Hobbits on Parade

(I was so tempted to make a “Return of the King” rhyme, but managed to hold back. Thank me later)

Ah, long has passed since I last had enough time to post here, and much has happened. In a good and bad way, perhaps, most of this has been out in Real Life ™, and has kept me from playing. Now that I have a few moments here and there to play, I’m not looking as much to WoW as I used to. I have a good raiding guild there to work with, but the Sunwell content seems fairly flat, and I’ve not seen one thing coming in the expansion that interests me at all. So on the suggestion of a friend, I took my precious few hours of free time last week to an old place I’d been before, Middle-Earth.

I left Middle Earth before Book 11, which introduced a lot of changes to the game, and they are now on Book 13, which means 3 major content patches have dropped since I left. I had a lot to keep me busy. Not to mention patching. A lot of it.

One of the biggest changes in the game to me is housing. I realize players of EQ2 find housing well known, but as I came from EQ1, DAoC, AO, and a dozen other games to WoW, I’d never had “a place of my own”. Finding myself with still 3 gold to my name (a small fortune in LoTRO for the level, for WoW I’d say it’s a 1g=1000g ratio), I bought myself a nice little house in the elf grounds next to a lake with my own gazebo. Well, the neighbors probably consider it theirs, or all of ours, but as the bridge to it is at the end of my walk, I consider it mine. Like it or lump it, elves! I spent the next few hours first desperately trying to figure out how to decorate my house – no information on how to turn decorating mode on is available anywhere – after which I turned in the half dozen “Yay, new houses!” quests I had and got a bunch of free stuff to fill my house with. A short trip to the AH and Bree vendors and another gold later I had a new bed, some bookshelves, and an assortment of rug recipes. Sadly, I failed to notice the lack of a ceiling spot in my house – that costs 6g more – so my star chandelier would have to go into my personal house bank. Inter-character storage! Great!

After spending many hours on this, I headed off to the trainer to train my bevy of new skills. Loremasters received a series of boosts in Book 11, and I had to learn them all. It would be nearly the end of the weekend before I happily found out that Loremasters are no longer completely wiped out by nearly any undead (who are heavily resistant to the class’ assortment of stuns) and now have skills that fill in the big gaps in their armor. After only a few hours of play, my faithful raven Quoth, who’d been my main companion for nearly 40 levels, was sidetracked for my new best friend, the dark lynx Sombra. The new pet is a DPS machine, and as I prefer to tank my targets, the right choice for me. While before a lot of my damage was based off of praying for a Flank proc, I could now simply burn stuff down. Much more of a fun style.

After training my new skills, I realized I would have to adventure somewhere. After pondering it a bit, I decided to journey back to the formerly fatalistic Angmar area. This was the area that made me stop wanting to hunt. Back when I played, it was so packed with monsters that you’d get adds constantly. Add to this roaming elites, quests that were extreme undercons, and lackluster quest results and the zone was more “necessary evil” than anything else. Not so anymore. When logging in, my quest log was nearly erased by all the quests that were removed. Angmar has been completely reworked in Book 12 to be more solo and small group friendly, and the rewards are now useful. Better quest descriptions, planning on NPC placement, and progression that makes sense really show that the developers learned from the Evendim deployment. Evendim was a massive success, and was packed when released as it was a fairly well designed area. The new Angmar really plays this out. But that was not my biggest nor most pleasant surprise.

One of the changes in Book 10, the last major release I saw, was making the final 2 legendary traits of all classes have 8 bind on acquire pages (collection parts), thus preventing you from getting all 4 traits from the AH. While I can understand the need to have people work for instead of buy their skills, and think it was a good thought, it was implemented poorly for the non-fulltime-group player. These pages were dropped from elites, or from extremely specific monsters in Angmar and Misty Mountains, with a painful grind, sometimes requiring stages of quests completed to even reach. Knowing I’d never be able to do them, I’d mentally written them off and forgotten about them. Until, while smacking down some evil bandits of some sort I looted a page of Lore of the Blade and got the message about my deed being updated. I actually stopped playing and said “what?” out loud. A bit of research turned up that these now drop off appropriate leveled humanoids in each zone. Needless to say this was a home run for me. In my exit survey I specifically mentioned this, and seeing it there did more for my enjoyment of the game thus far.

