4 Lord of the Rings Online classes I’d play… if I had the time

At least for me, juggling a huge field of alts in Lord of the Rings Online isn’t really feasible. If it was my only MMORPG, then maybe I could push about four or so toons up there, but when any other game is in the picture sharing that time, then I have to limit myself. I’m already kind of toeing the line with both a Lore-master and Minstrel, so while whipping up a new character has that immediate gratification feel to it, it wouldn’t be possible in the long run unless I slowed all progress down to a crawl.

But that can’t stop me from musing about what alts I would play if I had the time and serious inclination. We all have those moments of “grass is greener” envy when we see what other classes can do, and I know that there’s plenty I have yet to experience even in a game that’s a dozen years old.

So here’s a quick list: Four class/race combos that I wouldn’t mind playing. You know. Some day. Probably never. But… yeah.

(1) Beorning Beorning — This is, no doubt, an intriguing class. The human models are a nice step up from the Man models (neat tatts, as well), the shapeshifting aspect has an intrinsic cool factor to it, and the fact that there’s some serious hybrid potential makes it all that much more desirable. Plus, it can lob bees at people, and I’m all about lobbing bees.

(2) Stout-Axe Dwarf Champion — I think that if I wanted a very no-nonsense character that could wade into a pack of mobs and clear it out without too much time or damage taken, this is what I’d go for. Strong AOE plus the new race smell is a powerful combination.

(3) Hobbit Hunter — As you might recall, I very nearly rolled one of these on the progression server, only at the last minute substituting a Minstrel instead. I don’t regret the swap, but the Hunter would have been good too. Travel skills, decoy pets, fast running, and lots of long range damage dealing would be a breezy fun experience.

(4) Dwarf Rune-keeper — I’ve only occasionally seen RKs out on the landscape, but whenever I’ve paired up with one, I’ve been very impressed with the powerful magic attacks and neat light shows that they put on. Plus, the healing totems look way nifty and would kind of feel like I was bringing a WoW Resto Shaman to the fight.

LOTRO: Into the valley of Minas Morgul they rode

I wasn’t really expecting a full-blown expansion announcement last week for Lord of the Rings Online, even though we knew it was coming. In any case, I rolled with it and started to wrap my head around heading back to Mordor for Minas Morgul later this month.

I guess the time frame is what threw me — in my mind, we’re still in August, so I don’t know where October came from all of the sudden. I guess I should’ve known when I started seeing pumpkin spice everything in the grocery store. Pumpkin Spice Bengay? It might exist. Would smell way better than regular Bengay.

Anyway. Minas Morgul. I guess my only major complaint with the full expansion announcement is that it doesn’t have any major new feature to grab the attention. Instead, it’s more of the same — a lot of hopefully reliable, solid, and enjoyable questing in more corners of Middle-earth. In this case, the city of the dead with an excursion to deal with an oversized spider outside. I’m down for that, as long as it isn’t a horrible slog the way Mordor was. I hope SSG has learned its lesson there.

This means that I’m kicking the pants of my Lore-master to finally finish up Vales of Anduin (I’ve mostly been playing on the progression server). At the very least, the expansion represents several months of content to experience and another rung on the ever-growing LOTRO epic story ladder that my Minstrel is struggling to summit as we speak.

As for the pre-order packages, I don’t see a compelling need for any of them other than the base edition. The cosmetics aren’t grabbing my fancy and I certainly don’t need another level 120 lolling around on my character select screen. I am very glad to see that SSG included the Stout-Axe Dwarf race in every edition, which not only skirts the controversy that the High Elf-less Mordor packs had but encourages people to pre-order right now to get access to them. Again, I’m not that interested in rolling up new characters, and these Dwarves don’t seem that much different or more exciting than the regular variety to justify the interest, but I suppose SSG has to do what it can within the boundaries of the lore at its fingertips.

Should be an exciting month, all things considered. I’ll try to drink in all of the beauty of the Vale of Anduin now to last me through what promises to be a macabre journey ahead.

LOTRO: Pirate for a day

While most of the MMO blogging community seems fully bogged down in WoW Classic these days, the first game that I keep going to every night is Lord of the Rings Online. It’s not as helter-skelter crazy as retail WoW can be, but it’s certainly more refined and overall more enjoyable than Classic. That’s just my gut check on it.

Enedwaith adventures continue apace. There’s this cadence to LOTRO’s quests that asks you to slow down a bit and go on small journeys. I am never trying to rush through them, because I know that each quest is going to require some travel time and usually a good dose of objective hunting and killing. So instead of getting into the mindset of “I must get all of these rings done ASAP” I put on some music and pick the first quest and focus down on it. It creates a very relaxing and satisfying experience overall as I knock them off one by one.

I feel that my Hobbit Minstrel is in a good place, all around. She’s got a ton of great outfits now, although I am hugely partial to the new (and free) armor set that SSG gave out a few weeks ago. It looks fantastic, especially with the blue kite shield that she boasts, and I don’t get tired of seeing her yell and slash bad guys down.

