At any rate, this is my final installment for Lord of the Rings Online, and it wraps up with… a remarkably short list of choices actually made. I’ve been informed reliably by you lovely people that it was entirely possible for me to jaunt over to one of the other starting zones, and that may have ultimately made a difference, but by the time I knew that I was already invested in helping out a bunch of elves. And I did just that, right up until it was time to wave farewell.
But talking about the larger context is something for next week. For now, let’s talk a bit about moving out of the very Elf-focused areas and into more common spaces.
Something that I’ve mentioned many times which bears repeating here is that the game’s storytelling is very strongly intended to be linked with the original novels, and that extends to the fact that the game’s races do not all live together happily. Not just because some of the races inherently distrust one another (like still remembering when Dwarves attacked Elves like it was yesterday, even though it was several generations removed for the Dwarves), but because… well, they’re not all the same people. They’re different groups, and there are no melting pots.
Coming from a lot of other fantasy settings, this is unusual. Heck, my most frequent games of call embrace a startling amount of diversity in racial settings; it’s not unusual to see lots of different races rubbing elbows. In Middle-Earth, it’s just not common, and the Free People do not spend a lot of time together before the war that we as players know is coming right now.
There’s a little bit of a disconnect there when people act like Elves are quite mysterious when they’re literally lower level than the person acting overawed, but that’s a different story.
One of the things that I didn’t note last week which I also really do like is the way that the game’s various Deeds work. In the strictest sense, these are just achievements, but the sheer plethora of them and specificity of each make them feel different. It also gives the sense of these characters as epic figures rather than just MMO characters, and I believe (although I’m not sure) that this tied into the old system of character traits.
I like that; you’re not just some dude with higher attack power, you’re a dude who’s known as a wolf-slayer and thus have become an expert in striking fast and strong against your foes. Even uncoupling the deeds from that progression works as a whole, making you feel like your accomplishments aren’t hitting arbitrary markers but are part of a larger epic.
Of course, that also ties into standing in one place and grinding wolves while everything that makes you a human being gets worn away, so it’s not all good. I just like the core of it.
As I progressed through this week’s patch, I was also aided by a bit of UI quest-tracker utility that was pointed out in the comments last week which I had not previously known allowing you to right-click on the quest to track that on the map specifically. I do not remember seeing any on-screen prompts about that, but I may have just missed them; either way, it was helpful, and it made tracking quests marginally easier. It didn’t make navigating to all of them easier, since there are several that just point an arrow in a specific direction and felt rather unapproachable, but that may just be me.
I also far-too-belatedly realized just how flexible the Warden’s varied combat stances can be for inflicting various ailments, although now it’s a bit too late and few of the situations I was in actually called for a lot of stance-dancing. Something to keep in mind for the future, though. I really like Wardens as a concept, and if they have any problems I think a lot of it has to do with how the concepts of the class are introduced and how quickly it just tosses gambits and stances at you. You don’t really get a sense of them building piece by piece, which is a shame.
Still, while my experience remains limited, they’re still a flexible and neat class with an implementation I like. They’re unique in a setting that can support them, and they’re not quite like anything else in other games. Indeed, they’d make less sense in a high-magic setting; they’re perfect for LOTRO‘s low-magic and down-to-Earth fantasy.
My one complaint is that the abilities don’t quite look different enough, but that’s one of those realistic quibbles that gets into the nature of the game’s age and the speed of the animations. Only so much can be done here, and if the game gets its visual facelift that is supposedly coming, that will help matters.
Props are also deserved for the game’s approach to the problem of making areas feel irrelevant past a certain point; the areas feel quite large and diverse, and between deeds and quests there’s a lot to do in any one place. It feels slower, albeit never quite winding up at “plodding.” Mechanically it winds up being a pile of quests in a given zone, but emotionally it feels different.
Of course, all that doesn’t change the fact that this is very much a reliable, standard game in the World of Warcraft themepark mold. It’s in the older mold, at that, and very focused on preserving a set sequence of events and a set story. The nature of the game makes that kind of inevitable, but you still can’t help but notice it while you’re playing.
None of that makes it bad, obviously. It just means that, in the end, there’s not much more that I can say about it this final week than I’ve said in prior weeks. It knows what it’s trying to do and it does that very solidly, as it always has.
And in the final assessment? Well, that’s what’s on deck for next week, isn’t it? I would have loved to give this game a little bit more time, but the reality is that there’s only so much time in the day, and we need to be moving on.
Thus, tune in next week for my game-in-review bit and your choice of our next destination. Until then, feel free to leave your feedback down below or send it in via email to email@example.com. Keep in mind that this is coming on the eve of our comment system changeover, so don’t be afraid to email if necessary! We’ll get this new system working, you bet.