The quests in the Prologue and Epic Book 1 were a pretty novel idea. I’ve never played an MMO that followed any sort of storyline. Oh, well I guess there was Guild Wars. Not my favorite MMO by far. That game forced you to follow the story line throughout its progression and all the areas where you would kill monsters et. al. were completely instanced. The only place you actually got to play with everyone were in the cities. And there’s never anything going on there. All that, and the fact that your character seemed rooted to the ground (there wasn’t any jump function at all!) and the paths throughout the game were very set in stone, made for a relatively unenjoyable MMO experience.
But LOTRO does very well to remedy that. In LOTRO, there is much less of the feeling that you are constantly following a set storyline. Ultimately, if you want to get anywhere, you do have to follow the storyline, but it’s added into the game as an element that feels somewhat like a choice. This, combined with the fact that you do get to jump and go almost anywhere you like, makes for a good experience.
The Prologue and Epic Book 1 quests are an interesting and creative addition to Tolkien’s original story. The major problem that the game developers faced when creating this game was the application of an MMO gamespace onto a “single-player” storyline. They had to mesh the choices and customization of an MMO and the storyline of Tolkien’s works. They had to realize that no one could be Frodo, Gandalf, Strider, etc. because everyone creates their own personal character, their own personal identity. So they decided to add the player’s character as someone who works in the background of the Fellowship and main story, so, at least for the first time playing, it doesn’t feel as though the player is following a set story that everyone already knows. This also gives the developers some creative license, as well as protection from the hard-core fans that would rip the developers for the smallest lack of similarity if they were to follow the main story. And while the developers do pretty well recreating the story from the original work, their strength lies in the creation of the world in which the alternate story takes place. It may be somewhat simplified from the novel to facilitate player comprehension, but almost anywhere that you can think of from the LOTR series, or any of Tolkien’s other works for that matter, you can go to in the game. Which in my opinion is pretty darn cool.