LOTRO Legendarium: Corsairs of Umbar and the three ways we consume expansions


Happy new expansion week in Lord of the Rings Online! It’s surreal to finally be at the capstone of LOTRO’s ambitious 2023 roadmap, not to mention the first full-bodied expansion in two years. My hat’s off to this dedicated team for pulling together an adventure that takes us in a bold direction and explores part of Middle-earth that we’ve never seen before.

But with a new expansion comes a certain pressure to “get ‘er done!” On opening night, I had a friend bemoaning how there were already people who’d hit the level cap and how that makes everyone feel like they’ve got to rush to catch up. It made me think about how we tend to consume new MMORPG expansions when we’re given these infrequent bounties.

Method #1: Bring on the binge

Before I start in on these, I do want to stress that I’m not judging any method as better or worse. I have my preferences, sure, but MMOs are a melting pot of playstyles and preferences, so if a way to chew through an expansion works best for you, who am I to say that’s wrong? Nobody, that’s who.

With that in mind, the first way of grappling with expansions is a good old-fashioned binge. While streaming services certainly put this “binge mentality” at the forefront of our pop culture, TV isn’t the only place where we try to gorge ourselves on a small mountain of entertainment all at once. Maybe you spend a weekend devouring that 700-page novel you can’t put down, or you go on a marathon of all of Lord of the Rings’ extended editions.

Trying to plow through an expansion as quickly as possible — or in as compact of a time frame as possible — may be inspired by various situations. Perhaps you got a couple days free to yourself and want to get a good jump on the content before life crashes back around your ears. Maybe you’re the type of person who can’t sleep until you get to the end of the story. It’s possible you like that elation when you hit the finish line before others or you want to gear up for endgame progression. And considering this is LOTRO and all, you may find yourself swept up in the story and you can’t (or won’t) pace yourself.

A good binge has its upsides and downsides. Getting an expansion done frees you up for other pursuits and goals, and there is that satisfaction of moving it into the “finished” category. It can even be a celebration of sorts, heavily indulging in something you’ve waited for months or even years to experience.

Of course, quickly consuming an entire expansion can leave you feeling burned out and facing an emotional crash when it hits you that it’s all done and you’re now in for another long wait. It’s not uncommon to see bingers become disgruntled with the lack of new content.

Method #2: Steady as she goes

Here’s the next method that I often see: approaching an expansion with a measured, steady approach. You realize that you’ve got this bonanza of content ahead of you and no real rush to consume it, so you take it in measured strides.

This is where I usually find myself. When I find a truly good piece of entertainment, I resist that initial urge to splurge on devouring it. Pretty soon, a greater desire to savor it kicks in, and I’ll enjoy it in moderation while knowing that every step forward will get me to the finish line one day.

The way I’m looking at Corsairs of Umbar is that it’s got at least three good months’ worth of story content for me to enjoy if I don’t rush it too much. Pushing that needle forward an hour at a time every day is enough to feel as though I’m making progress without falling too far behind or being too, erm, hasty.

This method is for players who could push through a lot more content every day but choose not to. It’s a “stop and smell the roses and read the quest text fully” approach, perhaps mixed with side goals such as reputation and deeds.

Method #3: Sporadic satisfaction

Yet sometimes you don’t have the luxury of dictating how much time you can allocate to a new expansion. Sometimes you’re so crushed with responsibilities and limited time that the only option available to you is to grab whatever small slices of the week to log in and do whatever you can do before you need to log out.

In other words, it’ll happen when it happens.

Because this is infrequent, there’s an inner push to “catch up” when a larger block of time becomes available. Maybe you can’t game all week, but come Saturday afternoon, your slate is clear and you can do a mini-binge of four hours. Or your entire month is jam-packed, but you’re keeping an eye on that vacation week that’s coming up.

For players in this situation — and I’ve been there myself — it’s vital to get over any inner sense of stress over being left behind. This is where LOTRO’s entire design benefits you. It’s not an MMO that’s heavily endgame focused, nor does it invalidate older content before you even have a chance to play it. Lots of players aren’t at the current expansion or level cap because it’s a huge, huge game and they’ve surrendered to the moment-by-moment journey of it all.

So no matter how you’re consuming Corsairs of Umbar — or even if you’re not there yet — pick a path that’s right for your playstyle and life situation. Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for not doing it their way. I didn’t finish my first run of Gundabad until over a year after it was released due to life and alts, and I never felt bad about that even though I have a column that covers this game. So you’ve got my blessing to tackle an expansion any way you like: ignoring, binging, savoring, or coping.

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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