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Lord of the Rings Online General Article: Returning to LOTRO Part 2

By Phil James on December 27, 2010

“LotRO LotRO Man! I Want to be a LotRO Man!” as the Village People used to sing. Ok, they didn’t sing it, but I reckon my lyrics are better.

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For the past week or so, I’ve been on a mission. I wasn’t asked to kill 10 of any creature. Oh no, nothing so mundane. I’ve been on a mission to rescue my MMO life. I’m in the unenviable position of not having a main game anymore. In the absence of anything new taking my fancy, I’m doing the rounds of MMOs I’ve played in the past but didn’t stick with. I’m subbing for another month, giving them another try out to see if they have what it takes to hook me in, and I’ve started out with Lord of the Rings Online.

I’m into my second week of LotRO (see week one's adventures). Having tried out a couple of alts and the revamped starting areas, I’ve settled down and returned to my old main character. I started out this month at level 35 and decided to make level 40 my goal for the week. The reason is that the lands I’m stomping around aren’t holding a lot of interest for me. As a newbie, I started out in The Shire, which I loved. Then I moved on to Bree-Land, which was pretty enjoyable. The reason I like these areas is that they are fairly well covered in the books and films. It brings out the geek in me to take in the sights and visit NPCs from the source material.

I imagine that this is a big attraction for many of us who play LotRO. Many other games are steeped in lore and well fleshed out NPCs, but you have to pay attention to the dialogue or read up on the lore to unearth the back story. Sometimes, if you haven’t done your homework, then encountering new lands or laying the smackdown on a named mob can leave you underwhelmed. LotRO, however, comes with all of the lore pre-loaded into my brain. When I’m told to meet up with a character like, say, Strider, I know I’m meeting one bad MFer without the quest dialogue telling me so.

So when travelling through lands which aren’t so well documented in the books, I tend to space out and just grind out the quests without paying much attention to the story. I had been adventuring in the land of Evendim. This zone was added after I quit playing so I was interested to take the grand tour. Evendim is certainly pretty, but many of the quests are very much to-and-fro, making the process feel like more of a chore, and before long I felt the desire to move on. I admit to feeling a bit bad about my play style in LotRO. Here I am in a world that is beautiful and has clearly been meticulously constructed and all I want to see are the sights I already know. I feel like one of those tourists who goes somewhere exciting like Tibet and immediately looks for a Starbucks and a McDonalds.

Checking the internet for a list of zones by level, I saw that I was in the level range to go to Trollshaws. I was sold! Trollshaws is lore-a-rific; it’s the location of the rolls which turned to stone in The Hobbit. It’s also where Rivendell is and I had a quest to meet Strider there. I needed no more encouragement.

While I was checking stuff out online, I looked up some of the mounts available and realised that I was riding around on the most basic mount. BASIC! Arrgh, what if somebody saw me? I thought I’d better upgrade before people started mistaking me for some peasant. I then found out that I didn’t even have the riding skill (not sure how I had been riding up until then). For better mounts, I needed that skill. You can either buy the riding skill from the LotRO store for a cheap 95 points, or you can perform a simple timed lap to be awarded it. I went for the free option and managed to complete the course on the second try, having been dismounted the first time around by riding through a puddle.

So now I had my new mount, I was off on my way to Trollshaws. Despite being ignorant of the lore regarding many of the sights around me, I am very much in love with the scenery in LotRO. As the lands and climate are already set down by Tolkien, Turbine can’t really fall back on the hackneyed old lands. You know the zones I mean: lava land, ice world, otherworldly floaty-rock place. Some game worlds look like an episode of The Crystal Maze ( not sure how many countries have that show, oh well, you can wiki it if you haven’t heard of it). Even though many of the lands of Middle Earth are made up of similar assets, the devs have done a great job of giving each its own distinct flavor.

Once in Trollshaws, I continued on my quest grind. This was helped quite a bit by another feature that was new to me: daily tasks. This isn’t a unique concept by any means, but it’s in LotRO it’s very user-friendly. Instead of picking up repeatable quests and grinding them out, you click on the task board and select the ones you want (all probably). They all involve turning in x number of creature parts or items from humanoid mobs, and the handy thing is that pretty much everything I killed dropped something for me to collect. Once you turn them in, you get some XP and a bit of reputation with a local faction. The great thing is that there doesn’t seem to be a system of diminishing returns; you get full XP for turning in the same task over and over. I have played the odd MMO which doesn’t regard a repeated quest to be worthy of an XP award. Another bonus is that once you are done with an area but still have a few of the quest items in your bags, vendors will give you some cash for them.

Upon reaching level 37, I returned to Bree to visit my class trainer. On the way I was thinking about how quiet my server was. During each session, I had seen about four or five lines of chat. As I was thinking about spending next week being a bit more sociable and trying to play with others, this wasn’t a good sign. Once I reached Bree though, things were very different. The chat channels were very active and so many players were running to and fro. This filled me with some hope, although not as much as when I happened upon a crowd of players not running anywhere. I approached to see what could be keeping everyone there when I saw it was a concert. In LotRO you can play musical instruments, I’ve had a go and can confess to being pretty bad at it. These guys, however, were putting on quite a show. Now that’s community!

I still haven’t made it to level 40, but that’s ok, the weekend is coming and I’ll have plenty of time then. Besides, my new focus is going to be on getting more involved with other players. If LotRO is going to keep its hooks in me, then “playing well with others” is a box it’s going to have to tick.

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