Friday, May 20, 2016

Happy Hour at the Prancing Pony

But Sam turned to Bywater, and so came back up the Hill, as day was ending once more. And he went on, and there was yellow light, and fire within; and the evening meal was ready, and he was expected. And Rose drew him in, and set him in his chair, and put little Elanor upon his lap.

He drew a deep breath."Well, I'm back," he said.
--The Return of the King, JRR Tolkien

Last week I finally finished the original Epic campaign in LOTRO, the Shadows of Angmar.

It's been a while, probably since the original time through the SWTOR Smuggler story, that I've been reduced to sitting and looking at the screen, saying, "Wow."

Yes, I'm a bit of a (lapsed) Tolkien geek, so it was only natural that I figured out who certain baddies were long before the game started bashing people over the head with obvious hints.*

I'd also quipped to the oldest mini-Red that while this was supposed to take place prior to the Fellowship leaving Rivendell, you can tell that this was designed for "MMO Middle-earth", as there'd be no way a player could get back and forth from Ered Luin to Rivendell to Angmar to Forochel in anything resembling a "short" 2-3 month time span.

But that's fine. You can't expect a game to maintain it's dramatic tension by adhering religiously to the full scope of Tolkien's creation. "Moving at the speed of plot" is the watchword here.

What stood out the most to me about Shadows of Angmar was that the LOTRO development team wasn't afraid to make one of the big baddies a woman, and a clever, cunning, yet complex woman at that. It is something that you'd not see in Tolkien's work itself, outside of perhaps Ungoliant or Shelob, but in a game designed for the 21st Century it worked very well.

I can see the Tolkien purists not liking the Shadows of Angmar epic questline, but then again I can also see them disliking LOTRO itself in the same way that they dislike the LotR movies: if it doesn't religiously adhere to the books, then it must not be worth playing/watching. What I do believe, however, is that you can remain faithful to the source material while expanding upon it. The devs made logical conclusions based on the source material, and that enhance the overall MMO experience. Even when the source material indicated some things, such as the Dunedain of the North maintaining some settlements in The Angle** after the fall of Arthedain, that didn't detract from the story driven placement of the hidden Ranger encampment of Esteldin in the North Downs.


The funny thing is, even with some revisions to zones such as the Trollshaws, LOTRO is still decidedly an Old School style MMO. The Epic questline takes you back and forth across Eriador in a way that is simply not done in WoW these days. While such trooping back and forth isn't realistic due to the timeline involved, it does provide an epic scope to the story.

Another thing that made my leveling easier was my familiarity with MMO tropes. While the mini-Reds will do their own thing and collect quests here and there, I'm so used to MMO-style quest collection*** that I just leveled very quickly without intending to. I'd not exactly say I power leveled, because to me power leveling is something that takes you from L1 through L50 in a week or two, but the mini-Reds kept remarking on how quickly I shot up to the low 50s. "When seven years playing MMOs you reach, leveling as fast you will" was my reply.

I also had the benefit of them having used my account for their initial forays into LOTRO, so they'd unlocked some areas --such as Forochel and Angmar-- without me needing to use my steady collection of Turbine Points to keep moving forward. But for me the biggest boon was that they unlocked the gold cap, which helped me out a LOT. Especially when I finally had to dip my toe into the auction house to buy a weapon, as my (then) current weapon was woefully inadequate for the zones I was in.


When the Epic storyline is complete, you really have a sense of accomplishment. It may not be THE epic storyline of Middle-earth at the end of the Third Age, but you can be satisfied that you struck a blow against the Shadow in the North.

But the best part? You didn't need to raid to complete the story. Sure, you can raid, but it's not the necessary to finish the Shadows of Angmar. I can see where this is the genesis of SWTOR's idea for the original class story to be completely separate --and designed for solo play-- away from the rest of the SWTOR stories. Sure, you can get a fellowship to help, but if you play it smart you can solo the Epic questline courtesy of the Inspiration buff.

Now, I suppose it's time to grind a bit to unlock the Moria expac....

And go back to SWTOR, too, I suppose.

*Well, to me they were obvious.

**Just south of Rivendell. It's location would be ideal to have the protection of the House of Elrond without drawing attention to itself.

***You know, the type that focuses on a single area from a quest hub and then you move onto the next quest hub. LOTRO isn't so neat and clean in that regard, but compartmentalizing the story by focusing on a single quest hub at a time speeds things up considerably. Besides, why would you want to kill all those bears twice??


  1. Congratulations on the achievement! It took me several years myself to finish LOTRO's epic storyline. There were just so many sidequests and so many areas to explore that distracted me from it! While there are no raids involved with the quests, there used to be some group instances regularly. I'm not entirely happy with how they handled that once it was decided the story should be soloable (which I'm not against, mind you), though. At some points you can chose to either do the group or solo version - this is the best option, in my opinion - but at others you get the overpowered Inspired Greatness buff forced upon you, making everything laughably easy.

    And I totally agree Amarthiel is a great villain. It reminds me that you don't see many female villains in Hollywood movies either, although I think it's become better. We can truly celebrate equality when people of colour also can be villains among white people without this being perceived as politically incorrect.

    1. I've discovered that some of the Epic Questline's instance content is easier for some classes than others. The attempted rescue in Angmar right about the time you ding L50 is much easier on a melee class that can get and hold aggro, while the oldest mini-Red's Hunter was unable to complete that quest as the person you were escorting kept dying.

      (Hey, I said that all without giving anything away!)

      I suspect if my Champion were at purely L50 that the end of the questline would be just out of reach, DPS-wise. Kind of like how I simply can't bring down the corrupted Huorn in Garth Agarwen, even though I'm a bit over 20 levels higher: I can DPS down to a certain point, but then I run out of Power and then that Huorn is able to kill me off due to attrition. However, the oldest mini-Red was able to sit back there and kill off the Huorn from distance without much of an issue.

      I had the reward for the Epic Questline up on the wall in my personal house, but since a couple of the mini-Reds have toons on my account on that server, I took it down so I wouldn't have to explain where I got that from.... ;-)