LOTRO: Out Levelling Content
As I fast approach level 50 with my recently created High Elf Guardian, I’m surprised by how much content I have bypassed in LOTRO. Levelling on Laurelin server nowadays is a radically different process to what it was on Gilrain, a decade ago. I am not an altoholic by nature, so levelling new characters is a recent development for me. For the bulk of the 10 years that I’ve played the MMORPG LOTRO, I have focused on my Lore-master, which was the first character I created when I started playing. Levelling back in 2008 was a very precise process and there was a very clear route throughout the zones contained within the Shadow of Angmar. Hence, I followed the epic story from region to region, supplementing this progression with XP from local quest hubs. These would also further embellish the narrative and clarify the Epic Story. However, now I find myself out levelling a zone quickly and jumping around locations to find quests that provide the greatest XP return. A new player following suite would certainly find the story arc much harder to keep up with.
The problem lies (if indeed you see it at such) in the fact that all the regions contained within the original game, prior to entering Moria, have been streamlined and revamped several times. This was done initially in 2010 to accommodate the F2P conversion and then again in the proceeding years to deal with the games numerous level cap increases. It has left the Epic Story somewhat fragmented, as you can now start multiple books simultaneously. Due to some nominal story changes, some of the dialogue and cutscenes no longer accurately reflect that plot. For example, the level five instance “The Assault on Archet” originally featured the Angmarim Commander Éogan arriving in the burning town to claim Amdir. However, revisions made to the introduction quest line have replaced him with a more sinister Cargûl and Calder Cob. Yet the cutscene that plays at the end of this sequence of quests still feature Éogan. He is also referenced by several NPC during the game, despite not being particularly prominent. Thus, when Éogan features in the later instance “Unravelling the Thread”, there is potential for confusion as to his role in the story.
The other issue that stems from the streamlining of content in the Shadow of Angmar story, is that many of the game’s deeds will remain uncompleted unless the player actively chooses to pursue them. In the original version of the game, the structured progression from zone to zone meant that slayer, exploration and race deeds would slowly be completed as you cleared all local quest related content. The XP increase that has ensued in the intervening decade now means that a player will move on to a new region before completing these secondary activities. Faction reputation also suffers and will remain incomplete unless a player determines to repeat content, even when it becomes below their current level. Also, hastily moving through content and focusing on progression, can deny players the opportunity to fully experience the subtleties and detail of each area. LOTRO is a game where it still merits “stopping to smell the Roses” from time-to-time.
However, it should be noted that for some LOTRO players, the new streamline path through the first 50 levels of the MMO, is optimised perfectly for their play style. Not everyone is especially fussed about the narrative or being a completist. Deeds are a lot easier to clear when you return to them at a higher level. Plus, some players simply enjoy the game the most as they level, as it provides a clear goal. It can also be argued that if players wants a slower levelling experience, then the Legendary Servers provide that service. Some more invested LOTRO players have created detailed levelling guides that can steer alts through optimal progression paths, that also accommodate deeds and reputation. If you don’t care such organised gameplay, then there are the other options to consider such as simply staying in a zone and completing everything available or buying the Stone of the Tortoise from the LOTRO store. This item effectively disables all quest and monster kill XP. All things considered, whether you see out levelling content as a boon or a bane, it is a matter born of the longevity of LOTRO. Perhaps it is a small price to pay as the MMO enter its twelve year.