Last time I talked about my excitement for LotRO’s Shadowfax progression server, with its faster leveling and fast expansion release cadence, and pondered what class to play. I still hadn’t decided by the time the new servers went up, so I ended up just rolling a bunch of characters and seeing which one stuck.
After a lot of waffling and self-induced anxiety and an existential crisis or two, I ended up maining a Captain. A High Elf, believe it or not. I’m not a big Elf person (they’re kind of jerks in every universe) but they have some cool animations and a unique shout, and I have the High Elf race, so why not? Captain is just such a comfortable class for me. While I played one a bunch back in my early days with LotRO, I hadn’t played one seriously in years, but it all came back to me very quickly. I’ve been leveling in tank spec, just because I was previously DPS. Cappy DPS isn’t that great to begin with, so I can’t say I felt a lot of difference in TTK, but the extra survivability is definitely noticeable.
As I was trying different alts, I tinkered with the new difficulty settings. I landed on Hard, mostly because that’s the minimum difficulty to get the account-wide title (which I will never use, because when you have the title “Walked Into Mordor” why would you ever use anything else?) and because it was just enough added challenge to be fun, but not enough to make killing every random mob feel like a chore. LotRO isn’t known for its difficult open world content, but I don’t think I realized just how weak it really is until I forgot that I was on hard mode, then went into a quest instance and was bewildered at how fast I was mowing down mobs above my level. Then I remembered that difficulty settings don’t work in instances. I would probably be playing on Deadly or higher difficulty on at least some of my tankier characters, just for the novelty of the challenge, but the random AoE nukes are more annoying than fun. The constant dread visual effect and the Eye of Sauron popping up over your head every few minutes were extremely distracting, which was a big turnoff initially, but fortunately SSG removed those after a few days. I wish I could talk my friends into playing on this server with me, because I think it would be a blast to get a party together and crank the difficulty up to max and play through the whole game like it was one giant dungeon.
The culture of the Shadowfax server is interesting. I haven’t done a rigorous population study or anything, but from the frequency of chat and the number of people I bump into while leveling, it seems like there’s a decent population, comparable to maybe one of the smaller regular servers. Oddly enough, there aren’t really a lot of guilds. There’s one mega guild that I see recruiting pretty much every time I play, and apart from that, I’ve seen maybe one or two others. I know that there’s no real point in hitting the gear treadmill when it’s all going to be invalidated every two months when a new expansion gets added, but that’s not usually the main reason I join a guild anyway. I’m mostly there for the social aspect (the fellowship, if you will excuse the pun). Instance runs are just a convenient side effect. The LFF channel is pretty lively, though, with people PUGing dungeons and raids much more frequently than I usually see on my regular server. I saw some naysayers claiming that there wouldn’t be an economy on Shadowfax, but I’ve been making a pretty good living off of dyes so far. Maybe that means I’m the only one bothering with crafting?
The biggest reason I didn’t stick around LotRO’s original progression server was that I fell behind the curve and couldn’t catch back up as new expansions unlocked. From what I’ve heard, it seems like it lost a lot of population because of this, and because speedier players drifted away waiting for content unlocks. In my view, Shadowfax has fixed this both problems speeding up leveling and speeding up expansion unlocks. I know most of LotRO’s population is more keen on Treebeard, and I may roll there after I get a character or two up to cap, but for now, Shadowfax is my LotRO home.