Short and sweet?
Tl;dr - The promise of the Update held throughout the beta.
Visual & Aural
- Visually, the looks build on what we've previously seen of Gondorian culture; what differences there are appear to be because previously we've seen ruins, but here, the people of West Gondor have taken care of the structures, let their own 'style' evolve and grow. There's also the subtle Mediterranean feel to the climate; subtle enough for me to not pick up on it before the last builds.
- I'm not going to get over the rush of seeing the black banners bearing the image of the White Tree anytime soon. Or Aragorn's banner, for that matter. Great job on those, guys.
- Ships sailing in the bay! The whole setting of Dol Amroth, Edhellond, the ships makes me hopeful that, one day, we might reach the Grey Havens.
- Gondorian guards are pretty much just reskins of the Rohirrim guards, but then there are the Swan Knights... Both are nice, imo.
- Both Dorthaneth and Lothíriel having their own, unique models is nice; I wonder why Dorthaneth wears a veil, though. Lothíriel's wreath of golden flowers certainly fits her name and, perhaps, her status.
- The roads in West Gondor make me sad, though; you have access to a road graphic (seen all the way back in Evendim, and again in West Gondor itself) and yet you've chosen to pave the roads with plain stones.
- As it is, I'm at home in West Gondor's soundscape. The music triggered weird nostalgia trippy feelings about games of 80s/90s, so objectivity's pretty much impaired. Sure, it's not Chance Thomas' level, but it seems to fit the areas, and it was easy enough on the ears, imo.
- The gulls. That's all. Lingering on the cliffs near Dol Amroth and just listening to them became one of my favourite ways to pass the time in the area.
- The Epic. When we reached Lothíriel, the writing of the Epic made quite an impression on me; I love the fact that you've taken a feature of the world that's well-attested (prophetic dreams) and woven it into the story in the way you have.
- Epic ladies; that's what they appear, both Lothíriel and Dorthaneth, by the roles they play and by the words put in their mouths.
- One thing I either missed or it was left unclear: did all of Lothíriel's brothers run with their father to Minas Tirith? As it is, I fail to remember a single mention of her brothers in the dialogues...
- The landscape quests seemed to flow well enough, and I was gladdened by how it seemed as if you could 'choose' what area to quest in... if this is true, colour me happy. Great River/Eastemnet kind "You have to finish area X before moving on" probably had its place, but was frustrating.
- Return of Solo/FS choice! \o/
- The Essence system seems pretty much like LIs... with the exception that what I gained via beta, I'm probably going to stick with quest reward/crafted gear.
- The Grind. Dol Amroth seems to even beat Fangorn, as it is, and I already know that I'm not going to be doing it. It's not the grind that's bad... it's the fact that in each instance there appeared to be Signatures that come in groups, do stuns and toss (nasty) AoEs... and are hopeless for me to deal with, alone. I know there are people who love the challenge; the worse, the better. I, however, love to come and relax in Middle-earth; repeatedly perishing isn't my idea of a good time. The easiest solution, then, is for me to just avoid content like this.
- The locales and the quests for the dailies seem fine, even if Emyn Ernil is just Stangraf, with the entrance at the bottom instead of the top, and new mobs.