I stood again in Middle-earth.
In was in Archet, one of the small towns around Bree, and the forces of Sauron prepared to strike.
I was in Lord of the Rings Online.
My new character was set to start out on the long… six years long at this point which, if we were following the timeline of the books, would put us past the Grey Havens and into the Fourth Age… road to Mordor to throw down the dark lord.
Or, more likely, to get about as far as Rivendell then give up in a fit of ennui and go off to play some other game.
About two years back I wrote a post titled “LOTRO – Our Story So Far” that covered the various “ages” of the game for myself and our group. I probably need to update it. At that point we had been through three “ages,” which were launch, return, and return again, each time on a different server, rolling up fresh characters. The fourth time was going to be different, as we were going to pick up again on the same server. And I did make it into Moria that time around.
But eventually that petered out for the group, once again at the far end of the Lone Lands. I have been through the Lone Lands enough times that when NPCs greet me by name, I am pretty sure it goes beyond simple coding.
There was a fifth run at the game at some point last year, when I joined the Nazgun on yet another server, with the usual result. I have characters at least into their 30s on Windfola, Nimrodel, Firefoot, and Silverlode.
And now I am at what I would guess is the sixth “age,” joining our EVE corp in Middle-earth. Of course, while the odds of picking a server where I already have a character grows ever higher as the years go by, they still missed. And so I ended up rolling fresh on the Brandywine server.
Much is still the same with LOTRO, including my need to take the same screen shots every time.
Since it is time again for another plunge into Tolkienland Online, I thought I would mention a bit of what has changed in virtual Middle-earth.
More after the cut due to an excess of pictures and uninformed opinions.
Of course, a lot of the core of the game remains exactly as it was back at launch six years ago. You start in a little intro instance, which shows you the very basics of the game. I rolled a “man” hunter named Tistann, which is practically a default option in the game by this point, and spoke a bit with Strider (who was added to the intro post-launch, as the humans initially didn’t have a member of the fellowship in their intro, unlike the other races), killed a few guys just because he told me to, and then got dropped into the Archet intro zone.
It was at that point I became very glad that I purchased the sixth bag from the LOTRO store a while back. Every new character I roll now comes with about a bag and a half of stuff.
The starter zone has been trimmed down a bit. But there is still the quest that gives you the plumed hat, which along with my Rohan cosmetic gear, pretty much sets my “look” for the game going forward.
There is also a new quest towards the end where some no-name hunter out at the lodge asks you to take a nap. My first thought was, “Take a nap? Are you kidding me? Have you seen the boar and wolf population out there?” Then I thought this might end up in some inappropriate… um… emotes? He just happened to have a bedroll spread out on the floor next to him?
However, my completionist urges overrode the unmarked white van warning signs and I clicked on the bedroll, only to find myself talking to Galadriel in my dreams.
Things must be quiet in Lothlorien, as she has time to troll the dreams of random strangers. I guess this is meant to make me feel important, right up there with the main fellowship, as opposed to a side player destined to forever being marking trail and cleaning up after the nine walkers. But I have to guess that even the small boost this might give you fades the third or fourth time you see it.
Galadriel showed me images of things that were happening, like some sort of rave in Angmar. She also showed me images of things she claimed not to understand, like Gandalf standing on a bridge, Colin Farrell being cast as Boromir, and why Moria is lit in blue light like some sort of dance club.
And then she bid me farewell and I woke up to find my pants were undone.
Then it was time to finish up the instance, watch that dirty screw Ned Pruner get his, chase of some minions of Sauron, tee-up the “Chasing Amdir” quest chain, and join the rest of the game in the… um… real world of Middle-earth. That remained the same, but some mechanics have changed.
To start with, they have done away with looting corpses.
After a few fights, I noticed some new icons on the lower right of my screen.
The one in the middle, the little loot bag, is an indication that you have loot. It gets removed from the corpse automatically, without you having to run over and get it, along with any coins. This is actually kind of convenient as a hunter, since you end up shooting fleeing mobs in the back often enough. It took me a while to stop actually going to corpses, but I got used to it after a bit.
When you have loot, you click on the new little icon and get a window to collect your loot.
As with chasing down corpses, it took me a bit to not feel the need to clear that icon after every fight. You can let stuff build up there for a while and, presumably, if you have run out of bad space, leave it be until you hit a vendor and clear some room. Just don’t let the time run out.
Of course, it is not fool proof. One of the old problems with LOTRO was getting quest unique drops on multiple mobs if you didn’t loot them right away. You would end up with some unlootable mobs at that point. Now, you end up with unclaimable items in you pending loot window.
Along with the loot, they also consolidated the alerts into one icon… the little scroll with the number, which indicates the quantity of pending alerts… so you do now end up with so many on the screen. LOTRO just loves to send you little alerts. You get one every time you start a deed, complete a deed, get a title, earn some Turbine Points, or get mail.
Not good or bad changes, just different. I quickly grew used to them. It is nice to be able to ignore some of those alerts until you have a free moment.
And then, once you have become accustomed to the pattern, the game does a “gotcha!” When you harvest out in the field, that does NOT get put off into a tidy little icon. That throws up a window you have to deal with right away. Bah!
Ah well. Such is ever the way of Turbine, failing to live up to their potential.
And then there is that third icon, the little present. That appears to be some sort of “the first one is free” random lock box scheme. And the icon never goes away. That was also the first time I started to notice that there was some sort of new currency in the game since last I played. Mithril coins.
You pay cash to buy Turbine Points, or you earn them in game (still one of the outstanding Turbine aspects of F2P), then you go to the LOTRO store to buy Mirthril Coins, which in turn can be used to buy other things.
As far as I can tell, the reason for this is that Turbine Points are tied to the LOTRO Store, but Mithril Coins are spent in-game like any other currency, so there is no need to invoke the store. Basically, they want you to be able to spend without having to find stuff in the store. And given the store interface, I can see why. This is all new since I last played and it is everywhere.
Finish a quest and don’t want to run back to the quest giver? Mithril Coins!
Need to go somewhere, but don’t have the travel route yet? Mithril Coins!
Reached your daily task limit? (We have an alert for that!) Mithril Coins!
I actually bought some of the coins, just to see if I needed any. I have yet to use them. But that little blue Mithril Coins icon seems to pop up just about everywhere now. If you don’t like to be reminded all the time to purchase things, I can imagine your reaction so far.
I also wonder if this is now an incentive for Turbine to put in quests with lots of annoying travel. That was one of my complaints way back when, that I spent a lot of time running between Bree and Buckland, for an example. Now that they can sell convenience, does that mean they will build in the pain you need to over come?
And then there is the mini-map. Turbine is worried that you will turn off floaty names… and you will want to, since the names are large and can be overbearing in crowds… and miss the bad guys. So, all aggro NPCs now appear as little red dots.
That started as a “really? did we need this?” sort of item, and then I quickly became used to it and will probably be annoyed at games that don’t track all hostiles for you. Such is the way of these things.
There have been other changes. Not all of them were as… dubious? I don’t want to say bad, but things are different.
On the good side, there is now a bank and mail box in the crafting hall in Bree, so you no longer have to run across town to get that one item you left behind in storage. Turbine is only about five years late on that idea.
Other than that, most of the game seems about the same. The quests are familiar, the lands are still lush and green, and it still gives you a feeling that you are in Middle-earth, even if it is a somewhat abbreviated version of it.
So, I am back. How far will I get this time around? And what of our kinship? Well, I suppose we shall see if anything is different this time around.
Things could be different this time. I swear. The bears, boars, and wolves are waiting.