After my abysmal adventures in Star Trek, I decided to check out some of my old stomping grounds in Lord of the Rings Online. Lord of the Rings Online is a game from Turbine based of course on the novels. You would think that an MMO based in this universe would be a win right? Well maybe, maybe not.
So I first bought this game on release however my subscription did not last overly long as I had a lot of things going on at time. Also I found things to be a bit bland as well. But since then, LOTRO has gone to a free 2 play model. In fact they pretty much innovated the current free 2 play model that is going on out there.
So free 2 play, what does it mean? Well the free 2 play for LOTRO is the original base game all the way to Moria. From there its expansions and quite a few of them too. Now you can buy the expansions digitally or physically but you can also buy them via Turbine points which is their funky currency. They also support the game by having microtransaction via buff’s, classes, mounts, etc. This is done very well. Say I am not ready for the moria expansion, I can hold off till the time is right. You have things that help the gameplay but never anything that will make your character more powerful than the others. Microtransactions here compared to Star Trek Online definitely feel different. With STO you had a minimal of features to select in the base games but tons of other cosmetics, ships, etc that were being sold. In reality it should have been included in the game.
Story-wise LOTRO is based on the books. Now you are probably thinking that we know already what is going to happen and it’s not like you’re the main hero of the story. Now I understand the point of view that the fellowship and Frodo specifically are journeying to destroy the one ring however Turbine has managed to show that there are other heroic tales to tell and that there is more than just the fellowship who have an impact to the world. They have even taken liberties to explore areas mentioned very little throughout the books and make fantastic places to visit. As a roleplayer this is very cool because you don’t want to play a game where you feel your second place.
Creating a character is fairly simple. You have your base races and available classes. The classes are pretty straight forward but one of the more interesting characters IMO is the Minstrel which is as support class primarily. But keep in mind all the classes keep the feel of Middle Earth. This is both good and bad.
I am going to probably say good and bad for a few things. And this is because that while it fits in the concept of the setting, it can feel bland. I also mean this in the context of other game comparisons like World of Warcraft. Where WoW has more cartoonish characters with massive armor, tons of colors, etc; LOTRO has more earth tones and more subtle design elements to the characters. Obviously you will get some much nicer looking armor down the line but in the first levels you will be tough to find really dynamic outfits which might appeal to a large player base.
For the purpose of my time in LOTRO I made a Hobbit Minstrel named Berlond. The first introduction quest line is quite well done. Every race has a particular starting point and their own individual tutorials. Now this was a nice pleasant surprise compared to Star Trek Online. The introduction shows the impending peril caused by the events that are unfolding. Then I was released into the wild that is The Shire.
One thing that LOTRO has going for it is sheer size. This is both a good thing and a bad thing. As for as the eye can see are plains, mountains ,forests, etc. Towns are small, medium or large and there are TONS of quests to do. I mean TONS!!!111 Now while this sounds fantastic this can also be a problem and that is the world feels empty. Sure there are NPC’s everywhere and the occasional player, there is also a lonely feeling like your playing this game all on your own. I suppose depending on your play style this might be super ideal but later for certain quests this can be a problem.
The base game on its own makes you feel like the world is real. Distances feel real in how much time it takes to travel to them. It’s really a thing of beauty but to players from say WoW and most other MMO, this can totally kill you. Eventually you can get a mount which will facilitate things but till that point it’s very grinding in that sense. While I can walk around continents fairly quickly in a competitors MMO, you can take that time and double it just because of the sheer size of the world. I think this is an artistic direction they took or maybe to just make it as realistic as possible. In the end though it hurts the game yet makes it special.
Crafting in LOTRO can in trades of three’s. You typically have two trades say metalworking and jewelery which play off each other but have a third such as farming or cooking which is standalone. However the way the crafting is divided is pretty well thought out but again has disadvantages. Now with your trades you are almost obliged to interact with your kinship (group, guild, etc) to fulfill each others needs as certain materials can only be made by certain trades. Obviously you could try to hit up an auction house however the prices are so inflated it is almost more worth it to make an alt if your really hard pressed for a specific material.
You can see the concept of battering they had with this but I don’t think it panned out with people. Once the population went down from its intiial subscribers and now with a few expansions on their way, people are hanging around the more end game content. So battering with anyone at the initial areas can be very difficult.
Quests are your typical MMO type of quests. Go to x place, deliver y thing and your rewarded with z. Or there is always the favorite kill x number of creatures. It would be interesting to see something new but alas that is not really how it goes. You eventual run into fellowship quests which usually tend to be areas with a lot more dynamic elements to them.
If you’re a fan of PVP well there is something for you and that’s PvMP (Player vs Monster Player). That’s right, you can play as one of the minions of Sauron. Now I only played this at lunch and have not visited since as I have made my rounds on my own as a regular player however I have heard there is a lot more elements to it and makes for a fun addition.
Of course LOTRO has your standard festivals, events, etc but it’s like every other MMO out there. Obviously it’s always set in the mood and is fitting. It never get’s overly outlandish. You can believe that these events are taking place which is nice and a testament to the respect Turbine is giving the license. I also don’t think they have a choice lol
Needless to say LOTRO after all this time has a lot to offer for no money at all. It’s weird to even say that but it has worked for Turbine and I wish every other company would follow suite. They started making F2P popular and revolutionized it. Also I think in some ways probably LOTRO is the most expansive MMO out there of its sheer size. Maybe EVE Online with its universe could compare but I am not sure. And if you do manage to make your way to wanting to buy the latest expansions, there is always the deal of buying Riders of Rohan and getting all previous expansions along with it. That add’s countless more hours for not a bad price at all.
If you’re looking for something casual like I am then this is a real treat. You never feel like you need to be overly committed and the quests can range from quick and fun to more complex. LOTRO is how you make of it. I can argue it can be a lot of fun but on the other hand with how down to earth this game can be and the slow building of events I can understand why people can find it dull and off-putting. It’s not a colorful attention grabber. It’s just what it is and to me that is fun. With the amount of content being released for this game there is no reason not to be playing this considering a good chunk of it is FREE.
So with LOTRO definitely on my to play list, it’s off to see what other MMO we can hop into and give a whirl.
Oh yes and before I forget. If you are on the Brandywine server look for a hobbit named Berlond. More than happy to aid you on quests.
Note: Finding an MMO for me articles and by no ways an in-depth review of a game. This is simply myself playing an intro subscription and playing the game for as long as humanly possible before a subscription ends or till I have a clear view of how the game is.