LOTRO: Vales and valleys

What a pleasant surprise it was to have LOTRO release Update 24 last week — I honestly didn’t think we’d see it until later this month. It was ideal timing, as I’d been missing a good dose of Middle-earth adventures, and getting to see and experience brand-new regions is even better than getting a legendary server unlock. I’m eager to see where this game is going, especially as the small team really brings to bear considerable care and talent in each of its content drops.

And really, that has to be the draw right now for me — the experience of it all — because I’ve about come to a complete halt in terms of progression. I’m level 120, have all my legendaries maxed out, and have enough virtues to keep myself well-rounded. Right now I’m doing the quests 99.9% because of the stories and adventures that they take me on rather than any useful reward. That’s fine by me.

After a chapter of the epic book up in the Grey Mountains (which felt like a lengthy epilogue to the previous zone’s events), I was finally on my way through the western boundary of Mirkwood and into the lush Vales of Anduin. And lush they be! It’s kind of like going on Bilbo’s journey in reverse, a bit, and I rejoiced to see another wide-open zone full of attractive landscapes, easy travel, and scads of quests. Anduin is right up there along with the more good-looking of LOTRO’s zones, and I know I must feast on it now before the team sends us back to Mordor later this year.

My honey cake looks good. I want this known by the entire world.

It’s a good decision to rub shoulders with Beornings in this area, seeing as how it’s both their homeland and that we’ve had so little contact with them to date other than seeing other player characters roll up one. There’s a strong “get in touch with nature” theme going on with both the Beornings and Radagast, but this is in a different way than, say, how the Elves do it. More down-to-earth and burly. I like these quieter quests of feeding bees and making honey cakes myself, and I suppose if you do not, then you’d probably never made it this far in LOTRO anyway.

Probably my only major criticism of the new area so far is that the mobs do feel a little tougher and more numerous than they should be. I mean, I’m a level 120 adventurer with pretty good stats and gear, and yet I have to struggle to take down a fly that boasts half-again as much morale as I have. That fly right there, he could take down Saruman single-handedly if we were to compare stats. That fly could have ravaged Eriador and laid the entire region to waste. So yeah, I feel that SSG has once again erred on the side of making the landscape a little too — not challenging, necessarily, but sloggy. It was a real problem in Mordor, that high time-to-kill, and it hasn’t really lessened since.

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