LotRO – Level 59 and Khazad-dûm

My Hunter reached level 59 and the famous Bridge of Khazad-dûm yesterday–what’s left of the bridge, at least. I was following the side quest of a dwarf Svanr who was on some kind of pilgrimage to see all of the Mines of Moria, and we got to the Bridge. Then my character took his first steps back outside in seemingly forever. It’s surely been over a year of real time since before my Hunter entered Moria.

Spent most of my time searching for these.

Everywhere in Moria seems like a great archaeological discovery. “Oh! That’s where this happened! Oh! That’s where that happened!” I’m a bit of a history buff and even though it’s an entirely fictional history it still sort of presses those buttons.

I don’t know if anything happened here, but it sure looks neat.

Again I have to say they did a fantastic job of making Moria look super cool. LotRO is one of the best games for walking around exploring and looking at stuff. This is a game that you simply can’t play in a rush. At least I can’t. I find that I enjoy the game much more when I accept the fact that sprinting to the endgame isn’t going to happen, which gives me permission to wander around and enjoy the ride.

Using ManicTime, I calculated that it took 3 hours and 50 minutes of game time to level from 58 to 59. (A large percentage of that time was spent searching for piles of old weapons.) In an era when it usually doesn’t take more than an hour of game time to level in a modern MMORPG, it’s quite a throwback.

Outdoors again!

 

Random Friday Tidbits

Another brief post just to post something today.

GW2. I did in fact retry Chapter 16, “Hearts and Minds,” and beat it after two more attempts Thursday night, which took another hour. If you leave the instance for any reason, by the way, you have to start all over. So take my advice: Don’t rage quit if you die to the last boss. :) I’ll probably start Living Story Season 3 this weekend although I’m kind of burned out on GW2 already.

LOTRO. I’m continuing to wander around in the Mines of Moria, slowly chipping my way up from level 58 to 59. I’ll probably be working on that today. I spend a lot of time lost, trying to find my way to the quest markers. I have completely forgotten that the Mordor expansion even exists. The “huge MMORPG cultural event” of entering Mordor that I thought would happen didn’t really materialize and everyone is just like, “Meh. It’s Morder. Whatever.”

FFXIV. Nothing much to report. I keep forgetting to login. I only got 360 of the 450 Tomestones last week. The times I do login, I queue up for an Expert Roulette, look at the wait time, then log back off. So yeah, I’m behind on Creation Tomestones. I don’t regret it. The Creation Tomestone Bard gear set looks awful anyway.

Eclipse. I’m not quite in the path of totality but it’s really tempting to jump in a car and drive a couple hundred miles southwest on Monday. Undoubtedly it would be a huge mistake to try. I don’t have any solar eclipse gear anyway. But it’s literally never going to be closer in my lifetime. I’m old enough now to appreciate what “once-in-a-lifetime” actually means. :)

Politics. *deep breath before writing a huge novel* Oh nevermind.

LotRO – Hunter Level 58!

I just wanted to announce that my Hunter made it to level 58 in Moria. Gaining another level in LotRO (when you’re not subscribed or anything) is a major accomplishment.

I am not really sure what is going on with the epic story here. I am on Volume II, Book 4, Chapter 3 as of this writing. The dwarves are just sort of rooting around looking for chambers and relics and books and stuff. I’m not paying that much attention because none of the characters have much personality. Dwarves are all the same–loud, bombastic, and either Scottish or Russian. :)

It’s really difficult to capture the scale of how massive the Mines of Moria is.

Incidentally, I was looking forward to dual-wielding legendary swords but apparently you can only wield one legendary sword at a time. Bummer.

LotRO – Mordor to Moria

I was having some fun in the Mordor expansion, bopping up to the Black Gate, talking to Gandalf … pardon me, Mithrandir … meeting those four “adventurers” with different personalities. It seemed like they were setting up those four folks as characters we might see again throughout Mordor, following their adventures so to speak, and it seemed like a good story idea. They all had their different reasons for going into Mordor, and it was the hook I needed to get interested in the zone. I wanted to see how they fared.

Then I got to that first town beyond the Black Gate (Udun?), and I noticed some new bar telling me about a Mordor Evilness debuff, and then I tried to fight some mobs, and I almost got killed by a couple of stupid birds. Everything around me was level 106 while my experience bar was still only about 75% of the way through 105. It entirely killed my enthusiasm for playing. I thought to myself, “You know, self, you could just go back to your 55 Hunter and pick up the story back in Moria, where you didn’t have trouble fighting mobs and there was no debuff bar.”

