Wednesday 15 September 2010

It is impossible to travel faster than the speed of light, and certainly not desirable, as one's hat keeps blowing off.

Playing a Hunter in LotRO after having played a Captain and Warden to the level cap is to suddenly transform from Droopy into Taz. If Droopy had been heavily sedated and Taz was on a really bad acid trip. Ever since I rolled this latest character in my line of LotRO levelling projects I’ve been hanging on for dear life, hair flaming out wildly backwards from a face that is a buffeted dough of skin folds, teeth bared through a gaping fish-mouth, my eyes tiny watery moons resting in the deep dark space of ballooning black hole sockets. I claw desperately at the keyboard with tendon-ridged hands, my legs flapping uselessly out behind me, body freely oscillating in the air in a sinusoidal motion. I am become an aerial banner, towed not by a sedate biplane but by a fighter jet afterburning its way through the sound barrier.

I picture my character leaving trails of flame behind her as she screams through quest hubs; dwarf beards are torn whole from their owner’s shocked faces; aloof elven maidens are humbled and embarrassed, left clasping themselves in a cross-legged half crouch to protect their modesty as their clothes are ripped from their ivory-skinned bodies by the turbulent wake of my character’s passing, like a spontaneous burlesque on fast forward; wildlife in the area appears to simply implode into neat little rows of bags filled with hide and steak. I can see why such a class could garner a bad reputation amongst the general populace, because without taking care not to impinge on fellow adventurers in the area the Hunter becomes a force of unwanted and unwelcome destruction, like a young tornado picking up his date for the prom and accidentally levelling her parents’ house in the process.

It’s worrying to me that both dwarves and elves can be Hunters because, although they share the same starting region of Ered Luin, they start off in separate areas before coming together around Thrasi’s Lodge and Gondamon for the epic storyline and quests. ‘Coming together’ is absolutely right when high speed Hunters are involved, and as the elf and dwarf zones converge on that small central area it must be like the smashing of atoms in a high-energy particle collider. Indeed, Gondamon is ground zero for Ered Luin’s Large Hunter Collider. I would highly recommend sitting in Gondamon for a while in these early days of the free-to-play release (In the US only, not that I’m BITTER!) and enjoying the show as all the new inexperienced elf and dwarf hunters smash into one another at incredible speeds, elves flying off on chaotic arching trajectories with a zinging squeal, like unleashed Catherine wheels, before exploding against the heights of Gondoman’s great walls. The more stout Dwarves, in turn, having had their progress unexpectedly impeded and diverted, stumble and bop along on their bums like bouncing bombs, detonating against the base of the wall and showering nearby NPCs in a hail of armour fragments and beard chunks.

Level twenty has come around so quickly for my Hunter, having rolled her late Sunday evening and played a few short hours each night since, and I can’t see myself stopping for many levels to come. Even if I wanted to. Really. It’s like having a tiger with diagnosed poor impulse control on a leash and then trying to reign it in when it sees a group of delinquent buffalo off in the distance flipping it the bird. I’m just hanging on here for dear life, but in the brief respites where I am actually able to get her to pause – the air-cooled radiator fins protruding from her body glowing white-hot and beginning to steam from the lack of airflow passing over them – I’ll report back to you the progress that has been made. In the meantime just recall the image from the original Superman film of the Man of Steel reversing time by flying around the Earth at high speed.

Then picture me, clinging onto his boots by my finger tips, screaming.

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