Finally I’m getting a little bit of time to talk about the new Lord of the Rings Online update, what, two weeks after it dropped? I has excuses, though! The first few days of the patch were absolutely atrocious, with mind-bending lag and players mobbing all over quest objectives until I flung my hands up and logged out to play an MMO that actually worked. LOTRO, seriously brah, get your act together. No MMO that’s been out this long should still have stuttering, lag, and rubberbanding like this.
Anyway, my other excuse was a week at Disney, so by the time I was actually able to play through the new zone, I’m well and truly behind the rest of the pack. Frodo’s probably already tossed the ring into the volcano and gone on holiday.
I think for many players, the Wastes is a sort of litmus test for the whole upcoming Mordor expansion (which, by the way, I really wish Standing Stone would start talking about more now that we’re in spring). The zone isn’t in Mordor but it is Mordor, and I’ve heard many people saying something to the effect that they’re expecting to extrapolate what Mordor will be like from what we’re seeing here.
For me, I honestly hope it won’t all be this grim and dour. Make no mistake, the Wastes are as far from a beautiful locale as you can get in LOTRO. I am hard-pressed to think of areas more bleak. Angmar, maybe. It’s a blasted landscape with toxic sludge, ruins, enemy encampments, and an airspace full of Nazgul (“Nazgul One, this is Tower Control. You are cleared for landing.”)
Since I’m coming off fresh from the beauty of North Ithilien, it’s not a problem. I can take a little grim and dour from time to time. Can’t have all of the zones winning pageants, after all. But the thought of the next six or seven zones being like this is a little disheartening. Maybe the devs will justify some greenery in Mordor as a response of nature following the destruction of the One Ring and the downfall of Sauron. We’ll see.
As I said, I’m not as far into the update as some and have barely started the new book. Mostly I’ve been pursuing side quests and showing off the Black Gate to my kids, who wanted to know why getting close kills me. “Because developers” is not an explanation that they understand (or I do, really).
I will say this: The zone is kicking my butt. I miss the days when my Lore-master was a terror over the landscape with a pet that would eternally hold aggro and down mobs without my intervention. Now it’s a fight to the death in every encounter, and my lynx no longer holds aggro for more than a second or two. I’m not quite over my head, not yet, but I know that I’m undergeared in the essence department. I have more than a few empty spots on my armor, so I’m sure that’s hurting me. I’m dutifully picking flowers (why is this still a thing in a zone where practically nothing grows?) and hoping that quests will start paying out essences again.
I do wish that the zone would have more than one stable master. The Wastes is firmly enemy territory, and other than a temporary encampment of the good guys, there’s nary a sign of civilization or sanctuary. Again, what does this bode for Mordor, even along an advanced timeline?
One thing I would love to see in our efforts is perhaps a Hytbold-ish approach to renovating the landscape and maybe bringing it from ugly to semi-livable. LOTRO has several spots where the Free Peoples are moving in to reclaim formerly occupied areas, and that could justify Mordor being both oppressive and welcoming in stages.