So I did. My Hunter is far more fun to play than any of the other classes I’ve played in LotRO anyway. (Hence the reason my Hunter reached level 55 while every other class never got out of the 20s.) So I’ve been bopping around Moria for a couple of days now,  and actually managed to gain a whole level in the process! Level 56! It always feels like a momentous milestone to gain even a single level in LotRO.

Moria is a somewhat tedious place to get through, considering that you get lost every 10 steps and there is so much running around, but I have to give them credit for making the place look amazing. I stop a lot to take screenshots.

LotRO – Mordor Expansion Thoughts

I did indeed buy the $40 edition of the Mordor Expansion, and boosted a Hobbit Minstrel from level 24 to level 105 so I could actually play said expansion. (Folks on Twitter seemed to think Minstrel was a good solo class to play.)

Once again the gear you are given looks awful, like a suit of white underwear. I guess they really want people who use level boosts to look like total newbies compared to the people have been playing all along, which I suppose isn’t entirely inappropriate. At least this time they gave me a neat-looking pony, though it is literally only like 5% faster than the blond sorrel pony I had at level 24.

My level 105 experience began with Book 8, Chapter 1, “No Other Way.” This is one of those “scenarios” where you experience a piece of the story from a different character’s point of view. I had never seen these until late in the Volume 1 Angmar story, when my Hunter was over level 50, so I was glad to have that previous experience. I imagine someone brand new to LotRO or someone who had never leveled beyond the 20s (a popular place for people to fizzle out of LotRO–or at least that’s where most of my characters fizzle out) might be a bit confused about what was happening to them.

It was a neat little story section but it was also entirely expositional. No combat, just reading text and walking around as Golum. Possibly not the greatest way to begin the expansion.

Then it was on to the Black Gate, and a tense attempt at parlay. (I did not remember this from the story–seems like a silly idea to try to negotiate a treaty with Sauron, but I guess it was mainly just an attempt at a distraction.)

Then on to the Battle of the Black Gate aka. the Battle of the Morannon. This battle was just amazing. If my wiki research is correct, this was added in the previous Update 20. I can’t believe I didn’t hear more people raving about how amazing this battle was. (Perhaps this is why the game nearly died.) I was blown away by how much LotRO managed to deliver with its creaky old game engine.

It was really laggy and slow, but it was worth it. None of my screenshots do justice to all the activity going on around you. Archers firing, people getting shot by arrows right in front of you, cavalry riding into battle, big ogres knocking people high up in the air, fires burning, Nazgul flying around, bombastic music blaring in the background: I couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

Book 9, Chapter 1, which I think is the official beginning of the Mordor expansion, didn’t start until the middle of the battle. It was not long before the Ringbearer completed his quest and the battle ended. I hope that’s not a spoiler. :)

It was so quick that I thought it was actually a bit anti-climatic. One minute we’re wandering around Mount Doom to find Frodo and Sam, and the next minute the eagles arrive and everything’s over and we’ve won the day.

That’s about as far as I got as of this writing.

I really enjoyed the Black Gate battle but I honestly don’t feel much burning passion to continue beyond that. As a newbie outsider to LotRO, it feels like it’s “over” now. I know, I know. I remember hearing a number of people talking about how there would be more to Mordor than just Mount Doom, and that’s pretty clear, considering that three chapters into the expansion, we’re all celebrating our victory over Sauron, so there must be something else beyond that. But I personally have no idea where they can go from here, and the game itself has not yet introduced any compelling new storylines for me to follow. My knowledge of Lord of the Rings lore is not that great, but I think there is something about The Shire and sailing west to the New World to discover America. We’ll see.

P.S. Apparently there are tons of bugs in this expansion and it was rushed out the door too soon but I haven’t seen any of that. I’ve seen some strange quirks with people appearing and disappearing around quest givers but that’s about it. I would have just chalked that up to an old game engine and the fact that LotRO has always had strange quirks.

Personally I think this expansion controversy illustrates just how close LotRO was to shutting down forever. SSG is apparently so desperate to keep this game alive that they have no choice but to rush out a substandard expansion. I know a lot of people are upset about it but I personally don’t blame them for it. At least they’re trying.

