Helping Constable Underhill

I spent some time last week playing some LOTRO with an alt, Grumbili, a dwarven champion, all spin moves with an axe in each hand. Grumbili, who was palling around with Shereinis and Pinewsl, was sent by Aragorn to talk to Constable Underhill of Combe, a village just east of Bree.

Constable Underhill took us into an instance where we investigated a cave that had been visited before in an earlier quests in LOTRO’s main storyline quest arc. We rescued someone then, and cleared out some bandits, but there’s more going on there. We followed Constable Underhill throught the cave, and helped him fight off some nasty bugs named NeekerBeekers. Then we ran across a dwarf by the name of Skorgrim (a recurrent villain) torturing and killing a bandit leader.

Skorgrim noticed us and sent his Dourhand minions upon us, while he fled. We had no opportunity to pursue him, so he lived to trouble us again another day.

There’s not much new in LOTRO in the way of technology, but elements that are well-known are used much more freely and combined in a way to tell a more powerful story.

Instances, for example, often use the same terrain that exist in overland zones. NPC’s will turn up in different places depending on where you are in the overall story arc. The “overwhelmed by fear” game mechanic is used to justify making you watch key events without interfering with them, as any good MMORPG’er would otherwise do. But since that mechanic is widely used in non-story encounters, it doesn’t seem forced. And escort quests allow Turbine to set the pacing of a story or encounter, while giving you opportunities for breaks. Encounters are a lot less predictable than they are in EQ2, often there are timed waves, or swarms, along with puzzles that can be solved to reduce the issue. This is the best part of LOTRO, along with the writing.

Controlling instances via escort quests and fear pauses seems to have gotten all of the game devs “I must control the encounter” ya-yas out. Fights are won via any onld way you can manage to win. There are often puzzles that can be solved that will help you split. But there’s none of the “just follow the script” in fights. The script is for the story, not the fight. The script is that ogre that you thought was safely locked in the cage getting out. Deal with things in any way you can. There’s no “does not work on epics”.

And that’s something I can get behind.

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