LOTRO: You always take us to the nicest places

deadmWell.   Here we are: the Dead Marshes.  Thanks, Frodo, for encouraging me to get out of that dank, dusty Shire paradise and go to all of these wonderful places.  I would not have had the opportunity to combat foot rot and wake up to screaming long-dead ancestors otherwise.

Thus far, my impressions of the Dead Marshes are high on the atmospherics and low on the actual gameplay.  Killing orcs and bugs is annoying when you can’t see past all of these reeds.  I want to take a lawnmower to this entire place, then drain it, and put like a Costco or something here.  I’m sure that’s what Tolkien would have wanted.

deadm2I know that we should all be grateful and excited about Central Gondor coming with Update 15, and I am, a little.  But it’s a little bit of a bummer that my character won’t be doing any growing through it.  There’s no level cap increase, no new skills or traits (that I know of), and I sincerely doubt that quest rewards will start dropping useful legendary items.  Sometimes I feel like Buffy singing “going through the motions.”  Not that a hero needs a reason beyond saving the world and people for their sake, but useful rewards and enticing goals would be a help.

I’m betting that the allure of the new Beorning class will be stronger than the pull of a new zone, although it is nice to have choices.  I may buy a Beorning, but from what I’ve played of it, it’s not exactly rocking my world.  I did a lot of bear butt tanking in World of Warcraft back in the day, and I think I gained everything possible out of staring at an ursine’s buttocks for hours on end.  Plus, my Lore-master not only can summon bears, but an entire menagerie.

Absentee Report: Guild Wars 2 and LOTRO

beorningI always wonder and occasionally fret if Bio Break readers keep track of what I’m playing — and what I *was* playing and am currently not, especially if that’s seen as an indictment of those games.  It’s a silly worry, especially since the reality is that I return to old favorite MMOs all of the time.

But in case any of you were wondering why I’ve stopped talking about Guild Wars 2 and Lord of the Rings Online, I’ll be up-front about it: I’m not playing them at the moment.

Guild Wars 2 is a spectacularly fine game that isn’t that “sticky” for me.  I like it when I play it, but the living world story (even in season 2) is not very compelling at all.  I haven’t played it since the September feature patch dropped, and can’t even speak much to how that impacted the game.

I don’t feel as though there’s much more in terms of gear to get without serious grinding (kids, just say NO to legendaries) and I’ve done the world exploration bit and then some.  Right now the game’s between major releases anyway, so I’m not even being tempted by the “every two weeks unless we say otherwise” cadence.  I’ll log in to collect the living world updates when they happen, but right now I’m letting my interest in the game go fallow so that it might revitalize in the future instead of burning me out on it entirely.

Lord of the Rings Online is an MMO I should play and one that I’ll undoubtedly return to — and perhaps soon.  Gondor is a generally excellent questing area, and I hear that they opened up the Dead Marshes with the recent 14.2 patch.  But right now I’m at the limit of 3 to 4 concurrent MMOs, and I am fine with taking a break from LOTRO for them.

I am pretty interested in seeing how the new Beorning class will affect the game; heck, I might even roll one.  Probably the one thing I miss the most is my awesome kinship, which will make a future re-entry that much easier.

Never enough time.  Never enough time.  I wish that I could freeze all of these games and their communities in their current state so that I could rotate through them without the passage of time pressing in.

LOTRO: Touring Dol Amroth

loveIt was amusingly coincidental that one of my kinnies posted the gushing quote on the right-hand side there about LOTRO while I was taking a leisurely tour through the Gondorian city of Dol Amroth.  Word for word, that’s pretty much what I was thinking as I took in the sights.

Edoras was neat as a wide, spread-out city, but Dol Amroth feels more established and functional the way that I envision a Middle-earth city being.  It’s giant, it’s rich, and it’s still showing us new sights after all of these years in the game.  Putting it on a peninsula surrounded by the ocean gives it a very different feel, especially with all of the seagulls swooping around and the trading ships sitting in the harbor.

city1Maybe places in LOTRO are more impressive at night with the change of lighting, but I was sufficiently impressed with the gates to Dol Amroth to stop and take a few photos before I went in.

city2The game gives you a quest to tour through the city, accomplishing various small tasks on the way.  I appreciated that, because I did want to explore it without feeling as though I was wasting my time.

