LOTRO and the trap of altaholism

For its 15th anniversary, Lord of the Rings Online backed up a dump truck to players’ inventories and gave them a ton of new stuff, even more if you were subbed during the anniversary festival. Including this beautiful star cloak. I will gladly pay $15 for that alone, thank you. It was already exciting that free players were getting all of the expansions up to and including Helms’ Deep for free, but then they went and gave out the collector’s edition to Mordor, Minas Morgul, and War of the Three Peaks for free as well. Seriously, if you think there’s any chance you’ll ever play this game in the future, go log in now, or you will be kicking yourself. 

That’s wonderful! I’m really grateful to SSG for being so generous! I even tweeted a dumb meme about it and it took off! (I don’t know about you, but for me, nearly 100 likes and more than 10 RTs is probably some kind of record) There’s just one downside. I had already bought the collector’s editions to Mordor and Minas Morgul. No biggie, it’s super old content at this point, I’ve probably gotten my money’s worth.

…except that I’ve never actually been to those zones. My highest level character is like half way through Mirkwood. I bought those expansions thinking that I’ll get there one day, and at least this way I get cosmetics and other goodies to enjoy along the way. I used the level boosts that came with each, but neither character stuck, partly because of that “I didn’t earn this” effect that much better writers than I have spilled plenty of digital ink over, and partly because LOTRO is really bad at level boosts and I couldn’t really progress with what I was given without a lot of backtracking (I’m told the 120 version is better about this at least). 

How could I possibly have played LOTRO for years, putting in dozens if not hundreds of hours, and never gotten past the second expansion? If you’re mystified, you’re not alone; I’m not really sure how it happened either. The only answer I can come up with is alts. When I say my highest level character is halfway through Mirkwood, I actually can’t tell you for sure without looking if that’s my Rune-Keeper or my Beorning, because they’re so close in level and progress. It’s also about where my Captain was before I used the first of those level boosts on her (which was a huge mistake; at least the second time I used a boost I was smart enough to do it on a fresh character so I wasn’t missing anything by not playing him). I’ve also got a variety of other alts abandoned around the 30s and 40s. 

And that’s just on my main, normal server. There’s also that time I got excited to play on the Arnor progression server until I got distracted long enough that I fell hopelessly behind, the Shadowfax speed leveling progression server (in Deadly difficulty for some reason) until I realized that the server was super dead, and the Treebeard slow leveling server until I realized that I don’t really want to play on a slow leveling server. All of those characters got to the 30-60 range and fizzled. 

I love the early zones of this game — The Shire, all of Bree-Land, Evendim, The Trollshaws — so much, I don’t mind redoing them periodically. Also, am I the only one who finds all of the classes in this game a lot more interesting than they ought to be? Normally, I go into a game like Star Wars: The Old Republic or The Elder Scrolls Online and I find at least one or two classes I like and one or more that I really don’t care for. But in LOTRO, even the classes I can’t play to save my life, like Lore-Master or Warden, I want to be good at because they’re interesting somehow.

I have played far too much on too many alts, and not focused enough on one character, and it has finally come back to bite me. I sometimes fear that the game is going to suddenly shut down one day, and I will really have wasted my money on all those expansions that I’ve never seen, and, worse still, regret that I never got to see all of the cool places I’ve only heard stories of and seen in screenshots. 

All of that said, I don’t consider any of it time wasted. This is a game, and if I’m having fun and relaxing and getting a few moments of respite from the stresses and struggles of life, it’s time well spent. I long ago decided that I wouldn’t let any game, or any group within that game, dictate how I spent my free time or plan my life around it. I will play in whatever way is the most fun, or not at all. But there’s also something to be said for seeing something new and different rather than repeating things I’m already familiar with. 

Like any good Hobbit, I prefer the comfort of the well known, but, like Bilbo, there are a lot of adventures waiting for me outside of my comfort zone. Maybe this anniversary will be the wizard that pushes me out the front door. 


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.