Lord of the Rings Online: Is There A Casual Endgame?
MMORPG.com Lord of the Rings Online Correspondent Daniel Hubbell writes this look at the endgame content in Lord of the Rings Online from the perspective of a casual gamer without too much time to dedicate to raiding.
I am not what you would call a 'hardcore' gamer in Lord of the Rings Online (LotRO). My claim to fame is that I've not seen a Balrog, at least not a Balrog in person. This may seem like a personal problem, but it is simply a symptom of what I like to call 'casualitis'. I'm infected, and I'd like to think many others are too, with an unpleasant lack of time. Oh, I can conjure up marathon escapades, but this leaves me dreary eyed and ostracized by the respectable parts of my family. So, for the time-challenged folk, what kind of end-game material is available for LotRO prior to Mines of Moria coming out?
If you can, at some point along the way, join a kinship. Try to find one without requirements on raiding and grouping. Endgame is as much about meeting new friends as doing actual content. Getting to level 50 also opens up the opportunity to finish the epic quest line that LotRO offers players. If you like reading a book, then you might appreciate the story that Turbine has inferred from Tolkien's original narrative. There is a great bit about Middle Earth that is only briefly mentioned in the books that gets some more attention from Turbine.
Starting at a rather low level, important figures throughout the world have you undertake important quests starting from Book 1 and ending at Book 14 (at the moment). Books 1-6 are doable prior to level 50. Books 7-14 are best done at level 50, and can vary in difficulty. The real question that we need to ask is whether the epic books are casual-friendly end-game material: the answer is unequivocally yes.
One of the other functions of the epic quests is to introduce your character to the high-level instances located throughout the world. One of the biggest issues with modern MMOs is that instances can be tuned from too easy to too difficult. This means that many of the end-game quests have the requirement of bringing along a friend or five. This also means that you have to call on the help of the dreaded pick-up group (PUG). The end-game of LotRO is generally very kind to PUGs. If you have six mostly competent people, then the obstacle is probably doable.
Briefly, here is a list of instances that are available for various reasons at 50:
- Helegrod: This is a 24-man raid in the Misty Mountains. I've been inside the instances but then took one look at hitpoints of average troll and high-tailied it out of there. Obviously, 24-man raids are not casual friendly.
- The Rift of Nûrz Ghâshu: I had the pleasure of running this raid instance located in the Angmar zone. The max number of characters is 12, but I seem to recall we had 11. I learned quickly that PUGs are an expensive proposition. To be sure, the bosses were quite fun, but convincing 11 other people to do something is rather difficult. Chances are that I will try to convince some friends to go with me when I hit level 60. It's not like I need the experience when I just want to experience the world.
- Annuminas: While this is not a popular destination as far as grouping goes, the setup of this area is well-implemented. Now, this area is not a raid, and in fact, the above two world instances are the only two types of explicit raids. The rest of the world instances can be done with 6 level 50 adventurers. This is important because Anninumus has three instances, each of which -- assuming your PUG doesn't get you killed ten times -- can be completed within 2-3 hours.
- Carn Dum and Urugarth: These two fellowship instances are located very close to each other in Angmar. Urugarth is casual friendly, though Carn Dum sports a reset timer that allows fellowships to come back the next day and continue with only patrols respawning.
- Ettenmoors: I would be remiss if I didn't mention the Player vs Monster Player zone. From the beginning, a player can start a new monster player in the Ettenmoors zone. The monster can't leave Ettenmoors, but it do start at level 50. Also, heroes can go to Ettenmoors starting at level 40, though they likely won't be able to defeat anything for a couple levels. The length of interest is dependent on the player.
All of the above instances are excellent things to do at level 50. Another key motivation, and one of the best examples of Turbine's dedication to making sure there is in-built motivation, is in the form of players getting loot for helping with some of the harder instances in the epic quest line. A player gets a mark, and if they collect enough of these marks, then they are able to turn it in for raid worthy loot. The quests for the marks are on a reset timer, but these quests are the epitome of casual play, and encourage high-level player to stick around and help their friends, or even a total stranger.
I think it is important to note that there are more things that can be done at level 50 not including: the fishing hobby, crafting items to get to the highest skill, and especially finishing the large number of deeds that provide your character more powerful traits. Deeds, you receive, by completing a type of requirement like defeating 100 trolls in the Misty Mountains. There are hundreds of deeds to complete.
The endgame is what you make of it. If the goal is loot then I think this game, and many others, will probably disappoint in the end. This is why I encourage people to join kinships and make new friends.
Playing the game in short chunks is healthy for your life and good for keeping the game interesting in the end. Mines of Moria comes out soon, and enjoy the endgame as it is now.