I mentioned in my last article that I returned to LOTRO not to level as fast as humanly possible or pwn noobs in the Entmoors, but to slow down and enjoy the game. In fact, in my kinship recruitment thread I said I wanted to “immerse myself into Middle-Earth”. My Burglar – at the time of writing this – is level 40 and in no rush to reach the end game.
Yes, let’s be honest and call a fanboi a fanboi. I don’t take offense. I loved the books. And this isn’t a review of the game – it’s my story. In talking to friends and reading forums I found a lot of players who had been considering trying LOTRO and I thought I could share my experience. I’m not writing to promote the game. I may even discourage you from buying the game and save you $20. In which case, just mail me $10 and we’ll call it even.
As I mentioned, I blew through the first 20 levels largely in part because Turbine increased the amount of experience gained from quests and monster kills since beta. They also increased the rewards. I remember in beta the only way to get the gold required to buy a horse by level 35 was to sell the location of Frodo to the enemy. I would tell the Ring Wraiths in the cut scenes “Yo Ring Wraith, when the hobbits hop on Buckleberry Ferry just go up to the bridge and around – it takes literally like 2 seconds.” But now, by level 20 I already had a couple of gold and at 35 I could afford two horses simply by vendoring drops and selling a fur/hide on the auction house.
I was genuinely worried that my time spent in beta was going to ruin the element of surprise for my first 40 levels. For example, I already knew my way through the Old Forest to Tom Bombadil’s house and getting lost in the forest is a rite of passage every character should experience. However, the strangest thing happened – and maybe it was subconscious – I aggro’d a tree, panicked and made a wrong turn ending up at Goldberry. I couldn’t believe it: I was lost in the Old Forest, again. It’s these little things, like the in-game music that have fueled my LOTRO resurgence.
Anytime I reinstalled WoW (which was many) or tried a new game one of the first things I would do is turn off the in-game music. I’m not saying the music in WoW is worse than T-Pain without the auto tune. In fact, it’s probably really good. I’m just saying music was a distraction while I was 4-button mashing my Paladin. It’s like when you’re driving and you turn down the radio in the car while you’re looking for a house number. But so far, I haven’t turned down or off any music in LOTRO. Not even the combat music whose first search result for “combat music lotro” is: “Anyway to turn off combat music?”
To steal EA Sports’ slogan “If it’s in the game, it’s in the game!” The importance Tolkien gave to music in Middle-Earth is as Frodo is to the destruction of the One Ring. You don’t need to look further than the Minstrel class to see Turbine wasn’t going to ignore that fact. I had planned to discuss the LOTRO music system, but Justin Webb’s Lord of the Rings Online: Freebird! column did a fantastic job explaining and exploring it. One of my favorite early moments in the game happened when a kin mate announced a band was playing in The Prancing Pony. Now this was the reason I returned on a RP server. I’ve experienced a lifetime of questing and end game raids – I’m in no hurry to get to 65. The 10,000 bears I need to kill weren’t going anywhere so I rode back to Bree to hear the band. I’ll be honest; I AFK danced for 5 of the 20 minutes I was there while I made a ham and cheese sandwich. But still, the music was great and I can appreciate the amount of time they spent practicing.
I mentioned the 10,000 bears above because I make no illusion that LOTRO isn’t the same grind every other MMORPG is. If you’re tired of killing different modeled cats over and over in WoW you’ll find no relief in LOTRO. I’ve been killing wolves for 40 levels. I suspect I’ll find more in Moria (somehow) and again in Mirkwood. Eventually, they’ll create a game (if they haven’t already) that works like the WoW tournament servers. You’ll login as max level and have instant access to all available equipment and skills. To be honest, there are a lot of upsides to that especially for PvP, but we’d all find a way to hate on it.
Another subject I can’t glaze over is the lack of players below level 40. Like any MMORPG nearly three years past its release date the number of new players is low and the older zones are barren. It was OK for the first 20 levels as you barely notice, but then the number of group quests increase. While you will never run out of quests, it would just be nice to have more players around to do the quests with better a story and rewards. I’m stuck on Vol. 1 Book 4 Chp. 8: The Unmarked Trail right now. Prior to this, I was lucky to find higher level players running friends through the epic storyline. I even ran across one level 60 character who hadn’t been able to complete it yet. It definitely cheapened the experience to be run through the quest, but what can you do? I should mention recent revamps to quests and zones (i.e. , Lonelands) have made this a little less of a problem. But it’s still a huge problem as you come into your 20s.
Levels 30 – 40 have, logically, been the hardest so far. Orion, Turbine’s Senior Content Designer, acknowledged in a recent LOTROCast (a LOTRO podcast) the difficulty for players during those levels. I actually expect levels 40 – 50 to have more direction. In my 30s I was constantly wandering back and forth between zones for suitable level quests. I probably spent as much time traveling as leveling.
Outside of leveling I’ve just been focusing on learning the Burglar class. My kin, The Grey Guard on EU-RP Laurelin, is full of knowledgeable players of every class and has been a great resource. I hope, in time, I’ll be resource for people. If you would like to email me a question on the Burglar or any aspect of the game up to level 40 send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org. I’ll put together a bunch of them in a future post. For example:
Q: Are you maxing traits as you level or planning to go back?
A: I’m not maxing traits. I’m not even really paying attention to ones I’ve earned. I was a huge min-maxer when I played WoW. I used to really get caught up in it while leveling alts. I’d constantly be looking up the fastest way to level as a certain class or the optimal spell rotation. I was obsessed with damage meters and topping the charts on a Wailing Caverns run. If I decide I want to be involved in end game raiding with my kin I’ll go back and max the important ones at 65. Until then I’m just not caring – too many other things to have fun with.
Email me your questions!