Pictured: LOTRO’s take on the elusive “Blinding Daylight Bat” that took a look at the nocturnal lifestyle and said, “Nah, not for me, mate!”
Right now on both of my Lord of the Rings Online characters, I’m venturing in picturesque countrysides. Both the Shire and North Ithilien are lush and inviting in their own ways, and I am gratified that this MMO has beautiful zones not merely front-loaded in the early game experience but also later on as well.
I’m very much a creature affected by my environment. Messy, dreary, oppressive, or otherwise ugly places put a huge damper on my spirits (and the opposite is quite true, of course). I’d always rather be adventuring around an area that shows off beauty and creativity rather than something that looks like one of Detroit’s more decrepit neighborhoods. Sure, I could see that for some, having that visually oppressive tone would be important for a personal fantasy of a hero entering the den of evil and fighting to its very core, but I’m perfectly fine with evil setting up shop in a garden or a well-groomed park.
Pictured: Not my mount. But I wish that it would be. If it was? Mounted combat in this game would actually be something worth doing.
LOTRO has a huge mix of pretty, ugly, and in-between zones — and to be fair, has a good mix of all and well spread out to boot. Just when I can’t stand another day in, say, Moria’s depths, then I burst out into Lothlorien and fight me some flower-pickin’ elves while admiring the scenery. Ugly zones are the ones I want to blitz through and ignore all of the tourism (picture taking, side detours, etc.). Attractive ones invite me to stay as long as possible.
This is beating around the bush to say that I’m more than a little nervous about Update 20 and beyond. I’ve already watched the videos for the new Wastes zone, and it’s just as visually appealing as it sounds. I mean, it’s even got a place called the “slag hills,” so you know you’re in for a stroll through a fine day. Lots of dark clouds, blasted landscapes, dead bodies, ruins, ghosts, Orc camps, and toxic pools of wastes. And this is BEFORE we’ve even set foot one into Mordor, mind you.
Looking at the map, Mordor is just a huge region, and I’d wager that the expansion won’t even touch half of it upon release. We don’t know a lot about the places outside of where Sam and Frodo visited (which is mostly the northwest corner), so here’s hoping that the devs will find some way to bring out beauty — or barring that, interesting visuals that aren’t just endless fields of ash, rock, and Orcish exterior decorating.
The face of Gollum in LOTRO is way creepier than the movies. Same scraggly comb-over, though.
So I’m dragging my feet on finishing up North Ithilien, because I know that if I do, I won’t have an excuse not to jump right into the Wastes come Update 20. And I am excited about the new quests and epic story, not to mention checking out the massive Black Gate and all. I just don’t want to be spending the next four months looking at the zone equivalent of a scab only to progress into Mordor past that and have it be some sort of outdoors version of Moria — a place filled with mighty wonders, but ultimately is not where we want to stay for months on end.
Post-Mordor is quite on my mind, although that’s bringing us into 2018. There are a lot more amazing vistas yet to discover in Middle-earth, so I’ll hold on to the hope that we’ll see some of those to relieve the time spent in Sauron’s outhouse. And I’m going to trust that the devs aren’t going too far overboard with the whole death metal theme and will find a way to make Mordor more than what we expect.