I just realized that I hadn’t been blogging about LOTRO in a while, but I can put some blame there on a couple of hectic work travel weeks. Rest assured, I’ve been gamely adventuring onward through the remainder of Shadows of Angmar: I’m somewhere in Book 12 of Volume 1, with only Forochel and Eregion to go (plus deeds in those regions).
In fact, I’m about midway through Forochel as I type this. I donned my winter festival outfit, since that seemed most appropriate to the zone, and went into it with gusto. After the hell that was Angmar, Forochel is a delightful change of pace.
When I was talking about this zone on Twitter, Ocho told me that it was too tedious and desolate for his tastes. “Overall, though, in any game, desolate zones are hard to get right,” he said.
And obviously this is a subjective call, because I feel that Forochel is neither desolate nor tedious. Remote, yes, but for me there’s a joy of space and genuine wilderness here. While LOTRO does have other winter zones, Forochel is the only one that takes us to the arctic circle and does a great job of presenting that. There are ice sheets and glaciers, yes, but it’s more than just white, white everywhere.
There is the brilliant aurora borealis that shimmers over the crisp night sky. The southern half of the zone is still in the tree line, and it’s actually kind of cool to see where that ends and the true north begins. And there are plenty of (frozen) ruins, caves, and igloo-dotted settlements about, not to mention some unique wildlife (the mammoths) and natives ice skating and sledding about the place.
The weather also lends itself to a strong environment. Sometimes Forochel is very peaceful, with cold and clear skies, and sometimes a gentle snow falls. Once in a while there’s a genuine blizzard that is like very little else I’ve encountered in the game, but that’s far more rare.
There’s also a nice (but not necessary) debuff/buff situation that involves the cold and warmth. At one point I got a reusable flask of ale that fights off this cold, but other than the emote, I’ll probably never need it. One thing that you really don’t want to do, however, is go dipping into the central ice bay — or any body of water past the tree line, for that matter. A nasty 1,000 DPS dot starts ticking to represent the frigid cold of the water, turning this lake into a deadly trap.
I suppose another reason that I appreciate the zone is that it’s fairly easy to navigate while zipping along doing the dozens of quests. It’s pretty simple to see where you’re going and get there, in contrast to some of LOTRO’s more labyrinthian zones, and that makes for a relaxing experience. I don’t really have to do any of these quests for XP or rewards, but I feel like I want to do them anyway. I know that this will most likely be the final time I’m going through LOTRO from start to finish, and I don’t want to skip interesting content if I can help it.