It is certainly not a quiet week around Lord of the Rings Online, as we got both a mid-tier content update and the 14th anniversary celebration. I don’t have a lot to say about the anniversary, other than a regret that SSG isn’t continuing to expand the rather excellent scavenger hunts, but I do have a few words about the “Further Adventures of Bilbo Baggins” quest series that enjoyed a good dose of promotion and marketing.
We saw more of these missions appear in last month’s Wildwood update, and now we received a 10-mission series for April. Before I get into the actual Bilbo Baggins series, I do want to say that I’m not completely sold on missions. I do like that they’re relatively quick and painless, but that’s kind of offset by the fact that you have to start them from a particular NPC (versus using the instance finder) and that they’re clearly designed to be repeated numerous times for tokens.
I’m always a little weary of systems that devs come up with to have us repeat over and over again. I understand why studios keep trying this, but ultimately it comes down to activities that wear out their welcome and then become anathema for the player. The repeatability factor is the only explanation as to why the Bilbo Baggins series wasn’t just handed to us as a normal questline, and I was not thrilled at the game in effect asking me to re-run these many, many times past my interest in them in order to get all of the new rewards.
The mission structure actually works against a continuing narrative, which was tried for the first time here, because it keeps yanking your character back to a fixed NPC starting point even as you’re supposed to be going on a journey. It was really weird to, say, head into the Misty Mountains, find evidence that Bilbo was taken somewhere, be pulled back to Rivendell, and then be told to go back to the Misty Mountains.
As for the tale itself, I regret to inform you that it’s a severe disappointment no matter what your expectations might be. Even the name is misleading because there’s no “adventures” plural here. If I may spoil it for you, these 10 missions can be summed up as, “Bilbo felt like going on a walk one day, visited a friend, and got captured by goblins. The Elves freaked out that Bilbo was gone, yet didn’t go look for him themselves because they’re lazy elves. So you get him back. The end.”
C’mon LOTRO, you can do better. I know this because your narrative is – and continues to be – one of the highlights of the game. The Bingo Boffin series was one of my absolute favorite sidequest series, and I thought maybe we’d be getting a bit of that here. Instead, it’s rather lackluster missions with no great or even interesting tale to be told, and then we’re asked if we want to go on that disappointing ride a few more dozen times.
SSG said earlier this year that it really wants to get some sort of release or event out every six weeks to keep us engaged, which is an admirable pace. But if it’s sacrificing quality to make cheap, forgettable releases like this, then maybe it’s worth putting some more time into it.