Friday, February 19, 2016

Hitching a Ride to Duillond and Back

I've been making time this week to do some low level questing in LOTRO with the mini-Reds. Considering that I only leveled up to around L16 or so the last time I played before ceding the game to them, I figured it wouldn't take too long to go past that.

I'd forgotten that the initial leveling process for LOTRO is a bit like the pre-Cataclysm WoW system as you tend to get shuttled around quite a bit in the low level zones. For example, if you start as an Elf (as I did), one of the quests takes you up to Duillond to try to convince the brother of a quest giver to forsake Middle-earth and take a ship to the West.* That brother then sends you out to find the remains of a sword used by a Dunedain compatriot long ago, and then once secured you're sent all the way back to the initial quest giver. That quest giver then sends you up farther north to yet another hub. The back and forth in the middle, while important to the quest line, is a bit tedious to a brand new toon who has to hoof it back and forth.**

That's me, a glorified messenger boy.
(No, I haven't created any female toons yet.)

By the time Cataclysm was released and SWTOR dropped, the leveling experience had been tweaked to minimize back and forth movement throughout a zone: you collect your quests, do them, and then once you turn them in you're sent to the next quest hub. The back and forth of the previous example would have been eliminated, either by a form of phasing that would cause the two brothers to be together at Duillond (Wildstar or post-Cata WoW), or a Story Zone instance (SWTOR).

The quirks of questing aside, LOTRO still holds up well. World Chat was lively yet thankfully free from the sewer level of filth and trolling found in WoW's Trade Chat. My oldest was a bit annoyed at people feeding a few trolls, but to be honest those trolls were pretty mellow compared to those I've seen on most other MMOs.

Another part of the game that let you know you were in LOTRO was the competition for resources in the low level zones. While there are still instances of people ninja looting, I found people being respectful of others when they were fighting the baddies next to a quest object they were looking for. I suspect that the (relatively) quick respawn times helped alleviate that issue***, but still that speaks to the average LOTRO player that they weren't acting like jerks simply because they could.


These low level experiences, grouping up with the mini-Reds who were excited to share their favorite MMO with me, have been fantastic. Unlike the times when we play SWTOR, you can tell that while they like that game, they really love this one.

I can't say there have been memorable "can you believe we did THAT?" moments, but just having them there, doing their thing, or tagging along and healing while I putzed along, was great.

I wonder if this is what it is like for family who use MMOs to keep in touch across the country; these are the same tools that people use for guilds, but when family is involved the feeling is quite different. Even though they're upstairs and I'm downstairs.

*One nice part of LOTRO is that they remain consistent with the world of LoTR itself. While a reader of The Silmarillion would almost expect them to say "The Undying Lands", the quest giver here says "The West" instead, which is how the Undying Lands were presented in LoTR.

**Yes, LOTRO has Stable Masters who operate like a taxi or a flightpath, but you still have to reach places in LOTRO on foot to unlock those Stable Master points, particularly on the within-zone Stable Master locations. Unless you knew they were there as I did, a new player could just as easily have missed them and ran all the way across Ered Luin to complete this questline.

***Thankfully, they weren't as quick as found in Age of Conan, where a player would never be able to clear an immediate area of enemies before they started respawning. You have no idea how annoying that is, knowing that you'll never be able to clear things out enough to take on a boss without having to worry about a bunch of regular enemies jumping you from behind. And in Age of Conan, two mobs can take out one toon at level without blinking.

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