LOTRO Legendarium: It’s long past time to delete legendary items from Lord of the Rings Online

    
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Mines of Moria was easily the most ambitious expansion that Lord of the Rings Online created. Not only did it implement the largest underground realm in any MMO ever and add two brand-new classes to the game, but it also introduced a huge system of alternate advancement through which players could level up and customize special items that would be carried with them throughout their journey.

Legendary items had us so incredibly excited back in the day, but as the subsequent 13 years have proven, this system was a jumbled, grindy mess from which there was no escape — not for the developers, and not for the players. It’s been a sore spot for LOTRO players for over a decade now, with the team endlessly promising some grand revamp that fails to materialize year after year.

I think there’s a better solution. I say that it’s time to exorcise legendary items from the game once and for all. Get rid of them. Kick them to the curb, dust off our hands, and move on with our gaming lives.

Alternative advancement

I can understand why the concept of legendary items was appealing to everyone in the room. MMOs are structured around character progression, and having players hit level and skill caps is a problem. Players no longer feel like they’re growing more powerful, and often dunking their heads into dungeons and raids is the only wait to get gear to help with power progression. So an alternative advancement track is appealing, and many MMORPGs — from EverQuest II to World of Warcraft — have dabbled in this area.

LOTRO’s solution brought in a pair (later, three when you count the warhorse item) of legendary items that could be leveled and slotted as if they were an adjacent character connected at the hip to the main one. Players loved the huge boost to power and DPS from the get-go, and the appeal of collecting and leveling up certain traits to customize builds was appealing.

However, it didn’t take long before players realized that this wouldn’t be an engaging system that would fulfill the concept of being some sort of ancient weapon or item that could be carried with them for the rest of their days. Legendary items had level caps that required constant farming, disassembling, and grinding to improve. What was once a joy to behold in those early days of Moria quickly became an albatross that hung around the neck of every gamer.

Because that’s the real problem with legendary items: You HAVE to use them in Lord of the Rings Online. They’re too powerful to eschew for normal gear. So we’re stuck with this Frankenstein mishmash that isn’t easy to understand nor is fun to engage with. And we’ve had it for over 12 years now.

Found wanting

It isn’t as if Turbine/SSG is unaware of the intrinsic problems with legendary items. The developers have fully acknowledged that the system isn’t working as intended and have made half-hearted attempts to slap fixes and bandages to improve things until a time — a magical time! — arrived when a full revamp of the legendary item system could be done.

This time, it should be mentioned, has never arrived nor will it ever come in the future.

It’s just not a good system. It’s too obtuse for your average player to fully understand and far too grindy for anyone to derive enjoyment. Its traits aren’t that exciting when it comes to customizing builds. Plus, if I’m piling on here, the legendary weapon models are almost universally ugly.

You know it’s a convoluted system because if there was an easy way to streamline and revamp it, it would’ve been done by now. So that brings me back to this column’s thesis, which is that instead of a revamp, legendary items should simply be ditched in favor of using regular gear. If the team wanted to explore a different alternative advancement or character customization system, more power to it, but LIs have had their chance and they didn’t make it.

Sunk cost fallacies

OK, I’ll admit that it’s easy for me to wave my hand and make a sweeping statement such as, “Get rid of all legendary items.” And I’ll admit that it probably can’t happen at this point. Why? We’re so, so far down into the pit of a sunk cost fallacy.

The developers don’t want to give up on a system that they’ve been adding to and refining over the years like a shaky Jenga tower of design ideas. Getting rid of LIs would be a blow to the ego, to say the least, and a full admission of failure. So they’re going to push ahead with it.

But what’s really significant is that players have been paying real money through the cash shop to buy and improve legendary items over the years. This is what makes getting rid of LIs impossible, because players have literally sunk cost into these virtual items. There would be a riot of the pitchforks and torch variety — and a possible lawsuit — if SSG was to one day yank all of that away.

And so we sit deep in this pit, unable to simply fill it in and walk away from the mess of legendary items. Our only hope is that SSG does some day make good on its promise to improve the system, ideally by greatly streamlining it and turning it into an attractive system that is intuitive and engaging.

It’s a pretty paltry hope. But it’s all we got.

Every two weeks, the LOTRO Legendarium goes on an adventure (horrid things, those) through the wondrous, terrifying, inspiring, and, well, legendary online world of Middle-earth. Justin has been playing LOTRO since its launch in 2007! If you have a topic for the column, send it to him at justin@massivelyop.com.
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aeasus .

