Back in KiaSAcast 12 I talked about how Lord of the Rings Online was slowing down in the early level 30s as I moved from the Lone-lands into the Trollshaws. LotRO has a series of epic quests that broadly follow the book, weaving the story of your character around that of the Fellowship as it leads you through the game. The starter area/tutorial forms the Prologue, in Book I you meet up with a chap called Strider in the Prancing Pony in Bree and help him out before he sets off for Rivendell with a bunch of hobbits, then in Book II Gandalf sends you down to the Lone-lands to find Radagast the Brown, who got the short straw when the Istari were getting assigned their colours (“Doesn’t matter what colour we are? Easy for you to say, Gandalf the Grey, you got a cool-sounding name. All right, look, if it’s no big deal to be The Brown, you wanna trade huh?”)
There’s plenty to do in the Lone-lands, starting around the Forsaken Inn in the west, progressing past Weathertop to the Eglain camp in the ruins of Ost Guruth, then finally to undead-infested swamps and passes and the dungeon of Garth Agarwen with no shortage of quests along the way. The Chapter quests of Book II tie it all together, including introducing in-game faction reputation with the Eglain, and there’s scarcely a lull between starting the zone, getting to Ost Guruth, tracking down Radegast, deciding his nickname should actually be “Radegast the Squirrel Fancier” (“Oi, Raddy, giant tree trying to beat us to death with its branches over here, d’you want to give us a hand at all or are you just going to chat to the wildlife?”), and wrapping up Book II. By then I’d outlevelled the remaining quests in my log, easy to do with a bit of extra-curricular skirmishing and questing in other zones, so I was ready to move on, and crossed the bridge out of the Lone-lands into the Trollshaws.
Expecting another bumper crop of quests, reputation to build up, perhaps a nice reward item or two, I found a couple of unenthusiastic quest-givers. “Yeah, go and kill… I dunno, wolves or something. Or bears. Or boars. Whatever. Find some wildlife, kill ten of them.” After a couple of rounds of that, they packed me off to another camp with another paltry selection of quests. It was all rather lacklustre.
Fortunately reader/listener darkeye came to the rescue in the comments suggesting moving over to Evendim, a zone that’s just been revamped. With a bit more game-time available recently I took that advice, and what a difference! Plentiful quests, a nifty class-specific armour set to collect, a faction with some nice items available as you increase your reputation with them. That sounds a bit mercenary, like I’m only interested in acquiring virtual loot, and that’s not true at all; I’m also very keen on carefully categorising virtual loot and assigning it to the correct colour-coded section of shared storage or the character’s vault as appropriate, hence being especially grateful for the presence of a vault-keeper in Tinnudir, the main settlement in Evendim (that was a minor annoyance in the Lone-lands, no vault-keeper in Ost Guruth; a victim of regional branch closures, perhaps).
As well as the sheer number of quests (over 100 being added in the revamp, apparently), there’s a bit of variety; of course “kill X things”, “collect Y things” and “click on Z sparkly things” are the staples, but some quests take you into instanced versions of areas that work a little like mini-skirmishes. There are also a couple of twists on delivery mechanics such as a journal item that updates quest objectives as you go to break up the pattern of “talk to NPC at quest hub – kill things – talk to NPC at quest hub – kill things”. Another minor quality of life issue while questing, a general improvement I believe rather than specific to the Evendim revamp, is that sparkly quest objectives don’t despawn when you click on them, they’re just completed for your character. I was roaming around the hills looking for some pouches that, inevitably, were guarded by tribesmen, had just engaged a mob when another player ran in and started hitting him with a sword. Fair enough, I didn’t really need any help, but I’d tagged it so it wasn’t like he was killstealing or anything, except then the player ran over to the pouch, and his character crouched down, obviously picking it up. I was ready to let fly a volley of abuse (or at least tut and give him a very stern look), but when he stood up the pouch was still there, sparkling away. Rather than the whole affair degenerating into a race for objective items and pointed non-assistance and schadenfraude from the other party if that resulted in an over-pull, we toddled around alternately tagging mobs, I’d chuck the odd heal over (not that it was especially necessary, but it seemed polite) and parted with a friendly /wave at the end of it. Back in the Trollshaws, meanwhile, on a Friday night group expedition (when the comparative sparseness of the zone isn’t nearly so much of an issue for a marauding party of hobbits on voice chat), four of us were all on the same quest to clear brambles and stones out of the path. It might not sound heroic, but it’s the sort of unglamorous behind-the-scenes infrastructure work that’s vital to an epic tale; do you remember the bit in the book “… then Frodo’s cloak got all tangled up in a bramble bush, and he had to spend ages sorting it out without ripping it but there were still a few holes that would need to be patched up and he got a couple of really nasty pricks (matron) from the thorns…”? No? Precisely. The only problem was that the sparkly bramble bushes despawned upon clicking, and only counted for the person who clicked them, so instead of many hands making light work it took four times as long.
