Speak friend, and enter

My continuing adventures in Middle Earth started when Zavvi went bust. Drifting round the closing sale and assorted wreckage like a retail vulture riding the winds of recession tsunami (Ed: that’s enough florid metaphor for this week), I found the Moria Expansion and … the rest is a mystical blur but somehow it hopped into my hands, came home,  installed itself on my PC and the rest is history.

With stunning personal timing, all this happened about a fortnight before Codemasters are offering a free Welcome Back week to returners anyway (note: this is in Europe only, and it starts THIS MONDAY).

I’ve been enjoying it. LOTRO is a very pretty game and the early zones capture the pastoral feel of the Shire and Bree achingly well. The world may not live but it definitely breathes.

Things I have noticed since playing LOTRO again:

  1. I really really miss my red quest blobs on the maps from WAR
  2. LOTRO is truly the game of stupid hats. How had I forgotten that?
  3. The storyline quests are amazing, but apart from that there are a lot of ‘kill ten rats’ and ‘run from one end of the zone to the other and then back again’ quests. Compared to Wrath, it’s like going back 10 years in quest design.
  4. Players in LOTRO are generally really friendly. eg. I was smelting some ore in one of the crafting areas and two different people offered to make things for me if I had some materials.
  5. Elves in LOTRO are actually attractive. This puts them miles ahead of either WAR or WoW’s Night Elves.
  6. Hobbits really do fish from bridges in the Shire. I ran past several players doing this, and every time it made me smile.
  7. Every game needs cosmetic clothing and I need to get my new character to level 20!

More on the Runekeeper

I do have a high level burglar (well, high level pre-expansion) which is a fun melee utility class. LOTRO has several utility classes, their approach to hybrids has generally been to broaden them rather than to specialise them. So their hybrid issues are more to do with hybrids competing with each other than hybrids competing with pure classes.

elvish runekeeper with a stupid hat

A game of hats

Much as I like my burglar, what really lured me in to buying the expansion was the chance to try the new classes.

The runekeeper is a caster/ healer. Over the course of a fight, she builds up her attunement to either damage or healing by casting spells of the right type. And the higher her attunement the more powerful the spells.

So this isn’t really a burst damage or healing class, it takes time to build up some steam.

It’s also not a class that can switch suddenly between one role and another. There might be abilities later on that make it possible to do this in emergencies.

But basically if you have been nuking, the only heal available to you is a weak HoT. And if you have been healing, your only immediate nuke is a small insta.

It is also a single target type of class. There may be more AE damage or healing later on but I haven’t seen it yet.

There is some very limited crowd control available also. The runekeeper gets a snare which breaks on damage and a short stun which is on point blank range.

What this all means is that Turbine have managed to create the only nuker/healer class ever that is bad at soloing. I’m not entirely sure how it will work out in groups either, but I’ll be intrigued to find out.I really did struggle with my runekeeper early on, it was more frustrating than any other class I have recently played. This could be because other games keep you more overpowered at lower levels to draw players in.

In either case, it was frustrating. But I am glad I stuck with it. At level 15 all LOTRO characters have access to a class quest which takes place in a one-man instance. I have always loved this idea. The brilliant thing about class quests is that they can be designed to make full use of class abilities. And the runekeeper one is a doozy. It takes you to the top of Weathertop during a thunderstorm, and is an intensely atmospheric experience. I jumped every time the lightning struck. LOTRO does atmosphere better than any game I know.

And, in order to do the quest, you need to figure out the class and how to make its abilities fit together. In terms of learning to play a class, this was probably the best of the solo class quests that I have seen.

Fresh with my new runic knowledge and having a better idea of what sort of monsters I am ready to take on solo, I have reached the dizzy heights of level 17.

When to guild

I hadn’t rejoined my old kinship when I first logged back into the game because I wanted some time to wander around and decide if I might be staying for a few months or not. I figure that if it’s just a peaceful diversion, no sense in making any commitments or confusing people with new members who just drift off immediately.

But I am enjoying the different pace and I want to see how the runekeeper works out. Also, I liked the kinship so I’m happy to chat with them again. I rejoined yesterday.

It does feel strangely humbling, knowing that I have been in solid friendly guilds in several different games. And even when I take a few months (or years in some cases!) out, they are happy to have me back. There’s a lot to be said for leaving graciously, and also for guilds being open to old members rejoining. It’s nice to be back.