Visual Novel

Because Book Seven reminded me and so I have this in one place for future reference: the epic quest line for The Lord of the Rings Online™ Volume One: Shadows of Angmar™ is weak because the players are observers, not protagonists.

You start by following the Fellowship, and that works well. You fight alongside them. Once you accept that you will not get to be Legolas, this is the next best thing, and this is what you paid for.

Then you enter the main storyline, and you are helping the real protagonists complete their story in Angmar. While you are sent to fetch a horse, gather scrap metal, and buy honey (all real quests in the epic line), they get the killing blows on the bosses. Almost every Book ends with the PCs paralyzed, watching NPCs act out the conclusion. This starts in Book One, where Tom Bombadill is a kill-stealing jerk, and continues through to Book Fifteen, where you do not even have camera control at the end.

They are also weak on gameplay, because someone decided that it is not an Epic quest chain unless there is more than an hour of travel. But that is symptomatic of what you are doing: running errands for the real heroes.

The Books in the game at retail release were lighter on background but they had better gameplay. The ones added later were killing time until the expansion, it seems, and they killed a lot of time. It is a neat story, but it is just that: a story, not a game.

: Zubon

7 thoughts on “Visual Novel”

  1. I guess that is what happens when you run out of ideas? They had a good core shell that is a good WoW clone, but then they attempt to make it unique…but, Turbine does not know how.

    Bummer

  2. Funny you should mention fighting alongside the Fellowship. Vol 2, Bk 7 features a quest where you are tasked to ‘protect’ Legolas and Gimli while they go on patrol inside Lorien.

    You, a lowly level 60 with 4k morale (if you’re lucky), protecting two 20k+ morale heroes. Yeah, not so realistic. I’m pretty sure you can complete the quest without once having to draw your weapon :p

  3. See now I seem to recall back in Vol 1 me and my buddies defeating a goddamn Nazgul without any NPCs. And in 2.4.7 me and my buddies defeated the Watcher in the Water without any npcs. And in 2.6.8 me and my buddies kicked the Balrog’s little brother square in his gibblets of shadow and flame.

    In several epic books the big bad is driven off with the expectation that we’ll come back and defeat them “for good” without our tourguide npc (i.e. the watcher, book 8 mordirith, ivar the blood-handed and the red maid, etc.)

    It’s definitely true that sometimes, hell even often, we’re put up against enemies of power that are too great for our characters. If that were all the time it would get old but it’s not all the time, it’s just another layer in a rich story that’s very much true to Tolkien. Personally it makes the story more interesting and engaging that my character is not The One, not the ULTIMATE hero. That’s just not the way Tolkien’s lore ever worked.

    That there are even more powerful forces than my already well-proven bad-ass, and that I must on occasion face those powers with or without aid, enhances the story beyond a simple “videogame” story.

  4. Moondog, all three of those examples support my point. In Volume 1, you defeat a goddamn Cargul, not a Nazgul. There are nine Nazgul, but there are Cargul all over Angmar. And the rangers drive off the Nazgul from that scene. Despite that, that first chapter is one of the examples of how to do it right. Then you end the book with Tom taking the kill. And the second book with Radagast taking the kill.

    Volume Two starts off better, hence the first sentence of the post. 2.4.7, 2.5.5: these are great. 2.6 is weak on story to go with all the running around, and the hard part of 2.6.8 is keeping the usual suicidal elf alive before you get to the easier fight with the named Nameless.

  5. No dude. Vol 1 book 5. Fire and Ice.

    And Bombadill and Radaghast don’t get “the kill”, you do, when you go into the lairs of these villains after the epic quest and defeat them for good without any NPCs.

  6. Ah, that one. Yes, Book 5 is still in the better set, available at launch. Good one to point out.

    As you say, the better gameplay setup is after the epic book. I’m pretty sure Tom gets the kill in Book 1, so it’s good that Sammy comes back to be re-killed when the time comes. The beauty of undead opponents: they just keep getting re-dead, then they can be undead against when you next encounter them.

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