I will say that there’s a special loathing in my heart for the Wood Trolls of Enedwaith. They’re nothing difficult to fight, but they have this initial attack of lobbing a big chunk of dirt/rock if I’m trying to skirt by them — and they almost always knock me off my mount and force me to fight them even if I’m not in the mood. Dude. I have a headache. No fighting tonight, OK? Maybe tomorrow?

Egads, look at that purple sunset skybox. I never get tired of how pretty LOTRO’s world can be.

One nice thing about Enedwaith questing is that I feel that the reputation rewards work really well in this zone. I’ve been unlocking a few great emotes from the Grey Company, including a spin and a jump emote that looks adorable on a tiny Hobbit.

Last week the game ran the limited-time mission, The Tale of the Shipwrecked Mariner. I can’t recall if I had ever done this before, but as it was tied into Talk Like A Pirate Day, I made sure I put it on my calendar so as not to miss it.

Turns out that it’s a pretty lackluster excuse for an “event.” It really is just a single mission to go pick up stuff that a ship dropped when it got into an accident, and the only pirate-themed anything is the hat and eyepatch that you can get as a reward. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for getting an eyepatch for my wardrobe, but I kind of expected something… more. I mean, why not do something with the fantastic Inn of the Forsaken dungeon, which is totally Goonies/Pirate-themed? That’s just me, though.

LOTRO: Much ado about Enedwaith

There’s something about getting a fresh wind at your back that can really make you enjoy and anticipate jumping into a familiar MMORPG. After a couple of months of apathetic Mirkwood questing, a fire was lit under my butt thanks to the unlocking of the Isengard expansion. Over the course of a couple of days, I blasted through the tedious “ranger roundup” portion of the epic book and started moving south into Enedwaith.

It’s been several years since I was last in Enedwaith, and I have to say that it might be an underrated zone. It’s definitely a prologue zone for Dunland/Isengard, particularly with its story elements, but as a region, it’s quite nice to visit. It’s easy to navigate (a major plus in my book), has several interesting (and oddly color-coded) regions, and boast a few things that tickle my fancy, like demon goats and those hillbilly Stoor Hobbits.

Questing there was just satisfying and relaxing, and I spent more than my normal daily gametime allowance puttering back and forth over the landscape. I like that Enedwaith is giving me a few levels before I hit Dunland so I have that edge on DPS for mobs, and some of the reputation rewards are fairly desirable. I loved getting the “spin” emote for my Hobbit, which amused my kids as I spammed it for any and all situations.

It also has just the right level of difficulty. There are some trickier spots and tougher mobs, but it’s nothing like the landscape slog that LOTRO’s been from Mordor onward. I think I’m making excellent progress chewing through the zone, and I anticipate that I’ll be in Dunland within the week. If Isengard will be a four-month expansion window for the progression server, then that means I have until sometime in January 2020 before Rohan comes calling. That’s more than enough time to catch up (and then get back to my Lore-master and finish Vale of Anduin).

As a nice side note, the other night one of my kinship members was offering to make premium instruments for us Minstrels. I hadn’t even given my lute a second thought after I bought it, but sure enough, I could really use the upgrade for some nice stats. So he made me a level 70 purple lute that I can’t wait to equip. I’m not going to worry about upgrading my level 60 first age Legendary Items until I get to 75, since that feels like a good time to get that jump in power for the longest possible usage.

LOTRO: This Hobbit’s not going to Isengard (at least today)

Has it really been eight years since Rise of Isengard launched? It doesn’t seem like yesterday… but like three years ago, tops.

I started covering Lord of the Rings Online for Massively back in early 2010. The game was fresh off the Siege of Mirkwood expansion and quickly transitioned into a free-to-play format following DDO’s successful switch. So Rise of Isengard is kind of special for me personally in that it was the first expansion that I got to cover while doing a game column on the site. Eight years later, and I’m still writing about LOTRO on MOP — and here. And we’re back to Rise of Isengard all over again.

Except that I’m not quite there. I know I played it pokey in the last expansion cycle for the progression server, allowing myself to get too distracted and taking longer and longer breaks, but ultimately I failed in finishing up the content in preparation for the next pack. While I am level 65 and have Mirkwood and its epic finished, I still have Enedwaith to go.

As such, I’ve vowed to be more diligent in pursuing this goal of staying on track for these expansion unlocks. I thought they were going to be every four months, but I can see why SSG would make Mirkwood three, considering that it was a smaller pack. I’ve put off adventuring on the regular server and spent at least 45 minutes every day pushing forward in the epic. It’s a lot of Grey Company nonsense — Middle-earth could really use a telegram service instead of one overworked Hobbit sent to round everyone up — but I’m pleased to see that I’m heading in a southwardly direction.

One little nice bonus is that SSG handed out a free armor set to everyone. It’s a reskin of one of my favorite sets, the Rohan one, but I’m not complaining. It’s nice to have it in blue, and I feel that it really fits my Hobbit Minstrel well.

