Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Embracing Subtlety

Last night I completed two of my three legendary trait books for my burglar. And in the process of grinding for those traits, I dinged 46. As I mentioned previously, the trait books are class-specific books you can get around level 39. Getting all the pages for your book will get you some nice abilities. By completing my Expert’s Guide to Dirty Fighting, for example, I was able to equip a new skill called Expose the Throat which is another conjunction starter (see Fellowship Maneuvers). It’s a handy little skill and, though the miss rate is high, there is only a small cool-down and the comedy value of my little Hobbit leaping up to jab an orc in the neck makes it a keeper.

As I was grinding for pages with my new skill, I got to thinking about when the last time I had trained my Hobbit in any non-trade related skills. I couldn’t remember when the last time I had to train was. It seems like since level 40 (or 42?) I have visited the trainer a number of times but they haven’t had any skills for me to learn, making my new Expose the Throat skill the only new skill in however many levels. Compare this to WoW, where, even when you ding the max level, you have to go train to get your new skills.

I’m not sure which approach I like better. The LotRO way means that I get to work with the same skill set for the remainder of my gaming experience (and it’s not like a burglar is lacking for skills, I have a ton of them). The down side is that another level, is just another level. I get a new number over my head and get a teeny bit more powerful. The change is subtle in a game that seems to embrace subtlety. The WoW way results in a drive to the end so you can complete your skill list and become more able to deal damage / take damage / heal damage / whatever it is your class does. It is important to note, however, that most of the skills one gets at the end of training in WoW are just more powerful versions of skills one already has, a new rank of mortal strike for example, not brand new abilities.

Both games find ways to try to keep people playing: LotRO by extending the leveling process and in providing a large number of time-consuming means for improvements (book pages, other traits) and WoW by getting you to the cap quickly and then providing time-consuming means to improve your character via gear.

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