Sunset in the Lonelands. It’s always been a very pretty game …
I have been spending time with LOTRO recently; I can’t really explain why but it is my go-to game when I just want to chill out. Everything in this game seems to happen at a slower pace, questing is slower, crafting is slower, people wave as they ride past you … If WoW is a busy anonymous metropolis, then LOTRO is a country town where people just live at a slower pace.
My Warden is the first alt I’ve gotten up to level 30. I feel as though I’m on a roll, temporarily at least. It can’t be fair that my Warden gets to jet around the world (several teleport-like abilities that aren’t on a timer) where everyone else has to take the long way round, but it is fun. The class also has a very fun core combat mechanic which is based on using combinations of base skills to make combos that produce different results (ie. self HoT, heavy strike, buff to defensive abilities, etc). And because she’s a hobbit, she also gets a toned down version of burglar stealth as a racial, which is handy for sneaking past nasties if you are careful.
LOTRO itself is not really very alt friendly. There’s nothing stopping you from creating alts, but there are mechanics which encourage you to go deep into your characters, rather than rattle them up to max level via PUGs and have them outfitted in under a week. If you are a perfectionist, you can work on multiple different virtues which are levelled via a variety of exploration, quest, and killing grinds in every different zone in the game. Or you can spend more time on your crafting skills. Or work on those skirmish points. Or settle into a purely questing mindset, or focus on the epic storyline quests. Or grind a level appropriate rep, if the reputation based recipes or mount catches your eye. You probably get the picture: it’s a game which offers a lot of options, especially to levelling players. All of them are based on core MMO gameplay (so it’s not the game for anyone looking for something revolutionary) but to my mind it’s probably the strongest old school/ classic MMO on the market, beating out EQ2 due to having such a strong and consistent gameworld.
Levelling has been interesting because since this really is the first alt I’ve had at this level, many of the zones and quests I’m checking out are ones I literally haven’t seen for years (I levelled my burglar when the game came out.) Plus of course newer zones such as Evendim, and Forochel (which is one of my goals in the future.)
I have a permanent sub so I’m not able to really comment on the F2P side of things. Occasionally it intrudes into gameplay, “You have reached your task limit for the day, click here to buy more tasks in the cash shop,” but mostly it’s become background noise. Some of the integration works especially well. If you look at the cosmetic clothing screen, next to each item is a button for the cash shop for that clothing slot. If you click, it will bring up the selection of cosmetic items for that slot which are available to buy for cash (which is a small subset of all the cosmetics that are available via play.) It looks and feels very much like shopping for clothes in an online shop and makes it very easy to ‘try on’ the cosmetic gear to see whether it matches what you already have.
As part of the permanent membership, I get some free cash shop points every month and since I haven’t used these, that all adds up to a large wodge of spare points to spend. Turbine really do need to encourage permies to use up some of these points, otherwise they won’t be able to get any more actual cash out of us, and I think there is a lot of curiosity as to how much they will charge in points for the next expansion.
Tasks: Or what to do with your trash drops
Tasks are new since I last levelled an alt. All the main towns now have a bulletin board which offers tasks to level-appropriate characters. The tasks involve gathering trash drops from the local mobs, which you will probably be killing anyway if you do the local quests.
But intriguingly, it doesn’t matter whether you pick up the task before or after killing the mob. So if you roll into town with your bags full of slimy ooze, sharp claws, and patches of leathery skin and find a task that matches the trash, you can pick it up and hand it in immediately. If you still have any of your trash drops left, you can even repeat the task until you run into your daily task limit.
This is very close to the Bears Bears Bears offer in WAR, in which players were promised that if a quest giver wanted you to kill some mobs and you’d just killed them before accepting the quest, the quest giver would recognise that fact.
The main downside is that bag space in LOTRO is a precious commodity and so you can’t really wander around with unlimited amounts of goo, ooze, skin, feathers, etc just on the offchance you run into a relevant task board at your level. But it does feel a bit like a wandering game of snap where you roll into town and see if the contents of your bags match up to any of the task offers before selling up.