LIs are in part what is killing a craft economy.

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Mark Temby

What exactly is the problem with LI’s?

The problem is that it demotivates people to try other classes/builds because of the thought of creating an entire new LI. Why is making an entire new LI a pain? Because you need a wheelbarrow full of SOE’s to raise the level cap on the weapons skills (legacies).

The solution: Require people to only do this grind once ever, not per weapon.
How to do this: make LI level caps account (or at least character) wide, rather than per LI.

The idea of making a champion and needing 5 LI’s and needing all the SOE’s for all 5 LI’s legacy level caps is very demotivating.

The issue is of course that devs can’t create content fast enough for the users. But the solution doesn’t have to always be buckets of grind. Allow people to try new classes ( and therefore become better raiders) without this godawful grind to get yourself in a position to be useful on raids.

TLDR: At worst, make LI level caps character wide, so if I have 1 main hand weapon on a character with all legacies at 83 cap, then any new LI I get has the 83 cap already.

Note I’m talking about the “cap”, not the actual value, use runes or just play the game to rise the actual level but don’t make us redo the cap for every LI.

Just don’t. Its mindless, its boring and no-one wants to do it.

Remove this imposition and LI’s are ok.

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Bango on Laurelin

Yes please. LIs are just beyond ridiculous. The % bonuses the legacies provide should be added as part of the core character progression. I’m utterly sick of the entire system.

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Loopy

Maybe i’m oversimplifying the problem, but i’m not sure what devs are supposed to do. In WoW: Legion we had the artifact weapons that everyone cried for when they were made impotent by the time next expansion came out. Everyone wanted to keep them, and instead they were forced to replace them with regular weapons. Here in LOTRO people are crying that they have to keep their equivalent (legendary weapons) and that they would rather replace them with regular weapons.

Both models work more or less the same – level up the weapon as you hit level cap, grind for more power. So which one is it? Keep the weapon or don’t drag it on? What is the ideal model here?

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J

In WOW they existed across one expansion. In LOTRO they have existed across eight. Time to move on.

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Loopy

So what’s the cut-off? 2 expansions? 4? It seems so subjective. I would argue that it’s the core of the model that’s flawed – this idea that you have an ever-growing single item which can either remain relevant in future expansions making it a MUST, or building out this epic weapon that gets replaced with 1 or 2 expansions making it a wasted effort.

My vote is to just not have any sort of artifacts/LIs. Want vertical progression? Do the content and get new gear. Want horizontal progression? Do the content and get new gear. Grinding content to upgrade your modular weapon in perpetuity is flawed philosophy in my opinion.

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Bruno Brito

Honestly, i don’t even think that’s the issue. From what i see, the LI issue is that the grind itself is unenjoyable and seems to be really confusing? I never touched a LI so i don’t know how it is, but it seems obscure, requiring you to revisit older xpacs to grind stuff.

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Robert Rose

No confusion at all.
1. Get legendary weapon.
2. Equip it
3. Play game as normal
4. ????
5. Deconstruct after 5-10 levels and grab a new mainhand weapon.

They don’t “require you to revisit older xpacks to grind stuff”
You literally just equip a weapon, kill stuff, and deconstruct LIs that drop for runes.
If you’re playing past lv55 and not using LIs, your character is gimped and probably terrible in group content.

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Anstalt

I havent played LotRO in years, so no idea how it works these days, but certainly hated LIs when they were first introduced. Whilst I enjoyed the skill modifiers on the weapons, the grind was just awful. Especially as a captain, I ended up needing 5 separate LIs: main weapon, main emblem, buff weapon, pvp weapon and pvp emblem. Lots of grind.

So, yeh, would have prefered the system was never there, just have a better selection of fixed weapons to choose from. I also imagine it would be much easier to balance from the devs point of view.

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Vincent Clark

Lots of excuses in the comments below and article above about why it can’t be removed. Bottom line, it can be and more importantly, it should be.

The only reason it hasn’t after years…as in several years…of promises that they would do “something” is because of $$ pure and simple. It’s a money maker. A cheap, poorly designed, horribly optimized money maker.

Remove the quests in/around the Moria expansion that relate to the LI. Take all the bonuses from the LIs and add them to the exist skilling trees (sigh) and virtues.

And just be done with it.

