The zone of Evendim in Lord of the Rings Online is a fantastic place to adventure between levels 30 and 40 with plenty of quests and some excellent rewards to be had. The natural flow of the zone takes you around the great lake in the centre (with boatmasters offering rapid transport between three points on the lake so you no longer have a lengthy swim to quest objectives, uphill, both ways) culminating in the ruins of the city of Annúminas.
Rather than being the cherry on top of the trifle of Evendim, Annúminas is more of a spiky death fruit lurking beneath the custard and sponge fingers. The rest of the zone is nice and open with mobs generally having the decency to be alone and reasonably spaced out; perfect for picking off one by one when solo, and not much of a hindrance when riding around. Some ruins attract a more dense population of goblins or tomb robbers, but there are few places where a bad pull can’t be mitigated with a hasty retreat (the MMOG equivalent of quick save/quick load; a cry of “run away, run away”, a bit of the Benny Hill theme as a couple of other nearby mobs join the chase, then everyone goes back to their original positions; “OK, places people, that wasn’t bad but this time let’s use the slow *before* melee range, right, from the top and… action!”). The narrow streets of Annúminas, though, lead to many of the frustrations Melmoth experiences in Moria. The outskirts aren’t so bad with scattering of tomb robbers, but wandering through an archway it turns out the Angmarim read an article in a travel supplement about Annúminas being the fashionable choice for a holiday this summer and promptly despatched a massive invasion force who are clogging up all the bars, reserving the sun loungers and generally making a nuisance of themselves. The Angmarim hang out in groups of two and three, respawn alarmingly quickly, and the narrow streets make them impossible to avoid.
The Wardens of Annúminas haven’t taken this invasion lying down, though, oh no. They’ve established a secure base from which to fight back, slap bang in the middle of the city. Completely surrounded by Angmarim. Taking a tactical lead from the German army’s “Stalingrad 1942″ manual doesn’t seem like the best of ideas but heck, they’ve got quests to hand out so you might as well pop along. One way of reaching the Warden camp would be to carefully fight your way through the Angmarim mobstacles, killing tens if not hundreds on the way in, at which point the very first quest offered to you is “Kill 40 Angmarim”. To avoid nugatory genocide, then, it’s generally better to frantically ride through the surrounding hordes (half of whom have crossbows, just to make it even trickier). Once you’re inside the camp you unlock a travel point at a stablemaster; the “stable” part suggests the mechanism for travel is a horse, but being the route in and out is carpeted with mobs then either it’s an F117A Stealth Horse with added invisibility cloak, or my personal suspicion (especially as it’s fast travel), the Wardens actually load you onto a massive trebuchet pointed at Tinnudur and you have to hope you don’t bounce out of the net set up to catch you.
Recognising that the Angmarim-infested ruins aren’t the easiest of places to solo, for once in the history of MMOGs the quest-giver doesn’t stand there, nailed to the floor, while you go out and risk life and limb; you’re given a smoke signal and within the city it summons Orchalwe, an NPC who is a unique combination of Tank, Healer and Mobile Location-Sensitive Reward Dispenser. As Darkeye says, he’s the best quest-giver ever. With his help the packs of Angmarim aren’t as much of a problem, though it’s still slow going fighting your way around the place, and at various points around the city a ring appears over his head and he gives a short tour guide speech: “Coming up on your right a lovely set canals, and if you’d like to swim up and down them a bit and click on some glowies I’ll give you XP. Cha-ching!”
One of Orchalwe’s main quests is to hang flags off six key monuments that the evil invaders have set up around the city (presumably the flags say “Angmarim eunt domus”), and pottering into a courtyard containing one of these monuments I noticed the mass of Angmarim were a bit tougher, signature mobs with substantially more hitpoints, all in groups, with wandering signature ogre-type-troll-creature-beasts just to make life even more difficult. Even with Orchalwe’s help a single group was a tricky proposition, and a badly timed patrol or respawn would easily send you to the graveyard, incredibly inconveniently placed outside the city. After a couple of attempts I gave it up as a bad job solo, and popped back later with Melmoth; the two of us (plus a pair of Orchalwes, I guess he has an identical twin brother) managed to carefully pick our way through the courtyard to the monument itself, in front of which was a named boss along with the usual crowd of signature mobs. Setting up for the fight we opened up by pulling an isolated archer on one side, and there was a “bing!” as the aggro symbol flashed over the head of about seven billion mobs (well, at least seven, but a bunch of them summoned stuff as well), an absolutely horrific linked group around the boss, leading to the conclusion: “bugger that for a game of soldiers”.
It was a bit of a shame as the reward for that quest was the head piece of the rather nice Evendim armour set, and it slightly spoiled the end of the zone; rather than moving on to books 5 and 6 in the Misty Mountains and Angmar as The Heroic Liberator Of Annúminas (In As Much As Anyone Can Ever Be Said To Liberate Anything In A Never-Changing World) I mumbled something about a terribly urgent appointment elsewhere and slunk away.
I kept the quest in my log, though, like an itch that couldn’t be scratched, until last Friday. The weekly outing of Hobbington Crescent had wrapped up another few chapters of book questing, and as people drifted away for the night four of us were left, an awkward number for skirmishing or instances. About the right number for dishing out a beating to Angmarim invaders, though! Heading down to Annúminas we stormed through the city hanging up banners, seizing key control points and giving an 18,000hp boss a slap for good measure. Even four of us, in the mid level 40s, with a veritable platoon of summoned Orchalwes suffered a death or two (though our Loremaster wasn’t always given the opportunity to apply optimal crowd-control measures due to engagements generally starting with a shout of “CHARG!”); I think the classification of Monuments of Angmar as a level 38 solo quest is a bit optimistic…