In the closing hours of my weekend spare time, I managed to rejoin my old Kinship, which I was happy to find was still around, and thriving, and just as nice of a place as it was when I left. I found out about Outfits and managed to get myself some good looking adventuring clothes, which prevents the “you look like me!” syndrome, and I tamed my new bunny pet. I also wandered to the new continent of Forochel, and I really like it. It is VERY solo friendly, which is what I look for. It can also be done very well with a killing group, and you’ll not only tear through the content, but also have no problems with the few signature monsters tossed in to challenge you. In fact, I’d recommend taking a hunting buddy on these – it really makes the time go nicely.

The reputation system is one of the last things I tried to figure out. It seems like a massive time and resource sink. While there are some items I’d like to get from it, simple math showed me that I would be waiting for some time to unlock anything. While I need to play with it more to truly understand it, this seems like a treadmill for people who really need something to do.

In closing, LotRO is not the game it was eight months ago when I left. When I left, it was a WoW clone with Frodo on top and a side order of half-implemented ideas. Today, the game stands alone, although the housing idea may be copied from elsewhere, I’m not sure, but since everyone does it I wouldn’t be surprised. Even if they did, they are not LotWoW anymore. The game feels more fun, more in its own style, and looks visually different. If you have an itch for something new, and you haven’t been around old Middle-Earth for a while, you may want to give it a try. I’m glad I did, and I think I’ll be splitting my time between two worlds for a bit.

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Jaded old gamer, and father of gamers, who's been around long enough. Still, he's always up for giving the Next Big Thing a whirl.

10 thoughts on “Hobbits on Parade”

  1. Funny enough, I just started playing this again after a rough time earlier in the game. It may just be WoW burnout, but I find myself spending more and more time in Middle Earth.

    The favorite thing that I’ve found is that people are more than eager to group up for some quests. I had just about written off the epic storyline until I found out how easy PUGs form up.

  2. PuGs are often the thing you hear people complain most about, but prior to the debut of WoW, they were much more common, and not as bad. I remember forming pugs in many mmorpgs and only rarely having issues. WoW’s low entry bar and mass market appeal has unfortunately made pugs into what they are – usually filled with self-centric morons.

    In my weekend of LoTRO I had only one bad pug, and we did nothing. Trying to get a group to do an Angmar quest, I accepted an invite. The group leader asked me to go to the town, which I did. The other members were already there, except him, waiting. A few minutes later he rode into town, turned in some quests, disbanded the group, waved at us and rode off. Besides my few lost minutes of play time, I really didn’t lose anything, and while I was waiting another groupmate showed me how to fish, which was a nice new skill.

    The books require grouping, are forced grouping, and I’ve complained about them before. That said, book 6 completely soloable, and book 5 was as well, except for the last chapter. From conversations with kinmates (kinfolk?), it’s fairly easy to group for the later books, as most people do them at 50 in packs. I look forward to that. I expect it to be soon, honestly, as I got 6 levels fairly quickly. If they only had WoW’s exp-to-gold conversion at max level I’d be even more happy to hit the top level.

  3. Book 6 is soloable? Hmm, guess I’ll have to look into that when I get home then…

    One thing (of many) I love about the game is its in-game community. I PUG just about every day, and I’ve only had one iffy experience in the past year. WoW (and perhaps GW) gives PUGs a bad name. Every other MMO (and I’m becoming notorious for MMOADD) I have a great time in PUGs and meet some great people.

    Two classes to duo? There’s the obvious cornerstone duo of Guardian and Minstrel. You’re guaranteed to get groups that way too. Otherwise, Minstrel and Minstrel… hehe! Captain and Lore-master make a fantastic duo as well, especially once the Lore-master gets Share the Power at level 24. Captains burn through their power like crazy, so we Lore-master’s get to play the role of Energizer Bunny and keep them recharged. You’d think Minstrels would need recharging the most, but I’m recharging Captains at *least* 2-3 times as often as a Minstrel. Some hunters burn through their power too but I think they’re just blowing their wad on max dps and not paying attention to aggro so I only recharge them if no one more important needs power at the moment.

