Monday, 16 May 2016

Lord of the Rings Online visual report: Beyond Angmar

37 days, 367 hours played, says Steam; an average of ten hours a day of playing LotRO since April 8th, the day we started. For all my whining about the game, it grows considerably better once you enter Moria; and the stunning visual experience of Moria is why I'm writing this post, which is silly, because I realized there was too much to show, so I won't even get to Moria on this post.

In the last entry, we were still in Angmar. I actually just deleted a thirty-line long note about Angmar, history and architecture, because I realized that if I let myself go this entry will take a week to write and will be read by nobody, so let's stick to the visuals. Ish.

Not your place of choice for a summer cottage.

So this next shot is quite ugly, but it shows something cool. Angmar, at some point, conquered parts of neighbour kingdom, Rhudaur. In the picture below we can actually see three different kinds of architecture: The ancient, grand and now decrepit Rhudauran one, on top of which some practical villagers erected their half-timber little houses, and, inevitably, the orc barricades and war machines residing there now. I love seeing so much history in each location. Turbine, in this you really rock.

In the capital city of Carn Dûm we entered the great evil hall of evilness. The Cthuluesque chappies holding fires on the walls are actually Watcher Stones, in which a spirit so evil was bound, walking by it saps your life away. Lucky also noticed the crowned eye design of the window, and if you look carefully (from another angle which I will spare you because this entry will be monstrously long anyway) you might notice the design on the floor is also an eye.

We also found this tapestry in Carn Dûm: There's a bearded guy holding some artefact of light on the left, battling some shackled incarnation of evil on the right, in a very fiery area. I don't know which bit of the Tolkien history this relates to, which annoys me greatly.

Following the Epic story line (which really is very good, story wise, even if it makes you want to cry on the mechanical aspects at times), we ended up in Forochel. Forochel is barely mentioned in the lore; it's a very cold hellhole in the north, and some king of Gondor ended up drowning on his ship there. Turbine, as usual, did a wonderful work designing the local culture - and the scenery.

The aurora changes constantly, and is stunning.

When we arrived, though, there was a crazy storm; outside the village, we could barely see anything. Very realistic, I'm told -not that I would know, here in the land where it's 43 Celsius in May, grumble.

But we found the drowned king's ship. It's Tolkien, so the ship probably had fourteen different names in four different languages, but I don't know any of them.

And the king was still there, poor soul. This made me squeal with excitement, light Tolkien geek that I am; I even remembered his name, because it's kind of a funny one - Arvedui. Poor, poor Arvedui.

Last note about Forochel: It used to be an endgame zone, and while Turbine fixed a lot of their really intolerably frustrating shit in most of the level 1-50 zones, they somehow didn't do that in Forochel. The result is having to repeatedly ride back and forth across the zone, WHICH TAKES FUCKING SEVENTEEN MINUTES IN EACH DIRECTION, which, Turbine, really, is unacceptable. I was close to ditching the game altogether at that point, and I don't think any player, ever in the world, should be made to do that. It's the opposite of fun and it literally brought me close to tears with frustration. The story is so good, I want to go on giving my money to Turbine so I can play it, but that was just such an unpleasant experience. Fucking fix that already.

Next we ended up in Eregion, also named Hollin, for its holly trees.

Eregion is where the three elven rings of power were forged by master Artisan Celebrimbor, whose character, I'm told, was used and fucked up in Shadow Of Mordor (I'm actually told that if you ignore the horrors they do to Tolkien lore and metaphysics, it's a very good game). Another person who was in Eregion back in the day is Annatar, lord of gifts, who was in fact Sauron. He meddled with the ring making, thus giving himself control over all of them - barring the three elven ones. You can imagine how excited I was, then, when while exploring someone's memories we bumped into this chappie:

I don't know why they call him 'Antheron' here. Probably some bit of Tolkien lore I haven't bumped into yet. But it was a delight to experience this part of history first hand.

Also, this fresco, which we found in some ancient academy; I think it depicts Annatar (or Sauron, or Antharon) teaching the elves the art of ring-making.

And true enough, as soon as you stand close to it, you get Dread - the screen flashes with terrifying effects, loses saturation and makes creepy sounds, to indicate your character is either uneasy or, in cases of something very very bad, downright petrified with horror. In such cases even the mini map changes into a glaring burning eye, and you start losing health fast. I love this mechanic. I love that you can get it from looking at a tapestry, as a testimony of how truly horrible and otherworldly are the horrors it indicates.

Eregion has a lot of ancient elven architecture, and we noticed something I really loved there - the elves tend to make architecture that frames the scenery. Not windows, but more bridges, openings and gateways which simply provide a frame for the beauty of nature around it. This is seen quite a lot in Eregion, Rivendell and Lothlorien, but I'll be merciful and post only one such image for now.

We also said hi to mount Caradhras, which some of you may recall from the Lord of the Rings movies as the mountain the fellowship fails to climb due to terrible weather, and thus ends up in Moria. The same happened to us. It looks so innocent...

...And half a mile in it's just:

After this, properly traumatized by weather and the knowledge of what Sauron did here, we left Eregion. Farewell, fair holly trees and framing gold filigrees windows.

Now we'll climb up the dry river Sirannon's bed, under a blood moon, all the way to the gates of Durin; to Moria. May it end better for us than it did for most.

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