Finished out Volume 2, Book 8 last night, and, due to technical difficulties, I missed what would probably have been a very enjoyable fight. Nonetheless, I got to watch two very solid players from Talath Dirnen (an old kin of mine long long ago) take down Gwathnor. According to kinmates, this is actually a very fun instance. And I missed it.
To recap, I’d found another Burglar and his Minstrel friend willing to join me in this particular 3-man instance – something that made me very happy, as I’ve been remiss in the epic quests recently. Off we go to the Shadowed Refuge, talk to Lenglammel, and head into Azanarukar.
Now, this particular area is among my favorites. It’s very appealing visually, despite nearly everything being red (seriously, how do we walk around in there without third-degree burns?). The monsters are, generally, a little more “fantastic”, or flashy, than most you see in LotRO; most of the mobs in the Foundations of Stone have this very exuberant design. They’re very colorful and somewhat crazy, for lack of a better term.
Now, normally, I greatly appreciate the design of monsters in LotRO. They’re grounded, more or less, in reality (at least, if Orcs did exist in the Real World, that’s how I imagine they’d look). No bright green skin, not huge and bulky. They’re dirty, gritty, and really just malformed humanoids. Peter Jackson did them just right in the movies, and I’ve always like that Turbine took the same approach overall. It stays true to Tolkien’s vision. But every so often, it’s nice to fight some real “fantasy” creatures. Gwathnor and the caerogs are a perfect example. Gwathnor in particular is, I think, my favorite boss design.
Back to this particular incident; we head into the instance, following Magor into the first fight, and the game locks on me. This never happens. I can count on one hand the number of times this has happened to me. And, of course, wouldn’t it just happen to occur during an instance I’d dearly love to run? Figures.
By the time I’d gotten back into the game, I was still in group, but I was locked out of the room where the final encounter occurs. I got to stand on the sidelines and watch. It looked like a great fight.
Had I been with kin, I would have asked them to leave the instance and start over again (yet another reason I prefer running with kinmates – there’s no pressure and little mistakes or inconveniences get overlooked). I’m not criticizing my PUG – they were really nice, but were well into the final fight by the time I got my issues figured out.
This particular mechanic – literally being locked out of a major encounter – is one that, while I understand its use, has always annoyed and frustrated me. At the very least, it’s a way for Turbine to “enforce” the design and flow of encounters which they have carefully, and painstakingly, constructed. It keeps players from “zerging” boss encouters, preventing them from just continually throwing themselves at the monster until it’s worn down. I get that. But it’s always reeked of laziness. Especially considering our character’s “health” is actually Morale, that defeat for us is never physical death but instead that our will to fight has been broken to the point of retreat.
Where is the chance for a true rally? Aside from the standard “rez” mechanic of healers, and the Morale boosts and restoration of Captains…once we’re down, we’re out. And once we’re all out, the monster goes back to full health, standing in the same spot it always has, as if nothing remarkable has happened. It’s always just been a little too standard for me.
All true heroes must fall, or falter, at some point; I don’t want a God-mode game where I can never die. That’s no challenge, and certainly no fun. We need to fall in order to make our comeback. But in MMOs, there is no real comeback – it’s black or white, fail or succeed, finish it or try again. There’s no ebb and flow to our battles.
What saved the night for me was what happened immediately afterwards. I had thought that, being unable to talk to Magor after the big fight had concluded, I was unable to advance the quest. Time to find another group, right? Well, Friends of Frodo stepped up yet again, and I had a full group backing me up in short order. I head back to the Foundations of Stone, run up to Lenglammel to restart the quest, and, to my surprise, find that I had completed the instance, despite being totally worthless in the actual fight. Well, everyone found that endlessly funny (for various reasons, but as I was quite embarassed I did lay on the self-deprecating humor pretty heavily). We all got a good laugh at Drannos’ expense. Six people gathered just to help me turn in a quest.
As Palinuris said, “Fastest Instance Run. Ever. Next time you need help turning in a quest, don’t hesitate to ask!”