January 21, 2008

Lord of the Rings Online

Posted in Games, Role-Playing Games, Video/Computer Games at 10:15 am by Transmuter

A couple weeks ago I was at the mall and stopped by EB Games as I always do. That store is my only refuge in a world full of clothing stores. My wife, of course, feels the opposite, but she lets me browse the store’s (admittedly scanty, especially for PC games) selection whenever we go shopping at the mall. I walked over to the PC section, if it can be called a whole section, and noticed that the Lord of the Rings Online Collector’s Edition was on sale for $20! I made sure that the price was not a typo or the price for the regular edition, but all was as it seemed. Being a Tolkien fan, I had been interested in trying out LotRO, but I just couldn’t see paying a large amount of money for it when I’m already paying for and playing World of Warcraft. However, I just couldn’t pass up this deal, so I purchased it and took it home. I figured even if the game sucked I’d have the collector’s edition stuff and a free month to make up the cost. The soundtrack for the game is quite good; I was impressed and will add it to my music collection. The “map of Middle-Earth” was a junky piece of paper with a generic map printed on it. This is neither new information nor useful for the game. An interesting-seeming “making of LotRO” DVD was included, but I haven’t taken the time to watch it yet. I didn’t realize it until I looked it up just now, but the full-color manual seems to only be in the collector’s edition. The manual is nice, and I read through it, but it wasn’t anything special. The special in-game items are something that I have no judgment on, because I’m not experienced in the game to know the difference.

Ok, as far as the game itself goes, it spectacularly fails to impress. Even at maximum settings, the graphics are lackluster. Everything seems to be colored in various earthtones, and the environment lacks distinctiveness. The game has a generic fantasy style that seems bland to me. I suppose the Lord of the Rings started the fantasy genre, and therefore has the rights to this sort of style, but the fact remains that it is unimpressive in this day and age. The books might have been first, but LotRO is far from the first MMORPG. I wish that interactable objects would “pop out” more from the environment; players, NPCs, mobs, and so on should be visually distinctive. The controls seem clumsy compared to my reference MMO, World of Warcraft. Simple movement is a chore, with inertia-like forces preventing me from stopping and starting easily. This attempt at realism seems to be part of a larger collection of “realistic” touches that hinder the gameplay rather than making the world more immersive. Jumping looks painful (though I admit that players in WoW can be bouncier than springs sometimes), and turning is not as smooth an experience as it should be.

My character is a Man Guardian, the “tanking” class of LotRO. I fully expected this class to kill mobs slowly, and the guardian does not disappoint. Fortunately the class has little downtime; I’ve only had to stop to eat once so far. I like the ability to queue up special moves, but unlike in WoW, missed special attacks don’t trigger the ability’s cooldown. This is not a bad feature, but there are not any obvious cues given when an attack misses, so I often find myself not requeueing that attack again until I notice it’s available. Something a bit more obvious would be nice, like a message or brightly flashing icon. The combat is similar enough to WoW, but doesn’t go beyond it much, at least while soloing. Unfortunately moving around is such a chore that it drags the rest of the game down, since you won’t get much accomplished without moving.

I played this game for about a week and got up to level 8 or so, but I don’t think I’ll be playing it again unless I can force myself to give it one last shot. I just like World of Warcraft so much more that there’s no real reason to even play LotRO. And now I have a few offline games to play when I’m “WoWed out” or my server is down, so I think LotRO is out of luck as far as I’m concerned.

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1 Comment »

  1. Chiemi said,

    I played for all of 30 minutes and I was bored silly with it. I think that your evaluation is a good one. I suggest playing one the games you got for your birthday rather than boring yourself playing LOTR online again.


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