Familiarity can be real nice. It feels good to go to your favorite restaurant, to come home after being away a long time, to return to a tried and true routine. Knowing there won’t be any unwanted surprises when you aren’t in the mood for any can be very relaxing; its comforting feeling comfortable. Luckily one of my relaxing distractions is free to play, and always stored on my hard drive just waiting to be updated and played again: Lord of the Rings Online.
Gaming has been moving towards change for quite some time now, and its all been happening on the PC front. As development costs continue to go up, developers are continually looking to the Free 2 Play model. The alluring aspect to consumers of paying nothing, mixed with the micro-transactions that benefit the studio is now a proven method. (Although the market already is in danger of having too many choices) I started playing LOTRO a long time ago, back when it was still several years off from its F2P evolution. Being done with WoW and having tried various other MMO’s such as Everquest, I gave the LOTRO free trial a test run. The world of Middle-Earth is a far more interesting setting to me personally, and this game actually does several great ideas very well, ideas that MMO’s today still haven’t tried.
I would play Lord off and on for the next several years, slowly getting my various characters further through their trek towards Mordor…very slowly. The game offers so much content it is very easy to find yourself wasting hours doing seemingly nothing, a statement true of most MMO’s. I would happily embrace the games move to F2P as it of course meant no longer paying $9.99 a month. It would also mean I could leave the game be and not feel guilty of wasting money. This year saw the release of a real different feeling MMO, one that was very unique and special, and one that is not the juggernaut Guild Wars 2, the game I’m speaking of, is Funcom’s Secret World.
The Secret World was a game I was excited about, an MMO that is set in a real world setting?! A game that would explore the deep supernatural mythologies of the world and make them all true?! An MMO that was focused on story and character over endless grinding?! And also an MMO that would allow players to be a truly unique class they made themselves?! WHA?! Indeed The Secret World is a cool game, and it is able to set itself apart from the hundreds of other games in its genre. Alas, the very large shadow of Guild Wars would destory TSW and really hurt Funcom’s business. TSW is still a great game, but unfortunately after paying for a few months I just don’t have the excess money to be spending on a monthly fee right now, but when it inevitably goes to the F2P model, I urge you to give it a shot.
So the last few months I have played some great games (Walking Dead, XCOM) not so great games (Motorstorm Apocalypse, Resident Evil 6) and the sadly disappointing (Hitman Absolution, Assassins Creed 3) After playing through so many different games and doing so much damn writing for both this site, and the numerous essays for school, I was kind of stressing and kind of sick of all the hubbub and dozens of different emotions. The Hobbit will be coming out next Friday, and with my excitement growing, and the boredom for new releases, I started up LOTRO again on my computer. After updating the game, I found myself at the familiar character select screen, and a smile grew on my face as the newly remastered but still familiar main theme began playing.
Before I knew it I had spent several hours in the virtual world of Middle-Earth, gained several levels, and finally after several years of off and on play I hit 50! Yes, the games original level cap (-_-) only years and years after everyone else passed it. After years of anticipating the Mines of Moria, I was about to enter! Until I realized there are several quests you must complete before entering the first expansions zone, and pretty damn tedious missions at that! But on I pressed, eager to enter the dwarf kingdom of Khazad-Dum! Even if the only thing keeping me going were the podcasts I was listening to as I did it. But the solid and familiar feel of the gameplay is still pleasing all these years later, and Turbine does an excellent job of making you feel like your always earning something, be it new skills, titles, items, deeds, perks, skirmishes or anything else.
Although I still have yet to enter the Mines of Moria, I have obtained my first Legendary Item, a weapon you can fully customize with new skills, titles, and relics. The weapon also levels up with you, something I have not found any other MMO to do yet. Usually you get a new piece of death dealing fun, and you unfortunately have to get rid of it at some point, not necessarily anymore for me in LOTRO. I am excited to continue my adventures in this comforting and familiar setting and am seriously glad that there are games that we can play for years and still have fun with. I will continue East through the Mines, into the wood of Lothlórien and past the fields of Rohan, even if it takes me several more years, but it will still be fun and relaxing. The F2P movement will continue to grow and evolve, and gamer’s will continue to have tons of options available to them, and though many bemoan the MMO formula, I am glad its around and it continues to evolve and give people a second place to call home.
So what are some games that you people find yourself always returning to? What are the titles that allow you to settle into a familiar routine and waste countless hours without feeling stressed or annoyed? Are there moments you have had recently that made you grin and say “finally I have done it!” even if the game itself didn’t have an achievement pop up? Finally reaching Moria has me extremely excited to get past that damn stone door and beat back the Watcher in the lake!