The Call on Lord of the Rings Online

I prefer journalizing, rather than reviewing, but so many have asked for my buy/no-buy call on Lord of the Rings Online (and LIVE date is next Tuesday, April 24th), I feel obligated to make a call.

The call: Buy.

Thanks! Have a good weekend!

If you’re the type who wants DETAILS, there’s more after the jump.

The good:

1. Artwork. Superb. Stunning. I am without speech, it’s that good.

2. Noob levels. Done well. Help is offered regularly (with tips and popups, which can be disabled later). Many features, keybinds from games past are the defaults here. That’s good because I’m getting old and set in my ways. It’s just this simple: if you can’t hook me in the noob levels, there’s no way I’m sticking around for the end game.

3. Deep and broad. An MMOG, any MMOG, with its premium box price and its premium subscription prices, needs to offer more activities than: you can kill stuff, and, umm, you can kill other players, and umm, you could check the auctions/trade channel. There’s many ways to screw around in this MMOG: Deeds, accomplishments, exploration (easy to outrun higher level mobs), titles, player-made music, engaging quest text, a solid start to the crafting system, MONSTER PLAY!!! There’s probably more, but that’s all I’ve tried so far.

4. We all know the story. This is a gimme, but CMON, who doesn’t love Lord of the Rings? If you say you hate it, you’re just being difficult.

5. Learned from other games. Some people (in /ooc) bitch about LOTRO stealing systems, ideas, etc. from other games … in particular World of Warcraft. Well, fucking duh. I would too. It’s called LEARNING. I hope they continue.

6. The Classes. Please God, let LOTRO continue their trek away from the Tank + Healer combat model that has plagued us for years and years. Several classes can heal (either self or party or both) to varying degrees in this game. Almost any group (excuse me, FELLOWSHIP) composition will work for the tougher quests to level 15. There’s still some reliance on the tank + healer “we win!” duo, but don’t believe everything you read in /ooc or /lfg.

I, personally, played champion, minstrel and captain to level 15; lore-master to level 10. LOVED Captain, btw. (For you WoW people, champion is rogue-y with big melee DPS, minstrel is the biggest healer/buffer, and captain is paladin-esque with better DPS.) Guildmates played, enjoyed, some LOVED, the other classes as well: guardian (tank), hunter (duh), lore-master (magic DPS), burglar (debuffer). To be fair, none of them loved burglar — was a little too group-reliant, I heard.

The ok:

1. Combat. I liked queueing combat moves, spells, skills and responding to mob specials with different combat choices — some people don’t. I didn’t find the combat particularly innovative, but I did find that I could improve my play (i.e. kill time, defeated mob level) by fighting smarter.

So if we consider classic EverQuest the standard auto-attack, walk away model, and high-end PVP-type games as the ultimate in combat requiring your absolute attention, I’d rate LOTRO combat as similar to, sometimes exceeding, World of Warcraft PVE, in other words, mid-scale.

2. The Races. Who cares? I don’t. Any race, any class will do. Where do you want to start? That’s all you have to decide.

3. The Community. Umm, people haven’t changed in centuries — it’s the same community as in any other online game you’ve played.

The bad:

1. Icons. WTF. Fix these. And I mean last week. After a few weeks with a game, I shouldn’t need to mouseover icons to figure out what an item is at its basic level (is it food? a craft material? looks like a blob of yellow to me), but I do.

2. Character models. Meh. They don’t have to be beautiful or cartoonishly exaggerated, but everyone is bland and homely. Some face animation wouldn’t hurt either.

3. Optimization. Busy cities can be jerky as stuff loads. (Yes, I have a computer well beyond specs for the game.) The syncing of character to the world can be iffy, also. Example: your character is running but his/her feet don’t quite match the moving ground properly. (I don’t know the technical whatsits for this.) During prime time, this is more noticeable, but not a terrible nuisance.

4. Item linking. We have to drag the icon and drop in chat to link an item with clickable stats. That’s bush league. Shift-click is the way to go.

