Lord of the Rings Online Review

I’m one of those people who always has to try out the new MMO title coming out. At the same time, I’ve only played a few titles (UO, City of Heroes, DaoC, and WoW) for more than a month or two. I don’t know what it is, but to me, there’s always something magical about the first few weeks playing a new MMO game. The world is new and exciting, no one knows what’s going on, and it’s always easy to find a bunch of like-minded people to group with. Unfortunately, that kind of magical feeling always begins to dissipate after the first two weeks or so. So far, that hasn’t been the case with Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar.

Since the first beta began, I was captivated by the world of LotRO, as were a few of my writers. Looking back, I really don’t understand how most of us didn’t see the game succeeding. Week after week, a story about the game topping Amazon’s charts came out; no one took notice. People enthusiastically talked about what they would do when the game went live; no one noticed. Had WoW really captured so much of the MMO market that it wasn’t even plausible to imagine another game wildly succeeding? I’m glad to see that despite that elephant in the room, LotRO seems to have come into its own early.

For those of you not familiar with the Lord of the Rings universe, I’ll have to direct you to Wikipedia. There’s just no way that I can accurately describe the huge following Lord of the Rings has accumulated, or accurately analyze the story within the confines of a two page review. For those who have grown up with the books (or those who didn’t even know books existed until they saw the movie), I’m glad to say that the game does the world of LotR justice.

You begin your online career by choosing your race. You can pick male/female humans, hobbits, and elves, yet only male dwarves. With your class chosen, you move on to select your class. In LotRO, it seems as if Turbine finally fine-tuned their idea from DDO that every class should have a role in any given situation. You’re given the choice of hunter (nuker), Lore-Master (CC/pets), minstrel (healer), guardian (meatshield), champion (AOE DPS and off-tank), captain (buffer/pets/off-tank), and my favorite the burglar (debuffer).

It seems like standard MMO classes, but each class has strengths and weaknesses, and as you climb the leveling ladder it gets extremely hard and time consuming for each class to solo, making grouping a must. Grouping is where most classes shine; for example, the burglar. Burglar’s is the major class for conjunction starters. What does that mean? Basically, when a conjunction is started in a fellowship (aka group), each group member clicks a portion of an on-screen wheel. Each portion has a different color, and a different meaning. Depending on the order clicked and the color combination, different effects take place. They have a semi-long cooldown timer, so conjunctions are used mostly for elite mobs and bosses. It adds a lot of fun to grouping, though, as it essentially gives every group a group-oriented finisher, or if you so wish it a group-oriented heal or other buff.

So now that we know about the classes and races, what’s the actual game like? I really can’t describe it. There’s just something about starting the game up and being thrust into the Lord of the Rings tale that goes beyond other MMO titles. Obviously you aren’t a major player in the beginning, but you are playing part in the grander Lord of the Rings tale. As you venture, you meet people like Strider, Tom Bombadill, Elrond, and more. You encounter Sauron’s minions such as the black riders, and when you do the screen changes perspective, causing dread to rise in your character. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does you’ll likely feel dread yourself.

The quests in LotRO also fit well with the lore. For people who love reading quests and getting backstory, the only competition this game has is Vanguard: Saga of Heroes. Quests take you all over your starting area at first, and eventually all over the available playing area. Completing quests and tasks will unlock traits you can use for your character, which can increase stats you may have deficiencies in. While a good idea on paper, this system is already beginning to be analyzed to death, as power gamers are starting to figure out the "ultimate" combo for each class/race. (As long as we never see that effect grouping, let them have their fun.)

Perhaps the thing Turbine has done the best in Lord of the Rings Online is make the game accessible to people with busy lives. You hear it all the time: "I can’t play MMO games, because I have a life!" Well, there’s finally an incredibly good MMO title catered towards the pick up and play crowd. In LotRO, most of the quests and tasks involve exploring and entering new areas, rather than all focusing on playing UPS worker. It’s possible to enjoy this title in short bursts, and that’s something the genre sorely needed before it became too ridiculous of a time consumer.

While you feel like you’re in Middle Earth thanks to the story and characters, the graphics only cement that further. Even on a medium-range PC, the game looks incredibly gorgeous. From my time in beta and now, I’ll always tell people that the Shire is the best starting area visually, so if you’re new and want a beautiful area to start in with fun quests…you know where I’d recommend.

As always, it’s hard to review an MMO game after launch. A lot can change with updates for the good, and for the worst. For now, though, Lord of the Rings Online is the most fun I’ve ever had playing an MMO at launch. The world is beautiful, there’s actually a story which people will remember and look forward to reading via quests, and the obvious Lord of the Rings tie-ins bring a plethora of "I remember that guy!" moments. If you’ve been looking for another MMO to play after Burning Crusade, pick up Lord of the Rings Online. Will it finally be the game that takes away Blizzard’s monopoly on the MMO genre? I can only hope so. If you’re a gamer, you’d do well hoping so, too. Either way, we’re in for a tremendous year for MMO titles. So far, we’re off to a fantastic start.


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Author: Brendon Lindsey View all posts by

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