Another part of Evendim’s revamp was the quest rewards. In “traditional” LotRO, as with many other MMOGs, a quest-giver would typically offer one or more of cash, XP, reputation gain or an item to try and tempt you to wander off and slaughter some wildlife, and as with many other MMOGs the items were seldom much use. “A choice of a bracelet with sub-optimal stat bonuses for my class or a shield I can’t even equip? Monsieur, with these quest rewards you’re really spoiling us! Which is worth more when I flog it to the bloke standing next to you?” Most Evendim quests now give bronze or silver token rewards, which can be traded in with the Wardens for a variety of rather more desirable class-specific items. LotRO has perhaps gone a little over-the-top with tokens, as pointed out in a fine piece on A Casual Stroll to Mordor, but I think they work quite well in this context to make all quests worthwhile, rather than nudging you towards reading up on an external site just to make sure you haven’t missed out on the first in a chain of several quests that culminates in the only half-decent reward appropriate to your class in the zone. From a world-perspective it might not feel ideal, like you get a Wardens of Annúminas Loyalty Card as you start the zone and each time you finish a quest the NPC stamps it a couple of times, with a free cup of coffee (and class-appropriate cloak) after 10 stamps, but I don’t think it’s terribly immersion-breaking.
With zone revamps such as the Lone-lands last year and now Evendim resulting in significant improvements, Turbine aren’t just tacking stuff on to the end of the game, a heartening sign for newer players. All in all, after the early level 30s felt like they were really dragging, I’ve sprung forward to being within spitting distance of level 41 in a week or so, almost ready to move on to another zone. Any suggestions for the best level 40+ area?
“Rather than the whole affair degenerating into a race for objective items and pointed non-assistance and schadenfraude from the other party if that resulted in an over-pull, we toddled around alternately tagging mobs, I’d chuck the odd heal over (not that it was especially necessary, but it seemed polite) and parted with a friendly /wave at the end of it.”
And you didn’t have to join a “party” first? It sounds *almost* perfect.
From time to time there will be the occasional post in the mmo-blogosphere complaining (correctly imo) about the artificial “party” mechanic in most games. Anything that game developers to do allow for spontaneous co-operative play that doesn’t involve having an extra /invite step is always a plus in my book.
The only sign that things just aren’t quite there yet is your reference to “alternately tagging mobs”. I don’t know what the perfect solution would be, but it does sound like we’re headed in the right direction.
(p.s. Rift’s open world raid implementation is also an improvement, but I still have never liked the in-a-group/not-in-a-group dichotomy. It does seems like there should be an implementation of co-operative play that simply lets you work together with anyone nearby without having to create special “parties”.)
I do hope that when revamping Evendim they didn’t drop The Mother Of All Boar Quests (from the Hobbit in…ah, can’t remember the name of the run-down town near Tinnudir). Not only does it require you to kill boars, it’s timed to boot. Possibly my favourite quest in the game up through Lorien.
For 40ish content, there’s some good stuff in Echad Candelleth (the no-longer-new area in the Trollshaws), or was. Forochel, Angmar, and the Misty Mountains all open up around that point too.
