Best decision I made in LOTRO lately was to abandon the rest of these piddly Mirkwood quests and simply follow the epic quest line right out of that cursed wood. Should have done this WEEKS ago, to be honest. Mirkwood’s just way too dark and bothersome to quest with any enjoyability. Plus, I start to miss the bright beauty of the game — just like I had with Mordor.
Fortunately, assistance was a short trek down the road. I can’t express the actual relief I felt watching the inky black of the wood dissolve into the gorgeous pastels of a sunrise above the Long Lake in the distance. Heck, I was even happy enough that I didn’t mind that the first town I came to was infested with elves.
I probably spent a good 20 minutes in that town — where The Hobbit’s elves help to manage navigating the barrels down to the Men — doing nothing more than sight-seeing and taking pictures. This world building team is still capable of pushing out some of the more gorgeous landscapes and settings, and right here is up with any of the best the game has done to date.
However, the more I was walking around, the more I felt that something was… missing. Took me a minute or two to realize it, but finally I noticed that in this sizable elf town, there were no side quests whatsoever. Not one. Perhaps it’s a result of abandoning some side missions back in Mirkwood, but that’s not how LOTRO usually handles these things. Side missions feature short chains that aren’t usually linked together. In any case, the whole town offered nothing but a single NPC for me to talk to as part of my epic. So I guess I was moving on?
I also saw something I don’t think I’ve ever seen in this game before: A boat (in this case, a raft) actually moving on the water. Usually LOTRO’s water vessels are always stationary, but not here in Dale. I saw rafts and boats going to and fro, and I thought that was keen. I did try to swim out and jump up on one, but I clipped right through. Guess they’re just for looks.
Even got fascinated watching this huge carp swimming around…
When I saw this, I called my kids over to show them Smaug’s bones, since we had finished The Hobbit earlier this year. They thought it looked pretty creepy, and I have to agree. I tried to get a closer look but got ambushed by a trio of mobs and I didn’t have a pet out to help me.
Next stop: Lake-town. Again, an absolutely magnificent addition to the game and a really fun place to explore. The detail and richness here is wonderful, with different tiers of piers letting you go under, around, and over homes and waterways. Although the weirdness of the “no side quests” thing persisted — Lake-town didn’t offer me any activities other than an instance that had me get into a bar brawl as part of my epic. This is so peculiar, because devs don’t put in this much time into new areas without creating a lot of quests to get you to stick around. Maybe I’ll be coming back? I have no idea at this point.
The sight of the Lonely Mountain towering over Dale gave me the good shivers. What a stirring sight!
Dale is pretty impressive itself, kind of an updated Bree with a mountain as a backdrop. I roamed around for a while here, too, but only found one questgiver — an NPC hunter who challenged me to kill 10 of this and 10 of that. What the heck, why not? I miss side quests!
I took a moment to mentally salute the statue of Bard. If I haven’t said so before, I’m so glad SSG decided to flesh out this region, because I’ve really wanted to go here for a while. And it is such a relief to be up here than down in the nastiness of Mordor.