Was it just two days ago that I said I was going to start working on shoring up the 20-or-so virtues I needed on my Captain? My, my, a lot has happened since then. I really overestimated how long this would all take, as I’ve shot from rank 1 of Zeal to rank 13 while picking up two other virtues I’ve needed in that span of time. It helped that I had made *some* progress on these virtues when I was leveling, and it really helped that I’m so overleveled for most of these regions that I can slaughter and travel with impunity.
There’s been a great side benefit of all of this: I’m going on a lightning tour of all these zones I haven’t seen in ages. Oh hey Forochel, still being awesome in the far north? Still taunting me with those groovy mammoth mounts? Cool, cool. Oh hey Angmar, still the ugliest place in the world? Sky still inexplicably red with weird artifacts streaking across them? Mhm. Oh hey Mirkwood, I kind of miss hanging out in your semi-gothic neck of the woods.
It’s really so different when you return to these places as a high-level character. It’s like being treated to god mode, or like returning to your high school 20 years later. Everything that seemed so intimidating and challenging at the time is now smaller and almost quaint. It’s also blissful being able to travel around without having to worry about aggroing mobs every ten steps. I even saw places I’d never seen before, like the elite giant-infested towns of the Misty Mountains.
The tour also made me realize just how huge this game’s become. It’s an enormous world, with 34 zones and counting, and it’s spread all over the map now. It’s hard to remember what it was like when we were cooped up in just a pocket of Eriador. I wasn’t there at the time, but the first steps through the Misty Mountains via Moria must’ve been like the jailer opening the door and allowing the inmates to finally see what else is out there.
There’s a lot of criticism, valid and stupid, levied against LOTRO these days, but I have to say that there’s something really special about the growth of this game world and the adherence to the books. It feels more real and tangible than many other MMOs I’ve played, a place with a sense of history and culture. I’m kind of glad I’ve gone on this virtue-or-bust tour to be reminded of the larger world, not just the little section I’ve been fiddling around in for the past half-year.