Yes, I’ve been in Lothlorien with my Burglar for some time now (still haven’t made it to Mirkwood yet, though). It’s one of my favorite areas in the game so far, mostly because it’s gorgeous, and because I find it a nice change of pace.
But I was listening to the soundtrack for The Fellowship of the Rings movie last night (yes, I’m that kind of LotR fan!), and it got me thinking. It was at the track The Bridge of Khazad Dum, toward the end where, in the movies, the Fellowship, sans Gandalf, exit Moria and find themselves beside the Mirrormere. It’s a very poignant part of the soundtrack, and the entire scene, with the Fellowship mourning the loss of Gandalf, combined with the music, is extremely memorable. It’s one of my favorite scenes and has always stuck with me.
And I thought back to my personal introduction to Lothlorien:
Another quest hub, with another group asking for favors. How dramatic!
Don’t take this as a too-harsh criticism of Turbine. As in most mechanics for LotRO, I understand why it was done this way. I even understand the logic behind it in terms of the lore. Moria had to contain a lot of content, and it was ripe for exploration by Turbine. I’d be upset if they hadn’t approached it the way they did, and having the game’s storyline basically run through the aftermath of the chaos stirred up by the Fellowship makes a lot of sense.
I’m not even bemoaning the existence of Mekhem-Bizru. I want it to be there, I need it to be there for many reasons. I just think that Turbine missed a huge opportunity with the transition from Moria to Lothlorien. An opportunity for drama (in the good sense of the word), for immersion, and for engaging their players.
Think back to the first time you read about the Fellowship’s flight from Moria, the fall of Gandalf, and the Mirrormere. Or think about those scenes from the movie; Gandalf facing down the Balrog, falling from the bridge, Aragorn pulling Frodo and the others out of Moria, and the utter grief of everyone sitting beside the Mirrormere. It was powerful. Or the actual entrance to Lothlorien, the humor of Gimli coming face to face with a drawn bow, and the Fellowship being found by the Elves of Lothlorien. Again, very dramatic.
I remember walking out of Moria thinking, “That’s it?”. There was a chance to make this very dramatic, and very memorable for the player, even using the systems that are in place. Two of Turbine’s better tools for this kind of drama – the cutscenes between books, and the in-game scenes they played around with in book 14 or 15 (or both) seem to have fallen by the wayside. I went back and checked – Volume 1 includes 19 cutscenes, where volume 2 includes 9. Less than half. For crying out loud, Volume 1, Chapter 1 alone includes 5 cutscenes. What happened?
And cutscenes aren’t the only method possible. I would have loved for something similar to the changing state of Archet way back at the beginning of the old Man introduction – the village itself changed state. Why not have a short instance at the exit from Moria, with the camp appearing afterwards. That area was perfect for that type of instance anyway, with the “glowing door” between zones. I’m not opposed to instancing, especially when it helps create a dramatic, memorable experience. It could be short, and even be a non-combat instance. Just give me something.
As I said, I understand why things are the way they are, and it doesn’t decrease my enjoyment to a significant degree. And I understand that creating this type of content requires time and effort. But for a game where story is so central to everything we see and do, any opportunities for more storytelling or drama should be taken up. Story is something LotRO really has going for it, and something Turbine has done better than any other MMO I’ve played.