Dol Amroth is imposing, with large, solid stone structures all around.  It’s almost cluttered, or at least far more compact than what I had grown used to with the Rohirrim towns.  It’s less organic too; more like a city of statues and fortresses.  I think it conveys well the fact that there wasn’t much room for the city to grow out, so it had to grow on top of itself in layers.

city3Looking down at the harbor.  I’m weirdly thrilled that we’re seeing the ocean here.  I see the ocean and seas in other MMOs, but I think I’m only realizing now that the largest bodies of water that I’ve witnessed in this game are lakes (Everswim) and the Forochel ice bay.

city4There’s a massive swan motif going on all around here, including the armed forces being the Swan Knights.  It has to do with some local Gondor guy, but I don’t remember much about the lore other than “he was really, really into swans.”  Not to knock the birds — they’re lovely and all that — but swans don’t project military might, financial accumen, or political saavy.  They kind of project “ooh I’m a 14-year-old girl falling in love for the first time.”

city5The bridge over to the Swan Knights’ keep.  LOTRO is still pretty, yes, but compared to newer games you can see more of its hard angles.  I wish that it could have a graphic engine upgrade to allow for new tricks, because this could look even better than it already does.


LOTRO: Level 100 and sinister swans

tc1One thing is for certain: Gondor is puh-retty.  I love the seaside venue, as it’s something we really haven’t gotten before in this game.  Feels almost relaxing and vacationy.

Even with the beacons lit and Sauron doing Saurony things elsewhere, Western Gondor doesn’t feel as if it’s under imminent danger.  The devs try to set up conflict with the tag-team duo of the ruthless dead and the corsairs, but bad pirates?  I’ve seen so much worse in my journey so far.  Corsairs are almost quaint.  Fun to kill, tho.

There was a bunch of quests that sent me into a corsair camp to kill, loot, and burn things, which kind of makes me an anti-corsair corsair.  I was tasked with lighting up these guard towers, which was all fine except that people were in them and started screaming when the fire reached them.  That was a bit gruesome for LOTRO.

tc2Update 14 did give players a few new options for group content, with fellowship versions of the epic story and the area of Tarlang’s Crown.  TC is a group-only area that’s quite reminiscent of the Great River’s Limlight Gorge, with plenty of dailies to tempt groups of players into the place.  Sure, it’s not a new instance or skirmish, but I’ve seen TC rise in popularity as level-capped players look for fun things to do together.

The other night our kinship put out a call for Tarlang’s Crown, so I decided to tag along to see what all of the fuss was about.  It’s a strip of road between the river and mountain that has several camps and plenty of both corsairs and ruthless dead to kill (not to mention the odd troll).  Even though they were considerably tougher mobs, we had a raid going that could handle them without much difficulties.  I found it interesting that our raid had 50% hunters, a Rune-keeper, a Minstrel, a Burglar (I think), and two Wardens, but I was the only Cappy.

This sort of group content is my favorite.  It’s low-stress, since it’s mostly fighting without worrying about tight raid boss patterns or pinpoint healing.  I enjoyed throwing out as many buffs and heals as possible, and I even got the heroic opportunity to rez someone in the middle of combat.  I don’t think I’ll ever finish up that class deed, but it was cool to actually get to use that skill for once.

tc3One of our kinnies had a swan pet, which kept following us around and providing us with opportunities to discuss how it was probably a corsair spy and was plotting our downfall.  I’m ashamed to admit that I don’t have a vanity pet in LOTRO yet.  I should look into that.

The whole TC run got me most of the way from 99 to 100, and I finally hit triple digits by wrapping up a few solo quests.  Even with that under my belt, I have plenty of quests left to do and about half of the new epic story unfinished.

LOTRO: Rotting meat and vomit

mess1I’ve almost lost count of all of the times that Lord of the Rings Online has made me clean up vomit.  I suspect that one of the devs has a very disturbing fetish going on, because by now I’m like, oh, it’s another vomit quest.  Cleanup on aisle Gondor!  Send in the fully armored Captain with her trusty mop!

Compared to the next house, which was packed full of rotting meat and unhappy corpses, this was a cakewalk.  All of this was courtesy of a band of corsairs who decided that taking over a town within a stone’s throw of a major Gondor city was a good idea.

This quest line is actually a little strange.  I mean, clearing out a town of bad guys, we’ve done that before and it’s pretty mindless while still making you feel somewhat heroic.  But this town does things a little different, because after you sweep three houses, you’re urged to go confront the leader of the corsairs at the local tavern.

Instead of allowing you to slaughter everyone inside — and I’m a Captain, I could have done that easily — the quest enters me into negotiations with the corsairs to pack up and leave.  Of course, first I have to win a drinking contest because drinking is Middle-earth’s shortcut to diplomacy.

mess2The leader of this band of corsairs, Jajax, agrees to vacate the town as long as I give him and his men safe passage.  At this point I’m yelling at my computer screen, because there is no way that I should be letting this guy go.  While LOTRO is trying to portray him as an honorable man, I can’t help but remember how I was just stepping over corpses of the townspeople a few minutes ago — nevermind the kidnapped and displaced refugees who demand justice.  But okay, I’ll let him go.

It gets even more bizarre when Jajax later asks me to help him avenge his fallen men, who were slaughtered by the other corsairs for not being corsairy enough.  When the game asks me to (seriously) /mourn the dead on Jajax’s behalf, I’m doing the same facepalm in real life but for an entirely different reason.

