Sunday, May 13, 2007

LotRO Journal - 14-May-2007

While my minstrel in Lord of the Rings Online still is level 19, my guardian got up to level 16 this weekend. Now I seriously have to consider whether I should go back to the minstrel, or just keep playing the guardian. Both are fun, but they play very much different. And I'm in no hurry to reach the level cap. Maybe I just play both of them.

My guardian was defeated for the first time at level 13, having joined a group to kill the warg of Budgeford. Too bad, no more new titles for being undefeated. Although the level 10 title of "the Undefeated" is the best-sounding one anyway. At level 14 I would have gotten "the Indomitable" title, and I have the sneaking suspicion that few people would have known what that even meant. Anyway, not having to try to not getting defeated is kind of a relief, it gives me more freedom to try riskier things without worrying about some title.

At level 15 I finally was able to wear the fancy "critical success" hardened bronze armor that I crafted myself. *Huge* difference when going from a level 10 crafted medium armor to the level 15 critical success heavy armor, although its hard to say how much of that is the better armor class, and how much is improved stats. The only problem was that the armor didn't look good, being all beige. But that problem was easily remedied by applying olive dye to all parts of it. Only the chest is still mainly beige, apparently the dye is only applied to the seams, while the main part with the "chain armor" look isn't changing color. Still looks a lot better now, as the pants and arms are now green and the ensemble looks less bland.

The level 15 guardian class quest in my opinion is bugged. You need to defend a farmer from bandits, which come in groups of two, with a single signature bandit at the end. You would be able to solo that, if the first two groups of two didn't come within just seconds from each other. No way can you defend the farmer against 4 bandits at the same time at level 15 solo, although after that everything else would be soloable. Well, I died, came back, found another level 15 guardian with the same problem, and we finished the quest together. The helmet I got had the same armor class as the crafted one I was wearing, but looked a lot fancier, and had stats that were more suited for a guardian.

Besides the guardian I was mostly playing alts. I made a new man captain, and leveled him up to 9. I still plan to take him to level 10 or a bit higher, to see how that class plays when he gets a pet. Because frankly, up to level 9, with no pet, the captain is the weakest class I ever played in this game. He is constantly running out of power (what other games call mana), and then he can't do anything any more. In LotRO all characters use power for all special attacks, but although my other characters hit all their hotkeys as fast as they can, they never run out of power except when fighting more than 2 mobs at once. The captain even gets low when he just fights mobs one by one, and was the only character where I really needed to pause between fights to get him back up to full. Which is especially annoying for this class, as he has lots of abilities that only work after he has defeated a foe, so you'd need to start the next fight right away to make the most out of them. I really want to see whether the class gets better after receiving a herald pet at level 10, because right now I foresee a constant stream of "captain sucks" posts on the LotRO forums.

I made the captain a scholar, inadvertently adding the worst tradeskill in the game to the character with the worst class in the game. With all the money and power of my alts I just can't get the scholar to even be proficient at the apprentice level. Every recipe he has needs rare components, especially aged scraps of text, and those are simply too hard to get. Scholar nodes are much, much rarer than wood or ore nodes; they only appear around a few ruins, are surrounded by mobs, they respawn slowly, and there is no tracking skill to find them. You can get scholar materials from mobs, like goblins, but you need to kill around 15 goblins for one aged scrap of text, and then you need 3 scraps to make one scholar scroll or potion. The scraps go for really crazy prices on the auction house, and are one of the most bid on items there. Scholar is definitely the craft that is hardest and slowest to advance.

I then made another alt, just to cover all the tradeskills, an elf hunter with the jeweler profession. Now that one was very easy to skill up, just by using the amethysts and agates that my guardian had found when mining. As the captain besides scholar is also a weaponsmith, and I do have a forester / woodworker dwarf champion alt, I now have all the bases covered. That is insofar interesting as it allows you to level up your low-level alts very quickly. LotRO has crafting quests, where you need to hand in crafted items to get some crafting materials plus xp as reward. And the xp are quite good, for example there are two quests in Bree and near the Forsaken Inn that each give 753 xp for handing in just one amethyst ring. And sometimes the crafting materials are interesting too, like getting those aged scraps of text from a weaponsmith quest in Combe, or sweet Lobelia seeds in Bree for a cooking quest.

Besides the crafting quests, and the obvious advantage of having easy access to starting equipment for all possible alts, I mainly did all those alts to explore all the different tradeskills. In generally I like the tradeskills of LotRO, but sometimes I do have the impression that they aren't as complete or well-balanced as they could be. Which isn't really surprising, because you could say the same about WoW or any other game that has crafting, with the possible exception of UO. Tradeskill systems seem to be something that is designed as an afterthought by the B-team of developers in all MMOs, which is a pity. A good player economy can add so much life to a MMORPG, and you can't have that if your crafting system isn't top notch. Players usually manage to get the economy running somehow, because enough players just like crafting, but that is in spite of all the flaws, not because the crafting system is so well done.

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