I would heartily recommend cleaning up book 3 in North Downs and book 4 in Trollshaws. Therefater following book 5 and 6 will take you through the more quest heavy areas of Misty Mourns & Angmar. By that time I am usually 45 and ready to join the friendly linear quest hubs of Eregion and aquire my first ‘common garden variety leveling doodad’ (or ‘legendary weapon’ as I have heard them described).
@Pardoz: Parr Chopley in Ost Forod still offers the quest “A Striking Absence of Boars”. Love that quest!
@Zoso: There are several options for leveling in the 40s. You have:
* Misty Mountains. Quests are lvl 39-50. I like this zone a lot but everything is so damned spread out, it takes AGES to get anything done.
* Angmar. Quests are lvl 40-50. It’s dark and dreary, and it’s really two zones subdivided by the Wall of Doom. There’s a nifty theme to the Aughaire quest lines though, and some decent armour sets.
* Forochel. Quests are lvl 44-50. I find the quest flow is much better here than in MM and Angmar, so I usually bring my chars here by lvl 41 or so. Then again, I like soloing things above my level, so your mileage may vary. I tend to get most of my exp from 41 to 45 in Forochel, but I pluck the low-hanging fruit in Angmar too, with a few MM quests for good measure.
Once you hit lvl 45, I strongly urge you to do the Prologue to epic Vol 2, and start on Vol 2 Bk 1 ASAP. This will get you your legendary items of course; you’ll need to be lvl 46 to get the second item and to unlock the Doors of Moria.
Generally speaking, I bounce between MM/Ang/Forochel until my chars are lvl 45, then I do the Vol 2 prologue and Vol 2 Bk 1. Once I get the first LI, there’s a quest to get 10 levels of experience for said item, and I quest in Eregion for said experience.
Eregion quests are lvl 48-60 (well, mostly 48-51 actually, with a couple of outliers). I stay there, with breaks to pop over and finish Vol 2 Bk 1, until my chars are lvl 50, then it’s off to Moria with them.
I’d second the catch up on book 5 suggestion, though the final chapter is a little on the hard side. There is not much else to do in Misty mountains, it suffers from the same problem as Trollshaws, some content for low level range, some for higher level, go there too soon and you’re left with a gap in quests. The West area of Angmar is good for low 40s, which is good because book 6 sends you there next. I’d avoid the eastern part, and good luck trying to get groups for the multitude of fellowship quests in the zone. After the quests run out there, Forochel is more solo-friendly, then Eregion should have enough to get over level 50.
There several other things to be do in that level range too. Finish collecting pages and do the lvl45 class quest. Do books 7-15 which gives enough XP to get 4 or more levels. Get your first legendary item which gives a big boost to stats. Go to Sarnur to get a goat before heading into Moria. Goblin-Town is a fun space to explore, I’d avoid the quests though and the epic book sends you there as well. The options in this range probably beats all others in the game.
@Foolsage – glad to hear the quest is still there! I almost ruptured myself the first time I ran it, soon after Evendim opened, and it was always the one quest I looked forward to doing on subsequent alts.
@John I’m a fan of more informal way of collaborating as well, but it’s still pretty traditional in most ways, with the person/party who originally tag a mob getting the XP/loot. The non-despawning objects are at least a bit of a step forward, though.
@Pardoz Like foolsage says it’s still there, nice quest that one!
@everyone Ta muchly for the suggestions, I’ll do a bit of fishing for the summer festival, then look at wrapping up the book quests and doing a bit of exploring!
@John Off the top of my head, obstacles to the non-party cooperation would probably include:
1) The guys who would plink a single arrow into the Ultimate Monster of Ultimate Power just before it died, so as to get a bajillion XP for the kill with 0 risk off someone else’s effort. Even if not rated as a game issue, it would definitely be a player frustration issue for the player being mooched.
2) Credit to non-combat classes. Do you get credit for a monster if you were in the vicinity, perhaps providing heals or buffs, but never actually engaged the monster?
3) For areas with multiple monsters, do you try to figure out who was involved in which kill, in which case someone clearing adds when the big boss goes down might only get credit for adds, or do you give everyone nearby credit, in which case someone picking mushrooms a hundred feet away may suddenly get a bajillion XP for the dragon that just died.