I've had an interesting love/hate relationship with the latest Lord of the Rings Online expansion. I'm really finding that the story telling in LotRO is feeling aged, and the constant fetch quests are grinding on me. However, the way the team has designed the titular settlement in the expansion has me excited to explore even more once again.
Oh, and story spoiler alert for those who are interested.
I've had issues with the main storyline running through Minas Morgul so far - the incredible journey you're character has been on to this point starts with a flashback to the Second Age during the siege of Barad-dur, and throughout that flashback you're uncovering the movements of the Sons of Isildur as well as the mysterious elf Magoldir. There are pivotal moments that uncover vital details to main character backstories, yet when you're out of the flashback and back at the Beorninghus, you're charged not with immediately following this lead but instead doing chores.
It's a complete mood changer and one that made me question whether I should continue the main story or just head straight to Imlad Morgul to begin my journey there. Thankfully the story lead me there a few quests later, but it wasn't without marring my experience to that point. I mentioned in a previous article that LotRO's storytelling is starting to show it's age. The way it's presented feels dated compared to more modern MMOs such as Final Fantasy XIV, The Elder Scrolls Online or even older MMOs that have updated with the times like World of Warcraft. So when I got to Imlad Morgul and realized much of what I would be doing is the same fetch questing that I hate, I was feeling pretty low.
However, after a few quests led me into Minas Morgul itself, I was entranced by my surroundings. Giant decaying walls of marble, reminiscent of the stonework we've seen in Minas Tirith and Dol Amroth surrounded me. The destruction that was caused to the city during its long siege lay un-repaired, and I found myself fighting orcs and trolls throughout rubble. Climbing higher into the tiered city, the Tower of Sorcery earned its name.
Leylines of power swirled overhead, casting a greenish hue all around me. I felt transported to an area in Middle-earth I've never experienced before - someplace that clearly felt magical and tainted by the darkness of Sauron's servants. The transformation the city has made from sterling Gondorian fortress built during the might of the Numenoreans in Middle-earth to decaying, yet eerily powerful stronghold of the Witch-king is beautifully realized by LotRO's art team. While the aged engine does leave a lot to be desired sometimes, Minas Morgul itself doesn't disappoint.
I'm still trucking along, burning poisonous mushrooms and doing monster hunting quests that made me feel a little like Geralt of Rivia at times in Imlad Morgul, but I can't wait to venture back into the cursed city for more exploration. A threat emerges from the Tower of Sorcery, one that is familiar to both players of LotRO and readers of the books, and while I think the presentation of LotRO's story suffers from its aged approach, the story itself is still enough to keep me interested in Standing Stone Game's interpretation of Tolkien's world.
Minas Morgul's always been an interesting location to Tolkienists who yearn to learn more about this Gondorian outpost gone wrong. And SSG is embracing story ideas and characters of both the books and the previous expansion's past with its newest adventure that, while at moments I've audibly groaned at the direction, they aren't afraid to use their creative license to its fullest.
It's been about two months since Minas Morgul released and my mood regarding the expansion itself has swung dramatically throughout my time with the latest expansion. I've had moments where I've just been absolutely bored to tears playing the content, times where I've been frustrated by the story itself and its presentation, as well as the pace of the Epic quests themselves. However, after really exploring Minas Morgul itself I feel re-energized to see more of the cursed city. I'm interested in really diving into the story SSG has woven around this incredibly notable pace in Middle-earth history.