LOTRO: The Downside to Fast Levelling
NB. This post is a direct continuation of previous one, posted on 2nd January. As I’ve stated many times before in prior posts, there is a tangible sense of reward to be found in levelling in an MMORPG. Gaining experience and progressing from one level to another, inching further to the in-game cap, is a clear and uncomplicated goal. It’s far from a complex process. You play through content, gain loot and XP and then after a while, “ding”, you hit the next level and revel in a sense of achievement. There are naturally other goals to pursue that are more difficult to achieve, such as gaining a specific set of raid armour or obtaining maximum rep with all factions. But for many players, simply progressing by level per day (or some permutation thereof) is sufficient to keep them happy and make them feel that they are making headway within a specific game. And at present, this is exactly the approach that I take with LOTRO when playing on my new Guardian. Last night I reached level 57, while questing in Nanduhirion.
Due to the drastically nerfed levelling curve and major revamp of both Shadows of Angmar and Mines of Moria, LOTRO players can fast path through a lot of the classic content if they see fit. Hence, I have focused mainly on the Epic Story and have subsequently powered through Moria to Dimrill Dale. Along the way, the legendary Item system has become available to me and I recently began levelling my second LI one-handed sword (Level 57). Now to cut along story short, the LI system is excessively complex and time consuming as well as being further hindered by different tiers of weapons. This makes any LI under level 100 somewhat redundant as they have a finite lifespan. Furthermore, some of the regular weapons I’m receiving as quest rewards have superior specifications that those on the LI I’m currently levelling. Therefore, until my Guardian hits level 100, I am levelling LI weapons but not equipping them. I will continue to use the Guardian’s Belt LI as there is no alternative to this. However, my approach pretty much sidelines the LI system for the meantime, making it a minor source of adjustment rather than a major game focus.
I’ve also noted that for a while now, low tier essences have dropped from time to time when playing through PVE content. However, I have not seen any quest rewards that offer socketed armour, nor has any randomly dropped. According to the LOTRO-Wiki the essence system becomes available at level 50, yet I have not seen any obvious means of using it at present. For the meantime I am finding a lot of the gear offered by quests to be more than satisfactory and as I have access to shared resources via the barter wallet, I can purchase specific sets from class vendors if I wish. Prior to entering Moria I purchased the High-protector's Armour (Item Level 50) from the Guardian Trainer in Rivendell. I have swapped out a few pieces but have retained four to maintain the set bonus. Again, I find that an aspect of the game that use to require some care and attention before making a choice has now been trivialised due to the wealth of options and shear volume of good quality quest rewards.
It is also worth noting that my brief flirtation with crafting has now ground to a halt. Unlocking the various tiers of the Metalsmith profession is far from difficult but the problem lies with the items required for critical success when crafting. For example, you don’t often find multiple copies of the Supreme Metalsmith's Journal available on Auction House. You therefore have to either pursue the Scholar profession on another alt or look towards your kinship for assistance. However, as both these options appear to fly in the face of the breakneck speed of progression through the game, you can simply opt not to craft and suffer no major inconvenience. And that sentiment is one that seems to prevail in the current iteration of LOTRO. It may well change when players reach Southern Mirkwood, as that area has not been revamped to my knowledge. But certainly, up until level 60 the levelling curve continues to marginalise certain game systems. It’s a shame in a way because all of these aspects of the game will play a key role at higher levels and many players will find that they may have some catching up to do at some point. Myself included. However, as I treat the MMO genre as a “live in the moment” experience, I’ll worry about such problems as and when they become apparent.