Wildermore may be the best zone story LOTRO ever told

With Update 26 on the way, I had a feeling that it was time to get Riders of Rohan good and done. I figure we’re still a ways out from Helm’s Deep coming on the progression servers, so this would give me more than enough time to switch over to the regular server to do the new update when it dropped. I need an MMO scheduler to handle my commitments here. Like a secretary or something. Any takers?

So the other weekend, I powered my way through all of Wildermore. Wildermore was the zone added to the end of Riders of Rohan, with its own story arc and epic book to go with it. I had fond memories of it, due to it being a rather gorgeous-looking snowy area, but it took going back to make me realize that this might be one of the best examples of zone storytelling the team has ever done.

Essentially, Wildermore is a region that’s under assault by a brutal, unstoppable ice giant. He’s kind of a Jason Vorhees-style slasher, plodding his way up to all of the villages, killing key figures left and right, and leaving ruin and icy destruction in his wake. I don’t think I remember any other point in the game where so many named figures got killed in rapid succession as they do here, but the first part is just hard to endure. I as the player felt impotent to stop the giant and frustrated to see the pain and suffering all around.

On top of the murders, the giant also managed to bring a sort of enduring winter with him. Wildermore isn’t meant to be a snowy region, not all the time, at least, but the unnatural weather change forced people to adapt in a hurry. It’s one of my favorite regions to screenshots, especially in the Balewood forest, where snow-frosted evergreens are thick around and it’s so easy to feel like you’re actually getting lost in a real wood.

Anyway, I ended up in awe of how well everything fit together to tell this story — the environment design, the map, the zone quests, and the epic quest. There are some powerful revelations, downfalls and triumphs, and at no point was I left wondering what was going on or who these characters were.

And I got it done! I might’ve played it a little more than usual that weekend, but sometimes when you have an end goal in sight, you want to cross it. So now my Minstrel is quietly working on Bingo Boffin missions while the countdown clock ticks toward Update 26.

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