To dungeons deep and caverns old
Well, I’m back.
I’d been growing dissatisfied with EQ2 for some time now – the world was huge and there was a ton to do and see, but it felt somehow empty to me, and I never really had any goals except the most basic of achievement-related ones (e.g. level up in adventure or crafting). The EQ2 crafting, while unique and admittedly challenging, felt tedious to me, and none of my characters ever had AAs close to what I’d read they ought to have at their level. All in all, it felt like a lot of work to field characters who weren’t gimped by poor equipment and paltry AAs. So after some soul-searching, I resubscribed to the MMO I have the best memories of – Lord of the Rings Online. Buying the expansion (and base game again) for $9.95 was a compelling bargain (digital download for the win!), as was paying $9.95 per month to subscribe.
I’ve been a Tolkien nut since I was 8 years old and first read the Lord of the Rings. I’ve read the series no less than once every year for the last 31 years now. I own all of the History of Middle-Earth books, and can tell you the genealogy of any of the characters, cite key events from before time through all 4 ages, and recite the poem inscribed on the One Ring in the original Black Speech. Yeah, “one ring to rule them all”, that’s nice you poseur. “Ash nazg durbatulûk” has a better ‘ring’ to it in my opinion. So anyhow, yeah, I have a vested interest in the world itself and have to admit that the game manifests Arda, or Endor if you prefer (yes, that’s where Lucas got the name), entirely in the spirit of Tolkien’s writings. It felt good to be home again.
I used to have 2 accounts, and I reactivated the primary one. My lvl 50 Burglar is on the other account, along with my Captain (who I think was in the high 30s) – I don’t much care about the characters but might end up missing the crafting, since all of my characters had mastered the crafting available before the Moria expansion. My remaining account has my Champion, Minstrel, and Hunter, all of whom dinged 51 last night – as well as my Loremaster, who dinged 48, and my Guardian, who dinged 38. That sounds like a lot of work but literally I took each character and killed one creature each – the EXP curve had been reworked in the 10 months I was away, and that meant all my characters had “hidden” experience that was awarded the first time they earned any EXP. Those characters mastered 5 of the 7 crafts pre-expansion and I expect I’ll carry them onwards shortly.
I also made a new Elf Rune-keeper and played him up to level 10 last night. The Elf starting area has been substantially reworked, which I truly appreciated. Previously, after completing the tutorial, Elves started their adventures in, literally, a temporary camp, with nothing but tents and a handful of NPCs standing around. Given they were a short distance from the ruins of Edhelion, it made little sense for the Elves to be camping in the snow… for years… instead of making use of a more permanent, albeit damaged, locale. The tents always bothered me and felt out of place for the Elves, so I was overjoyed to start properly in the ruins of Edhelion. There were a number of new quests there, with excellent flow, and my character was just shy of level 8 when he completed the starter area by escorting Dwalin through the caves. The final instance there was unchanged from the several times I’d done it in the past, but it still works well so I had no complaints.
There were rather a lot of interface changes, all of which I’d call improvements prima facie, though in truth I’ve only spent a little time checking them out. The Traits window especially stood out as being very attractive and well-laid-out. I spent a bit of time on each character shuffling around the interface windows to make best use of my new 40″ monitor, checked on everyone’s banks, paid the 10-month-overdue rent on the house for that account, and settled in to playing.
The game is even more lush and beautiful than I remembered it. I don’t think the DirectX 10 support was in when last I played, and this time I had all graphics settings maxed out, and never dropped below 35fps. Most of the time I had anywhere from 75 to 150fps, which is obviously more than enough. The bloom filter was a bit overwhelming when standing in snow in bright sunlight, but otherwise the graphics were the most impressive of any game I’ve played yet.
The Rune-keeper was easy and fun to play. I haven’t read up on the class yet but expect that there will be skills (probably coming soon) that allow me to shift my balance on a more permanent basis between healing and damage. For now, the character remains balanced precisely between the two aspects, except on a very short term basis during combat, when casting damage spells in succession leads to a damage focus. The character excels at damage over time and healing over time, and it feels like a very strong class. Time will tell.
I have to strongly disagree with the misinformed purists who claim that the Rune-keeper doesn’t fit the lore. There was rather a lot of magic in Middle-earth, and not all of it was of the subtle variety. Though most of the flashier magics were used by very powerful characters in Tolkien’s writings, many of them of divine or semi-divine nature (i.e. they were Maiar like Gandalf and Saruman, or descended from Maiar like Lúthien or Elrond), the Elves did some impressively flashy things in the First Age. Anyhow, I have no problem with the powers I’ve seen the Rune-keeper manifest thus far, and as you should have gathered by now, I’m a fairly hardcore Tolkien lore-junky. And yes, I can cite a lot of examples of flashy, powerful, explicit magic being used in Middle-Earth as per the Professor. 😉
I was very pleasantly surprised to find that several of my old friends have remained in or returned to the game. My old kinship (aka guild) fell apart 10 months ago (when the guild leader and several of the officers left – including me… I was second-in-command and ran the guild website) but many of the members have since joined a kinship that was closely allied with our old kinship. I’m looking forward to catching up with them, and to their characters.
I don’t really have the inclination to play two MMOs at the same time, so I’ll be dropping a bunch of crafting supplies in my EQ2 guild’s shared crafting bank (which I’ll freely admit is a wonderful, wonderful concept) and unsubscribing soon. I might revisit Norrath at some point but for now I’m a lot more excited to see Moria and Lothlórien. LotRO has the distinction of being one of very few MMOs to have slowly gained players over time instead of losing them, and so the prognosis is excellent for continued fun there.
As Meriadoc the Magnificent once said, “It is best to love first what you are fitted to love, I suppose: you must start somewhere and have some roots, and the soil of the Shire is deep.”