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| The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar beta review (12 comments )|
by: Kessandra (1008) | Posted in cluster Kess' Cluster
Posted 75 months ago ( edited 75 months ago ) in category DEFAULT
Oh Middle-Earth… the fatherland of many fantasy stories. It’s fraught with danger and peril, turmoil and horror but also amazing sights, mind-blowing stories and epic battles.
|» MEDIA (4)|
Having a smoke...
J.R.R Tolkien’s masterpiece of literature, the Lord of the Rings, has inspired many writers and stimulated our imaginations for years. A large franchise has been born with many film and audio adaptations, encyclopedias and fan-made stories. There have also been many computer and video games released based on the franchise, yet there no MMORPGs were made, which was odd for Middle-Earth is such great setting for an MMORPG.
Turbine, the creators of the MMORPG Dungeon & Dragons Online: Stormreach, decided to step up and develop a Lord of the Rings online game. They have been working diligently for the past few years and recently released a closed beta. I was among the other 99 FiringSquad readers who participated in the contest to win a key to Middle-Earth.
I was very excited for I recently grew bored of the world of Azeroth and I needed a new retreat from the real world and what a greater place than Middle-Earth to do so. After I downloaded and installed all 3.5 GBs of the game, I had to create my first character.
I had the choice between four races: the Humans, the Elves, the Dwarves and the Hobbits. But where are the Orcs, Goblins, Trolls and the rest? I was slightly unnerved, mostly because if there are no opposing races… then how is PvP possible (with the exception of friendly dueling)?
I decided to go with the humans. Now I have to choose my class. Apparently, humans have access to all classes. You can become a hunter (ranged dps class), a burglar (LOTRO equivalent of a Rogue (stealth class)), a champion (a dps class), a Lore-Master (the only magic class in the game), a guardian (tanking class), a minstrel (a healing class, similar to Everquest’s bard classes) and the captain (a buffing class). Unfortunately, the classes lacked the wide variety found in WoW and Everquest.
After that I had to choose my appearance. It wasn’t like Everquest II’s wide customization options but it was good enough to have a unique looking character. One thing that caught my attention was the list of prefixes and suffixes that you could use in your name and the different choices of your character’s place of origin.
You can choose to be from Rohan, Gondor, Bree-land and more (different for the other races). Your place of origin *should* affect your appearance and your name. When picking my name, I noticed a long list of suffixes and prefixes that are common in Middle-Earth. Some names aren’t allowed because its ‘gibberish’. Kessandra of Rohan is considered gibberish but Kessandra of Bree-land isn’t (because Bree-land uses common English names but Rohan uses “Sindarin” names). My first impressions were that LOTRO seemed to be very role-playing heavy.
After I created my human captain, I entered these fabled lands of Middle-Earth and boy was I impressed. The visuals are some of the most beautiful that I have seen from any MMORPG.
I found myself in a prison cell facing a hooded figure known as “Amdir”. We were going to save two captured hobbits from several bandits who ran the camp. The first thing I noticed was that there were no other players… which was odd for a starting zone. After rescuing the hobbits I realized I wasn’t playing online. Instead, I was in one of several single-player story-driven instances.
This is ideal for a Lord of the Rings online game and would do any fan of the franchise proud to be able to experience epic stories without that sour MMORPG grinding taste. After finishing the instance, I entered the town of Archet.
The quests are pretty similar to that of World of Warcraft, although there are no drop-rates which dictate the percentage of item drops per kill, which can take you anywhere from 30 seconds to 15 minutes in order to get what you need. This is great for the one thing I greatly disliked about WoW was the fact that I had to kill dozens of the same kind of animal in order to get a certain item (don’t ALL boars have livers?).
The interface is also pretty similar to WoW. After going through it a little, I discovered that you can “adopt” children and establish a family tree. You can also create your own sur/last-name and give yourself a title (“Kessandra the Wary” for example).
Titles are gained through accomplishments. Many of these accomplishments may be achieved by killing multitudes of a certain animal (“Spider-Foe” for killing spiders and “Wolf-Slayer” for slaying wolves) or exploring different areas. Other accomplishments may be achieved by not dying for a certain amount of levels or reaching a new level in your profession. This is all extremely awesome, especially for the type of gamer who likes to role-play.
And my fears about the lack of PvP were put to rest when I discovered something called “Monster vs. Player”. Basically you go to a “scrying pool” and you can take the body of any monster or evil race and attack other real players without any consequence to your real character.
