The Interactive Novel of Isengard
Posted by Player Versus Developer [HTML][XML][PERM][FULL] on 17 July 2012, 8:07 pm
I'm currently part of the way through the solo storyline of LOTRO's Isengard expansion.  Like all of the game's recent and/or revamped content, the epic storyline takes the solo player through a core path of lore that runs parallel to the adventures of the Fellowship of the Ring.  In this Volume, the people of Dunland - and soon Rohan - prepare for war against Saruman.  Perhaps as interesting are the trends in the game's development.
  • LOTRO has always had NPC's involved in soloable portions of the epic story.  Even so, this expansion feels like it's increasingly putting the player in larger conflicts involving large numbers of NPC's, presumably in preparation for the battles that are to come in the IP over the next few years.  
Turbine appears to think this NPC is win for whatever reason.
  • Unfortunately, this setup leans very heavily on instances that actually forbid players to complete it in a group.  I realize there are some logistical issues to be managed - how to handle player moral choices, SWTOR style, and how to balance the content - and I haven't joined a LOTRO group in years, but I don't see this as a good thing.  In particular, Turbine spent a lot of effort a few years back building a scalable skirmish system but seems reluctant to use it in the story content.  
Is Tec-Win some form of fighting game combo-breaker that makes this NPC superior to Win? 
  • Like most recent quest-based MMO's, the story of each area (in this case, Dunland subzones) is told through lengthy chains of completely linear quests.  At least Isengard's epic story explicitly offers the option for players who just want to follow the epic books to skip the side-quests in each area.
Overall, the game is well-executed.  Like many story-heavy MMO's, I'm finding that the exp curve is a bit under-tuned - a player who actually completes all the quests to see all of the story will end up over-level compared to the content (currently level 73 and nearly to the level cap, with lots of content left to play).  Unlike many MMO's, though, I do still enjoy the story of LOTRO, even when a higher level makes the combat relatively under-challenging.  If there's any game that can get away with playing like an interactive novel, it would be this one.




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