Lord of the Rings Online characters mostly play through a unique series of stories created by Turbine to shadow or parallel the events of the books. We get to see the Frodo and the other members of the Fellowship of the Ring and even, sometimes, to interact with them but their journey is not that of our heroes.
I’m in favour of this tactic to avoid the well-known story of the books from completely overshadowing the players actions and to offer some chance of surprising twists and turns for the story. As I’ve come to the end of the Isengard content and have plowed on into the early stages of the Rohan expansion, I’ve hit a bunch of the so-called ‘session play’ instances (LOTRO wiki entry on session-play). These are short solo story-quests wherein you play a different character briefly, for instance Frodo or Boromir. Having played through two parts of Chapter 8 of Book 7 (“Reading the signs”; link to LOTRO wiki) I’ve met some frustration with the system and am reminded how glad I am that the game doesn’t just focus on the journey of the Fellowship.
[Major spoilers for the Lord of the Rings storyline and LOTRO's Rohan expansion so stop reading if you haven't done Volume III, Book 7 before!]
Step two of this particular epic quest has you playing Boromir. Since I know the books pretty well and have seen the films more recently I know perfectly well how this scene will end. Still it’s somehow different to be playing through such an iconic scene in-game.
Quickly enough I (errr, well Boromir) is engaged in a pitch battle with orcs to defend the two hobbits, Pippin and Merry. While I was fighting waves of the orcs I couldn’t help but wonder “what would happen if I kill all the orcs?”
I did wonder for a while if I’d found the answer (you bug the quest) since twice I had an inexplicable message “quest failed” and the instance reset with the hobbits looping back to the start of their path all health restored. I’d done my duty defending the hobbits, and in fact hadn’t really been that injured in the process! On my third attempt I tried not maximising my skill-use and slacking the fight, maybe my health wasn’t going low enough to trigger the end?
On the third attempt I did get further, there was a lull and some dialogue with the hobbits and then more orcs and my health started plummeting as I had a debuff to prevent health regeneration. So I valiantly fought on and was defeated, as I would expect according to the story; only that wasn’t right according to the session-play’s rules. I almost quit out of the instance at that moment – according to the forums this has happened to several session-play quests due to the revamp of class skills messing up the NPC skillbars. But on the off-chance I clicked revive and low-and-behold Boromir jumped back up on full health, ready to fight on!
I suppose it’s worth playing through these session-play instances at least once, just to see and take part in the major plot events of the series. But if update-created bugs are going to hinder my progress through the epic storylines of the game then I’ll quickly lose patience with the game – they don’t really add that much to my character’s journey or his development after all. It is worth persevering if you encounter a bug though at least a couple of times though do not try to hard in case that’s the cause of the problem!