(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.