So, the latest LOTRO expansion was released earlier this week. I’m not sure expansion is really the right name for it, but there’s plenty of new content for high level characters and lots of class changes.
The game has been busier than I have seen it for a long time, underlying Turbine’s claim that Rise of Isengard is their biggest selling expansion for LOTRO of all time. The game does allow for multiple instances of zones when the player load is especially heavy, and I’ve been seeing that a lot this week (so if you get an unexpected zone load message when entering or leaving an area, it’s because your character is being assigned one of the multiple instances.)
The storytelling so far in the expansion has been of Turbine’s usual high quality. Unlike most other MMOs, LOTRO doesn’t digress hugely with gonzo zones or plotlines, and is mostly bound to its core lore and background. So in many ways the challenges for writers are how to make the zone storylines fresh and interesting when they are bound to involve similar NPCs and themes.
One theme they have been working with is that the human settlements become more and more influenced by Saruman the closer you get to Isengard. So in Enedwaith (the last zone), the human camps were in the process of speaking to emissaries from the white tower and the PCs (along with the Grey Company, the rangers with whom they are travelling) had to persuade them not to cut the deal. In the end, I seem to remember that they decided to remain neutral, which we counted as a win – sort of.
Now in Dunland (first of the new zones) the first large town we encounter is already allied with Saruman and is fielding men and supplies to his armies. But there are still some rebellious factions who would prefer to be free … your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find them and help their cause.
I find this interesting because it’s a similar storyline to the first Horde encampment in Twilight Highlands, in WoW. There you also encounter a town which has been taken over by a cruel overlord and have to help the rebels take over. It’s just that in WoW it’s all over and done with in a handful of quests and then you can move on. In LOTRO, you get the extended version in which you get to know more of the individuals. Although the game can feel a bit glacial, I quite enjoy the contrast of the slower storylines.
- Minstrels seem very powerful in this expansion. Just from hearing kinmates chat about how much they are enjoying soloing.
- A new crafting tier. Many of the recipes are available from random drops (which has also been true in previous tiers) and in the excitement of a new expansion, it’s still quite cool to get one. That will fade fast, I am sure.
- One of the themes in the new epic book so far is encouraging players to choose whether they want to stay in an area and finish all the other quests before picking up the next book quest. You always had those options, but now they’re explicitly saying things like, “Decide for yourself how long you want to stay and help the men of **wherever** before going to the next ranger.”
- Whilst LOTRO storytelling is pretty cool, I don’t think it’s all that plausible that elves, dwarves or hobbits could really pass as potential allies to the Saruman-allied men of Dunland.
- I don’t really think my burglar has the best disguise ever either. (She’s wearing one of those typical ‘burglar’ domino masks. I love it, but it does scream “I AM A BURGLAR!”)