felt like… how the game was during the Shadow of Angmar days. Before Mines of Moria and so on, landscape fights were tougher. I know over the years they’ve ratcheted down the challenge in order to help speed leveling, and I’ll stake my possibly shaky memories that Deadly was how it used to be. Tougher, challenging, but absolutely fair/reasonable if you started fights carefully and watched for adds. Still very soloable but grouping with a friend was always welcome.
I had to fight slower and be more careful, as opposed to wading in and mowing everything down like on the regular servers, but I thought it was fine.
My closest call to defeat was during the Dirk Hawthorn fight near Adso’s Camp. I saw 2 groups of 3 adds pinching in from left and right, so I backed up as fast as possible to draw Dirk away and kept fighting. I didn’t want to turn my fight against Dirk into Dirk plus 6 adds.
The xp boosts didn’t quite level me up to stay on-level with the Epic Storyline, but it was reasonably close. I did a few side quests along the way and was also willing to try a quest if I was one level under the recommended.
Eventually, I reached level 20 without defeat and obtained “The Undying”.
Now it was time to get serious and tackle Othongroth of Vol 1 Book 1. For this, I buffed up with food and headed in…
Most fights were one or two at a time, so with the practice of landscape questing on Deadly difficulty, it was fine. I reached Sambrog, fought him until he healed up twice and Tom Bombadil showed up to zap him.
According to /played, I’ve spent 6 hours and 45 minutes on this char over that past few days, at the point I finished Vol 1 Book 1, talked to Gandalf and gotten the prelude for Book 2 (talk to Saeradan and go to the Lone Lands). That’s all questing, fighting, travel because I’ve done zero crafting.
I’m not claiming this as some kind of speed record, it is more to mention that playing solo, playing careful, not dying, and doing just enough side quests to stay on-level with the epic storyline, on Deadly difficulty, isn’t bad at all.
If I had infinite time I’d try on Treebeard just to compare how much time it would take. If I calculate various xp bonuses/penalties correct, I’d get about half the experience on Treebeard that I get on Shadowfax, so that would mean needing many more side quests to stay on-level. Which I would guesstimate to mean roughly 2x the time needed.
Anyway, much to think about. Continue on the Shadowfax, try Treebeard, go back to Arkenstone, etc. I had fun on Shadowfax, I like the difficulty options. But it’ll be a lot of time to get back to where I was even on Arkenstone (Book 5) plus virtues to grind so my char isn’t a total gimp.