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The Road to Mordor: The highs and lows of Middle-earth


Every Friday, The Road to Mordor brings you the latest in Lord of the Rings Online news, guides and analysis.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It was also the most trite way to open an article, especially if you were to be submitting it to your English teacher. Still, I've never encountered a week in LotRO that's given me such a bipolar experience, and I'm going to need your help to work it out. You with me? Good, then grab a cup of red tea and let us spin such a yarn that cats all over the world will be attracted to it.

The week began with a switch back to my Captain -- I like to juggle characters, but my cappy (Captain Crunch, thank you very much) is the flagship character of my account, the one in which I've poured the most time and interest. Crunch had just hit level 45, which meant she was eligible to start Volume II, Book I. This is generally recommended at level 45, because the book nets you your first legendary item (and your second, by the end of it). I figured, might as well get cracking on that infamous LI grind I hear so much about, so away I went!

It was my first taste of the Mines of Moria content (I know, I know, I'm terribly behind in the scheme of things), and I have to say, it exceeded my expectations. The first book of Volume II is all about the approach to Moria, as you help out a bunch of ambitious yet death-prone dwarves in their quest to re-open the doors. It all builds up to your first confrontation with the Watcher in the Water, and other than the lame flailing tentacles, the story and cutscenes didn't disappoint.

Armed with a new legendary halberd -- which I named "Buttlescutt" in honor of a weird conversation we had in the Massively offices -- I looked forward to finishing up my To Do list from the Shadows of Angmar content so that I could return to Moria.

Unfortunately, this is where I should've stopped for the week and gone out to pick flowers and chase squirrels, since soul-crushing despair was headed my way. You see, I've got an obsession with getting my six chosen virtues done in each zone (depending on where they are) before moving on, and I've been really good about it up to this point. My favorite virtue deeds are the ones where you have to do a certain amount of quests in the zone, because that's what I want to do anyway, and it never feels grindy. But that's not how virtues progress in the game, especially as you begin to hit what used to be the old end game.

Lifetime Subscription or Lifetime Sentence?

Somewhere down the line, things start to go horribly, horribly wrong. Before you know it, you're grinding 360 fire-breathing salamanders, completely bewildered -- both you and the salamanders -- as to why you're doing so. Did you get thrown into a hard-labor gulag? Did you displease the Turbine gods in some way?

So you eagerly grasp at what appear to be easier deeds -- hey, only 160 trolls! -- only to find out that they're hidden in the seventh level of hell (right behind the Abercrombie & Fitch), where super-elite mobs roam and deadly instances that nobody runs these days guard your goals.

Suddenly, I'm combing through Lotro-Wiki, trying to figure out if there are any other pre-Moria virtues I can actually, y'know, do by myself. It's not that I'm anti-social, it's just that I value my friendships and don't want to strain them by kidnapping someone for six hours to descend into a seemingly endless hellspawn slaughter.

Thus, in the space of a week, I've gone from romping through content that's really enjoyable, tells a great story and offers tasty rewards to content that's insanely grindy, necessary in the long run if I want a fully fleshed-out character, and offers -- honestly -- kind of piddly rewards. The stat increases from virtues are nice, sure, but they're way out of proportion to how hard and time-consuming they end up being. I could just stop doing them, or come back later, but the thought of that sticks under my craw -- is there any good reason why I can't solo these right now, and why it takes hours and hours to accomplish them?

Virtues: A Proposal

I know that one of the things Turbine put on the table for discussion is a possible virtue retooling, something I heartily applaud. I'm not against the idea of virtues or even how they're implemented (at least, to an extent). It's great to be able to advance your character's stats in alternative ways, and the deed system is perfect for that. I'd just argue that it's far too much -- especially the kill deeds that ask you to slaughter upwards hundreds and hundreds of one particular species -- and it's not as solo-friendly as it should be.

This isn't even to mention that we're in the second expansion of the game without seeing the virtue cap of 10 ranks increased, nor the system tweaked in any substantial way. If virtues are to be an important part of the character building process, than it's far past time the whole system be brought up to par with the rest of the game.

Sure, I can see the worry on Turbine's behalf -- if they make virtue deeds too easy, then they're shortening content and risking players running out of stuff to do. My general response to this -- in LotRO or any game -- is that this is a silly concern. If anything, making character building more accessible and easier is only going to increase my overall satisfaction with the MMO and prompt me to roll more alts in the future. As it stands now, the thought of having to redo these virtues on multiple characters makes me shudder uncontrollably.

And it's not as if there haven't been good suggestions how to rework the virtue deeds:

  • Pair more kill deeds with skirmishes
  • Switch deed rewards so that virtues are given out for the first section of the deed, and titles for the second
  • Loosen kill deed restrictions so that more types of creatures in a zone count for the same deed

Unless you can make the grind really engaging somehow, then cut down the grind and let me get to the good stuff. That's all I ask, and that's all I want in this game.

Tavern Talk -- A look at what the LotRO community is talking about this week:

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