I will also add that there aren’t many people playing this expansion. I’m on Brandywine, which I thought was one of the more populated servers, and these zones are dead as a doornail. There are none of the crowds you’d expect to see at the start of an expansion. (Granted, I’m five or six days behind, but still.) Not to be pessimistic, but this does not seem to bode well for the future of this game.

Update: Finally wandered beyond the Black Gate into the first Mordor zone. Lots and lots more people there. Not as deserted as I first thought. No need to panic. :)

LotRO – The Road To Mordor, A Tweetstorm

I haven’t yet bought the Mordor expansion (I probably will, despite the hype-destroying trailer), but it dawned on me that LotRO is one of those rare MMORPGs where you can actually explore the world without having to unlock zones by completing quests. So I decided that I wanted to run my 95 Runekeeper as close to Mordor as I could get. I made it all the way to the Black Gate.

I had a lot of fun running there, and it didn’t cost me anything. I didn’t do a single quest on the entire trip, and honestly I didn’t see very many quests to select from either. (I haven’t purchased any of the content that I ran through.)

I was blown away by how massive the LotRO world is. I thought that I had covered a lot of territory to get my Hunter to Moria, but I had only just barely scratched the surface, and the amount of land in the game that exists between level 95 and 105 is just incredible. I don’t know if I’ve published this thought anywhere, but I feel like LotRO is the “last” MMORPG released that is actually “massive.” Nobody puts this much physical space in their games anymore.

Here’s the journey in tweet form:

 

LotRO – Mordor Is Here Too Soon

Standing Stone Games started taking orders for the Mordor expansion in LotRO, which is “expected” to release July 31. $40 for the no-frills version.* The moment is finally here. The moment I’ve been dreading for so long: The moment when everyone else will get to experience the MMORPG cultural event of the decade, while I sit on the sidelines, peering longingly through the cracks in the fence, trying to catch a glimpse of the prize at the end of the rainbow. Or some metaphor or another like that.

This is the exact thing that I’ve tried to prepare for for over a year now. How much progress did I make on that preparation, you ask? Well, I leveled my Hunter from about 48 to 55. So yay? I was just 50 levels short of my goal. (It felt like I played a long time to get those 7 levels, too.)

Last week, I used up 5995 of my ~7000 Points Formerly Known As Turbine to buy a level 95 boost for my Dwarf Runekeeper. I arrived in a camp I’ve never seen before with a bunch of new stuff in my inventory, each of which exploded into more stuff. I equipped a whole new set of armor which if I were to be generous looks about as awful as a set of cloth armor can possibly look. Frankly it looks like a set of white thermal underwear.

I quickly discovered that I could not equip the Advanced Riding trait thingy because I had not yet learned regular Riding. My dwarf was level 19 when I started, standing around the area of that horse farm near Bree, and I think the last time I played him years ago I had been looking around there to find a horse. (Actually I think I have a horse, I just can’t ride it.) So I sought to find my way back to that horse farm to learn Riding.

Through clever use of a Mithril Coin and an unfinished quest, I found my way back to Strider in The Prancy Pony. (Otherwise I would have had no clue how to leave the town I was in other than by picking a direction and walking. Getting around without Hunter teleports is a pain!) Then I was back in the same predicament I was in before: I had no idea where to find the Riding trait. So I logged off.

A few days later I logged back in and pulled up the LotRO Store and found the Riding trait I was looking for the easy way. And as it turned out, since I’m technically a free player at this point, I had to buy it. After getting the Riding trait I was finally able to use the Advanced Riding trait and the Combat Riding trait. I warped back to Level 95 Camp.

“Level 95 Camp” as I call it. Oh LotRO. Your primitive screenshot capabilities are so quaint.

There are some big changes in LotRO life between level 50-something and level 95. I have a “war horse” now, which is apparently a special kind of horse that does more than just run fast. You get a whole new hotbar while you’re riding and I have no idea how it works or whether I should even try to learn it.

Thankfully I had gone through the Legendary Weapon trainers at level 50, so I had at least an inkling of a clue what to do with the unidentified Legendary Runestone I ended up with. Instead of getting actual weapons with the 95 boost, you get three random weapon pack thingys which let you select the kind of weapon you want. Of course, not having played RK in ages, I had no clue whatsoever what to pick. I chose a Lightning Rune because I think the skill tree I picked said something about Lightning affinity. I’ve no idea if that was right or not. I’m saving the other 2 weapon box thingys for later when I actually understand whether or not I want a legendary rune bag or a legendary bridle, and what kind I want.

