Returning to Middle-earth Again
Now that Turbine have settled into the pattern of releasing two content updates for LOTRO a year, I have correspondingly settled into the pattern of re-subscribing for a month or two when each one appears. The latest, Update 17 The Siege of Minas Tirith, went live on 27th October but as there was so much other gaming content released at that time, I postponed my customary winter excursion to Middle-earth. I must admit that I had provisionally checked out the new area and the iconic city of Minas Tirith on the Bullroarer test server and I was not especially impressed. However as of last night having found the time in my gaming schedule I decided it was time to re-subscribe to LOTRO and push on with the epic story.
Having recently transferred from Gilrain server with most of my kinship, this is the first time I’ve undertaken any major content on our new home of Laurelin. Sadly my hopes for a more vibrant game economy have not happened. The auction house on this server is just as devoid of a broad spectrum of gear and items as the previous. It would appear that no one seems to craft and sell level cap items anymore. I blame slotted armour. It would appear that out of the two European English language servers that survived Turbines downsizing, Evernight has proven more popular. I may well at a future date move an alt there to see if there are any significant advantages on that server.
As for the latest instalment of the epic story, it is proving to be quite engaging once you have got beyond orientating yourself around Minas Tirith and carrying out the ubiquitous fetch quests. As ever with Turbine, there are times when the story telling in LOTRO really does demonstrate a keen understanding of Tolkien’s source text. Such moments are always enjoyable. Then there times when some of the regional quests really do feel arbitrary. There’s a particular quest requiring you to kill three captains of the enemy in camps in the Pelennor fields. These NPCs do not always spawn in the same place and may be at one of three possible locations. Rather than feeling challenging it simply comes across as a cheap way to extend the quests playing time. Sadly this is how Turbine’s content has become recently; of varying quality mainly due to a lack of time and resources.
Minas Tirith itself is a rather dour and sombre affair. Far from being the White City it’s rather drab and grey. As I suspected after the beta test, there are copious quantities of fast mounts to help navigate around the cities seven levels. Exploring each level is fun initially and if you’re not in a rush can yield some nice hidden features. However after a while the novelty soon wears off and its design simply becomes an impediment to travel and a pain in the butt. If you leave the city and travel Old Anorien you soon discover that the mob density has been cranked up. Again you can cogently argue that this is a ploy to slow players down etc. The addition of two warbands in such close proximity to each other is a similar example.
Nostalgia and fond memories are major factors when it comes to playing LOTRO and I think Turbine is fully aware of this. They’ve fully committed to the Big/Epic battles system and there are a further two in the latest update. Yet I still strangely have enough goodwill towards this ageing MMO to endure these and soldier on to the next stage of the story. I still think about the immense fun I had playing LOTRO between 2008 -2009. Plus there’s the fact that there isn’t any other Tolkien based game of this kind around, nor it there likely to be in the future. So I guess I like many players I will dutifully work through Update 17 and then leave, only to return again in the Spring when the next update becomes available.