Are There Level Gaps?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

I came to consciously notice yesterday whilst questing in Eregion (the Echad Eregion quest hub to be specific) that the 45-53 level range is pretty well represented. First up was Angmar, which did start in the lower 40's, but eventually worked it's way up to 50 and the then level-cap. Next was the Misty Mountains in conjunction with Angmar (and later expanded). Then came Forochel offering more of a solo experience for the same approximate level range. Now we have Eregion which again is mostly solo and represents the same levels. Having done most of Forochel after I reached 50, I gained zero experience for that region, and yet still I'm at the level range I should be at when I enter Moria (which is about 53) just completing Eregion quests for actual xp. This is not a bad thing. Not. What it is is a wonderful thing - because more options for leveling measn greater replayability with different classes that don't have to go through the same content over and over again - a problem that was fairly universal upon LOTRO's release.

But, has the rest of the game managed to find as great of a content overlap or do we even see gaps? The gaps problem, which I define as a lack of content for a specific level range, seems to come up from time to time on the forums. Mostly I think there are no gaps. Players have this interesting ability (myself included) to manage to miss where content is somehow. Like, I got to the early 20s and said, WTF? Where's content appropriate to my level? Well, in that case, there was a very odd progression to the quest hub after Trestlebridge and then back to Trestle. Okay, whatever, learned that, no problem. Frickin' hard-hitting orcs. But actual gaps? I think Book 9 - The Shores of Evendim solved that problem.

However, I think LOTRO still has a fairly linear path for leveling until you get to the high level content I mentioned above. Well, except for the noobie experience, which, by the way, is simply excellent. You cannot fault this game for really catching the player on his or her first experience. So, the level 1 - 10/12 is well covered. Then you get to Bree. Doesn't matter if your a Dwarf, Man, Elf or Hobbit, Bree is your home for the next 5 or 6 levels. That's a good thing for getting groups as a concentrated playerbase will increase your chances of finding a group. However, it does nothing to help those with altitise (having a ton of alts) because you're playing the same content over and over again.

Then you get into the Lone-Lands in your late teens. From here it's a back and forth battle in either the Lone-Lands or the North Downs. Certainly there is a little bit of overlap, but on the whole, you're pretty well covered, but not overcovered with content between 18 and 32. Evendim, again, helps with the gap that was 30ish-40ish because the Trollshaws are fairly light. Then we're back where we started, but only in the beginning and end (barring 52+) do we see any lavish amount of content that will keep one from repeating the same quests over with different characters.

I for one would love to see at least two different options from our 20 ot 40 range. The perfect place for this of course would be Eriador where the War of the Ring isn't as intense as the east side of the Misty Mountains. There's a whole slew of lands yet to be developed that could play host to some good content to change up the leveling path a bit.

Certainly there are priorities in the development of this game. One of the being the progression of the Fellowship. If, however, we could see deviations in the year between expansions, I'd love to see one or two of those fill in the, if not gaps, then linear leveling progression. And puting them in Eriador saves the eastern content for expansions but at the same time fills out more of the world we know and love. And being a world buff, that would make me really, really happy.

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