Now I don’t have even the vaguest idea of what to do, where to go, or how to play this 95 RuneKeeper with hotbars filled with unknown abilities. There weren’t even any quests to follow. [Update: I found a quest! It was, um, right in front of me the whole time.] (It’s even worse than when I got a free high-level Necromancer in EQ2.) I’m thinking my chances of leveling from 95 to 105 on this character before the end of the month are slim to none.

Of course–of course–the Mordor expansion comes with its own level boost. So I should have just waited before getting the 95 boost. Oh well. (I actually contemplated waiting for this exact reason. But in all my reading of all the posts expertly declaring what to expect from the coming Mordor expansion, nobody said to expect a level boost. Way to go, games journalists.)

I asked Twitter for some help on which class to play in LotRO as a solo player (besides Hunter), and it seemed like the two most prominent answers were Runekeeper and Minstrel. I have a Hobbit Minstel in the teen levels I think, so perhaps I’ll use that one for Mordor.

* I have no comment on the pricing uproar. I almost always get the cheap editions of games and expansions, and I have no interest in the High Elf, and no time to play one even if I did.

LotRO Volume 1, Book 14 – The Sloggiest Journey

Another post rescued from my drafts…

Book 14 begins with Laerdan preparing for a journey south. He asked me to collect a bunch of gear for him that he left strewn around Eriador, because the hero’s journey always involves fetching stuff. It was a lengthy, boring scavenger hunt.

When I returned to Rivendell, Laerdan was gone. In a note, he said he sent me away so I wouldn’t interfere. I spent all that time collecting his gear for nothing. But I wasn’t bitter about it. Much.

He left his journal open to a section describing his imprisonment in Sammath Baul. Upon reading it, I felt myself having an out-of-body experience, in which I uh … ah, screw it, I can’t think of how to maintain a narrative voice. I played a “Scenario” in which I observed Laerdan during his imprisonment.

After my “vision” I returned to Elrond. There I experienced another “vision” showing that Laerdan had run to Eregion to re-forge the ring Narhuil and rescue his daughter Narmaleth. He was, of course, captured, and the ring fell into the hands of Amarthiel. (Because Narmaleth is Amarthiel.)

Before Amarthiel could fix the ring, she needed some dragon wings to fix the forge. Elrond sent me back to Forochel to find and kill the dragon Bregmor (apparently the only dragon available) before Amarthiel got to him. Forochel was as dismal as ever. The cave where the dragon lived was dismal and also full of some guys. Unfortunately, when I reached the end of the cave, Mordambor had beaten me to the dragon and killed it.

Poor dead dragon.

I returned to Elrond with the bad news that I’d failed to get the dragon wings. As punishment, he sent me to the ring-forge Mirobel in Eriador to confront Amarthiel and Mordrambor.

It was another slog through a big space full of bad guys, but I finally got to the dramatic conclusion. Amarthiel sicced Mordrambor on me, but I defeated him. Laerdan arrived and confronted Amarthiel (still in the body of Narmaleth, Laerdan’s daughter), but she killed him. Before I could fight Amarthiel, a surprise mystery guest appeared: Mordirith. Mordirith took the ring from Amarthiel and flew away, leaving her broken and defeated.

Thus endeth Book 14.

For most of this book, I was incredibly bored. The only parts I really enjoyed were a brief section of the first Scenario (the part where you kick all the sleeping guards), and the final confrontation with Mordrambor, Amarthiel, Laerdan, and Mordirith way at the end. The rest was an endless, joyless slog.

Speaking of Scenarios, I believe this is the first time I’ve seen one in LotRO. I like the concept, but when you have to do combat it ssssssuuuuucks. As soon as you put me into a POV character where I have a whole new set of abilities, I get pretty annoyed. I spent all this time learning my character’s abilities, and now I have all this new stuff!? It took sooooo long to fight through all the mobs in those Scenarios because I essentially auto-attacked through everything.

Which brings me to one reason why this was a dull book. My character is level 55 now and admittedly over-leveled for this content. But there was no challenge in it whatsoever. A couple of times I literally got up from my desk during a battle, re-filled my coffee cup, and came back to find I’d killed everyone. It’s hard to maintain any sense of excitement in those kinds of combat situations. It’s a foregone conclusion that you’re going to defeat the mobs.

After posting a bunch of these chapter summaries, it occurs to me that I could simply post a link to Lotro-wiki.com and save myself a lot of time in the future.