Today’s topic: What’s there to fight (PVE)?
PvE can come in several forms. In the case of these games, we have: raids, rifts, instances, quests (and deeds but I’m going to write about them in another section later), skirmishes and special quest chains. We can also randomly hop around and kill every mob in sight but that’s not exactly a ‘feature’. ;)
All three games offer raids. So I guess, if that is what you are looking for, you will feel comfortable in all three games. I would say that Rift and WoW have a heavier focus on raids than LotRO does. But there is definitely raid content in LotRO as well. I am not going to spend much time writing about raids as I haven’t really raided in LotRO, never set foot into a raid in Rift and my raid-information from WoW is heavily outdated (from their first expansion, Burning Crusade, to be exact). ;)
Instances are also available in all three games. Rift and WoW have the standard 5 man instances with normal and hardmode (or “heroic”) versions at endgame. LotRO has instances for small fellowships (3 man) and fellowships (6 man). Not long ago, LotRO added a feature that lets you scale instances and raids. That means that if there is an instance that you can enter with level 20, you can now scale it to be appropriate from anywhere between level 20 and 65 (the current level cap). There is no such feature in Rift and WoW.
All three games have a sort of “dungeon finder” tool. In LotRO, you still have to find a group first (through the chat or within your group of friends,…). Then you can open the dungeon interface and click on the dungeon you want to visit, enter the level you want it to be, enter the difficulty you want and start the dungeon. Every group member gets ported into the dungeon by just a click. The screenshot on the left shows you the instance join panel. It’s set for level 65 and for “small fellowship”, “tier 1” difficulty. On the bottom, you can see the different instances. Some are grey because I haven’t been to the actual instance entrance yet and you need to go there and discover the instance before you can use the instance join panel to be teleported to the instance.
In WoW and Rift, you have the tool to find people for a dungeon. You will automatically get put into a random group and into a dungeon after clicking on “accept”. WoW has this system in place that finds people on different servers. Rift currently only offers it for your own server. It is up to you whether that is something you like or not. I have to say that I have noticed a decline in quality of your group setup since the introduction in WoW. When you could only go to an instance with people from your own server, you also met some less-than-pleasant individuals, of course. But you could either take it to their guild leader who would then deal with them or, if the guild leader didn’t care, just make a note not to group with people from said guild again. In other words: Players and guilds had a reputation to lose and players probably took more care about how they were viewed by others. This doesn’t matter anymore now because you can be quite certain that you won’t ever see those people again. It is also harder getting to know people because now, you rush through the instance and leave again. Back then, I got to know people and had them on my friends list and we chatted with each other and when we ran through another instance, we even joked around!
All three games offer quests.
Rift and LotRO both have story quests. I found it a bit difficult to notice those quests in Rift. The quest window has a different background colour when you are reading the quest before accepting it and behind the quest name there is a little hint (“story”), so you know it belongs to the game’s story as opposed to the usual “kill 10 teddy bears without asking why”-type of quests. Still, I did not always realise it is a story quest. Or else I would have actually read it. This is done a whole lot better in LotRO where you have one quest chain that is leading you through the game from level 1 to level 65 (it also helps that the quests always start with the same pattern. E.g.: “Vol. I, Book 2, Chaper 3: Name of quest here”). You can do some of them at the same time but I would suggest doing them in their intended order, as it is easier to follow the story (watch how Frodo and the others leave Rivendell, for example, try to catch Gollum, etc.).
LotRO also has class quests but unfortunately, I find them more annoying than anything (they usually involve collecting items that drop from monsters – most of them can be bought in the auction house, some need you to enter an instance and kill a certain kind of mob). WoW used to have really nice class quests (for those who remember: The quests warlocks had to do in order to get their demons, for example). But they were taken out. You now just buy the appropriate skills at your skill trainer.
WoW learned, especially with Wrath of the Lich King and Cataclysm, that nobody likes to do a zillion “kill 10 butterflies” quests. So instead, they have added more variety and gimmicks. The goblin starter zone is a lot of fun, for example. You also get to fly in a little plane and shoot others from the sky. Or you stomp on enemies with some special boots. In the screenshot, you can see my druid moonkin (the feathery thing on the right) on a tank probably shooting some Undead. :) LotRO also has some fun quests. Sometimes, they really just consist of going for a short walk with an elf in Rivendell, listening to their story. Nothing else. It’s a nice change from the usual fighting. There are also “session play” quests once in a while that lets you play another character and see a part of the story from their eyes. Rift, from what I have seen, has the most boring quests out of those three games. Fortunately, their rifts were what made it bearable because I did not have to do the quests and usually just did them when I was feeling like soloing for a bit or when there weren’t many others online (or when the rifts were further away and I was too lazy to move there).
Which leads me to: Rifts. They only exist in Rift but not in LotRO and WoW. They are events that happen in the open world (you might be familiar with the concept from Warhammer Online’s “public quests”). It is basically a PvE-encounter with different stages (the last one being the most difficult). Mobs spawn around the rift and you have to kill all of them in order to close the rift again. They scale depending on how many players are around. When I was the only one present when a rift spawned, I usually did not have that many problems doing the rift solo. Everybody who contributes gets rewards once the rift is defeated. Rift also has “open groups” which means that when you enter an area with a rift, you click on a button and are automatically added to an open group nearby – or if there wasn’t a group before, one is created. This is just a bit awkward sometimes when you just want to pass an area while a rift spawns and another player clicks on the button and both of you form a group. I don’t want to be rude and usually stay to help the other player with the rift even though I had originally just wanted to pass the area. But all in all, it is just a few more minutes on my way to wherever and I get rewards (and experience!), so it is not bad at all. And I could just say “sorry, just passing through” if I did not want to participate at all. If a rift cannot be defeated, it can happen that mobs run from their spawn point to your town/quest hub and take over said quest hub. It happened to me once that I had logged off while the town was ours and when I logged back on, it was taken by the NPCs. It makes the world seem a little bit more dynamic. Unfortunately, everything reverts back to its “normal” stage after some time even if the players do not fight to take back the quest hub. All three screenshots that you can see here were taken very close to quest hubs. The grey one shows what it looks like when your character is close to dying. It’s very hard to miss it this way. ;)
Last but not least, skirmishes. Those are exclusive to LotRO. They can be played solo, as a duo, as a 3 man, 6 man or 12 man. Each player can choose an NPC to help them fight (e.g. a healer, a tank,…). Those NPCs, called “soldiers” can be traited (you can give them certain skills) and you can change their look (instead of a male human, you have a little hobbit lass with you). You can also give them a name which makes it more personal. Soldiers can only be called while you are inside of a skirmish or when you are in your housing district (but not when you are actually near or in your house). There are three tiers of difficulty for skirmishes and lots of different skirmishes to choose from. Think of a skirmish as something like an instance where you fight against mobs. As a reward, you get special tokens which you can exchange for all kinds of things like cosmetic items, but also gear. The latter is especially nice while levelling as the gear there is quite good! In the screenshot, you can see my Rune-Keeper with her dwarven soldier.
That’s it for today. Tomorrow, we’ll have a look at the PvP side of the games! :)