I played Lord of the Rings Online (LotRO) for about 2 weeks during the free beta. Overall, I enjoyed the experience, yet felt the game fell short of what I hoped for. Over 2 years after Blizzard’s World Of Warcraft, Turbine have created something that feels like a clone of WoW’s world, interface and gameplay, yet with less humour and slightly clunky in the little details.
- LotRO copies WoW’s user-interface, and that works well. Consistency amongst game interfaces is a good thing; there’s no need to re-invent the wheel. I found it very easy to immediately learn the basics of the game.
- The environment of the Shire is quite cute, humourous and fun. Beforehand, I thought it would be a boring region of the game, but Ive enjoyed it.
- I tried a night’s Monster Play (playing a monster on Sauron’s side) as an Uruk in the Ettinmoors and greatly enjoyed the stylistic and gameplay contrast.
- I have a level 10 Elf Loremaster. Loremasters abilities seem to suck. They have the armour and weapon restrictions of a magic-using class, but at level 10 Ive only got 2 main combat-orineted spells, Burning Embers & Summon Raven, which I use endlessly. The other abilities are limp Buffs and Heals that have little attraction.
- My first hour of gameplay was poor: despite choosing to play an Elf Loremaster I was corralled into Thorins courtyard running errands for Dwarves.
- When entering my first monster battle in minute 3, entirely scripted and unavoidable, I pointed-and-clicked my default weapon at the appointed opponent, and we stood there hacking until I died. Dying in your learn-to-fight battle is not fun. If you’re going to have a compulsory first learning battle, make winning near certain. (Likely explanation: difficulty was not calibrated for Loremaster weaklings)
- After first battle, all characters and places I’d learned about were scrapped, and I got teleported to big empty elf ruins, containing one elf, who told me to leave ruins and go somewhere else. There seems little point of having the ruins if you do nothing but leave them…
- I find the terrain ridiculously and needlessly hilly: in Ered Luin I repeatedly fell off cliffs and had to take boring back-tracks to return to the road. The creases in the terrain force you to take tiresome round-about loops when trekking cross-country.
- What dissapopnted me the most was the heavily constrained geography of Eriador. Unlike Frodo and co, in LOTR Online, it’s not possible to slip out of Hobbiton at dusk to go tramping over hill and dale. The Shire is a walled zone with 2 exits, one to Bree and one to Ered Luin (in the Beta, at least). All other directions are impassable. Just think how it would have made those Black Riders jobs easier; post a wraith at both exits and wait! Turbine’s middle earth has a graph topology: nodes connected by edges. Its a sharp contrast with the solid earth, open skies and freedom of 4 compass points that one feels while reading the travel sequences of the novel.