Lord of the Rings Online – My first 6 hours

May 24th, 2009 | By | Category: Games, Linux / Freebsd

So I’ve been going through a real LOTR kick lately.  After finishing watching the Extended version Trilogy again, I then went through all 6 DVD’s of the Making of and now I’m going through the Cast Commentary of each film.  I suppose watching all of this and immersing myself in the Film project has given me an immense appreciation for the incredible effort that went into this film, I would say more so than any other films in human history.  I say this because I feel that this could be directly responsible for how I feel about LOTRO.

After finishing the films again I was left with an incredible desire to explore this world in much more detail and on my terms.  A testement to the amazingness of our times that now that option is available to me.  My problem however is that I wanted to explore a world as rich as the one created in the films(visually) or as captivating as the world created in the books.  Perhaps this was an unfair expectation in Turbine but upon entering Middle Earth in Lord of the Rings Online I was immensly dissapointed, and my guess is that many other players also are.

Visual: When you watch the films there is absolutely no mistaking that the world of cinema has never seen works that match the visual authenticity and sophistication of LOTR.  Not strictly from a CG perspective but speaking of the set designs, the blacksmiths working around the clock, the seamstresses, the miniatures, etc etc.  Everything for these films shattered records previously thought to be impressive.   This is something Turbine should have taken into account when they decided to create Middle Earth for the masses to explore, clearly they aren’t expected to match the quality of the film, however I would expect them to take the same fervor in attention to detail and groundbreaking effects relative to other online games.  They however did not.  The infinite small details that make the story in the book come to life, and those of the films that suspend all disbelief are no where at all to be found in the game.  With the expectations that the films set for this the gameworld seems bland and vanilla no matter where you are looking.   It is simply another generic online game that looks no better and in many cases worse than many others.

Gameplay: Again absolutely nothing ground breaking here.. The quests are incredibly tedious for the first 10 levels with ZERO hook to get you interested in the story.  The very very beginning introduction starts off with you defending a courtyard, which is a step in the right direction, however after that it is simply one rat quest after another, interspered with fedex quests here or there.  There is an epic quest storyline that goes on but has zero compelling features in it and the fact that the hero you are following is so much weaker than yourself makes it even more insulting.

You can start off as any of the main characters in the story: Dwarf, Elf, Human or Hobbit however there is no major major differences between them.  By this I mean they share 90% of the same classes throughout, so each race serves mainly an aesthetic purpose which can be good in a way as it allows you to play your favorite class and explore the hobbit world or the elves but there is no real compelling reason to choose one over the other or any reason to feel special about being an elf as there is a human of the same class out there that is identical to you without the pointy ears.

There are some slightly innovative mechanics for combat but really nothing to write home about.

Lastly, once you get your first character above lvl 10 you are able to do ‘monster play’ which allows you to start a lvl 60 evil character(orc, spider, worg etc etc).  This could prove interesting as it opens the whole world up on the other side so I’ll give them that.

Price: There doing something right here.  You can sign up for a 10 day free trial and convert it for 9.99 / month.  No box fee which is nice to see.  However compare this to a game like Requiem, which is 100% free, looks much better visually and has more exciting and developed gameplay from the start and that 9.99 still seems overpriced.

At the end of the day it seems all too clear that either Turbine bit off far more than they could chew, or their main intention here was to cash in on the immense success of the brand – wanting to take as little risk as possible due to the fact that almost anything they produced would be gobbled up by hordes of rabid fans.   Consequentially what they ended up producing was a product that visually can’t compare to it’s competion let alone attempt to step into the massive shoes that Peter Jackson created for the brand, and gameplay wise has nothing unique to appeal to players over any of the other games offered out there.  This strikes me as a major disservice to the Brand in general, once you know what went into writing the books and then the insanity that went into creating arguable some of the greatest films ever made.  Perhaps Turbine was doing the big corporate thing and playing it safe or perhaps they bit off more than they could chew, either way I see them in a slightly tarnished light because of this project.

In a world with so many high quality free mmo’s being produced these days(Requeim, Shaiya, Last Chaos to name a few) if you want to step into this arena and charge people money for a monthly subscription you had damn well be able to justify it on all fronts… LOTRO does so on none, which saddens me to no end.  Someone please call Bethesda to fix this mess!

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