I know that there are a whole lot of things I should be talking about Lord of the Rings Online in this week’s space, considering that we just got the expansion pre-patch and all. But that’s not where my head is at right now because I’m more than a little burned out on the high-level adventures in the game and haven’t even pre-ordered the expansion yet. Honestly? I’m not even sure I’ll play it this year.
As I’ve said many times before, LOTRO is the absolute worst game if you’re looking to speed-level and catch up with the end crowd. Not only are 140 levels a rather intimidating amount, but you’ve got to factor in the mountain of content and the scads of deeds and virtues to handle. It’s simply not an MMO that you can plow through quickly. Unlike some other MMOs, LOTRO hasn’t been streamlined over the years; it’s grown and expanded. It’s a quilt, where every zone and storyline is another piece that’s added to the overall tapestry.
So if LOTRO is the worst at putting you on a highway to the latest expansion (unless you drop an unholy amount of money on a level boost, which, c’mon, please don’t), what is it the best at? If someone asked me this, I’d say without pause that LOTRO is the best MMO when it comes to providing an engrossing journey.
As they say, it’s all about the journey, not the destination, and this is especially true for this game. It’s not a quick plane trip to Disney World where you enjoy your destination, it’s a relaxing road trip through hundreds of miles of wilderness, side attractions, and strange events.
This approach to design and gameplay fits the narrative of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, when you think about it. The books start with Frodo and company departing familiar territory and going on a meandering journey that’s filled with surprises, delights, horrors, and suffering. If chapter one was the Shire and chapter two was the One Ring into Mt. Doom, we would arrive at the conclusion without having understood and marinated in the journey.
I felt this so strongly this past week as I went through the familiar quests in the Shire, Ered Luin, and Bree-land. None of this is new to me, yet I still can get into the headspace that my character is embarking on this grand journey that’s new to her. I can enjoy every step along this virtual road trip through Middle-earth without getting super antsy about wanting to get to the end right now.
This is the gift that the Treebeard server ruleset seems suited to grant. The deliberate slower pace of advancement and lengthy periods of time between expansion unlocks removes this external pressure to go, go, go as fast as you can. Our kinship was discussing how this change of pace proves to be a mental relief from the modern MMO mindset, granting us the gift of time and space to enjoy the trip and take every side diversion we like without worrying we will get left behind.
I’m glad to see that LOTRO’s journey will be growing ever larger with Fate of Gundabad next month, even if I’m not there for it on Day One. That’s OK — the journey will lead there, sooner or later.