5. Money is too tight. I know game economies have to be guarded closely lest inflation ruins everything, but in the noob levels, we want to try everything.

Here’s a good rule of thumb for you young developers out there: Noobs should have plenty of money to buy all their skills, try out the different crafting options, try out a few optional systems (surnames, kinships, musical instruments, whathaveyou), pay for repairs of their equipment AND make a few expensive noob mistakes.

LOTRO falls short of this — it is possible to drive your noob into bankruptcy and be forced to reroll. Of course, you’d never make that mistake again, but it is possible.

The conclusion:

The bottom line is: this game costs $50, plus $10 a month (if you preorder), is it worth that? For me, the answer is: easily. My criterion is that I want to get a good six months to a year out of an online game before I ask for a divorce. So confident am I of the six month – one year from this game, I’m toying with the $199 lifetime subscription. I probably won’t, but I’m toying.

For you, the answer isn’t so easy.

If you’re still playing World of Warcraft and loving it, stick with WoW. Lord knows you can’t afford to spend any time elsewhere — there’s heroics to farm, attunements for you and your guild, trash to clear repeatedly — your plate is full. Same answer for you EQ2 lovers, Vanguard lovers, Eve Online lovers, et al.

If you’re looking to add to your online gaming options, this game is a fine choice. Beautiful, engaging, deep, different.

Between online games? Without a doubt, buy it.

New to online gaming? It’s f’ing Lord of the Rings! The game remains true to the story, but there’s more to do.

Whether you buy or not, know that whenever I run across the absurd, the foolish, the arrogant or the stupid in Middle Earth, I will save a screenshot for you.

26 thoughts on “The Call on Lord of the Rings Online

  1. 5. Money is too tight. I know game economies have to be guarded closely lest inflation ruins everything, but in the noob levels, we want to try everything.

    /agreed. One concession Turbine has recently made towards this end is to remove repair costs for deaths before 10th level. So it’s not so expensive anymore to let curiosity get the better of your newbish self to explore and/or gather in areas that you otherwise have absolutely no business being in.

    And I’d just like to add that this is the ultimate “explorer” MMO. There are little nooks and crannys everywhere that serve no other purpose than to be discovered. And on the edge of ever cliff or the top of every hill, there is an incredible vista to behold. It’s pretty obvious that a lot of love for the source material made its way into the final game.

  2. The economics are completely skewed on the wrong direction.

    At level 15 my guardian is in about 1/3 purples and the rest gold equipment. Due to this, when I go out to kill things, if I am just general grinding and not on a quest, I typically end up spending more on repairing my equipment than I gained from the mobs I decimated. This is even more pronounced if I also collected crafting materials and then skilled up. Repair costs for crafting equipment has got to go!

    Its ridiculous as well thats its a detriment to the development of my character that I am wearing good equipment. I can barely afford equiping traits, let alone buying all of my passive abilities.

  3. Some face animation wouldn’t hurt either.

    I’m going lifetime on this game, no brainer for me. Worse case, I stop playing for a while, new content comes out, I can just hop right in without worrying about re-subscribing.

    Plus, there is just something ironic about hearing Super Mario Bros. being played in the game on a lute…

  4. I am in beta as well and I find the game rather disappointing.

    Here is what I wrote about it two weeks ago. Link.

    Since then not much has changed. I am particularly surprised with you being impressed with the graphics. To me they look very unpretty, although I recognize that technology-wise they are somewhat good.

    Another point where I disagree is your recommendation of LotRO to those who are new to MMO genre. I would say it is unfriendly to new players. Of course I mean game itself, not the community, which as you pointed out is roughly the same across the board.

  5. I’m playing a burglar and loving it, so theres at least one. They may be a little more group oriented than the other classes, but not to the point where you actually need a group. Unless you… well.. suck, for lack of a better term.

    There was a bit of a rough patch around level 9, but after opening up dual wield and medium armor at 10, and the self heal not long after that, I was killing all kinds of white and yellow mobs with no difficulty.