Instead of thinking of all that’s ahead of me, I’m just going to keep my head down and plug away. Forty-five minutes a day might not seem like a lot, but it’s pretty astonishing how much you can accomplish when you’re focused and on a time limit. And yes, I’m still reading quest text and having fun; I wouldn’t be playing otherwise. I like how simple the battle rotation is for the minnie, as I have one round for single targets and one round for packs.

And if there’s one advantage to being a full zone behind, it’s that I’m earning XP right now toward the new level cap and can rake in all of Enedwaith’s experience while the previous level cappers couldn’t. Hopefully that’ll give me a slight level advantage when I enter Dunland in a month or so.

LOTRO: Chopping down Mirkwood

After a little self-evaluation of the progression server idea, I concluded that, yes, I did want to see this through. This was partially due to my attachment to my Minstrel’s combat style, partially due to a very dedicated guild that’s of a like mind, and partially due to knowledge of past regrets when I have given up on things that I shouldn’t have.

So instead of bailing, I doubled down. I had a good stretch of gaming time this past weekend that I devoted to nothing but finishing up Mirkwood, and lo and behold, I did just that. It wasn’t all fun; some of the final bits of this expansion were pretty dreary and grindy. But I did like powering through some of the epic story content and the feel that came with finishing up the zone and moving on to Enedwaith.

Plus, I finally hit level 65 (I told you I was behind!), and reaching those milestones always help to give a psychological boost. As I’ve said before, I don’t need to be progressing fast in MMOs, but I do need to feel like there’s some momentum toward progression always going on.

I had forgotten that the final parts of Volume II were a string of four or so skirmishes that you do back-to-back. Now, I like skirmishes, but the Mirkwood ones aren’t my favorite, as they can get pretty drawn out in spots. When I have mandatory content to do that I’m not thrilled about, the best course of action for me is to divert my attention elsewhere — podcast, youtube, Netflix — and zone out while my muscle memory gets it done. And so it was here.

I have a strong feeling that Rise of Isengard will unlock in early September, so I’m trying to focus down on getting caught up and ready. This means at the very least I need to get through the Enedwaith epic story content, but I’d like to do the regular quests and perhaps get caught up on Bingo Boffin as well. I’ve fallen behind in virtue deeds, but those are always filler options for the future.

I’m not exactly excited about nor dreading Isengard. It was an OK expansion with a few highlights and a lot of drawn-out stuff. For my money, the game really picks back up in Rohan, and so I will press on, putting one little Hobbit foot in front of the other, until I get there.

The diminishing returns of progression servers

Generally these days I have a pretty set pattern in approaching Lord of the Rings Online. On night one, I’ll play my Lore-master on a regular server in the newest area (Vale of Anduin), and on night two, I’ll jump onto my Minstrel on the progression server in Mirkwood.

A few months back, and most of my enthusiasm was reserved for the Minstrel, but as of late I’ve noticed that my interest has swung in the other direction. I very much enjoy going through the newer content and catching up with the latest while I find that my Minstrel feels more like a chore that must be done and endured.

This gave me serious pause the other night as to my intentions for the progression server. Is it worth the time and effort? It’s no small thing to level a character from one to 120 in LOTRO and through to the end game zones, especially if that journey is artificially gated. For a couple of weeks now I’ve been concerned that the pace of my progress through Mirkwood hasn’t been fast enough to get me to through the zone and Enedwaith before Isengard opened, and I haven’t really enjoyed that pressure bearing down on me. Nothing is particularly wrong with my Minstrel or the journey (and my kinship is still very strong and active), but it certainly isn’t as heady and exciting as it was when Anor opened up last November.

Now, obviously I am a huge proponent of progression servers. I’ve spoken up in support of them many times and it’s a personal hope that Blizzard decides to go this route with WoW Classic. It’s a whole lot of fun to progress with a community and re-explore old stomping grounds. But even I have to admit that there are diminishing returns for this content. New server types — progression or otherwise — get massive loads of attention from the start and in those early months, but after a couple of years, the next progression unlock or development gets buried in the news and the community has shrunk to a stable, core group that isn’t quite as vocal as it once was.

For LOTRO, I think many of us were greatly excited to see Eriador populated once more. We were given the experience to revisit these zones without the mentality of zipping through them on the way to somewhere else. We had the population to run instances and see others around us, and that still is a great thing. But the new server excitement certainly has died down as we turn the corner toward the legendary shards’ first anniversary. Progression is coming slower. Isengard isn’t that huge of a draw. Outfits and houses have been established. It is what it is. A cool experience, but one that is diminished from late last year.

So I’ve been evaluating plans going forward. Option one would be to stick it out, keep trucking on my Minstrel for the sake of completing this journey and seeing old lands once more. Option two, which I have been giving more serious contemplation toward, is to ditch my Minstrel and work on bringing my level 110 Captain through Mordor and beyond. I’ve missed playing the Cappy, and now with the recent patch, it’s looking better and I like the idea of having a self-healing tank for this tougher content rather than only my problematic Lore-master.

Yet I hate to be so cavalier about ditching the legendary server. A choice must be made, however, because those expansion unlocks are coming, and if I don’t keep up, then there’s even less of a point to playing than there was before.