I just finished Volume 3, Book 2 of the epic line in Lord of the Rings Online (LOTRO), which means I am over the content hump in the Enedwaith region. I have a few thoughts in no particular order:
I am really digging the really different quest hub designs in Enedwaith. Sure, the chore hub of Maur Tulhau was the low point, but I agree with Vantec that, for at least this hub, chore quests are working as intended. Echad Dagoras is the first quest hub that branches outward as saved Rangers phase in to the quest hub, while the tribal town of Lhaunuch compresses inward to a culmination of the quest hub in a well-written showdown between the tribesman and Isengard with me as the unbalancer.
My favorite place was the sub-zone of the Mournshaws. It was an overbearing forest at night, but during the day it was relaxed. The dichotomy was pretty well designed. There is no central hub per se, but the Wild Hunt quest chain to seek out the Elder Spirit was pretty good. Turbine has some really good lore expansions sometimes. I quite enjoyed the otherworldliness of the Gloomglens followed with spirit world offerings of the Mournshaws.
I climbed up Nar’s Peak once. It has a mustering horn and a milestone at the top of the trail. I was there to finish Book 2, and wouldn’t you know it but the Ranger Corunir is there ready to start Book 4! Wait, I would have to re-climb this 5 minute winding path to this desolate poor excuse for a quest hub two books from now? That didn’t seem fun. So I bought my first extra milestone waypoint skill. Until I start Book 4, it will be forever linked to Nar’s Peak. Seriously, I think I would rather log and wait an hour than weave my way through elite wurms and up the winding climb.
This got me thinking about LOTRO’s business model. I just dropped about $3.5o worth of points (considerably less if points bought on sale) so that once in awhile I wouldn’t have to spend 5 minutes on the climb up Nar’s Peak. Eventually I think most players will want to buy one or two more milestone skills, and honestly it feels like a pretty good purchase. Buying it definitely gave me a significant benefit, and I think Turbine is more than fair in most of their store offerings. Getting by on $10-15/month especially if the savvy stick to Turbine Point sales seems ridiculously easy in comparison to many other F2P games.
Sure, I just bought “power” in the sense of time, but I am still not thinking that I have seen anything “unfair.” There is a difference between “feeling” the need for an item, and actually “needing” it. Since I have come back to LOTRO with the embedded cash shop I am having a hard time seeing any objective wrong. Perhaps if I hadn’t saved up 8,000 Turbine Points I would have a different outlook. For the most part it feels like I would spend less money on LOTRO than on the normal subscription game, and unlike the normal subscription game, the moment I do choose to spend some money on a cash shop item, I get something cool. That’s a pretty neat feeling.