Friday, September 28, 2012

A Look at Lord of the Rings Online

With the upcoming expansion for the Lord of the Rings Online, I thought it would be appropriate to take some time to give you an idea of what this game is all about. I've been playing the game on and off since it's release in 2007 and I feel like it is a game that gets overlooked in the world of MMOs. With the October 15th release of Riders of Rohan coming up, this may be the best time for you to jump in and give this game a try!

For those who do not already know, Lord of the Rings Online is a Free-2-Play MMO based off of the Lord of the Rings novels by J.R.R Tolkien.Throughout the game, you'll run into the Nine, as well as many characters not mentioned in the movies like Radagast and Tom Bombadil. As you travel, you'll complete quests to assist in the forward progress of the fellowship or help an area which is under the threat of Mordor or Isengard.

It is these things I mentioned that really pull you into the game unlike any other MMO I've played. I know I'm a raging Lord of the Rings nerd, but nothing is cooler than things like stumbling upon Bill the pony near the entrance to Moria and having to defend him while he makes his way to safety or having to chase Gollum away from a hunter's lodge to prevent him from stealing their supply of fish. There are a ton of things like this that really make the world of Middle Earth come alive. There are also some cool landmarks throughout the game that you'll come across like some of the Beacons of Ministirith or The Bridge of Khazad Dum. These kinds of things are really cool to find and make you feel like you're in the books/movies.

Another aspect of the game that really pulls you in is the graphics. The environments in this game look amazing. The beginning areas of the game like The Shire and Bree-Land look and feel safe but as you venture out things become much more dangerous and dark looking. Things really start to get serious once you reach Moria. The place looks and feels HUGE. After you've been in there for a while, you truly feel starved for light and once you're through, it really is a  relief. The soundtrack for each area matches up well too, it's not stuff from the movie, but still fits well in each area. One other thing I need to mention about the graphics is the water effects. I don't know how they do it, but this game easily has some of the best water effects I've seen in any game and it doesn't even kill your machine. Speaking of which, you can run this game on almost any computer at lowest settings and it still looks pretty good.

As for actual gameplay, it is your standard MMO with a few exceptions. These exceptions are what really make it different. First, the classes do follow your typical Tank, DPS, Healer, etc... set up, but also feature a couple of hybrid classes like Wardens and Rune-Keepers thrown in. A Warden wields a spear and shield and while tanky can also deal some good damage. A Rune-Keeper is a spell caster equipped to deal heavy damage, but also heal when need be. This helps avoid needing the "perfect group" to complete instances and other group quests.

Another thing that I feel makes this game different from other MMOs that I've played is that the game is almost as fun to explore as it is to level up. I sometimes find myself venturing up to a random location on my map just because it looks interesting. What is really great about this is just because you're exploring, it doesn't mean you're not gaining levels. Throughout the game, you'll be given deeds. These deeds range from exploring certain areas to killing hundreds of a particular kind of creature. Once you complete these deeds, you'll typically be given some experience, a title that you can put after your name, Turbine Points which can be used in the Turbine Store or quick travel access to a town or location. Having deeds as an extra really makes you feel like you're always completing more than one thing at a time which really makes you feel like you're getting the most out of your time in the game.

The questing system in Lord of the Rings Online is a little different from some I've seen. Where some MMOs require that you group up to see most of the game's end game content, Lord of The Ring Online has a good mix of solo, small group and large group quests that allow you to see all of the section you're in. Obviously, more difficult quests such as taking down a Balrog will require a large group, but there are several solo quests which end up bringing you to one so you can at least see what it looks like while in combat. You can also do some instances with a scaled down difficulty allowing you to complete it with only a few members.

If you're not into questing, Lord of the Rings Online offers some alternatives. You can participate in skirmishes which are essentially battles which you assist in attacking or defending a particular location. You can earn skirmish levels and points which you can use to buy a variety of items. If skirmishes are not your thing, the game also offers a PvP mode where you play as a servant of Sauron. You can play as an orc, goblin, spider and a few others and complete quests for Sauron and battle players.

As for the general upkeep of the game, Turbine is pretty consistent with their server maintenance and their downtime is usually well documented. There have been few occasions in my experience where they've extended maintenance for an unacceptable amount of time and that is over the course of 5 years. Also, their monthly fee to become a "VIP" is on par with all other paid MMOs and gives you some pretty good benefits including 2 additional classes and free Turbine Points each month.

There are a few things I find annoying about the game, one of them being the limited sound effects. It seems that grunting and screaming are popular sounds to use when performing attacks or hitting an enemy. Also, there is an outrageous amount of buttons that you find yourself needing when playing, which can be obnoxious. It's nice to have a lot of options for your character, but the amount of skills you're given and are expected to use is a bit excessive. I'll usually use 5-7 abilities in every fight, but I need the 5-10 others in my hot bars in case a fight turns for the worst.

Overall this is definitely a game worth checking out. It's free and it's pretty easy to get started. If you're interested in the expansion, Riders of Rohan, you can find all the information here. We hope to see you in Middle Earth and as always, thanks for reading!

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