A Middle-Earthly Wildnerness

Friday, October 24, 2008

One of the biggest "feelings" I was struck with when reading through J.R.R. Tolkien's masterpiece was a feeling of great emptiness - of wilderness. And on top of that a sense of grandeur fallen into ruin. In my explorations of LOTRO's game world, they have really done a great job of conveying the fallen kingdoms. Ruins scattered everywhere across Eriador really help ground the place with a sense of history and time. However, the wilderness half of that equation is lacking. There's always something going on. Certainly this is a period of great upheavel and the rise of evil, so indeed, the world is abuzz with war, but even after conveying the feeling of great doom, the Middle-Earth of the books was a wild place.

Orc camps, goblin camps, spider lairs - those are wild, but not naturally wild. Where is the deep woods and rolling foothills without a sound but birds and beasts and my own footsteps? To me, that is Middle-Earth.

And LOTRO is something else. It's like a wierd hybrid that touches on elements and moments of what the "true" Middle-Earth was like, but then has to by its very nature throw in the game part. I'm not complaining that LOTRO isn't fulfilling the spirit of the world. In fact, I think it is on the whole - as far as it can. But it's not my fantasy adventure in Middle-Earth. Perhaps I would have prefered stepping into the world before Sauron had risen again, when birds were birds and beasts were beasts. Where orcs and goblins stayed in their caves and men minded their fields instead of the coins of others. Again, LOTRO isn't that - it is what it is. A game using the IP of Tolkien, but a game.

And really, I have to ask myself, could I have gotten anything better? Well, many people assert that Middle-Earth Online - what LOTRO was before undergoing a drastic redesign - could have given us this through an open world and sandbox style game. A make your own adventure. That's fine for some, and I might have enjoyed it. But I'm not sure that any product that has to be a game can at the same time be Middle-Earth as I experienced it through words. They're a different medium - a different form of entertainment. It's a futile exercise.

That said, when I've tired of the mob slaying, deed grinding, and general adventuring, I'll find myself preferring a quiet place in the Shire, or watching Amun Sûl at sunset, or fishing at Nen Harn, or watching the sunrise over the Icebay in Forochel. I get my tastes of the wild,when I can. I'd certainly love to see more of these places in LOTRO, where you can just relax without necessarily seeing another player. They don't have to be large areas, just a small peaceful, and empty place. Me and the Middle-Earth beneath me.

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