Thursday, November 08, 2007

Lotro: Thoughts on the Chapter 11 patch and Quest Chains

I've been playing quite a bit of Lotro recently although I haven't been blogging about it. In addition to player housing the recent free update (Chapter 11) added a fair amount of new content as well. A new area called the High Pass has opened up East of the Misty Mountains which seems to be aimed at level 45 and up while the new Tal Bruinen region south in the South Eastern Troll Shaw's has plenty of quests for players in the low 40's.

One very nice thing about the latest content update is that there are lots of references to Tolkien Lore. The High Pass region contains the Goblin Town from the Hobbit and in Tal Bruinen there is a lovely quest chain where you get to meet a nasty little creature who features very prominently in Tolkien's books.

Throg has only spent a small amount of time in The High Pass but he has done almost every quest in the new Tal Bruinen region of the Trollshaws. Its a pretty region with some fun quests which are incredibly solo friendly. At level 46 Throg is a little over the ideal level for the zone but he still managed to get a superb armour set for himself (Forest-Walker's Apparel) from easy solo quests. He also did a lovely solo instance in which you get to meet the aforementioned nasty creature.

With this update I think Turbine has finally plugged all of the quest "black holes". Evendim patched the mid 30's hole and now Chapter 11 has patched the mid 40's hole. There is now a surfeit of quests at every level for solo players and groups. With all the obvious gaps now plugged I wouldn't be surprised if the next major update will cost money.

The funny thing is that Throg managed to get all the way through his 30's without going to Evendim and without hitting the famous black hole. A combination of solo and group quests in The North Downs and The Trollshaws sufficed. The nice thing about these region's (and indeed all the pre 40's regions of Lotro) is that quests come in well organised chains with a number of solo quests leading up to a group quest. You need to do the group quest at the end to get the best rewards but the system is very casual player friendly because you can progress on the solo pre-quests while waiting for groups to form. Also since most players get all the solo quests done it is usually easy to find others for any given group quest. Sadly this lovely organisation of quest chains begins to break down when you hit the Misty Mountains around level 40 and falls apart completely when you go to West Angmar shortly thereafter.

In West Angmar solo quests and group quests are mixed up in illogical chains. In many cases a group quest comes early in the chain blocking progress to soloable quests. Even more frustrating is that fact that many quest chains cannot be started until some other unrelated quest (for example The Drakes Egg) is completed. The net result is that groups are essential to progress but are also very hard to organise because it is difficult to find players who are at the same point on the complicated chain of quests as yourself.

I don't know why Turbine chose to abandon a system which works well elsewhere when they got to West Angmar. The new regions plug the quest gap but Tal Bruinen is now so solo friendly that I wouldn't be surprised if people abandon West Angmar entirely. Why will people continue to toil through long complicated quest chains when they can get better rewards from solo play in Tal Bruinen? It will probably get even harder to find groups in West Angmar which is a terrible pity.

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