Knowing that the legendary server was on the way really lit a fire under my butt to power through Update 23. For almost a solid week, there, I was playing nothing but this game and moving through the two new areas at a clip that felt crazy-fast compared to my usual snail’s pace.
It wasn’t a hardship or a chore in the least. Small as it is these days, the dev team still knows how to deliver really great stories and areas, and I had a great time getting a double-dose of Dwarves (with two zones and two factions). While the Grey Mountains was a tougher and more varied area to navigate with rocky terrain, glaciers, and pine trees, the Iron Hills actually gave us an interesting take on the American West. You know, rivers, plains, mesas, that sort of thing. I love a good western-themed zone, and while this wasn’t the most beautiful, it was pretty easy to traverse and appreciate.
The Dwarven focus of the update was a refreshing change when I think back to the evils of Mordor or the Man-centric activities of Rohan and Gondor. While I could have done without the giant mountain fortress that proved oh-so-annoying to get around, there were some cool interiors in other places including a Dwarven city/mine that had recently suffered an earthquake and was rebuilding. I thought a lot of the interiors felt very homey and inviting, and it made me want a Dwarf house.
The stories were pretty good. There was an infiltration into an enemy-occupied town that reminded me a little of being held prisoner under Isengard a while back. There was a Dwarven prince out to prove himself after years of house arrest. And there was the recurring villain, the Weeping Warrior, who creeped me out ten ways from Sunday and eventually showed a much more complex backstory than I had expected.
I even got social at times! There was one area where a Hunter and I teamed up to blitz through a half-dozen quests, and we had a good time chatting about classes and our respective histories in the game.
Probably the most interesting part of the update was the fact that, as a part of the normal questline, I had to go into not one, not two, but three separate dungeons on a solo/duo setting. I appreciate that we as solers got to see these, but man, some of them were really long and occasionally baffling how to proceed.
My only other quibble with the update is that there is a huge uptick in dragon talk and sightings with U23. Dragons were supposed to be incredibly, incredibly rare for Middle-earth right then, but now they’re popping up all over the place like this is Guild Wars 2 or something. I know, they’re not all proper dragons — LOTRO has various granular differentiations between them, but when you’ve fought one flying lizard, you feel like you’ve fought them all.
In the end, I’m really glad I got through all of this and was able to park my Lore-master at the current solo cap. I can mothball her until the next update and concentrate on my progression server character without feeling as though I had unfinished business prodding me from behind.