  6. I’ve enjoyed this game a lot and I preordered it some time ago during the closed beta. Of all classes, I haven’t tried Burglar although it’s on my list to try. Concerning the economy, a lot of people talking about the game are writing from the perspective of the Open Beta that’s locked at level 15. I’ve made and spent several hundred silver through the auction house during open beta. The closed beta was not locked at level 15 and people could make lots of money at the time. I think things will pick up just fine when the game releases and there are high level characters that are willing to spend good cash to save time harvesting or to buy a nice piece of armor, etc. Right now cash is a little tight. After all, I don’t have anyone who needs to buy the level 35 jewelery I’m churning out and I can only make so much selling level 10 rings. My level 35 stuff just ends up getting vendored or put aside for myself and friends.

  7. Pingback: The Call on Lord of the Rings Online « It’s about ….

  8. Maybe you should have said pretty compared to WoW. I am enjoying this game so much, the WoW sub is lapsing. I cant justify spending the money to abused anymore. I hate to say it, but, if this game takes off, they might have a WoW killer on their hands.

  9. Oh, btw, Foton. You commented on the slight choppiness. I’m wondering if that is due to texture loading. If your system is a powerhouse with lots of memory to spare, there is a texture cache setting. If you set that to the highest setting, it will cache a lot of the textures in memory so it won’t hit the disk to load them when someone runs by. The default setting is somewhere around 0.4 while the max is 1.0. I’m playing on a pretty nice laptop and I could see the disk LED blinking whenever I’d hit a little choppiness and I had the Very High Textures turned on. With the cache setting at max, it seems to help.

  10. Foton – I enjoyed reading your opinion. I’m going to pickup the preorder tomorrow because the game is definitely worth playing for awhile, at least while everything is new and an adventure. I agree with most of your points – especially about the graphics, its beautiful!

  11. I tried it and at first was going to buy it and was even thinking of the lifetime subscription.

    Then 6 days before release they broke one of the crafting skills, lied about it, lied/omitted a second thing they did and made fun of the people that cried foul with a stupid Ghostbear character on the forums. Now they are promising they will fix it “soon”.

    Sorry but soon for a mistake they made is not good enough, I have heard that things will be fixed soon too many times from other mmorpgs. Esp as they are already announcing their expansion!

    If you are buying this be aware that they have an extremly flawed crafting system in place that says you are not suppose to at any time make money from your crafting. And that they allow dev’s that have no clue how an area works to make drastic changes to that area. Actual quote from them “The crafting system has been transitioning from one “owner” dev to another, and when we looked at it last night, I don’t think either of us realized some of the other factors that come into play”

    Could be a great game, but the company has got to pull it together fast or it will fall flat

  12. I find it strange that so many people think money should never be a pushback in the game. It is there for exactly the purpose of being a pushback. Doing the thing that gets the maximum XP/sec may not actually be possible all the time, since you will run out of money. Oh no. Go kill some things and sell the loot.

    It is not possible to bankrupt your character and need to reroll. That’s completely absurd. Even if you sold all your gear, then threw the money out, you’d be able to start killing things and earn enough to regain decent gear without too much trouble. Would you be killing things your level? No. But since when are you only allowed to kill things your level? Treat money like xp – it is a resource that you have to spend time building up for your character. Is there any reason it shouldn’t be? You didn’t have enough to buy your skills the instant you leveled? Why not? It tells you what the price will be. You know it is going to cost you something. If you wanted it right away, why didn’t you save up?

  13. No female dwarves either… (not looking for feedback on this :p I know, I know…)

    gg female hobbits!

    Have yet to actually buy the game myself but been playing around on my other half’s account a bit. Have a level 7 Burglar and it’s only just really grown on me since running around the Shire rescuing chickens and searching for pie crusts. Not seen much of the group-dependancy so far, but I’m only level 7 and haven’t actually tried the other classes yet anyway… let alone group, er, fellowship questing.

    I think I’ll be a deed-addict by the end of the month. Only 1000 surprise attacks to go!

    It’s got to me a lot more than I was expecting, which is a bit of a yay really 🙂

  14. Well i’ve been on “early access” (basically the full game) here in europe for a week now, and i tried Captain (i was a paladin in WoW) didn’t quite like it, but love champion and the lore-master (who i think of as a warlock from WoW; cc and pet).

    Got to over level 20 with all of them now (my champion decked out in heavy armor), and the second half of Lone-Lands and some of North Downs has opened up, and i’m not disapointed. The music system is genius, the chat is occasionally crazy, the CGI cutscenes between instances to further the plot should have been done years ago.

    The game has that “just one more quest” feeling that’s been lost, a lot of games have waited far toooooo long to increase level cap “WoW” to name the big one, 2 years then raise by a measly 10 levels, no wonder the hardcores are like WTH.

    With new content already coming in June for this game (along with more musical instruments woOo) i doubt turbine will make the same mistake.

  15. This has just about killed it for me:

    Can I play The Lord of the Rings: Shadows of Angmar on my Macintosh?

    Currently, The Lord of the Rings: Shadows of Angmar only supports Windows XP and Vista. There are no plans at this time to make a Macintosh compatible version.

    Although I can buy either Vista or XP and run it on my Intel Mac, I refuse to do so just to play one game. Now maybe if they got with the folks at Transgaming and used Cider (Mac wrapper for Windows games) I’d probably look twice at this. Until then, not gonna happen.

  16. Hmm… when I was in beta I found the combat system so slow and boring that I quickly gave up all hope that this game would ever amount to anything. But now I’m reading “Children of Hurin” and I am getting the LoTR itch again. Maybe I will try this in a few months after I get a computer upgrade.

  17. Jay, now you know why you got pwned by the “Make the Switch” commercials. OSX is nice and all but I would NEVER have only a Mac. Heck, I have 5 machines as it is. With the “Games for Windows” program, you can look forward to more disappointment as well.

  18. @saccia,

    Just install XP/Vista on your Mac via Boot Camp (as a separate partition).
    You get the greatness of OS X, and the ability to reboot to Windows to play games.

    Been doing it with LotRO ever since I got into closed beta 3 months ago.

  19. 5. Money is too tight. I know game economies have to be guarded closely lest inflation ruins everything, but in the noob levels, we want to try everything.

    I actually like this feature in games. I’d rather the game start out challenging and get easier than the other way around. Plus, I like re-rolling, and I’m going to do it a bunch anyway, so a system that encourages makes me feel like I’m wasting less of my time.

  20. Well, in a few months money won’t be a problem. As soon as people hit 50, do monster play, mess around with new the new content and decide to roll an new character they will want to twink that character in the best stuff available. The first place they are gonna go is the auction house and they’ll be lining the pockets of everyone selling. So, as long as you don’t expect the quests or mobs to just hand out cash and you actively trade on the auction house, money should be good. Hell, I’m not poor as it is and all I’ve been doing is selling stuff for people to buy and grind up their tradeskills.

  21. I tried, I really did, but I can’t bring myself to care. I played in the beta for about 10 hours. Everything looks so normal when you compare it to WoW: humans; houses; fields; swamps. Where are the 400 foot tall glowing blue mushrooms? Where are the frothing neon-green rivers?

    It’s probably one of the reasons I like playing Horde so much. Sometimes I think that the character type you roll is a sort of Rorschach test. Why would you create a standard looking human when you could be a 10 foot tall cow with a broken horn, or a dead guy with half a face wearing bondage straps all over?

    I think I stopped playing the Sims for the same reason. Although I found it a fascinating game, I remember one night watching my little pixelated self take a shower, and I realized that I should probably get up and take a shower.

    That way lies the abyss.

  22. Are you saying that people who play humans are happy with who they are and people who roll up other races are looking for something else?

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