Back to Middle Earth

So after I flamed out on Age of Conan, and used up my free EQ2 time, I was stuck with no MMO to play for August and the start of September. I didn’t want to burn out on the War beta, so I turned to Lord of the Rings Online.

When LOTRO first shipped, I signed up as a Founder (Lifetime) member. I’ve never regretted it, even though LOTRO hasn’t been something I play constantly. But I did it so I’d have a ‘fall back’ for just such times as these (I was actually unemployed when I bought the Founder membership; money was starting to get tight and I wanted to ensure I’d always have a good quality MMO to play).

Thing is, even though I’ve been playing on and off since launch, my highest level character was all of 23. I ran into some focus problems early on during my adventures in Middle Earth. I’m an alt-aholic in every game I play, so I was playing around between a bunch of characters. To make things worse, my friends kind of split between two servers (Landroval and Elendilmir) and I had duplicate classes on the two.

But the final nail in the coffin for me was Bree. One of the biggest problems I have with LOTRO is that Bree feels like such a bottleneck, with every race and class having to spend some time there. Which means every alt ends up doing the same quests, which meant, for me, that boredom set in. I’d log in, putter around doing Green quests, and log out, making little to no progress. Then something else came out to attract my easily distracted attention (Tabula Rasa, maybe) and I left LOTRO behind completely.

Until earlier this month. This time I focused on one solo-friendly class (Champion) and ignored all my alts. I joined a Kinship (though that didn’t last long…nice people but just not the right levels for me). I started doing PUGs for Fellowship quests, and was astounded that generally speaking that wasn’t sucking. I still struggled when I hit level 20 or so and was faced with (it seemed) nothing *but* Fellowship quests, meaning I had to have a good solid block of free time to progress. I almost quit, right there at the same level my 23 Hunter had. Something about those early 20’s just feel slow and thick and painful to wade through, to me. But sheer stubbornness helped me press on. I wasn’t going to have 2 characters stuck at the same level!

Last night I hit level 25. That meant I got to use my freebie “Founder’s Horse” (not as fast as a ‘real’ horse but still nice). I also bought my first house, which was kind of fun. Having a background in EQ2 does make the house decorating in LOTRO seem pretty anemic though. On the other hand, your house is a house, with a yard and neighbors, compared to the apartments of EQ2. And I’m finally pushing out into areas I’ve never seen, thank goodness!

It was a shock coming back though, and curiously I read Tom Chick’s post on this topic soon after I’d gone through the same issues, so I won’t recount them myself:

here’s the other thing that’s difficult about getting back into an MMO after a year away: “Holy cats, what is ALL THIS JUNK in my inventory? Look at all those buttons ON THE HOTBARS? Who can bothered to know all that stuff?” It takes about an hour of wading through grays and reading tooltips and hunting for hotkeys just to get back into the swing of things. At which point it’s “Oh lordy, what are ALL THESE QUESTS? What are these places? Who are these quest vendors? WHERE DO I GO?”

Lord of the Rings Online: …and back again

The other odd thing is that everyone assumes you have a “main” somewhere and that you’ve done quests already. I zipped through a few quests in the Lone Lands last night so fast (had 2 level 50’s powering through everything, along with 4 23-25s) that I never even realized we’d completed the quests. Somebody carried a statue somewhere… I never even saw it.

I’m really conflicted about this, because I do enjoy the lore and like a good fight. On the other hand, clearing out a bunch of Fellowship-required quests in a single highly-chaotic hour was nice.

But WAR is Coming. When September 18th hits I’ll be all over Warhammer Online, and what will happen to LOTRO then? I’d love to say I’d keep playing it, as it offers things Warhammer doesn’t. But I’m just not sure there’s enough hours in the day to play two MMORPGs.