Review by Wist

"A solid MMORPG with the Lord of the Rings theme"

Introduction:

Lord of the Rings Online is a welcomed addition to the already booming MMORPG industry. In reality, World of Warcraft spawned majority of the MMORPG interest that exists today. While games such as Everquest existed for quite some time, World of Warcraft came along and stole the show. Is it the best MMO that ever existed? Depends on the player's opinion. Will it be the best forever? Definitely not. Well, now that the obvious has been stated, I can talk about Lord of the Rings Online.

So wait, I thought this was a Lord of the Rings Online review? Why are you talking about World of Warcraft? Because let's be honest... people who are reading this review either played World of Warcraft or have it on their list of options. I'm trying to offer the best advice as a reviewer to help you, the reader, make a wise decision.

Lord the Rings Online is a fantastic addition to the growing MMO industry. A MMORPG is a massively multiplayer online role playing game. Basically it means there is no single player. It must be played online. This doesn't mean you have to play with others... it just means the world is alive with users from all over the world.

This game, unlike a few other Lord of the Ring titles, actually follows the book more than the movies. You will see very familiar faces and places. A lot of the terminology used for moves and word choice when talking to Hobbits will be similar to the words used in Tolkien's books. Trust me, its a beautiful world indeed. This is no mediocre game that was rushed with a Lord of the Rings title slapped on it. This game is very indepth, very well designed, well thought out, and has the capacity to grow for many years to come.

Gameplay:

In Lord of the Rings Online, the player is given the choose a race and class. Such races involve Elves, Humans, Dwarves, and Hobbits. Classes include Guardian, Captain, Champion, Hunter, LoreMaster, Minstrel, and Bandit. You can customize their appearance at the start ranging from facial details to body build and then give them a name and where they hail from. For example, you could create a fat Hobbit with white hair, a facial scar, named Charles Barkley from Buckland. There are some restrictions on hair color, skin color, and classes that certain races can be... which makes a lot of sense since the game is aiming towards realism of the Lord of the Rings' universe.

So once the game is started, you are thrown into the thick of things. A level 1 in a large Lord of the Rings universe full of danger and sleepless malice. The time needed to level is exponential and the higher levels will take some time contrary to the several levels a day you can manage at lower levels. As you grow in power/level, you will begin to get better equipment... and begin to look much cooler. Rather than the sweatpants look alike armor you start out with, you will soon be covered head to toe in thick plate armor (class depending) and wielding large weaponry. You will also be able to buy new moves from your class trainer. Class depending, these moves will range from healing spells, buffing spells, weapon moves, and even abilities to resurrect and summon pets.

In order to level you can either kill lots and lots of enemies or you can do quests. Quests in this game are in an over abundance. It seems there are more quests than you can handle... which is a good thing. When I played, it also seems I am doing quests rated a few levels lower than my current level just to get rid of them. Quests range from killing X amount of enemies to gathering certain items from characters of other professions.

Professions in this game are very well designed and provide a very high income to players who have a basic understanding of supply and demand. Every player gets three different professions. For example, a weaponsmith is able to mine and forge metals (metalworking) into bars, then as a weapon blacksmith they can create weapons and weapon parts. Also, they have a third profession which is woodworking. The only problem with this third profession is that it is dependant on others. A woodworker is unable to gather resources from trees (Forester) to create his wooden devices. This adds a special twist and definitely adds a boost to economy. Just as a personal note, even at a low level I was able to make a ton of money by selling ores and processed bars. However, it did stunt my progress as a Weaponsmith and I had to dedicate some time to boost my skills.

Fighting in the game is quite fun, but gets a bit repetitive. As a result, I rolled one of each class to keep things fun and entertaining. When I would return to my other characters, it felt like a refreshed experience. You approach an enemy, and begin auto-attacking it. You can do your special trainer bought talents to take them down faster (this is almost required). For example, a Guardian, a heavy armor, shield and sword unit uses shield bash and parry based attacks (defensive type unit... a tank). The Captain who mainly uses a 2 handed weapon and also wears heavy armor has damaging shouts, heals, weapon attacks, and a pet human who follows him around and assists him (a paladin type unit). The LoreMaster uses magic, Minstrel uses music, etc.

World of Warcraft Comparison:

Sorry, I had to include a section dedicated to a comparison to World of Warcraft. WoW (an abbreviation for World of Warcraft which I will now use henceforth) basically set the standard for MMORPGs in years to come.

So what similar? Well.. almost everything. However, what MMO or even RPGs for that matter DO NOT have swords, armor, elves, orcs, and professions? Basically none. The genre is pretty much the same so any MMO you choose will seem similar to others. However, there are definitely some major differences that will make the game seem very much different. Also, the user interface feels similar. The experience bar to level up is similar, the experience bars for professions look very similar, there are similar professions, similar classes, races, enemies, quests, etc. BUT this is the genre. This stuff is expected.

