I have now finished, to the best of my knowledge, the solo content of the Great River region in LOTRO that was added in the latest update. This means that the Limlight Gorge area I have not done, given the content there is group-orientated. Likely my wife and a friend may take a peek in there at some point later on.
The region itself though I found to be quite entrancing, with some very good plotlines. Like many regions in LOTRO – especially the newer ones – it is divided into very distinct areas. Each is almost like its own mini-region, usually with one primary quest hub with a few side-quests here and there. The first area so encountered – Thinglad – is a borderland between the Elves of Lothlorien and the wider world, a place where neighbours can clash. Further south there is Eorlsmead, wherein lies Stangard, the first settlement of the Rohirrim we encounter. This is a colony on the edge of their world, and like colonies feels very well done as a world in microcosm of the larger difficulties that are facing Rohan. I do not wish to go into too much detail, but the quests in Eorlsmead and the neighbouring Wailing Hills area had, I think, some excellent storytelling. I have always thought it was one of LOTROs strengths how the quest text – if one bothers to read it – actually makes helps make one forget that ultimately you are usually just killing 10 rats, picking up rat tails, or similar.
The next area in the region is Parth Celebrant, and Tolkien scholars will recognise the name as being the field on which Eorl came to the rescue of the Gondorian army against the Easterlings. The quests here allow one a nice trip down memory lane as this little corner of Middle Earth history is explored. Also here though we encounter Easterlings for, I think, the first time. From there we go into Rushgore, a swampy marshy area. Of all the areas this was the one I liked least visually – if only because all the tall vegetation made it impossible at times to even see. This is another borderland – with those selfsame Easterlings. It sets the tone for the final area, the Brown Lands, which is a land on the verge of war. The Brown lands are more than that – there is a tale there that is sad and melancholic amidst the current war-clouds, an echo of happier times long lost.
Questing in the Great River at no point felt like a chore, partly because of the pacing of the quests, and partly because of the quality of the story. If I had only a short time to play it was easy enough just to do three or four quests, or if I had longer I could manage to tidy up most of an area. If I have one quibble, and it is something that has become increasingly prevalent since the Rise of Isengard expansion, is that a number of the questlines ended in instances that were solo-only. Now, I usually play LOTRO solo, but my wife and I generally also try to play together when we are able, and these solo-instances keep getting in the way. In an MMO, especially in an MMO where with skirmishes one has instances that scale with level and group size, this just does not make sense. I should stress this is a quibble, if an aggravating one.
Looking back through this post, I see twice I have used the word “borderland” and on reflection that very much describes the character of the entire region. The land belongs to no one, it is ephemeral. It serves as a farewell (for the moment at least) to the elves, and serves as an introduction to the Rohirrim and the Easterlings. Also we meet a group of Woodsmen for the first time, an intriguing meeting that I hope foreshadows more to come.
I am looking forward to crossing into Rohan.