The Lord of the Rings Online: What I Think Of Mordor So Far
LOTRO’s Mordor expansion has been out for just about a month, and I’ve been making my way through it gradually. Frankly, I’m enjoying the new Black Book and landscape quest stories more than anything else. It’s great that we get to see deeper into Mordor, where the movies don’t and the books can’t visualize it enough to paint a picture. To that extent, it’s a pretty satisfying experience for us Tolkien fans to explore and learn more about the region, its inhabitants and the future of the main story.
It’s not all good though, and Standing Stone Games infuriatingly relies on traditional systems for gameplay progression. We’ll go over these in a second.
New Stories Does The Lore Justice
Being only one of the mediums (besides Shadow of Mordor) to explore Sauron’s lands extensively, LOTRO does a good job with its stories here. It’s exciting to see zone quests explore the peoples that live here, forced to serve Sauron and his armies at the height of his power. There’s humans from Nurn who work the forges, and Dwarves as well. Many of the new stories weave a wonderful and tragic tale that players will no doubt enjoy.
They have also given it the respect it deserves, sticking faithfully to the source material wherever possible. More surprisingly, some of these plots are deep and they make you feel something, which even for LOTRO, is rare. The Black Book, which replaces LOTRO’s 10 year-running Epic Story Books, is also decent. It follows you and the successful Host of the West deeper into Mordor, to uncover the remaining loyalists to the Dark Lord and put an end to them. The new stories alone are worth playing for, but with such a huge expansion, it’s hard to recommend considering the buy-in price.
The Light/Shadow Mechanics
The new Mordor zones introduces the Light of Earendil system – a new equip-able stat on new gear to counter the Shadow of Mordor debuff. The debuff is auto granted on players when they enter certain areas, making mobs harder to hit and stronger. While it sounds interesting on paper, it’s a very harsh wake up call for players that have taken gear progression lightly over the last couple of years. An under-geared player will inevitably die a lot on the landscape and it can be annoying – it’s not that they’re bad, it just forces them to take it in the face until they acquire the new gear.
As a result, the difficulty curve increases, but it could have definitely been implement a lot better than this. Solo players that are Light armored classes especially, will be thinking twice about going in alone. However, if you do like the challenge, then Mordor’s first zone of Udun will be just fine. You won’t be able to tackle more than 1 mob at a time, which slows progression down considerably, unless you’re running in a group. To sum it up, the new system adds something new to LOTRO, but whether that’s a good or bad thing remains to be seen. I just hope it’s not another system they made up and abandon down the road (Audacity, Radiance, Mounted Combat).
Quest Designs Belong In The Past
What’s the one thing I’m most critical about in the Mordor expansion? It’s the quest designs. It’s so painfully bad that it hurts. Shame, because the story payoff is good, but it hurts that you have to slog through petty fetch/kill quest chains in large areas densely populated with hard mobs in order to reap the rewards. To make matters worst, you know they’re stalling you. Long travel rides and plenty of back and forth quests will suck the life and motivation out of you sometimes. The designs themselves are just uninspiring. Some Gondor soldier wants treasure? What does that have to with me? Oh so I need to collect and salvage trinkets for him? Sure. Oh what’s that, I need to kill 12 orcs while I’m at it? Ok…It’s 2017, but LOTRO has a way of making sure everyone knows it’s old and intends to stay that way forever.
Where other MMORPGs innovate and explore with new quest designs that help the player progress while enjoying the story, LOTRO instead, slows things down to a slog. It’s predictable, repetitive, and boring. You can re-skin the quest giver and flavor text all you want, but a fetch quest is still a fetch quest, I don’t care if it’s an Elf or Dwarf that’s telling me to go fetch. It’s a mixed experience so far, and hopefully questing becomes a journey and fun again in the remaining zones ahead.