The View From the Sidelines

To help get this blog rolling, I’d like a quick show of hands from cyberspace. How many of you, after watching The Fellowship of the Ring, wanted to be Gandalf? Quite a few of you. How about Legolas? Again, a pretty fair contingent. Aragorn? I think I see a few hands raised out there. Ok, now the million-dollar question: how many of you wanted to be Sam? Anybody? Anybody? Bueller? Well, I have good news for anyone out there shouting:  “I want to be Sam! What would be so cool about killing hundreds of the minions of Sauron anyway? I want to be useless except as a provider of moral support!” The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar will let you fulfill your fantasy of watching more powerful fighters do all the work, at least through the introductory quest chain.


Being a dwarf (in LOTRO, at least) my first task as a denizen of Middle-Earth was one of the utmost importance and peril: I had to walk through a mine and tell miners that it was time to watch our King, Thorin Oakenshield, depart for the Lonely Mountain. One particularly obstinate miner by the name of Tvistur (if you’re like me, the first thing you though when you saw that name was “Right hand on red”) has opened a long-sealed passage that houses a large, angry cave troll. The troll flattens poor Tvistur (“Skull on red”) and chases after Gimli, who should need no introduction. Now is my chance to be a hero, I am instructed to follow the troll and help Gimli defeat it. Armed with a knife I found on the way in, I set out to help slay the beast, only to be immobilized as soon as I came within sight of it. In this state, I was able to heroically watch Gandalf arrive in the nick of time and turn the troll to stone. Quest completed! I only shudder to think what might have happened if I hadn’t been there. Most of the rest of the introduction involved my character running errands for higher-ranking Dwarves, but once a treacherous plot to reanimate a dead dwarf leader was discovered, I once again sprung into action and went to the dwarf in question’s tomb to help avert this catastrophe. What, you ask, was my quest objective? Kill the conspirators, perhaps, or save Elrond’s son, who was being held hostage? No, my job was, and I quote, “Protect Dwalin” while he cleaned up the mess. This being done (and done well, let me add) I am now in the main part of the game, where I can hopefully begin to do stuff out of the shadows of people who matter.


My point is this: developing a narrative is an admirable goal in a video game, but a big part of the appeal of games such as LOTRO is the chance to be a hero. If I wanted to watch other people save the world, I would watch the Lord of the Rings movies. I assume that now since I’m out of the introductory part of the game, I will be doing things on my own, but it would have been nice to feel like I actually mattered, even a little bit, to the story being woven around me. If I’m participating in the actions, let me participate in the story too.


That’s all for now, but since this post is a week overdue, you all will be hearing again from me shortly. Lucky you.


                                                                        -Colin Doberstein


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