Not Bad, But Not Great

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.

-Challenor Robertson

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2 thoughts on “Not Bad, But Not Great”

  1. I’m not well-versed in the worlds of MMOs, however I think its really interesting how the variations of race and class truly affect your experience. One thing I like about LOTRO is how your decisions clearly affect your outcomes. I’ve seen the armor I equip help me in fights, the deeds I complete immediately give me a title, and the fact that I am a burglar gives me very burglar-esque (no to be confused with burlesque) quests and abilities. Though this makes me a terrible example of the “instant gratification” generation, I appreciate a game that doesn’t just throw things around to make us feel individual when we’re all really doing the same thing.
    I appreciate your raising the issue of perspective and how for instance a newb (me) may be more easily pleased than someone who has seen different or better methods of game construction. The panels can indeed be very frustrating and I agree that they could use a revamp of their tutorial methods.

  2. I agree with much of your analysis of the gameplay. Many things that I would find “necessary” for an MMO just aren’t there. I also find the travel system in the game very frustrating at times. Another thing I’ve found is that everything seems so cluttered. Even in towns of a small size, there are just so many places, people, and things. And you only seem to interact with about 1/5 of them before moving on. Maybe it has something to do with the vastness of the Tolkein world. I also agree with you on the lack of leveling diversity. For example, in World of Warcraft, players can run dungeons pretty much constantly instead of questing and level up at almost the same rate. There doesn’t seem to be many more options for leveling in LOTRO other than questing and killing random mobs.

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