Has LOTRO avoided the over-complexity trap?

On nights that I play Lord of the Rings Online, I’ll usually flip between my progression server character (a level 62 Minstrel in Southern Mirkwood) and my regular server adventurer (a level 120 Lore-master in Vale of Anduin). There are factors I like about each class and the setting they are in (and a few that I don’t), but one thing that I’ve really started to notice as of late is… just how similar they both feel in terms of progression and complexity.

What I mean is that in most MMOs, as you go up in levels and expansions, you start dealing with additional systems that have to be dealt with if you’re going to develop and build out your character to his or her fullest. So at max level, what you’re doing is significantly different than cruising along at mid-levels, and as such, the game feels like it has changed (for better or worse) than what it used to be.

Yet I don’t really get that in LOTRO. Sure, various patches and expansions have added some well-intentioned progression systems over the years, most notably skirmishes, epic battles, and warsteeds. But you’ll notice that those can be ignored after their mandatory bits in the epic books. Really, the only additional progression system that’s lasted is the legendary item one, and even that fades away once you get a good weapon maxed out at the cap.

What is left at the top of the game is the same as much of the journey through: questing, epic storyline chapters, the option to run dungeons/skirmishes/raids, a little bit of reputation grinding, deed hunting for virtue ranks, and maybe crafting, if you’re into that. Actually, I really like that LOTRO hasn’t grown significantly top-heavy. Sure, every so often I wish that we’d get something new and exciting to help advance our characters again, but I know that those systems are often abandoned and undersupported, so it’s a cautionary wish.

For me, I like that I can log into Vales of Anduin and continue the same type of gameplay that I’ve been enjoying for over a decade now. The relaxed pace of questing is highly enjoyable to me and helps me slow down and enjoy the sights and the measured combat and mission objectives. And the game’s even avoided making me the Single Greatest Hero Middle-earth Has Ever Known, which is a terrible trap many MMOs stumble into. I mean, I’m *a* good hero, but I’m hardly the only one, and I’m never above having to prove myself time and again while going on smaller adventures that are strangely more fun than large-scale battles.

Do you feel this way? Am I looking at this from the wrong angle? It’s just a random line of thought, but I suspect that it might be helping the long-term health of the game more than many people suspect.

One thought on “Has LOTRO avoided the over-complexity trap?

  1. I assume you aren’t including endgame into this equation, which is of course fairly different and by all reports all kinds of awful.

    I would agree though. I have been slowly meandering my way through LOTRO for years in memory of a dearly departed friend who enjoyed the game, and beyond the extra bits and pieces for each expansion, that disappear once you’re through, it is remarkably similar.

    I suspect that is less good design and more lack of forethought, though.

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