The One Ring. The Donut Ring.

June 11, 2007 by Tim

So, I play Vanguard every night. I enjoy it, despite it’s flaws, because I view all of its problems as fixable over time. But a couple of weeks ago I started playing Lord of the Rings Online.

I started a Dwarf Guardian, then put him on hold at level 6 while Big Retarded Idiot And Nerd (or B.R.I.A.N. as he’s sometimes called) downloaded the game and caught up. In the meantime I played a Race of Man Captain (hehe “Man-Captain”) up to level 9 as an alt. Now I’m back to the dorf who has achieved level 12. I think I’ve played enough of the game’s early portion to offer up my opinions.

I really like it.

First of all, as much as I love Vanguard, it’s really difficult not to notice the stark contrast in polish between the two relatively new MMOs. Granted Vanguard seems like it has a much larger world, and some of the game systems (crafting, etc) are more intricate, but LOTRO just… glides. It’s clean, it’s shiny. It’s pretty impressive, really.

First of all, I’m a texture nut. I always prefer games that use textures on the models instead of trying to use polygons and lighting to do most of the work. High quality textures by a talented artist always have far more personality, and are far more detailed and fun to look at. So I was pleasantly surprised to see that LOTRO had such crisp and detailed textures on things like faces, armor, environments, etc.

I certainly never thought I’d enjoy an MMO based on a license. It always seemed to me like there would be too many limitations. And there are limitations, of course. I mean they can’t make up new playable races, really. We’ll never get a wyvern or a griffin as a ridable mount. But I must say, Turbine seems to really be making it work so far. I haven’t really felt confined in the game.

The game has it’s share of “Go kill X number of N” quests, but one of the first things to hook me was the epic line of quests in the game. While you have a literal butt-ton of quests available to you at any given time, there is a main, epic storyline that everyone can follow. It seems to start off differently based on race, and then I guess it merges. The story is divided into “books”, and each book has a number of “chapters”. Fitting, no?

There are 8 books in the game, with book 9 coming this week with the Shores of Evendim update. And as far as I know, that doesn’t even take the events in the world as far as the end of the first Lord of the Rings book. So I guess they can keep this going for a while. What their long term plan is, I don’t know. I mean eventually the story has to end. Maybe they’ll be able to make up some stuff at that point.

Some of the quests, particularly the epic storyline, have a lot of scripted events that really set them apart of standard collection quests. It’s almost like playing a single player game, but with other people. I always tell myself I’m going to read the quest lore in an MMO, and it rarely holds out for long. But I’ve been reading it for LOTRO. Even the run-of-the-mill quests. They’re just really well written.

I’ve seen deeper crafting systems, but I think LOTRO’s system fits really well with the overall style of the game. Lots of inter-dependancy, not terribly difficult, but it can be challenging at times. It does take some effort and dedication to get anywhere notable with it.

Haven’t tried PVMP yet, but now that our little troupe is past level 10, we’ll be making our monster characters any time now.

But yeah, it’s a fun little game, that LOTRO. I was pleasantly surprised. Definitely changed my opinions from the beta test.

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