Lord of the Rings Online – my perspective

April 15, 2010

    We can not get out. They have taken the Bridge and the Second Hall. Frár and Lóni and Náli fell there. The pool is up to the wall at the Westgate. The Watcher in the water took Óin. We can not get out. The end comes. Drums, drums in the deep. They are coming.” ~ Ori, Book of Mazarbul

If you think that the above quote is exciting, then you already have an idea about how you will feel the minute you step into the game. From the very first “how to play” newbie tutorial, Lord of The Rings Online throws you into the role of a hero and lands you deep into the action right away. I loved how the makers of the game wed you to the lore and the storyline so quickly. Typical newb quests, such as killing ten goblins doesn’t seem so redundant when you are doing it to save your town from a second invasion like the one you just lived through.

I started off with a recommended starter character on Silverlode and was really happy with the ease that I picked up the game play. I absolutely loved the fact that they made a main healing class, the Minstrel, one of the easiest to learn. I quickly rolled a cool Elf Minstrel and ran around in pure bliss delivering Jack Black style Epic Rock-n-Roll riffs to slay the evil in the land. I tried a Hobbit Hunter on Brandywine for a little while, and then went back to Silverlode for my third character, an Elf Rune-keeper. Rune-keepers are billed as an “advanced class” but I found it very easy to play. The Rune-keeper is basically a mage with hots.. yes.. heals over time spells.. i know.. its crazy.. but there it is. I envisioned the night the devs came up with this class: it had to have been conceived either at the end of a long night after a particularly successful office party, or perhaps on some zen hippy retreat designed to inspire creativity through herbal brownies. I mean its crazy cool… its a freaking MAGE WITH HOTS for crying out loud. OMGZ… its wonderful and fun and enhances survivability in crazy situations. Which.. if you read on, you will see happens sometimes.

One of the coolest things about this game is, early on, is that its hard to get killed as a low level player if you are doing things the way you are supposed to. Many people make it to level 15 and beyond without dying once, and they even hand out titles every five levels to encourage the mini-competition. I made it to 16 on my Mini before Strider killed me in a group instance (I didn’t know it was for groups only – I may have been so giddy about meeting Strider I may have skipped reading some of the quest text), and I got to 12 on my Rune-keeper before a random questor died with a string of mobs chasing him out of some ruins. The evil Goblins chasing the now-dead player turned back and spotted me trying to squeeze by. I think I heard a “squee” of glee as they smushed me into bits. You see.. that’s one of the drawbacks to this game. Hostile NPC’s in the leveling zones don’t just tamely run back to their patrol points like they do in WoW if they aggro on something. They tend to chase you for for an unbelievably long time as you run screaming in terror across a zone. When they finally do give up and run back, if someone wanders into their return path, they take them out too. The concept gets a little painful if you try to just ride through a bunch of mobs to get to your questing area. Like most MMO’s, a player can pick up adds like velcro as they sail past them on their mount. But in LoTRO the questing zones are huge and spread out, and these mobs just don’t seem to want to give up. You can end up with a chain of a dozen mobs taking pot-shots on you if you try to blow through their turf. Same thing happens if you try to back out of a bad pull and back into a pat or a respawn. Things respawn VERY fast in this game. You will end up running half way to Bree before you get clear of them, or just end up being overwhelmed.

But us healers aren’t scared of death. We see it all the time. In fact we LAUGH in the face of death as we heal our friends to full health and save the day.. or something like that. In LoTRO death isn’t too bad either. The first time you scrubb it up and die, you get a choice of ressing right on the spot, or “retreating” a ways away to a graveyard (which is a cool circle of stones). If you choose to revive on the spot, you get a cool down that doesn’t let you do insta-revive again for a few hours. Subsequent deaths before the cool down is up send you directly to the circle of stones.

Some of the mechanics of the game are a little different and it took this WoW girl some time getting used to them. There is a glowing ring above a level appropriate quest giver’s head, and it glows a little redder if the NPC is ready to receive your quest. I found it hard to tell the difference until I got rather close, but some people have no problem with it. As well, if a NPC is a trainer or a Stable Master guy (you can rent fast transport between major areas, like the gryphons in WoW, only by land), the glowing ring is totally obscured by the square icon over their head which denotes that they are a utility NPC. Luckily there is a VERY good map system that allows you to set, or filter out Point’s of Interest (much like EQMaps addon) so you can see only quest givers or receivers in either your mini map or your main map or both. Its easy to set it up just how you like.

Aggro. You know and I know it ain’t cool. And its *ALWAYS* important to know which mobs are gonna flip out if you get near them and which ones don’t. Well, in the ten days I played this game I couldn’t figure it out. Other than “Signature” mobs, which are like micro bosses for solo questing and have a bright red outline around their nameplates and a red bar instead of a green life bar, there wasn’t any visual difference between hostile mobs and neutral mobs. Some Mobs with normal green life bars attacked me, and ones with yellow life bars sometimes did too. And they sometimes didn’t. It wasn’t easy to tell what they’d do. Generally if it was labeled “baby” or “young” bear/goblin/spider/whatever, it didn’t attack. But it sometimes could threaten to attack and if you didn’t move away fast enough. If you just stood there, it would taunt, then charge you. Oh! and the graphic when a mob went for you was rather cute.. It was this little puff of steam exploding over their head like they had just blew their top and were thinking, “That’s IT!! That hobbit’s getting a right good butt kicking!”.