While this quest chain is certainly memorable, it’s such a writing misstep that I really want to find the dev at Turbine who made this up.  You can’t have a killer of innocents become a pseudo good guy in the space of two quests.  And you certainly can’t expect me to care about him.

mess3Apart from that, I’ve really been rocking with the new Gondor content.  I created a new build for my Captain that’s mostly yellow with some red thrown in, and it’s proving to be much more durable and enjoyable to use.  There’s one rapid heal-over-time skill that I’ve never used before that’s tickling me pink.

I also spurged on a level 95 second ager greatsword from the auction hall to tide me over for the time being.  With that and my new Gondor armor set, I finally look like a death-dealing metal crusader the way I always envisioned my Cappy of being.  I also have one of the new slottable shoulderpieces that I’ve finally fully decked out with essences.

There was a weird bug going on during Hobnanigans that kept delivering the quest to everyone when we instanced or logged in and out of the game.  It became a running joke in our kin, because we all ended up with scores of these Hobnanigan maps in our inventory.  I had little luck trying to sell a map for 20 gold, but I made a good effort at my presentation.

One thing I’ve observed is that there seems to be a lot more desire for people to group up, especially within my kin, following Update 14.  Between the new group landscape area and some of the instances that are rewarding essences and other goodies, there’s good motivation to doing stuff together.  I’m kind of eager to get to 100 (I’m currently 98) so I can join in.

LOTRO: The sights and smells of Gondor

q1There’s an (inconsequential) choice at the end of one of the new epic story side missions where you — as one of the cursed spirits where you get to choose whether to go with Aragorn to be redeemed as part of his ghost army or to swear eternal allegiance to Sauron.  So of COURSE I had to go with the latter, just to see what happened.  It was a little bit of a letdown during the closing scene, but I appreciated the choice nonetheless.

q2War-steeds?  Bah.  I’m all about the goats in Gondor, baby!

q3This was right as the sun was starting to come up, and I thought that the shade of the sky contrasted so nicely with the bonfires of the beacon here.

q4Gondor on the sea.  Is this the first time that we’ve seen the ocean proper in LOTRO?  I guess Forochel’s Ice Bay leads out to one, but I can’t think of anywhere else.  Gondor architecture is a little blocky and swan-y for my tastes, but it’s still impressive in scope.

q5There’s an elf cave in Gondor?  There’s an elf cave in Gondor.  I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around elves voluntarily living underground, especially bumping into them after so long since seeing them.  Mirkwood?  I guess Mirkwood.  I wasn’t weeping in joy to be reunited with them, but it is kind of nice to see a race other than Man for once.

LOTRO: Echoes of the past

qqIt never ceases to amaze me how a little sabbatical can bring back my appreciation for LOTRO.  Affection can go dormant, like embers after a burning fire, but can always return after a time.

I was thinking about this last night when I was roaming around Gondor.  There’s something about this game and its world that always felt more real to me than many others, and perhaps that’s a feeling that’s earned only after an extensive history with a game.  My Captain isn’t merely going through the paces.  She’s been on such a long journey but still has the fire to see it through.

So it was comforting to get back into the groove of questing, exploring, and smacking bears with my two-hander.  Kin chat was hopping, mostly with a discussion over a semi-farcical male calendar that we debated making.  Short hairy men would be spot-on for a Middle-earth spread, don’t you think?

And even as I realize that the heyday of LOTRO is probably past (but one never knows about a future renaissance), it certainly doesn’t mean that everyone’s left or lost passion for this game.  For some folks that I see, LOTRO is all they play, and they are ears-deep in Update 14 with glee.

Even with the new class coming out this fall, I can’t imagine going through all of the leveling process again in the current climate.  Maybe back when I hadn’t done it so often and when more of my friends were playing, sure, but I don’t think I have it in me (or have the time) to do it all again.  I’m grateful that I’ve kept one character at the level cap so that I can see the journey through.

Every so often I engage in a pointless fantasy where I can return to a game at a specific point in time, usually around its launch, instead of playing it in the here and now.  Maybe it’s the atmosphere of newness and potential that only exists in those first months and the first year, or the fact that the community is leveling up together and discovering things at roughly the same time.  For example, I’ve been feeling a yearning to return to DDO as of late, but I would have no idea where to get plugged in to the current scene.  The present is unknown, but how it used to be in the past — when we had regular groups and I knew the content well — is familiar.  Again, there’s comfort in that.  Maybe I’m just a big comfort hog.

I miss LOTRO being on the tip of the daily tongues.  It still is in some quarters, but the store, the age, and the new shinies have pulled people away.  What used to be a family road trip has become a mostly solo adventure for me.  So I yearn for what was even as I go forward.