So what is different about this game that makes it have a Lord of the Rings title on it and not WoW, Everquest, Guild Wars, etc.?

Well, imagine an MMORPG set in the Lord of the Rings universe. Imagine the movies. That basically is this game. Honestly, it feels a lot like the movies... which is drastically different than the cartoony World of Warcraft (don't get me wrong, I love the cartoony graphics). So basically if you LOVE Lord of the Rings and can't wait to be a part of the universe, stop reading here and buy the game. It is definitely a breathtaking experience. The world is absolutely beautiful. The towns feel alive, the forests have a creepy ambiance, and there are just breathtaking views everytime you turn around. There will also be many differences mentioned later in this article.

Story:

The story is that of your hero who is parallel to the story of the Lord of the Rings. While you are not a part of the fellowship, their path in life will intertwine with your own. You see many notable characters from the movies and follow their progress on their journey. Honestly, any Lord of the Rings fan will truly appreciate the time that Turbine took in creating this wonderful game. Many of the quests... especially the main story quests are absolutely wonderful. The game just feels alive.

Sound:

This is one of the more important aspects of the game. The music in this game is amazing. They hired very talented individuals to come up with the music and sound implementation in this game. The music is epic when it needs to be, creepy when it needs to be, and ambient when it needs to be.

Sound effects regarding the Eye, the Nazgul, etc. sound very familar. Once again, you feel like you are definitely in the Lord of the Rings universe.

Another notable feature of the game is the ability to learn instruments. Certain classes are able to learn instruments and play them in their spare time. I personally bought a Lute (which seems to be the most popular), which you can use the 1-8 buttons in conjunction with Shift and Ctrl to play in different octaves. You will hear many beautiful songs being played by other users, and an equal amount of absolutely horrendous smashing of notes and chords by others. Sometimes you may hear a familiar song... someone found tablature of Lord of the Ring songs, Hotel California, Stairway to Heaven, Beethoven, etc.

It is also very fun to play music with friends... or strangers.

Graphics:

The graphics are another game defining attribute. This game is gorgeous. If you are able to turn up the graphics, this game is a gem. It blows WoW out of the water... possibly even Guild Wars out of the water too. They paid attention to detail in this game and its noticeable. Every nook and cranny in the world is carefully designed. Everything from the streams, to the lakes, swamps, forests, hills and beyond are very well created. You don't even need to be a Lord of the Rings fan... you just need to be a nature fan to respect the view.

To give you an idea of the quality of graphics and sound in this game I will describe an experience. This might be some slight spoilers of gameplay, but not of story. After a long journey on a road to quest, I accidentally entered a new zone called the "Old Forest." The bright sun (which by the way cycles to day in night every few hours) disappeared and it became creepily foggy. The ambient music played a spider-type theme to it where it sounds like random high notes are being picked (not sure the musical term for it). Anyways, I kill a wolf and then a spider and continue a bit further. Suddenly, a giant tree uproots and begins to attack me. The screen gets blurry and music picks up. That, is what I call a unique experience. It is a dime a dozen in this game.

Flaws:

Well... I did give this game an 8/10. So what is wrong with it? Well, I gave it an 8/10 because I grew bored and quit after a few months. It didn't hook me and I know exactly why. It is a very stagnant, casual game with a very realistic beautiful world. Sounds like a good thing? Maybe.

Honestly, I enjoyed the long runs across the country... crossing forests and Hobbit farms, but after several days of doing this... killing nothing but orcs, wolves, spiders, boars over and over again... I grew a bit bored.

I created one of every class and leveled them all up decently high, but I eventually caved and never looked back. I also tried the Monster Play a bit, but I was unsatisfied and moved on to different offline single player games.

Realism is its downfall. WoW is also successful because its very cartoony and different. You go from a molten wasteland filled with dragons and stuff to a dark and boggyland with Naga serpents to a bright and colorful rainforest. There are different continents with different climates and people. Lord of the Rings is a bit dry. You have forests, barren land, snow, farmland, etc. You will never see the game stray from the Lord of the Rings universe... which will eventually bore you (unless you are a very die hard fan).

Also, thats just my opinion.

Oh, and it never bothered me much, but a lot of people complain about the long treks to complete quests and whatnot. It is no different from any other MMORPG I've played.

Conclusion:

Lord of the Rings is a great MMORPG. I wanted to give it a 9... but changed it to an 8 halfway through writing this. The fact that I no longer play it after a few months is proof that it isn't a 9 or a 10 game. Let me assure you though.. it is really close. I loved this game.. I truly did. But I've moved on... and so will you one day. I really urge you to buy it if you can afford it. It truly is a great game. It just isn't as addicting as World of Warcraft. I hated that game but felt obligated to play. Also, if you retired from WoW and need another MMORPG/drug to help you cope with withdrawal... this game is a great choice. The change of flavor will be refreshing.


Reviewer's Score: 8/10 | Originally Posted: 07/12/07


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