Monday, April 11, 2011

Lotro: Orchalwe's Mission, the best quest-giver ever!

Having spent the last week playing through the new content in Evendim, thought I'd jot down a few impressions. Firstly since I was playing the content on my level 38 captain who had done a lot of the quests before the update and then went back and did the new stuff it might be a bit of a fractured experience than someone with a blank slate and I avoided doing chores for hobbits.

I started at the new quest hub at the colossus, which had the highlight of a quest arc that allowed the player to access the top of the colossus for probably one of the best vantage points in the game. Most of the quests were formulaic but there was a greater use of mini-instances, including a single named mob which has an obvious advantage of avoiding players queuing for the kill.

Moving on to Tinnudir, the player is introduced to Orchalwe, the main protagonist so to speak for the rangers’ storyline. He sends the player first to the 'twilight estates', then Ost Forod, across to the Eavespires, the Way of Kings and finally he joins the player for a trek through Annuminas.

The 'twilight estates' were unused points of interest before, now they form part of a quest chain that gives a bit of insight about each one. The mechanic that leads the player around through each one is a book that automatically bestows and completes the quests as the player works through them. Also there is optional quests to find along the way, which can all be turned in at the end of the journey and don't have follow-ups. It's a nice mechanic and hope to see it more often, it is a nice feeling to be given an item and go out on a quest rather than running out and back with errands.

Ost Forod has a new storyline about a pact between the people of that town and the rangers. Except the story is not that well written. Plenty of sour notes, such as being sent out to kill brigands who used to be described as people down on their luck resorting to plundering tombs. The quest describes the task as chasing them off to protect the 'good' people’s livelihood, except in reality it is kill 10 of them. The main story is no better, it first has the player make good on the rangers promise to supply the townsfolk, and then the second half has the player help the townsfolk fulfil their responsibilities of securing the northern areas. And the player is left to think no wonder the relationship broke down if neither side can be arsed to honour their side of the bargain. In the end this arc reaches a climax on the island of Rantost with the Thief-takers Bane instance, which is now soloable.

There is a short detour to the Eavespires, which I mostly skipped, and the tomb robbers’ story is continued at the Way of Kings, having escaped the carnage the player and rangers inflicted at Rantost they row south and land at the most bountiful tombs in the land and make pacts with the Angmarims. There is a design trend that is evident in at all the quest hubs so far, that of the quest wrapper i.e. one NPC gives an overarching quest that involves the completion of several other quests. It's a nice way of organising quest content for players but it's a little boring to have quests at every hub being doled out that way. On the plus side there is some nice tidbits of lore here and the mini-instances are well used again.

On to what is probably the highlight of the new content for me at least, Orchalwe's Mission. Instead of a whole bunch of NPCs clamouring for attention, there is one quest giver of interest (we'll leave aside those other two old quests that don't lead to much and still have their outdated rewards), who gives the player the ability to call Orchalwe. Orchalwe is a essentially a mobile quest-giver than travels with the player, doling out quests at specific locations and is also a dab hand at killing mobs too, in essence he is the best quest-giver ever.

Besides two quests he gives the player when first summoned, one of which leads the player to six targets spread around Annuminas, there are also 13 optional quests that are triggered in certain areas most of which coincide with the main quest but a few are out of the way. It is a real nice way to encourage the player to explore, I found all the entrances to the 3 instances which I wouldn't have known otherwise especially now with 'instance join' and completed two exploration deeds too.

There is a few negatives, Turbine didn't pay enough attention to the difficulty, most players should be able to take on 3 signatures mobs with Orchalwe and his imba heals, with maybe a few close calls and cooldown use, but there is a few sticking points with patrolling mobs, 4 or more signatures and fast respawns that are impossible. The best solution at present for what is supposed to be soloable quest arc, is let Orchalwe and/or your pet aggro the mobs, run to the quest item, activate it and run away again. Having died a few times trying to get past one point in particular with a named signature, it was particularly galling to find the waypoint is outside the city and ensures a long run back to the action. And finding all 13 optional quests is just crying out for a hidden deed or something, a real missed opportunity.Hope there is more quest-givers like Orchalwe in the future, it does make for a refreshing change, than suffering the useless lumps at say for example Ost Forod.

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