Sometimes you don’t realize exactly how right something is until you’ve had a moment to step back and really take a good, long look at it. I found this particularly true this week. Lots of little, or maybe not so little, things for me in LotRO.
First, I finished out Lothlorien; at least, I finished as many of the non-repeatable quests I could find. Caras Galadhon, while an exceedingly beautiful area, is not easy to navigate, and finding all of the quests was a bit tricky. I’m still not sure I found them all. And finishing out Lothlorien naturally means I found my way to Mirkwood. Not that I couldn’t have headed across the river a long time ago, but I like to take the content in sequence as much as possible, so I left off Mirkwood until I felt comfortable I’d gone through the bulk of Lothlorien’s quests.
On the subject of Lothlorien, I have to say that overall I’m extraordinarily pleased with how the area turned out. Turbine really took to heart what Lothlorien represented in the books, and more importantly for the Fellowship – an island of respite, the last taste of peace before the coming trials and the descent into outright War that followed their departure. The area was truly a respite after the craziness that was Moria (not that I’m done with Moria, but I spend far less of my time there now).
In a very subtle way, Turbine truly nailed Lothlorien, and in a way that I didn’t notice until I was almost through it and looking towards Mirkwood. It is exactly what it should be; it is a place of peace, newly threatened with the first incursions of the Enemy, and, from the perspective of game mechanics, more about lore than about combat. That’s perfection in my book, and it made me feel what I would think the Fellowship felt after fleeing Moria into the relative safety of the Golden Wood. Consider that a majority of the quests were non-combat quests, that they dealt in many ways with the revelation, explanation, or expansion of the game’s lore (and hence, the world’s lore). Very appropriate.
Then, into Mirkwood. I’ve only done the “landing” instance so far. The tension felt when moving through the introductory area was nice and, aided by great music and the outstanding visual design, it really had the feeling of an invasion into a haunted wood. At least, how I’d think the first landing of an invasion would feel. But, again, near-perfect execution by Turbine. And, more important than anything else, Mirkwood looks exactly how I would have imagined it.
What Lothlorien, quickly followed by Mirkwood, has shown me is the genius of Turbine when looking at LotRO from an “eagle’s view”. On a grand scale, they really have captured the essence of the story so far. Eriador is predominantly about beginnings, an emergent threat, and growing dread. Moria is about loss both the kingdom of the Dwarves and for the Fellowship), with darkness rising from the depths, and a frantic escape. Lothlorien is the Fellowship’s respite, where they renew their resolve and receive some powerful help. Mirkwood, while not directly (barely even indirectly) mentioned in the books, is a chance for players to explore a new realm, and to dive back into the fray.
After the craziness of Moria, I have to say that taking a step back from the fighting was a welcome break. Towards the end, I’d had the growing sense that there was nothing but the fighting – the grind, the intense battles, it’s all fun, but it can get tiring. Looking back, I see that I, along with many players, just leaned into it more and more, just to keep moving forward and maintain momentum, like walking through a raging storm. You just lean into it, head down, and keep moving forward as best you can. This is appropriate for Moria, but can really burn us out. Lothlorien is the perfect respite, and a great transition.
I also took a huge step back, and started a new character, on a new server (sorry kin, but the temptation was too great!). I chose a Burglar again, and stuck with the race of Man. Though I don’t think it will become my full-time home for LotRO, I wanted something on Landroval that I could use for attending events.
More than anything else, this particular step back has renewed my love for LotRO and my desire to play. Really. Look at this:
Now tell me, how can you not find that absolutely stunning? How can you not be drawn into a world so gorgeously detailed, so breathtakingly engaging, where sightseeing is a valid (and fun) way to spend your time? I’ve played many, many games, and can honestly say that it would be hard to name a world more enthralling than Turbine’s Middle Earth.