Friday, 15 April 2016

Visiting Lotro again

I played Lotro (Lord of the Rings Online) with three people: Switz, gods bless his derpy, Gondor-obsessed soul; Fei, who knew nothing of Tolkien and rather pranced through it without immersing oneself in the Tolkinesque magic of it; and now with Lukcy, pretty much on a whim - but we've been at it for six days now, 80 hours played, and it's absolute bliss.

Lucky isn't a Tolkienist, but he seems to enjoy any anecdote I throw his way, from the tiniest mention of queen Beruthiel's cats to the whole tearfest of Turin and Nienor; he's got a phenomenal memory for details, and when our characters go somewhere dark and scary and I announce "A Elbereth gilthoniel!" and put on a rendition of that song, he actually enjoys it; this kind of perfect Tolkien-passion companionship I didn't have in Lotro before, and for me it makes the game what I've always wanted it to be.

I said many times before that in levels 1-50 the game is intolerable - the quest distribution is appalling, and irritating to a level of frustration it's disgusting to charge money for; this is balanced by amazingly touching stories, lore and visual detail - enough to get me to want to show it to Lucky, and go through this a third time.

That said, in the two years it's been since I last played it, Turbine must have taken criticism to heart and improved things a lot. Many riding paths are instant now - no more riding ten minutes across a zone to say hi to Elrond's son, only to be sent right back to Elrond on the same fucking ten minute ride - and it's considerably less frustrating. Still a ridiculous pain sometimes - but better balanced.

But those are the best stories I've seen in an MMO, and it's breathing Tolkien's world and philosophy in a manner no other media ever produced; and now that I've repeated all my previous Lotro posts I can get to the fun part, which is screenshots, because the world is still breathtakingly beautiful.

Incoming album - click a picture for a larger view!

Here's us; I finally got the guts to play an elf (mainly because I don't have to roleplay her to the Tolkien-knowing public, or to roleplay the state of mind of someone who's hundreds of years old), and if elves, we decided to go full throttle on it and we're prancing around in silver cloaks with a wreath of white roses on our heads. Yes, even Lucky's male guy. Tolkien elves are so awesomely gay-while-being-manly, I'm proud to be following that guideline.

And since we're elves, we got to start in Celondim. At night. With the music, this was a true emotional experience.

Then the Shire; fantastically homey and cute to no end, a true place to dream of and fight for the peace of:

The Barrow Dawns, where Frodo and Co meet the barrow wight, were properly scary, even with our star-touched cloaks, the one source of hope and light in the area:

In the Lone Lands, we saw Wearthertop from afar:

And the swamps across from Garth Agarwen:

Then we rode across the Trollshaws...

...All the way to Rivendell.

Where the night sky is always a bliss:

We even found a swan-shaped harp. The attention to detail in the design, both visual and Tolkien-feel wise, is tantalizing.

Shire again, to watch the dawn on the bridge by Ted Sandiman's mill (he's actually there!)

But the best part was going over to Bilbo's house in Bag End and smoke as we watched the sunrise.

...And what a sunrise it was! Amusing model clash there with Lucky's cloak being held down by the plant pot. So considerate.

This one would mean little to people who don't know their Tolkien, but for those who do it's a delightful wink at a tiny detail in the books - the depiction of Bullroarer Took, the hobbit who, gods know how many years ago, smacked a goblin's head clean off with a bat - and the head flew over sixty yards and landed in a rabbit hole, and thus Bullroarer both stopped the goblin invasion and invented the game of golf.

Lake Nenuial is where the ancient city of Annuminas lies flooded and in ruins. The colour palette around Nenuial (also called Evendim) is breathtakingly beautiful: soft turquoise and colder green by day, purple in twilight and deep green by night, with the water so clear one could wish to breath it in; and the city of Annuminas is majestic, large and fully explorable:

The light effects are lovely, and if you look towards the sun at dawn your whole screen grows warm gold. Lucky has a special talent for noting skies and lighting, which is a blessing.

Generally, the sky is wonderful. "I've never seen a bluer sky," said Lucky when he visited the Shire for the first time - but even the afternoon in the Trollshaws offers a pretty sight:

...That moment when you let your bestie get roasted by drake fire because you're taking a screenshot:

Back to beauty. This is a bridge - just a normal elven bridge - in Rivendell. We noticed that the filigree on the top makes pretty shadows on the ground in the right time of day (which this shot sadly doesn't show, but my, the attention to aesthetics).

And another corner in Rivendell, perfectly inspiring the feel from the books - that place which makes you want to simply walk it, and think, and enjoy the scenery and be calm and safe and happy:

There's many statues around the game, most nameless and leaving their identity to guess; I think this one, found in a cavern beneath Rivendell, depicts Celebrimbor, legendary crafter of the three elven rings of power. Again, a wink to people who know some of the lore.

And look at that ceiling!

Onwards! We crossed north to the Misty Mountains. The music there is so great it even sounds cold.

In our brief visit to Forochel, we saw aurora borealis in the sky.

And to counter all that pretty bliss, here's where we are now: Welcome to mini-Mordor - Angmar.

...Which looks no less bleak in daytime, mind, and the sky looks like thickly flowing gel that cracks and oozes. All the time. It's very unnerving, once you notice it, which makes this a very immersive zone, if you can get passed how creepy it makes you feel.

No self-respecting Lotro report can skip mentioning the derpy hats, and while this is no match for the mythological mushroom-shat-on-by-a-bird hat I once found, it's still impressive and got Lucky to state it looks like a texture glitch, which I bet the Lotro hat designers would consider a success.

That's it from Middle Earth today; hoping to be reporting from Moria, Lothlorien, Rohan and Gondor next! Stay tuned.

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