It’s 5 January 2011 and as a the new year is just beginning, and my time in Lord of the Rings Online is coming to a close. I’m now in my last week of playing and I’m wondering what to do with the time that is left.
So far I’ve tried out the new starter zones, done a bit of crafting, a little bit of grouping, and many many quests. I’ve had a great time, LotRO feels familiar both in setting and gameplay. The game features a lot of questing. If you come here from WoW or EQ2 (which I have) you will hit the ground running in Middle Earth. The comparison to those two games is something I have to keep in mind as that is the purpose of playing in the first place: I’m looking for a new home as I’m spending less and less time in my old two. So the questiness of the game ticks a box as I mostly play quest-fests so I feel at home already.
The pace feels a little slower than those other two games as travelling can take a while. The zones are fairly large and even on horseback, running from your quest hub to your targets can feel like a leisurely affair. Plus once you have completed a couple of quests and returned for your reward, you usually get another mission sending you back again. This can happen three or four times, depending on the quest giver (some people need a Time and Motion Supervisor looking over them before they start giving out quests). The slower pace feels right though, I don’t mind taking a while to churn out a few quests. There is plenty to kill and harvest on the way and the task system rewards you with some extra xp for the drops from mobs.
I dig the crafting system too. It’s more complex than WoW’s, though I do enjoy Blizzard’s system. It’s nowhere near as laborious as EQ2’s (sorry to any fans, but it’s not quite for me). I can see myself putting a lot of hours into bashing out armour pieces for fun and profit.
So that’s where it’s familiar, but what about where it differs from other games? After all, if I’m going to spend a lot of time here, it should offer something different, otherwise what would be the point?
I’ve been spending a lot of time skirmishing. This is another feature that isn’t new, but it is new to me. I received a summons in the mail to see a Skirmish Captain in one of the Skirmish Camps dotted around Middle Earth (I’m already tired of the word Skirmish). I made my way over and started the tutorial mission. I have to say, as fun as it was, the tutorial was lacking a bit. It introduced me to the basics such as summoning the soldier who fights alongside me and re-summoning him when he dies, and this happens a lot. That’s about it really, the rest I had to muddle through.
The basic set up was retaking the town of Bree, which had been overrun by bandits. The way to go about this is to clear an area of mobs then right click the marker for that area to retake it. All well and good. However, having retaken the main gates, they opened and in I went to storm the next section. I wasn’t prepared for the counter attack which happens once you have won your objective and soon found myself overwhelmed and dead. Some of the skirmishes work this way, and some require you to hold a position against waves of enemies.
You can pick different roles for your soldier, such as healing, melee DPS, ranged DPS, tank...you know, the usual. I stuck with the warrior role that you get lumbered with in the tutorial mission, this is the melee DPS class. Before long, I began to regret my decision. The warrior is a bit trigger happy, always standing ahead of me and pulling aggro first. There is a command to order the soldier to attack my target, but against multiple enemies it’s usually too late to save him from all the hate he has built up. I decided to respec to a healer to properly complement my tanking. The drawback to this was that I was now killing mobs a hell of a lot slower.
Another area that the tutorial skips over is upgrading your soldier. I had no trouble finding out about buying skills and traits for him, but had no idea that I had to speak to the Skirmish Captain in order to equip them too. Still that’s what the internet is for, I guess.
There are so many things to spend your skirmish marks on, and not all for your buddy. You can buy some pretty decent armour for yourself too, if you don’t mind not upgrading your soldier for a bit in order to save up for it. I could go on for a bit on how much there is to the skirmish system, but I had other things to try out and I’ve not much room left to write about them. Suffice to say that despite the lack of tutorial, skirmishes are a great addition to the game, and if I play long term, I’ll definitely be sinking dozens of hours into this.
The last thing I wanted to try out was Monster Play. This isn’t some kind of weird bedroom activity, it’s LotRO’s PvP feature. As it turns out it really is the last thing I want to try – ever again. I’m not really much of a PvP player to begin with, I quite enjoy the odd battleground, but that’s about it. I was intrigued by Monster Play though. The whole of the zone of The Ettenmoors is given over to PvP. You can head over there with your main character or roll a servant of evil. I rolled an Orc Reaver, the dps class. I logged in and the legend of Bishbash the Orc was born.
Your Creep (as they are known) begins at the level cap which is currently 65, but you are pretty weak to begin with. They are less powerful than a player character and roughly as powerful as a mob of the same level, I believe. Instead of experience points, you get destiny points to spend on upgrading your Creep. I picked up a truckload of quests and set out to begin my reign of terror. Or I would have if my first mission wasn’t to kill slugs to for food to feed the expanding vile army. I was part way through killing my first slug when I was ganked by a player. It’s hard to think of it as ganking as I am after all an evil smelly Orc. The player was only doing what’s right and ridding Middle Earth of invading scum. I did feel a bit hard done by though. Undaunted, I respawned and set out again, taking an indirect route to the same area to kill me some slugs.
Gah!!! Ganked again.
One more go, I thought. I set out, and instead of heading south, went east in search of new adventures. To my delight I found more slugs (not a sentence I imagine I will ever need to write again). So there I was busily slaying my first slug, again, when the same player ripped me apart a third time. What is he? Magic? How did he find me again?!?! In disgust and loathing for my lack of skillz, I logged off and called it a night.
It turns out that PvP isn’t for me after all, just as I suspected.
So that brought my month’s return to LotRO to a close. So does the game have what it takes to keep me hooked? Will I be calling Middle Earth home from now on? I have to say that it’s definitely a contender, I didn’t expect to be so drawn in; Cataclysm is still sitting on my hard drive with its surface hardly scratched (the game, not the disk). That’s a good sign. Still, it’s too soon for me to make a decision yet. Not when I have a shelf full of old MMOs that I could check out again.
Hmm, Conan is sounding pretty good. I hear the weather in Hyborea is fine this time of year.