Friday, July 15, 2011

“Shadows of Angmar” epic questline review, without spoilers.

First thing: if you are reading this and have completed the epic questline also, please do NOT add spoilers in your comments. 

Yesterday I finally finished the two epic volumes of “Shadows of Angmar” in LotRO. It was a long journey, specially since I am quite a casual player. It has been over a year since I started, always taking a break to do normal quests whenever the epic storyline became too dangerous for my hunter. Most of it was done solo, with help from my guildmates at some points, specially for the Helegrod step, which was both surprising, epic and challenging (yeah I’m not telling you spoilers).

All of the story felt epic for me, but the game mechanics did get on the way. Once again I agree with Will Wright, games are not the best media to tell stories. I say this because at many times I felt like in a book within the storytelling, just to be slapped in the face with a game mechanic, such as traveling, teleporting out of a dungeon, and so on. 

I started the epic questline as I made my character, back when the game was still on a subscription model. I chose a hunter and continued on both the epic storyline and the area quests until the epic one outleveled me. The whole two volumes were tuned so that you CAN fnish them solo, but as you are remembered often during the quests, it is more time consuming and challenging to do so. As a hunter, all I had was DPS and some little crowd control on later levels. I am right now quite curious to try the whole thing again, both to recap the story and to be able to test it with a different kind of character.

While I would have loved to have had company, it was rare that I managed to find people to go with me. On the first volume my guild and a few other “strangers” did help me, but those were rare moments. I did most of the whole two volumes alone.

As I’ve mentioned, the game mechanics themselves are the breaking point in immersion with the story, which is kinda funny to say and think about. There is a huge amount of traveling, and if you’ve read the books, you kinda have an idea of how long you would have taken to each trip, and you’ll also notice that the storytelling is totally ignoring that.
Also, in the end I was laughing at being sent to Elrond, because just like traveling, it happens a lot. Funny thing is, this is not just for the epic. Whenever you find something odd in Middle-Earth, Elrond is your best bet for an explanation. Even if you just have some dead bugs and rocks in your pocket, he might find it interesting, so get used to his peaceful face.

Overall those were the only odd things to me though. I am no “Lorekeeper” of Tolkien’s work, and I see the whole game stories as another author writing based on an already made up world. Just like series and movies are made based in books and will follow different paths to both fit into the media and because it IS another person writing.

As for the good things, I really like the overall story of the epic volumes. I could see the foreign elements mixed with ideas that matched very much with concepts in the books, and was fun to see them mixing together. I also loved how I’ve felt in danger the whole time. Not knowing what I’d find when sent somewhere did put my whole attention on the screen, which is another reason I’d play this questline in a casual manner: I needed HOURS to get the right immersion, to complete missions without looking at the clock, just there, lost somewhere on a dangerous mission. It truly felt like and adventure, and even with the inspiration buff that makes you strong enough to solo the content, you can’t just “faceroll” through it (or at least I couldn’t). I had to make strategies and and the right pulls not to get too many adds, avoid some, cooked a LOT of support food on my alt to help me, and potions’ cool-downs could be precious.

In the end, I am glad I followed the questline the way I did, with the pauses to catch up in level and without reading ahead for story spoilers. I only wish I had not done it so much solo, but with others. My casual play-style did not help on that at all. Also, I wish they’d publish the story on a book format, full of extra details where the game could not reach. Maybe even dare to make one of those “choose your adventure” tittles and let me meet doomed paths or easier ways that I could not in the game. I do believe none of those will ever happen, but I can keep dreaming :)

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