The Lord of the Rings Online:
casts his level 50 spell of reviewing...
In the last few years, mainly since the release of the films, The
Lord of the Rings has been more popular than ever
before, with a ton of games being released for various
systems - most of which have been a bit crap. Fortunately,
this one isn’t.
The Lord of the Rings
Online has been, um, online now for well over a year,
and has just received its first major expansion, which we will be
looking at a bit later. I had been wanting to play this game
since release, but never really got round to it, so when I
was offered the opportunity I jumped at the chance. First
things first, I am a huge MMORPG (I hate that bloody acronym)
fan. I’ve played quite a few of them in my time - Star
Wars Galaxies, Everquest, Ultima Online, Neocron,
Guild Wars, World Of Warcraft, City of Heroes - and I have to say
this is one of the best yet. The queen to World
of Warcraft’s king, if you will.
Although the similarities to World
of Warcraft are apparent right from the start, such as
the way combat works, the two games are worlds apart in
terms of content. LOTRO is a much more thoughtful and considered game. An example of
this hits you right at the start, as you are creating your
character and choosing a name. Rather than just letting you
type what you want in the box and click accept, names must
be created according to Middle earth lore, so if your
character hails from Rohan then your name should sound
Nordic, while Hobbit names can be based on precious stones
or flowers etc. It’s a great system, not as restrictive as
it sounds, and more importantly it stops you from seeing
characters bunny- hopping around Middle Earth with names like
‘LOLOLYOURMUM!’, ‘IAMPOWERLORD!’ or ‘BUTTFKR’.
It adds to the sense of place right there, before you even
The races you can chose from are Man, Elf, Dwarf and Hobbit
and the classes (as of the Mines
of Moria expansion) are Burglar, Warden, Captain, Lore
Master, Rune Keeper, Hunter, Minstrel and Champion. So there
is a good selection to suit many varied gameplay styles
here. After you finish creating your character you enter the
game and play through a linear introduction sequence, which,
to be honest, I found a bit disappointing. It seems basic
and rushed, and I assumed it would be a good indicator of
the game proper. It was not. Once you get it out of the way,
Middle Earth opens up before you in a glorious way.
queen to WoW's king..."
The basic gameplay is the same as most MMORPGs. You start at level one
and work your way up to level fifty (sixty with Mines of Moria), completing quests and defeating various enemies
along the way, while simultaneously earning cash through a
trade such as blacksmithing or farming. The trade skills in
the game deserve a special mention for being exceptional. I've
been playing the game as a lore master, and as a trade
skill I chose one that I thought would go well with that
character: the Historian profession, which combines Scholar,
Weaponsmith and Farming. As a Scholar you can investigate
any old ruins you come across for ancient artefacts, which
can then be studied and turned into magic scrolls and
weapons which can help in numerous ways. It’s fantastic
and adds a real interactivity to the skill. Farming is
similar: you collect seeds or buy them, acquire tools, water
and fertilizer, then find a field and sow your seeds. Soon
your plants will grow and you can harvest them, all with
proper animations. It’s the best example of crafting
I’ve seen in a game yet.
Quests are a staple part of MMORPGs (sigh) and LOTRO is no exception. Usually the writing suffers a bit as there
are thousands of quests in these types of games, but here
the writing is consistently good, making the quests much
more engaging and satisfying to complete. There are still
the usual ‘go to this place and kill X amount of Z’
quests in there, but that’s to be expected. Storylines are
played out as ‘books’ which are being constantly added
to the game as free updates, and add other goodies such as
new areas and items. The game has fifteen books in the first
volume; The Mines of
Moria is the start of volume 2.
The visuals here are glorious, bringing Middle Earth to life
on your monitor. Water ripples and reflects, fields of grass
and flowers sway in the wind, flocks of birds fly from trees
when startled, stunning cloudscapes roll through the sky...
I could go on all day. Textures are incredibly sharp and
detailed, with NPCs and enemies looking fantastic. I had it
running with everything on ultra-high, in a widescreen
resolution of 1440x900, and it ran like a dream on my
average system (P4 3.2GHz, 8600GT and 2GB RAM).
Don’t worry if you have an even older system,
though, as the graphics are very scaleable and it still
looks nice on lower detail levels.
friendly and mature community..."
Part of this Complete Edition is the new The
Mines of Moria expansion, which raises the level cap to
60 and adds a massive new area: you guessed it, the mines of
Moria. Anyone who has read the books or seen the films will
know exactly what this area will look like; for those of you
living under a rock for the last fifty years, Moria is a massive underground Dwarf kingdom with large
areas of mines and dark scary bits where ‘the dwarfs dug
too deep’. Now to say this new area is stunning would be a
massive understatement. You have to see it to believe it,
it’s that good.
Enormous caverns and remnants of huge stone structures tower
above you and go as far as the eye can see, with deep
fissures and chasms dropping deep into the earth. I’ve not
had a lot of chance to do much in Moria since I’ve only
been playing for less than a month (I’m exploring Moria
with a loan character, in case you were wondering how I got
there so fast) but what I’ve seen so far has impressed me
a lot. The Mines of
Moria also adds the legendary items system, where your
favourite weapon can level up with you, and you can also
name them. From that I’ve encountered of this system so
far, it’s a valuable addition to the game, which adds even
more depth to a title full of interesting touches.
Turbine have obviously put a lot of
love into The Lord of
the Rings Online and its expansion, and it really does
show, from the wonderful game environments and interesting
quests, to the foot- tapping folk music on the soundtrack and
the thrill of combat in Middle Earth. It’s a brilliant
time to get into the game, with the friendliest and most
mature community I’ve ever encountered for an MMO,
always willing to help new players or give them some
guidance along the way. If you are an old player maybe
thinking about coming back, then The Mines of Moria expansion is worth seeing, and when you do come
back you will probably be hooked again. It’s exciting to
think what Turbine will do with the game next, and I’ll be
following its progress with great interest.
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