When LotRO went free-to-play it also included the sweetener of a new region and quest hubs for long-terms players. Obviously, WoW has also just released some new content (though in a much larger expansion scenario). And because I play both games, I thought it might be interesting to compare a few things about them. Of course, the WoW content is vastly larger, it’s a full on expansion of Blizzard proportions, and in that way there’s no comparison. But interestingly enough, a lot of the LotRO content experience is reflected in the new high-end zones in WoW.
LotRO is very story-driven. From Eregion/Moria onwards the design aesthetic has been to lead characters from quest-hub to quest-hub, directing them from one to the other, but allowing for some going off-path. I can go to the last hub in Moria and pick up quests there, but I will miss the story-flow quests that direct from one to the next so I still have a choice of the order I go in, but the experience will be more fluid if I go as the designers intended. It works in LotRO because the story is one of the appealing things about the IP and one of the strong points to the MMO.
Enedwaith follows the same pattern. Characters are helping small quest hubs, while also aiding in the main storyline. You start at Fordirith and work your way down to Thror’s Coomb. There’s various landscapes from marshes to snow-capped mountains, the quests are neat and tidy and often make way to repeatable faction quests for the two factions (The Grey Company and The Algraig). The music is stand-out, my favourite to date in LotRO. Ok, so there’s not THAT much content to get through, but this isn’t a proper expansion – we didn’t pay for it and it’s been diverting.
What’s really interesting is that the new high-end areas of WoW follow a similar pattern, while offering the traditional Blizzard bling and polish. And players, not as accustomed to linear questing, are finding it a bit.. odd. You have a choice of two zones, first of all – Mount Hyjal and helping the Ancients get themselves ready for war, or the underwater and therefore ‘cooler’ Vash’jir. They both start at level 80 and you’re directed to both from capital cities when your level 80 logs into Cataclysm. Both share linear questing from small hub to small hub. But because of clever phasing (which enables the mountain to break into flower at one point) you can’t really mess up the order all that much. Sure you can go ahead and scout the area (or mine/herb/whatever) but you won’t get the same questing experience at all.
I went to Mount Hyjal first, based purely on the fact I found the portal to there first! After grabbing the first flight master at Nordrassil I got diverted by everyone talking about seahorses and underwater questing and went to Vash’jir instead. After a couple of quest hubs, I decided to go back to Mount Hyjal and finish a long chain. I like both zones. As someone quite used to linear questing, I didn’t find it off-putting at all – in fact, it made me pay more attention to the storyline I was following. I think that’s why I went back to Hyjal to see it through to the end. I’m really really loving the storyline, something I’ve not personally felt in WoW before (mind you, as I only recently returned, I had to level from 1-80 in ‘catch-up’ mode, so this is also the first time I’ve had a chance to sit back and smell the roses). I’ve not skipped any quest so far, either. The nature of the story has meant even when I found the quest annoying or difficult (I will fully admit I didn’t like bird jousting that much), I plugged away at it because I wanted to help the Ancient in question.
I guess I don’t have a point to make, except that I’m really enjoying Mount Hyjal and can’t wait to go back and play through every quest in Vash’jir to read that storyline too. It may seem bland questing to some, but I’m finding it a really pleasant experience storywise. And the fact I’m used to it from LotRO obviously isn’t hurting at all!