When it comes to The Lord Of The Rings, I never read the books or watched the movies voluntarily (the third one was alright up until the neverending ending). However, Turbine seems to have done something right with The Lord Of The Rings Online (or LOTRO, as it’s more commonly known).
I originally thought that it was just another WoW clone, but there was a reason this MMO was scored 9.0 by IGN and 8.5 by GameSpot – it’s fun. While there are the usual go-here-and-kill-or-collect-that quests, the game never feels repetitive, and with so many tasks available thanks to achievement rewards by way of deed quests, an intuitive three-way crafting system, and points that can go towards temporary stat boosts, you always feel like there’s something to do in the game if you tire of the usual kill/collect quests.
The story, of course, follows the lore of Middle-Earth. Even though I’m not a huge fan, the plot is pretty simple to follow and entertaining, exposing you to enough background and fluff that may make somebody like me a fan. Mind you, I’ve only been playing for 9 days, so it’s still too soon to tell. However, the characters are interesting enough that I’m patient enough to read through all the text and dialogue. I created an Elf Champion, starting off in Ered Luin. The world is open, but isn’t as populated as I thought it would be; this obviously cut down on general chat antics. Nevertheless, I was never too far away from a fellow gamer.
The graphics are more on par with the cartoony/comic style of Rock Band (trust me, this is a good thing). While it isn’t comparable to Aion, LOTRO still manages to surprise you with some lush environments and interesting effects. I haven’t had problems identifying a particular mob from another. Water isn’t the most realistic, but more believable than WoW. Sound effects are pretty standard, and already some key event sounds have made it into my head. The music is pretty damn good; you’ll find yourself humming along to some of the tunes as you hack and slash your way through hordes of mobs. Drops are also pretty decent – I haven’t had a money issue and I always frequently acquired a stronger weapon without having to resort to buying one from a vendor. Armor is detailed and I loved what I got to wear in the n00b zone. I hope to see some interesting armor and weapon designs as I proceed through the game. Leveling is pretty easy too. I’ve been able to gain a level once an hour on average, and I’m currently sitting at level 17 after only 9 days, playing only an hour each day due to my busy work schedule. Skills and combos are fun to pull off, and you get a lot at the start, with at least one active every two levels and one passive every level. Cooldowns are also shorter than most other MMOs, which adds to the enjoyment of using skills more often. I haven’t reached them yet, but there are also hobbies and housing in addition to all the other fun stuff you can do in this game. Finally, with the trait system, no two characters are ever the same even if the same armor and weapons are equipped.
Now for the cons: after being spoiled by Aion’s cutting edge features, I miss auto-approach on target, auto-repeat jumping, and my inventory quick sort button. I also miss flying, but I digress. ^_^ The mini-map shows you where to locate your quest targets, but for some strange reason, you can only target one quest at a time, which is annoying. Quest tracking only limits you to a maximum of five quests, and every time you get a new quest, it appends itself and concatenates the last quest from the tracker. Lame. Finally, selling your wares to vendors is also flawed. You can only sell item by item, which is sorted seemingly at random, not matching how you have your bags sorted. Why the hell is there a Sell All button? Who the heck would sell everything in their inventory, especially when Bankers are not available in most areas?
At the time of writing, I’m on the last day of my 10-day trial. I went back to play Aion for a bit to compare both games, and while Aion is the technologically superior game, I actually have more fun playing LOTRO. Dying in an MMO is never fun, but when I die in LOTRO, I always feel like I did something wrong and could have strategically planned out my combos better. However, dying in Aion makes me feel like I got ambushed unfairly, plus some mobs are uncharacteristically stronger than others but running around in the same area as them.
Definitely better than WoW, and quite possibly the best MMO I’ve ever played. It may be a clone, but it’s a high quality clone. Final score? I think numbers are misleading. The pros definitely outweigh the cons. I feel that more people should be playing this game. I just hope people do. I will definitely be purchasing the full game when I get the money. Warhammer 40,000 – Dawn Of War II is high on my list, but not as high as this one.
Image Sources: In-game screenshots with interface disabled.