When I last left LotRO (Lord of the Rings Online) a couple of years ago, my highest level character was only a level 38 Hunter. I stopped playing largely because of this one Epic quest that kept defeating me, and nothing will drive me away from a game faster than a required quest that keeps killing me and/or requires a group. I discussed that quest in another post. When I came back this time, I got past that quest, so progression could resume.
I quested around in the Trollshaws near Rivendell for a while chasing the ninth Nazgul who escaped the Ford of Bruien, but I was getting frustrated with the seemingly slow pace of advancement. When I came back to the game I’d been thinking I would level up my Hunter quickly so that I might have some chance of participating in the then-upcoming Helm’s Deep expansion. So I turned to Skirmishes, which I remembered as a somewhat fast way to level.
They are a bit faster, but unfortunately I found them quite difficult as a Hunter. Neither a tank soldier nor a healer soldier worked very well for me. The tank keeps people off of me, but eventually he dies because I can’t heal him. With the healer I have to tank, and sometimes I take more damage than the healer can heal. I got even more frustrated, so I stopped doing Skirmishes.
Then in the course of going through Chapter 5, still chasing the Nazgul, I made my way into the Misty Mountains, which is a drop-dead gorgeous place to visit. I stepped back and intentionally stopped worrying about how fast I was gaining experience, and started looking more at the world around me. Once I did that the game got a lot more enjoyable. I think you just have to resign yourself to the long haul with LotRO and enjoy the experience along the way.
Since The Fellowship also happened to be hanging out in Rivendell at the time, I got to do a bunch of stuff with them in between looking around for the Nazgul. I got to fight alongside Gimli and Legolas (not at the same time). I got to chat with Frodo while he contemplated his burdens, and I told Gandalf that he was quite capable of handling the journey ahead. I got to deliver some tobacco to Merry, and talk with Bilbo about a riddle. (I tried to warn Aragorn about Boromir but the characters did not respond when I talked to the screen.)
After defeating the Nazgul I’d been chasing, which took two attempts, I was then sent to Angmar for Chapter 6. There, I’ve been doing errands for the local tribesmen so that I can put together what looks like a nice set of 5 pieces of leather armor. I have three of the five so far.
One of the things I’ve always liked about LotRO is the complex gameplay. The combat rotations tend to be complicated and different in each situation (when I say "complicated" I mean it’s not just hitting the same attack key over and over; you rarely hit the same key twice in a row). You have to remember to eat food and buff yourself, and slot the right traits and so forth. I like that, because it feels like you’re doing more than just mashing buttons.
The negative side of that is when it comes time to return to the game after an absence, there’s a real learning curve to go through. It took me several days before I felt like I wasn’t going to get killed if I made a wrong step, and actually understood all the keys I had to hit and when to hit them. (It’s not as bad as EQ2, though.)
Now I will gripe a little bit. Part of the complexity also comes from what seems to be a considerable amount of input lag. LoTRO feels like you’re playing on a 300 baud modem on a server in Hellsinki. There is sometimes a large delay between the time you press a key and the time that your character actually does the thing. I’m not sure if it’s me, or their servers, or if it’s an intentional game mechanic–I just know I don’t experience anything like it in other MMOs.
Anyway, I ended up buying a 3-month subscription so that I didn’t have to keep buying things piecemeal. Not sure if that was the most cost-effective thing to do, but it’s definitely the laziest option. I needed some incoming Turbine Points anyway because I use the crap out of those Mithril Coins for traveling back to quest-givers.
LotRO is a fantastic game, but I feel like it’s best when you can devote your full gaming time and attention to it. If you bounce in and out of it a lot, I think it can get frustrating.