LOTRO: Escaping Mordor’s gravity well

As I tentatively dip my toes back into LOTRO to venture into Northern Mirkwood, I first had to push through the final vestiges of Mordor (for now… for now). It was all a crash course in reminding me how poorly designed these zones are, how travel unfriendly, and how annoying the back-and-forth fetch quests are over this region. Plus, it’s so. Dang. Ugly.

I have never been so serious in my life as when I say that I never want to go through Mordor again. And with all of that being refreshed in my mind, I found this recent interview with SSG chief Rob Ciccolini absolutely frustrating. Not only does he completely dodge the question of the ongoing (two-plus years) poor performance issues with the client, but he rallied a tired defense of Mordor’s difficulty and design and hedged whether or not it was too tough. Whatever. You’re not going to sucker me into running any alts through it, I can tell you that.

So after suffering through a few more quests, I was finally encouraged to leave Mordor and head back to Southern Mirkwood. Wait, southern? I thought this was all northern stuff, and… you know what? I’m just glad to be out of there. I don’t care where the game sends me at this point.

First up is a quest that should have been called Tying Up Loose Ends, because the whole point is to return to Mirkwood and witness Dol Guldur being destroyed once and for all. Before that happens, I get my first and last trip inside of its walls (I’ve never been).

In a really cool moment, I actually get to see Sauron’s old throne room, back when he was recovering from the loss of the ring and his defeat by the alliance. There are a couple of interesting little flashbacks to witness, and it was bizarre to just, you know, see Sauron as an actual guy sitting there. This might only be the second or third time I’ve ever witnessed him in the game, all in flashbacks.

This guy shows up to lay out his plan to stir up trouble between the Dwarves and Smaug, and all I can think of is WHERE DO I GET THAT ARMOR? So cool. I want to join the bad guys if they all get cool gear like that. The good guys keep giving me pajamas.

And in what is undoubtedly supposed to be a shocking surprise, this elf… girl? I think it’s a girl. Well, she pops out of the gloom and is all happy to see me because I guess we hung out five expansions ago? Did the devs honestly think we’d remember this? I’m doing good if I can name all four of my kids on any given day, nevermind trying to dredge up the name of some supposedly dead elf from 2010.

We — by which I mean “I” because elves are lazy — do a bit more killing and collecting before vacating the premises.

Then in a cool cutscene, Galadriel uses the Force to smash Dol Guldur from afar. She talks about having brought it down, and all I can think of is that there is an awful lot of that structure remaining. Maybe another Force push or two would help?

Afterward, Legolas’ dad gives me a bathrobe and we celebrate. Hey, I’ll party with elves if it gets me out of Mordor. That’s how desperate I became.

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