    One thing I notice in LOTRO is there is an incredible synergy between the classes. Solo is solo is solo in every MMO, but grouping in LOTRO just has a nice comfy feel and all the classes really seem to round each other out compared to other games.

  4. Oz: You must have been in some different EQ PUGs than I was in. Some of those people were… special.

  5. It’s nice you have found yourself a new home in the MMORPG scene. Especially, after you have already been in the game. I also tried Lotro for a month more or less. Although the game looked great, it wasn’t appealing. i couldn’t put my finger what was the reason. Everything was right, but still i had better times at WoW. One thing i found that was bugging me – was the lack of tactic when a party enters an instance. In Lotro it was basically “run and Gun”. With no need to consider or plan. To me it was major drawback.

  6. Well, in EQ I played on Test, and Test was (at that time, from release to 7 years or so later) pretty much filled with good quality people. Even in a pug, it was someone who knew what they were doing. Although, truth be told, it was less and less of a pug as time went on as we all tended to know each other. Even fights there were more like sibling rivalry.

    Had another LoTRO pug last night, this time through Fornost. We rolled through it in 3 hours (which was about double my planned play time, and I took a bit of slack for it), with the only death being on an accidental 8 pull, and that was only one person down, while the rest of us fought. My only complaint of it was how we decided to pass on the armor at the end and decide who got it, but the one person Needed it. Grrr. However, getting through that instance, quests and faction completed, was worth the small frustration that was.

  7. One of the favorite things I like doing in a MMO is taking a group through dungeons. While LOTR had lots of instances related to specific quests I found their dungeon progression pretty bad. While the barrows was very cool looking I noticed that people tended to only do it once for the quest rewards. In general not having a set loot table for any of the dungeons has hurt the incentive for doing them. Plus when I was playing there were really only the barrows, that red swamp, and fornost. I’ve heard they’ve added more but they don’t seem like a key part of the game like in other MMOs.

  8. @Guy Grimland

    “I also tried Lotro for a month more or less. Although the game looked great, it wasn’t appealing. i couldn’t put my finger what was the reason”

    I do not know how many times I keep reading this sentence over and over about this game from people..
    And it is true…
    It looks beautiful…except for the models and the UI. The quest progression system is awesome…yet seems to lack any real excitement..
    Maybe it is that…everything is mediocre at best…
    I know some avidly love the game and it’s “precious lore” (see what I did there.?..hehe)
    …but, as a game, it lacks…
    Also returning for the free weekend…at most I lasted 2 hours and went back to AoC Open Beta which was a blast…
    Age of Conan is refreshing and does it a little different, and is more exciting to play overall (you had to actually pay attention in combat)…
    Innovation was key to me for AoC, and hopefully Moria will help Turbine and make them innovate as well
    Good luck Turbine!

  9. I’m glad Openedge1 is enjoying AoC anyway. They upgraded me to full Closed Beta when they ended the Technical Beta program a few weeks ago. I have two characters and haven’t managed to stay interested long enough to even get them out of Tortage. From what I’ve read, Tortage is the worst part of the game (I know I’d certainly agree) but making me wait 20 levels to see the “real game” is making me wait 19 levels too many.

    It took perhaps three combat rounds to notice very obviously that this is still the old-school turn-based combat, it’s just making me press 1,2,3 more often (button mashing). I’m not seeing any strategy there, it’s more like “Simon Says: mob is not blocking left” so I hit him on the left with either a combo or single blow, then wait for the next combat round to see if the mob changes which direction he blocks. The rounds are fast, I’ll give it that much, but it’s not nearly fast enough to be considered ‘twitch’ by a long shot.

    Best part of AoC has been the music; the tracks are among the most cinematic feeling I’ve heard in a game in a long time.

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