In order for me to evaluate LOTRO, I can only draw on my past experience with MMO RPGs. Most of my MMO experience comes from Runescape, a game with a far smaller map and a much less involved quest-line, so LOTRO wins in those regards. I would also give LOTRO points in the visual design department. The graphics are impressive given the size and usually quick render time of the environment, so another win for LOTRO. I also really like the class and race system of LOTRO, it’s not super complicated (like Skyrim) but the decision has a meaningful impact on how you play the game. When it comes to the negatives, I’d like to first say that I’m not far in the game, so some of my current problems may be solved later on or by buying a membership.
The sheer size of the map, while can be a positive, is often a detriment, as it’s impossible to remember more than one or two of the cities (I don’t know much about Lord of the Rings) so I find it difficult to get back to places that aren’t a fast-travel location. I also don’t like that there isn’t some level of consistency with the stables; there isn’t one city that all stables can take you to (at least that I’ve found). This is especially problematic considering the learning curve with the controls and the fact that we sometimes teleport places (kinship house, Rivendell) for class and have no way back except the home-base teleport. Further, while quests are very well done (not too easy, not incredibly difficult yet), the guiding system is not very intuitive. I find it hard to keep track of what quests I’m on and what quests are inactive. This is probably because the game just has an overwhelmingly intricate control panel that isn’t well explained in the tutorial. Combined with the hours it takes to walk somewhere in the game, the complicated control panel takes away from my enjoyment of the already one-dimensional gameplay.
Playing as a lore-master so far, I have been pretty much forced to do quests, with not many other ways to level up. In other MMOs, you enter a sandbox-like world and can choose to go out and fight other players or NPCs or do Quests, but in LOTRO it’s quest or die (sometimes even literally). When fighting, I mostly use the same rotation of 2 spells, and have my bear kill everything while I heal it. I rarely have to do anything but click on spells, I never feel in danger. Finally, my biggest complaint is a lack of clarity or explanation about how items, shops, weapons, and armor work in the game. I don’t know if I can only get new weapons by doing quests, what other options I have for weapons, or where I can buy them. I figured out how stores work on my own, but there’s no indication of if any stores sell better items than others, or if it gets better as I level up. I haven’t seen any other players using anything other than an axe, sword, or bow, and I really hope that those don’t turn out to be the only options (though I use a staff) as the game goes on. Overall, I find it’s taking far too long for the game to get into full motion or at least show any indication of doing so, though controlling a huge bear and hurling lightning everywhere is pretty damn entertaining.