As you would expect the game is based on Tolkiens Lord of the Rings novels, and Turbine have attempted to stick to Lore(lore is a basis of comparison to the original ideas by Tolkien). There are a few little lore breakers here and there, but in my opinion sticking to lore within any game is difficult when you’re trying to provide an ever increasing experience for the players. The novels are explained in part by taking part in “Epic Book” quests but you will see many familiar faces in the game from Tom Bombadil all the way through to Gandalf the Grey who you get to interact with at different stages of the game. Lord of the Rings fans won’t be disappointed in the many aspects of this game, they will get the feeling that they are submersed in the fight against the forces of Mordor.
The Story line through the epic quests at the beginning of the game is very familiar with what you may have read or watched in the films, however once you reach the Mines of Moria it diverges off into the back story of what happened years before and what’s been happening as the dwarfs are trying to regain control of the Mines from the invading forces of Mordor. This in itself adds to the feel and adds an interesting take on what is presumed to have happened in the past and what’s currently happening now that Gandalf the Grey is no more.
As you enter Lothlorien and Mirkwood the Story will probably become un-recognisable from what you understand of Tolkiens books or from the films. As the developers wished to add more to the game and had the licence to expand on areas that had only a mere mention in the books, they have had to create their own story lines which they believed would work, adding to what has happened after the fellowship passed by the area.
Some of the more hard core followers of Lord of the Rings may find it a little off putting, but most will find the continuation of the story line a nice adaptation to suit their needs from this MMO.
Stunning audio in this game, the developers really worked well in finding the background music to fit each location really well. As you ride your mount from one area to another you get the feeling that you are submerged in the story of the Lord of the Rings. Combat sounds are clear and crisp every aspect has been thought of here, if you take a heavy armour class you will hear the sound of metal on metal lighter armour classes you will hear the slight thud of metal hitting thick leather. From the cries of Dwarfs to the interaction with NPC’s(non player characters) everything is covered, to the splash of you landing in water to swim. You won’t be disappointed at any level through the game.
I personally feel this game is one of the most stunning games in the MMO line, the game supports DX9 through to DX11 very well, so computers from the minimum spec through to the max will be able to show this game in a good light. With settings on low the game will provide an excellent scene for you, however if your PC has the higher end power, ramp those settings up, sit back and be amazed at the detail that Turbine has taken the time to put into this game. The visual effects that have been added recently like a glowing white tree expanding out of your body which explodes into stars is a little distracting when you level up but those things people either love or hate, if you love them you will be impressed with the show, if you hate them you will be looking through your settings trying to find the off button.
The PvMP aspect of the game and Raids may push the limits with your system even at high specs so you may find yourself having to turn down your settings to prevent you from suffering from graphical lag. That said when in big combat scenes you will generally be too busy to notice the offset in your graphics. As I have said before Turbine have spent a vast amount of time to the detail in this game which on high end systems gives you a very impressive view, you can suffer to the amount of activity of other players when in raids, PvMP or Player populated towns like at the moment the 21st Hall area in Moria.
This MMO is quest based although Turbine have a separate section for player versus player(PVP) or what Turbine have named Player versus Monster Player(PvMP), this area plays no part in the main game and in fact if you take your character from the PVE zone to the monster player zone certain restrictions can be placed on your character to remove its effectiveness. PVE has many aspects to it from questing through areas and levelling up(current level cap 65), to encounter instances which are skirmish based involving 1 to 11 of your friends. Instance play is what you can expect from any MMO and depending on the instance can involve between 3 and 24 people with 12 man raids being the more popular where you get to fight against characters from the book like the dreaded Balrog. Game play is smooth and you can get the occasional lag spike depending on the amount of other players in the area. Epic Book quests play an important part of the game and if you choose to take the Free 2 Play option, this is one of the only quest lines available for free out of the starter zones.
I have played this game since Beta and have watched it evolve, I have multiple characters in the game and yet what has always been the impressive factor for myself has been the first 50 levels. Until more recently the first 50 levels used to be challenging and in fact from the social aspect of the game they used to be challenging to the point where you would require help from a friend or several friends. In recent times this has changed apparently the challenge was too great for potential subscibers to LoTRO and according to the developers it needed to be dumbed down to suit a wider player base. I’m unsure if this move by Turbine has gained the success that they have wanted, as it appears that yes they have gained more new members however at the sacrifice of their existing player base as numbers from the older player base has dwindled as the game has become less of a challenge and more of a competition of who has the best gear.
Turbine won quite a few awards with its initial release of Shadows of Angmar and in fact sat at number 2 on a lot of top ten MMO lists only being out done by long standing holder of the number 1 spot WoW. Gameplay seems to have evolved to either try and attract current WoW members who maybe finding the game lagging a bit in their desires or to try and tempt a younger group to the game. Either way LOTRO is in my opinion suffering of simplified and un-challenging gameplay. If you want something that is going to put your skills to use then this may not be the MMO for you. However if you decide that you dont fancy anything too challenging this may be perfect.
As you can see there is a lot to cover in this game and like any MMO content is high, however of late turbine has focused considerably in redefining its starter areas and applying big changes to the game with the introduction of free to play. For the starter of the game you will find plenty to keep you busy for a good period of time and with 7 different class of characters to play and the chance to buy the Rune Keeper Class and the Warden Class you will find challenges small and great to cover. If you purchase Mines of Moria you will be able to play Rune Keeper and Warden from that point onwards.
Building your characters is completed in serveral ways. First of which is the character selection panel of which you get to choose your race be it Elf, Human, Dwarf or the treasured little Hobbits. Not all of the 9 classes are available to all races so it may be worth taking a little time perusing what the different classes can do before you make your choice. The race of Men gives you the most options of class with only the rune keeper omitted from the selection. Race does have an effect on the class as their are Racial bonus’s you can achieve in game by completing Race deeds.
Once you have picked your character and entered the world of Lord of the Rings you will go through a nice easy introduction to the game and everything is pointed out to where you need to go and what to do. After that you will more than likely be level 5 or level 6 at which point a whole vast number of deeds open up to you that you need to complete to improve your character with either class deeds which give you additional skills or Virtue deeds that give your character stat buffs. Now dont let any of this put you off as they are very apparent what they do and how they effect your character through a clickable traits panel. Deeds are completed by visiting several locations in a area, completing a pre-determined amount of quests in an area, or killing a specific amount of a certain mob in an area. Using your skills also gives your character a buff in your abilitys and these are also classed as deeds. Some are easy to complete as you will find yourself using certain skills over and over and others not so often so may require a little focus on them. Initially I would say that these arent that important if you want to get a feel for the game however in the later stages they do become more important.
The weapon system up till level 45 is basically what quest rewards can be used, you can have weapons crafted, also you can buy weapons from a vendor. Quite often though you will find the crafted or the quest reward version more beneficial than what can be purchased. After level 45 you go into the realms of the legendary weapon system which is quite a complicated system, but if you have spent time learning your character and have reached level 45 it will become very apparent what is a good legendary weapon and what isn’t. Unfortunately this is another grind aspect to the game as the weapon levels up by you killing mobs that are around your character level. That said the Legendary weapon system is only available to you if you have purchased the Mines of Moria expansion.
Crafting is essential but basically useless it will help Pimp out an alt as it levels early in the game, other than a couple of craftable items for your legendary weapons, the gear is pretty much useless as in-game armour, jewellery and weapon rewards are far better.
Each area of the game consists of roughly around 150 – 200 quests and is plenty to keep you busy. However out of the starter zones, roughly level 20 and above, these aren’t available for free to play players. For those that pay for a subscription they will find it difficult to not level up with this new format and the sheer amount of quests that exist allow you to decide which areas to do.
There is far more content available in game but I hope this has given you a taste of what to expect. You have mounts that you can use but only horses. If you’re a WoW fan don’t expect that you will get a flying mount any time soon as(if i remember correct) there are no plans to have flying mounts in game.
Ill be honest on this review it doesn’t really give an in depth view of the game but with limited space to write I found it quite hard to break it down into bite sized pieces without omitting major other things. For example, the Legendary weapon/item system or the character build section or even how the store works within the game. I just hope I have given you a nice taster to think maybe i’ll give this Free 2 Play thing a go and see what I feel. For me personally the game has a lot of good aspects to it and being a Lord of the Rings fan myself I thoroughly enjoyed playing the game. The biggest problem that most MMO’s seem to suffer from is the constant complaints from individuals that often conflict with each other and then the developers try to adapt to what they believe is a balance. So as each update comes, more and more focus is removed from adding large land masses and a much needed amount of content for adaptations or alterations to their existing content.
It was announced by Kate Paiz, LOTRO’s Executive Producer that LOTRO would be recieving more frequent updates but as yet this hasn’t been seen. In fact from previous record that amount of updates has declined. Before she took over the game, it was succesfully receiving small updates at approximately every three months with a paid for expansion annually. The paid for expansion was initially quite good with Mines of Moria and although a little buggy it added a vast amount of content to the game which succeeded in bringing players back after they had a break and held them there well into the next quarterly update. Since Siege of Mirkwood there hasn’t been a large update with an increase in level cap that was originally promised by her predecessor. This new format I feel will only take from the game and feels more about grabbing as much money as possible and not attempting to keep their existing player base in the game.
Kate Paiz has made announcements that the game is doing better than ever with a subscription base increase and a player base increase. However when you’re in game these increases are difficult to see and in fact In Europe the Snowbourne server has seen numbers of players decrease and be refilled with those from other servers that are seeing a decline in the players there. They have the numbers so they must be right, I can only comment on what many other and myself can see.
So even though this game is one of the best MMO’s around, in my opinion the lack of future content , and the fact that it appears that finance has become a far superior priority than the game itself, forces a Doghouse rating of.