“Empire had the better ending. I mean, Luke gets his hand cut off, finds out Vader’s his father, Han gets frozen and taken away by Boba Fett. It ends on such a down note. I mean, that’s what life is, a series of down endings.”
~ Dante, from Clerks
In preparation for this month’s (seriously, THIS month?) Rise of Isengard expansion, I’ve been mopping up the final remnants of Enedwaith with my Lore-master. I think I need to get serious about some reputation if I don’t want all these marks I’ve accumulated go to waste — I have my eyes on one of the rep horses, but I need to get a garbage barge worth of reputation before that happens.
Anyway. As part of this endeavor, I went through the last — until the expansion — book in the epic storyline: Volume 3 Book 3. Up to this point, Volume 3 has been a curious bird. The first book has you traversing all of your previously explored areas doing a “ranger roundup” for the journey south, which got points for nostalgia if nothing else.
Then you begin to head south on what has to be the slowest road trip ever. I know we have to account for polite fiction, but it’s funny to me that I could walk through the whole of Enedwaith in about fifteen minutes with little difficulty, but the Rangers act as though it’s this massive epic journey that’s fraught with peril. So much so that they keep stopping to look for side paths and go on meandering side missions and do everything but, y’know, stay on the main road. It’s kind of like going on summer vacation with your dad who wants to pull off at every exit to check out the tourist traps.
I have to admit that Book 3 lost me somewhere in the middle of it. There’s a cool concept with a Dwarf who’s addled out of his wits, but apparently knows something important, and the long reach of Saruman that’s creeping north. I think that sometimes these books are almost a little too long to the point where the filler distracts us from the story itself.
At one point there’s an interesting quest where you’re sent to take vengeance on a tribe of barbarians. You’re simply told to go and kill, but unlike most every other quest in the game, there’s no counter attached. I assumed that the game would tell me when I had killed enough, but it didn’t — and that’s when I realized that I was being handed the option to kill until I, personally, was satisfied. One, two, or two thousands — it was up to me. So that was interesting.
Probably the best moment in the book comes at the very end, which I will try not to spoil except to say that it has you going to a creepy place and finding out that some of the things that you and your fellow NPCs assumed was not the case. Instead of wrapping the book up with a flourish of victory, it turns out to be a big blow against the southern campaign, and we’re left with a down ending. As the quote above suggests, sometimes that’s more memorable than blowing up the Death Star.
I really do wish that Turbine would expend some additional resources to have the epic storylines completely voiced. What little voice acting there is in LOTRO is, frankly, well done, and I suspect it would make such a huge difference for these key moments to have voices attached instead of floaty text above their heads.