Tuesday, October 7, 2008

LOTRO: Storytelling and World Building

Well, LOTRO's latest free re-trial weekend is over, and I figured I might as well get a second post on the topic for my troubles. A few rambling thoughts:

- The High Pass area of the Misty Mountains is larger than I thought. This sub-region, which adds a good third or so to the zone, wasn't ready for launch (along with lots of other things), and I didn't really need it during LOTRO's last free re-trial weekend since I had effectively grinded my way past the level gap it was supposed to patch. Anyway, I wandered back in there to finish the last quest deed I hadn't done, and I was suitably impressed. Aside: There is no compensation for EXP you don't get due to being at the level cap, which is a bit of a flaw because it greatly lessens the incentives to keep doing stuff.

- I've forgotten how pretty this game is. With the graphics set to max on my gaming machine, it really outshines WoW and Warhammer at their equivalent settings. Maybe this is because of the DX10 support, I don't know. Also, the orchestral music is rather well done, even if you do start wishing they'd learn a few new pieces after a while.

Odd graphical glitch, or has Elrond finally snapped and installed Manaforge Rivendell? You decide!

- I'll admit that I'm the first to complain when a season event makes it too hard to get ahold of a special mount. That said, I'll concede that LOTRO's Harvest festival makes it a bit too easy. All you need to replace your plain horse/pony with a special tricked out version is win a short horse race (at worst, you'll be up against 3 other players, but the race is run every 10 minutes, even if it's some obscure hour and no one else is online) and six festival tokens (you can get 1-3 tokens each for simply showing up at the four racial starting areas, and an additional 3 for completing a hide-and-seek emote quest in each area). Cosmetic rewards should definitely be attainable, but they don't need to be obtainable in 20 minutes.

Allarond's new horse, and a bonus pumpkin mask. Wonder what a Hobbit would look like on a Kodo....

- I've made this comment before, but LOTRO really puts a lot of time and effort into the world-building side of the game. The patch notes include a lengthy apology for having to have the members of the Fellowship available in Rivendell for existing quests after they've moved on in game time. (If you enter one of the rooms where the Fellowship is hanging out, you'll see a date displayed to remind you that the events you're witnessing already happened.) This kind of little detail really makes a difference in the game world; WoW just shrugs, nods, and winks as it places the same NPC in multiple zones. The fully customizable costume system is also a far bigger featuire than I would have admitted before trying it - who would have thought of allowing your character to look however you want them to!

- The only downside to the setting is that the player's character is, well, not an actual member of the Fellowship of the Ring. The game's way of dealing with this is to weave a tale of various threats AROUND the Fellowship that would have caused problems if the player characters hadn't been there. The issue comes up when you walk in the front door of Rivendell and have Aragorn, who you may or may not have met previously, ask you to go get a crucial item that he needs to have Anduril re-forged. Or when Elrond has the player's character summoned to Rivendell for the sole purpose of seeing The Fellowship off, and half of the gang are sad that they can't invite you to join the group. Somehow, I prefer my iconic NPC's to be a bit less likely to need my help.

Uh, Aragorn, I'm a freshly dinged level 50 Champion, there are a dozen of us milling about the AH. Also, when the expansion comes out, I'm probably going to take off after you guys instead of doing what you're asking me to and staying to guard Eregion. See you guys in Lorien, thank that noob Gandalf for kiting the Balrog out of Drak's room for me, will you?

- Going forward, I'm curious how the game is going to handle the expansion. Currently, the game is geographically centered around Bree. Travel is already less than convenient at times (I might even have said an unkind word about it), and that's WITH the advantage of having the human racial teleport (excuse me, lengthy but uneventful off-camera journey) to Bree. Are players going to be based out of Rivendell for the Moria portion of the expansion, moving on to Lorien later and leaving Bree behind? Are there going to be towns and questgivers in Moria (/cringe)?

Anyway, that's another nice little visit to Middle Earth. LOTRO is rather well done, and it's a shame that Turbine just hasn't been able to make anything to make it worth staying there long-term.

No comments: