Procrastination Amplification: Punditry on MMOs and games in general.

LotRO Tidbits – Good, Bad, and Ugly

I’m deliberately choosing not to engage in the whole difficulty debate. I enjoy difficult games (and will still play MMOs, Spinks!) up to a point and I don’t like much of what has been done in that regard in recent MMOs. That’s all I’ll say about the topic, check all those other awesome bloggers for some in depth discussion. Instead I’ll talk about three tidbits from LotRO – one good, one bad, and one disappointing.

The ugly

Let’s start with the disappointment. I finally managed to hit level 50 and get my hand one some Moria content. The game started me out well enough with a number of decent quests in Eregion, following the path of the fellowship, killing orcs and wargs and all that good jazz. Then I got to Durin’s Door, which wouldn’t react at all, no matter how often I “spoke friend”. Makes sense, I thought to myself, the door has been blocked in the books after the fellowship enters. Alas, the game designers took that as an excuse to put my powerful hero, dwarf of many accomplishments to the most meaningless of tasks. Collect some wood here, deliver some messages there – oh and we have some vermin in that cave that need dealing with. Am I back to level one or what?

Either way, I did all that was asked of me and we attempted to open the door but the watcher in the water stopped us. Apparently it is so strong that I can’t defeat it without a proper weapon. Knowing that, I was on my way to get my first legendary weapon in the game – something I’ve been looking forward to quite a bit. The idea of an item leveling through use and unlocking new abilities on the way seemed exciting. I immediately thought back to the days of secret of mana.

Alas, the system isn’t very exciting at all – at least not on the one weapon I have so far. The leveling bonuses are bland and boring and so are the options for individualizing my weapon. Brutzelstein (Yes, you get to name your legendaries) is a very strong weapon, no question about that. So good in fact that all other weapon rewards I get can simply be ignored and sold to a vendor. It just isn’t very interesting. The one good thing I see about the system so far is that it makes it easier to rationalize grinds because you are also training your weapon on the way.  As for Moria, I still haven’t seen the inside of it. The quest chain required me to level the weapon to level ten before being able to enter. While it is beyond level 10 now, the tasks I took upon me when it was clear I couldn’t get to Moria yet still aren’t finished.

The bad

This leads me, more or less neatly, to the negative tidbit I’ll talk about – LotRO’s death penalty. I get the flavor of it – you get defeated in combat, which leads to fear, which in turn leads to anger… I mean to reduced combat abilities.  This wasn’t all that bad during leveling so far as the penalty was light and I got an item early on that could slightly reduce such dread effects on me. The penalty got stronger over time though and now is at a point where dying once already means that I’m essentially barred from doing anything productive for ten minutes. This is especially awful in areas with an inherent level of dread. If I die questing in one of those, I won’t have the power to fight anything at all there for ten minutes.

There are a lot of proponents of harsh death penalties (I’m not one of them), but this is a prime example of why they are bad. I’m not so much afraid of dying, as frustrated by the breaks in gameplay forced on me. Oh yeah, I could spend a dollar in the Store instead to instantly remove the dread. That isn’t immersion breaking at all.

The good

But hey, I’m still playing the game and it’s partly due to events like this. There I was, questing along in somewhat low-level Forochel while leveling my legendary weapon and looking for class quest drops when I suddenly entered a huge area of tundra with largely reduced vision. I had entered the arctic regions of middle earth, and man is it a desolate place. The ice water actually killed me when I swam in it and when you’re too long out in the cold you’ll catch a chill. The coolest thing (so far) was a rather innocent little quest chain about snow beacons. Apparently the folk living in this unwieldy climate had the clever idea of setting up large beacons in the tundra with a couple of supplies next to them to support those who get lost on their way.

It’s a simple thing, really, but it added a lot of flavor to the region. There was actually a bit of immersion there that I haven’t felt in an MMO in a long while. And I didn’t even really have to read quest text for it.


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