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2Ton Gamer

Vincent, I’m not sure if you actually are a longtime player or not, but it wasn’t initially as bad as it is now and it was not intended to be a money maker as it predates the store and “F2P”. The idea of the legendary weapons is more fitting in LOTRO than in any other game. I agree that the current state it’s in is deplorable and needs to be revamped from bottom to top, but it can be done without giving up the whole idea of a legendary weapon. They just need to put gameplay features ahead of monetization. That’s a tall feat, and one they have not proven to be adept at, but it could be done.

I have zero faith they will do this. Here’s the catch. Justin and even you here are putting in your vote to just do away with the system altogether, but do you really think if they are too greedy to give it up that they wouldn’t just put in another system that they could charge more for? I voted with my dollars over the summer and have left LOTRO after being a longtime player since 2008. I have no plans to come back until a proven track record with this company can be established, but let’s just say I’m not holding my breath and neither should you.

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Vincent Clark

I started playing in 2011 right before the game went F2P. I stopped after Mordor and the introduction of lock boxes. It was a step too far for me. And yeah, I realize I should probably take a note from Justin’s playbook and stop commenting/criticizing games I no longer play. He makes a valid point, it’s not really healthy or constructive.

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styopa

A sign of a master craftsman is the ability AND WILLINGNESS to drop a bad idea and start over.

One of the fundamentally bad ideas about legendary items is that virtual dress-up is one reason people play mmos; obviating one of the key esthetic pieces by locking players into a legendary takes a key element of that away. But it isn’t just esthetics either. The key mechanism behind most games’ play loops is a Skinner box of incremental reward in the form of better gear…again, with a legendary you basically nullify that too.
How dumb?

I loved Moria is as an expansion, and liked legendaries a lot at first…but damn, this has become a permanent affliction on this game.

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2Ton Gamer

Justin, I enjoy your many thoughts on LOTRO, but this article is a waste because they simply cannot junk the system. I don’t believe that it cannot be fixed. As game designers it’s literally their job to innovate and find solutions (hopefully creative one’s) for problems as they occur. The are just being lazy or have not had enough good ideas or will take the time out of their “busy” schedule to take care of the problem. They’d rather focus on things they can make quick absurd dollars on such as their latest “expansion”. (and yes I use many quotation marks when talking about SSG because they think they are a REAL BOY!)

Someone below mentioned a trait tree for weapons . That’s an idea. Someone else mentioned how stupid it is to break down worthless LI’s, which they are right so there’s another idea. I know there have been countless great ideas on the forums as well. They need to work on the problem and they need to set aside meaningful time to do so. My suggestion as a way for them to work on the idea and actually do it toward something they can make money on is to weave them back into the story and have them as part of their next expansion. Then they can justify the time to work on them by saying that it’s a refurbished feature for their next expansion.

They are a great idea in theory and fit so well into the story and really are supposed to give you that wonder of having your own Sting. They don’t need to shitcan it, but truly devote time to it and stop putting it off.

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Hydlide S

I honestly stopped playing because of Legendaries. I couldn’t kill anything anymore or complete any quests and the only thing the community told me to do was to level up my LIs because they were “too low level”. How did they suggest to do this? By spamming certain instances in order to get a very low amount of the currency it takes to upgrade them.

No, thanks. I’d rather play a game that doesn’t punish me for being a newer player.

allwynd01
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allwynd01

I only played the game up to level 30 and reached Trollshaws, that was when SSG made the whole game completely free last year. I did not even know there were “Legendaries” at all.

The way you describe them to work is really depressing and not something I want to mess with at all. I quit due to poor performance, laggy servers and janky combat that made me want to cry each time I heard my sword hit the enemy with one of the worst sounds ever, not to mention the desynced audio, animation and visual effect of combat.

That game requires nerves of steel and a lot of free time and disposable income to play. No wonder most that play it are retired people over 50 who have nothing better to do with their lives.

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styopa

I’m genuinely curious why and how you believe your critique of a game is improved by turning it into an ad hominem attacking the people who do enjoy it?

To be clear,no, I haven’t played lotro since Mordor, so I’m not defending the game. Just calling you out on rather pointlessly toxic behavior.

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Bruno Brito

No wonder most that play it are retired people over 50 who have nothing better to do with their lives.

You sound like you say this kind of shit to veterans.

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Sleepy

“retired people over 50 who have nothing better to do with their lives.”

I think “**** you” is the only valid response to that.

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Michael18

IMHO the only true problem of LIs is that they are overly complex, esp. due to reforging and how traits (or whatever they are called) change when the item is being reforged.

They just have to simplify the system to a point where an ordinary player can build an LI that is a good fit for their class without resorting to guides etc. outside the game.