That brings me to my next point. The graphics are amazing. No, really, they are. The bears really acted like bears; swimming in the rivers and standing up and sitting, etc. The trees moved slightly in the wind, and not all the leaves at the same time like a stiff solid object, but the leaves and branches flowed like wind was moving them around. I think the only graphics I wasn’t pleased with was the hair on the avatars. But since most people cover it with helmets anyway, Its kinda a wash. Another thing I should mention, on busy days when a lot of people were online, the connection for processing the data to my client was a little jittery and occasionally my camera would spin out of control and I’d find myself pointing a different direction – or worse – I once ended up with my camera pointing at the bottom side of my mount. Not a pretty sight.

Anyway, amazing graphics mean people need somewhat current computers to play this game. Which guarantees if you make it to end game raiding in LoTRO, there wont be a lot of mysterious DC’s in raid which are usually blamed on ISP’s and not ever on aging NIC’s and inferior memory cards. The UI is completely customizable and you can re size and move every element like chat screens, name plates, action bars, and warning windows, to a different place on your screen. And while its not as versatile nor convenient as many of the mods I run in World of Warcraft, it does mean that you don’t have to suffer with the type on the screen too small or the name plates on the far bleeding edges of your screen or other UI elements that people like to customize. I found the NPC selling system to be clunky and time consuming, but it was nice to be able to repair almost everywhere I went. I couldn’t access the AH or the Mail as a trial so I cant comment about that here, but I hear the AH is very pricey. A nice thing with the NPC vendors is that they let you lock items so you don’t accidentally sell things. As well, you can also sort and filter your sell-able items in your bags according to quality so you can get the bits and pieces we call vendor trash out of your bags faster. The fact that I didn’t discover this feature until about nine days into my trial is a little annoying, but not everyone is going to agree on which features are intuitive and which aren’t.

And lastly, I bring out the best point of LoTRO.. the community. With few exceptions, it seemed like a real great group of mature, serious MMO players inhabited Middle Earth. They came across to me as helpful and seemed fully engaged in the game, not hyper focused on besting each other with coolness and put downs. It was a nice change from the atmosphere that pervades WoW at times and only once or twice did I run across someone bragging about how cool they were in another game or ninjaing farming nodes and mobs. Most players seemed willing to help answer questions in chat, and when you could find enough people online, the chat channels were populated with people looking for groups to run things. I ran across lots of players with (mostly) lore-appropriate names like Linaric (the Elf Minstrel) and Miarien (Elf Rune-keeper), although there was a share of normal generic MMO names too. Didn’t see a single avatar called roflcopterpwnstarr though. Even LoTRO’s guild names seemed neat. I was impressed by the names I came across that ran the gamut from Silverlode’s famous casual guild called, “Fat Smokin’ Hobbits” to top raiding guilds named “Grey Host”. However, some days the newbie zones on the two servers on which I played were like a ghost town. On particularly lonesome days, I could hear the echoes in trade chat when someone asked a question and you’d go hours without seeing another player if you were out in the wild. While this makes for superior farming (all the lodes are mine!!) and solo questing, it sucks if you want to advance in the game past level 20 with the optimal character traits and skills. From what I was able to understand in the Lorebook, the way the LoTRO is laid out the devs keep you invested in the story by making completing the main quest line mandatory. Which, unfortunately, have group instance runs.

So, the question remains.. will I subscribe to LoTRO? Would I be willing to stop raiding in WoW to play there full time? Yes and no. I definitely will be coming back to LoTRO to play as a casual player. Even now I cant stop thinking about the game, and my trial ran out five days ago. I loved the story lines, feel entwined in the main plot and remain hopeful I can find a Kinship (Guild) that will want to help a scrubby healer with a few grouping quests and move me along in my leveling journey.

Will I leave WoW for this game when I reach level cap? At this point I can firmly say no. I will not. Although I have been told that the high level zones have more players, from what I saw in Bree and the Shire, LoTRO just doesn’t look like it has enough subscribers playing this game to make raiding on a full scale level a viable thing for me. Hardcore raiding is just as important to me as Casual-style questing and I love to fully explore every facet of the games I play. When I raid I **really** like pushing new content, getting world first titles and wiping endlessly… i mean.. ‘learning’ the fights before everyone else has written their guides and made their videos. I thrive on it to be honest. And unfortunately, I had a hard enough time meeting leveling players to chat with and make friends during my ten day LoTRO stint. Maybe I should delay the decision, but as things stand now, I cant imagine how empty things will be if I hit end game and wanted to start the gear grind in order to raid. Maybe subscriptions will pick up. Maybe the end zone areas really are dripping with awesome raiding and fellowship (groups)opportunities.

Maybe… Maybe… Maybe.

I am determined to find out ;D


  1. Very nice review, I always enjoy see how others feel about LOTRO and I think you’ve covered things pretty well. A couple things to point out:
    – they’ve done some work to minimize group requirements on the epic storyline with the new Inspired Greatness buff that allows you to solo that content. It is a choice though, you can still group if you want but there’s an option to run it with a smaller then full group.
    – as for subscription numbers, I’m over on Silverlode and have a couple toons at max as well as a 22 RK I’m working on. There are times when it feels pretty lonely on my RK, but others where I see lots of chatter so it does go in waves in the lower zones. In the higher level zones you’re right in that they’re more crowded. Silverlode (as well as other servers) do have a GLFF channel which can be helpful in finding groups, but can at times be noisy.
    – as for raiding, I can only speak of Silverlode we have 3-4 kinships running regular runs through the main end-game instances and some doing multiple runs per week. There’s also at least 1 aliance group I know of that’s running them as well.

    I think one of the differences with LOTRO is sometimes you have to be a little more proactive to find folks to do things. They’re there just not always obvious 🙂

    Feel free to pop over to my blog and drop me a note if you have questions on the end-game aspects.

    • GLFF channel? I will add it. Noisy can be good at times, thanks for the tip. And I will certainly stop by your blog and check you out. Cheers!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: