As Grimbeorn sends you to Eriador at the behest of Radaghast, I couldn’t help but feel a little disheartened. I didn’t want to leave the Vales of Anduin just yet. In seven years of playing The Lord of the Rings Online, it was refreshing to have my character start somewhere besides The Shire, Edhelion or Archet. Now I’m being told I’ll be going to Archet at level three to track down a Ranger named Aragorn. I don’t want to leave this beautiful new area as quickly as I entered it, but it seems I’ve no choice. As the chosen of the line of Beorn, the shape-changer famous for his role in the Quest for Erebor during The Hobbit, I’m tasked with helping combat the evil that is starting to threaten even the Vales.
This is what went through my head as I saddled my horses bags and was ported to the all-too familiar burned husk that Archet became. At least I didn’t have to go through the full prologue, though automatically set to level 5 was a little annoying. From this point on, even though I was playing the most recent Race/Class to grace the game since the Runekeeper and Warden were introduced with the Mines of Moria expansion, the game felt no different than it had for the past 7 years. And to me, that’s not a good thing.
The Lord of the Rings Online is still going strong, even though the game is clearly starting to show it’s age both visually and mechanically. The Beorning was, in my mind, going to be a jolt of fresh air into the stale class system that has dominated the game since it’s inception. And in some ways it does succeed. But the early implementation causes it to fall on it’s face and makes it hard to really get excited about progressing onward. While the Beorning does have a distinct look (which upon closer inspection can be seen as recycled Burglar and Loremaster cosmetic assets), the one defining feature that sets the class apart is the ability to shape-shift into a monstrous bear. While you can do this, it feels no different than if you are simply swinging your weapon normally, it just so happens to be a giant paw.
Mechanically, Turbine has introduced an interesting twist to the normal Morale/Power management. Instead of Power, the Beorning uses “Wrath.” By using some of your skills while in “Man Form,” you build up Wrath, which you then use to shape-shift and consume with your Bear skills. It’s interesting to not only manage how much Wrath you have left, but also having to manage how much you’re building. Definitely different than my normal Power consumption calculating I do as my Hunter. Some skills build more Wrath than others, and your first 10 levels you’ll be building it 5 or 10 at a time. Also, it’s not just Bear skills that consume Wrath. At level 6, a Man form skill called Hearten will also consume some Wrath, so no matter your form you’ll be monitoring this.
Which path will you choose?
The different trait trees show off the class’ flexibility. With the three trees you can either set yourself up to maintain your powerful Bear form (The Hide), bolstering your DPS as either Bear or Man (The Claw) or enhancing your support and crowd control (The Roar). I went with The Roar since I saw myself more of a support type with this class, partially because since I mainly play solo in the early areas I wanted the healing skills. With only two trait points I put them into a stackable Heal over Time (HoT) on my Slash skill, allowing me to build up Wrath as well as keep a heal on my character to help take on multiple enemies. Because the class early on is hinting at being able to perform a bevy of roles within a fellowship, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Beornings taking the place of some of the other classes in a group rotation. Crowd control and healing could replace some Loremaster/Burglars, where the DPS, if proven potent enough, can help bolster a Runekeeper, Hunter or Champion in taking down an enemy. I don’t think they’ll completely replace these classes, but you won’t be too upset of your “LFG, 1 more any class” is a well traited child of Grimbeorn.
As far as how the class fits in Lore-wise, it’s a bit of a stretch, but it works to a degree. The premise is that Radaghast is trying to convince Grimbeorn to send aid in Eriador against the impending Shadow. We do know that the Beornings were attacked during the War of the Ring, as evidenced by Frodo’s vision while sitting on the Seat at Amon Hen in The Fellowship of the Ring, but it’s not known whether or not Grimbeorn or his kin could also shapeshift like Beorn himself. Considering those who took Beorn as their Chief after the Battle of the Five Armies were mainly displaced Northmen, the game has to make your character on of Grimbeorn’s direct offspring to make it work. As I said above, I really wish the developers would have done more with that intro sequence than just having you walk around the glen near Grimbeorn’s house, showing off The Carrock in the distance, but the magic and wonder they are trying to convey is simply lost when you’re forced to start your journey with the Men questline.
It’s just the first 10 levels, it’ll be interesting to see if the class really starts to feel more unique than it currently does as I progress. I’m enjoying the class, don’t get me wrong, but for a class that costs 1000 Turbine Points, and is the first class to be introduced since 2008, I was expecting something that felt wholly unique. My view could be tainted by my disappointment in how the class progresses the first 10 levels considering I’ve done these quests multiple times, so hopefully as I meet with Aragorn we have something a little different to aid a Beorning “flair” to the quests.
Have you tried the new Beorning class? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!