LOTRO: A red day

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I did it! So proud of myself today — I reached my stated goal of catching up in the LOTRO epic story this past week, racing through about four books’ worth of content. I can’t remember the last time I did side quests in this game, although I might have to since I finished up at level 103 and the cap is 105.

So the whole experience was a mixed bag, starting out not-so-great and ending on a high note. As I mentioned last time, there’s a very long stretch of the game where you’re in Minas Tirith, constantly tasks to run up and down tiers and be the job monkey of the entire city. That got old — REAL quick. Pretty city, but egads I don’t need to be the personal counselor to every disheartened soldier lolligagging around.

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Then it got worse when the game shifted into doing a couple of epic battles for the siege of the city. I’ve made my stated opinion on epic battles pretty clear: They’re visually impressive but completely tedious, gameplay-wise. You never feel like you’re making one whit of difference no matter what you do in the fight, and it all goes on short of forever. Both epic battles here were practically identical, as I fought on top of the walls and chopped down grappling hooks and lit siege towers on fire.

After that the city fell and — this is where I genuinely got mad — LOTRO pulled a Scooby Doo “it was all a DREAMMMMM” on me. Apparently this lengthy siege and the fighting afterward was just a vision in the palantir, and none of it had happened yet. You want to really tick of your players? Make them go through annoying content and then tell them after that it didn’t really matter because none of it was real.

ugh. UGH. Seriously, Turbine, I can see why you did this, to give players the perspective of both defenders in the city and the soldiers outside, but… not cool. Not cool at all.

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Happily, the game finally kicked me out of the city after that, and the relief I felt was palpable. There was a stretch of the epic in the nearby wilds that was interesting even if it seemed like the narrative was treading water to fill out a book. Lots of “go here, talk to this dude, go back here, talk to another dude, and while you’re at it will you pick up rocks on the road? That’s a good job monkey!”

Finally, LOTRO turned a leaf and got to the Battle of Pelinnor Fields, and this is where the game got simply awesome. The most recent book, all of it, is purely about this battle. And even though this is an aging game engine, Turbine pulled out all of the stops and created a genuine battlefield that raged all the way to the horizon with you in the thick of it.

I got real goosebumps when Theoden gave his famous speech to the Rohirrim, helped along with some nice camera work and beautiful sights. When he called out to ride, it was irresistible to mount up and charge right in, feeling like part of the action.

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Another great moment was Eowyn’s showdown with the Nazgul. You go girl!

The book ranged across the entire battle and the phasing here showed how the day’s events kept progressing. It was like all of the threads of the game’s storylines were being pulled together, with notable faces showing up left and right like it was a high school reunion. Oh hey, it’s THAT guy! With the thing!

And plenty of rangers, of course, with a few pretty moving deaths. The battle follows the book’s events to a T, with Aragorn coming in to turn the tide.

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All too soon, the battle was over, and with it, the epic story (so far). Time to put a bookmark in LOTRO and turn to a new project!

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2 thoughts on “LOTRO: A red day

  1. spagomat May 9, 2016 / 9:49 am

    I just wrapped this up a few days ago also. I was a bit disappointed to not be engaged in battle chopping down a lot more orcs, but that would have been a Big Battle, I guess, which a lot of people just don’t like.

    It’s funny how everybody was looking forward to being immersed in a giant battle like Helm’s Deep, and then they discovered that churning through enemy on a battlefield is kind of tedious. This a classic designer’s dilemma: What should be fun isn’t, but you don’t often realize it until you’ve put a lot of time into making it, and there’s no easy road map for how to fix it. The technical hurdle often disguises the design hurdle. Not to mention the fact that the audience thinks they know better, without having tried the straightforward earlier drafts.

    So in retrospect, the approach they took was understandable, focusing on the many stories amid the chaos. But it also felt like a war movie without battle scenes – a little *too* story heavy, which is something I never thought I’d complain about. I think the pendulum swung too far away from Big Battles, turning the largest battle in the trilogy into something much, much smaller.

    On the other hand, I’m a busy gamer like yourself, so I was kind of happy just to get caught up and move on to something else. But I hate to see the legendary battle of Pelennor get stiffed just because we’re all a little bored with fighting and busy with other things. Maybe the only solution would have been to get around to it sometime sooner than 9 years after launch.

  2. Triski May 10, 2016 / 9:59 am

    I wouldn’t worry about not being 105 yet, Syp. I finished the epic and got about halfway through level 104, and I’m just going to wait for the next epic book(s) come out to hit level cap.

    The epic is all I’m doing in LOTRO now, the crashing and other performance issues got me to the breaking point. I hope they can get the problems worked out, it’s a shame that the datacenter move turned out so badly for so many players.

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