As I deathmarch to Rohan, most of my time in Lord of the Rings Online (“LOTRO”) has been in the Dunland zone so far. I hit level 70 last night, and I seem to be able to pull about a level per night. I do admit that the leveling speed to “catch up” is tiring compared to the leveling speed I had gotten used to in Guild Wars 2. I am enjoying the content, but I want to be at Rohan.
So far I have enjoyed three distinct hubs in North Dunland. The first hub, surrounds the plight of the Stag Clan defending itself against the Dragon Clan, which appears to be backed by the White Hand. Overall, it is the best hub of the three with its use of phasing and geographical content.
After Guild Wars 2, and coming back to a very quest-based MMO, I have come to view quests in a different light. I think immersion and story goes a long way, at least for me, on the actual quest. In one portion of the first hub, I found a wounded woman in the field who seemed like the only survivor of a Dragon Clan attack. I went and did a kill ten rats quest, but it was for vengeance. Then I escorted her back to the main Stag Clan village. Very tried and true quest mechanics, but Turbine’s use of them within LOTRO can be very good.
It can feel like filler too. In Galtrev, the second hub, I felt like I was doing chores to gain people’s trust. I hate that. It feels like a lazy use of a quest. ‘I don’t trust you. Go gather shipments, and I might.’ It is one thing to make trust a theme, like it was in Enedwaith where a whole hub and story was built around building trust. It is another to use it as the ice-breaker before getting in to the meat of the local problems. Galtrev started out fairly weak, but the end of the hub is great as we lessen the shackles of the White Hand.
The third hub was interesting because it was within an instanced or phased portion of the Falcon Clan’s area. I was helping them prepare for war against the White Hand. Like Galtrev, it was very chore based, but the whole theme was preparation. These small changes, I feel, can go a long way towards taking tired mechanics and making them work. It was even better because my Ranger companions were complaining about having to help the Falcon clan with grunt work preparation. Basically if we had the Falcon Clan attacking Isengard, the Fellowship could sneak by Saruman’s gaze. Theme can really set the stage in quest-based MMOs.
I ended the night on a bit of a sad note. Level 70 was a nice waypoint towards Rohan, and I felt that with the gold I had banked a nice gear upgrade would be of order. The Auction House was pitifully empty of stuff around my level range, including legendary weapons, which I was hoping to replace. Thankfully a few kinfolk are helping me out, and with my gracious benefactor, I should get to 74-75 with pretty good leveling gear.