One of my favorite features of LOTRO was the ability to play music. You can buy an instrument that your class can play and by typing /music you will be able to play that instrument. You push any number key from 1 – 7 and each key will play a different tune. Some people can play some very mesmerizing tunes or band together and make a very well coordinated orchestra performance.
Although this is just a beta, I noticed that there are less bugs than the final version of Sony Online’s “Vanguard: Saga of Heroes” and there seems to be a great amount of support from both the community and the developers.
This isn’t exactly a WoW “killer” but it most certainly is the perfect WoW alternative, be it if you are a fan of LotR or not.
Gameplay: 9/10 – The gameplay is similar to World of Warcraft’s but with some positive differences such as story-driven instances, well written quests and the lack of major repetitive grinding.
Music: 9/10 – I love the music. It fits just about every location and setting, every event and some songs are just downright beautiful. But like all music, it can get slightly repetitive after a while.
Sound: 7/10 – The sound is ok, nothing terribly special.
Graphics: 9/10 – Just about the sweetest looking MMORPG out so far. Great vistas, great sunsets… The way a Lord of the Rings game should be.
Replay-Value: 6/10 – There are no alternative sides or unique classes that may warrant restarting the game and continuing your subscription… that is unless Turbine alters this in the future.
Overall: 40/50 = 8/10
If you are a fan of the MMORPG genre but you are getting tired of your current game and don’t know what to get, Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar is probably the best alternative.
Preorder it now so that you can have access to the open beta and play before everyone else does. Plus you get a few exclusive items and a lower subscription cost! ($15/month with regular buy vs. $10/month with
preorder. Or you can spend $200 for a lifetime subscription).
I do not, however, suggest going with the $200 deal because LOTRO doesn’t really have a great replay value after going through all the levels and quests available to you, unlike WoW which offers a completely different side, plenty of unique races and classes.
|12 User Comment(s) • 6 root comment(s)|
| Droniac (114) Mar 22, 2007 - 06:49 am|
|Great review, well-written and pretty much on the mark. Anyone who likes a PvE MMO or liked WoW will most certainly agree with your assessment and find it a very useful read if they're interested in Lord of the Rings Online. I myself have been beta testing Lord of the Rings Online since September (US Beta) and have moved on to EU beta earlier this year... and can attest to your review - it's spot on.|
I do have some comments though... first of all, there is no Dungeon Siege Online - the name you probably meant to type there was Dungeons & Dragons Online (Turbine's previous MMO). Then you mention the solo-player instances, those aren't offline, they're online just like everything else in the game - sort of like Guild Wars.
As for your scores... I'd have done it slightly differently, but my perspective is different from yours. I come from a PvP background - and LotRO doesn't offer PvP at all (Monster Play will remain PvE with 'evil characters for the first 3 months after release). There's also no Kinship (Guild) battles or Arenas to enjoy - and worse yet, Kinships aren't really properly handled - there aren't even any visual indications of you being part of a kinship (such as banners, flags, capes, tabards, etc. - none of it is in LotRO).
What would my scores have been? (Any I don't mention would be the same as yours)
Gameplay - 7/10 : Great PvE in the beginning, which gets somewhat repetitive as you hit higher 20s and find there's really nothing to do but questing. Lack of any proper PvP support - and plays like an extremely generic MMORPG overall. The awesome details (music system, glowing weaponry, sindarin) crank the score up a bit for LotRO fans to 7.5/10.
Music - 4/10 : Hands down the least inspiring and most repetitive music I have ever heard in a computer game. This is the first and only game where I muted the music after my very first day of playing... ordinarily I keep it on for months before switching to a playlist, but this was just too horrific.
Replay Value - 4.5/10 - Add 2 points if you're really into PvE play. Overall I found this game really exciting in the beginning, but it soon became too repetitive to even play through it's PvE-content in it's entirety with a single character. Starting over on different races and classes didn't help, because the gameplay is mostly the same regardless of your class choice.
If you're into MMORPGs like World of Warcraft then this might be something for you. It's slightly more complex, the interface is at times a tad less intuitive (particular the chat screen). It won't keep you entertained for years, but it should be good for a few months at least. If you're looking for some PvP action or varied & innovative gameplay however, then this is not your game. It's essentially a non-instanced version of Dungeons & Dragons Online, with superior community and roleplaying tools.
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| Kessandra (1008) Mar 22, 2007 - 09:30 am | Edited on Mar 22, 2007 - 09:41 am|
|I concur with some points. Our music tastes vary, but I found the music to be enjoyable... at least when comparing to WoW's music. =/|
I fixed the error you mentioned, thanks for pointing that out.
To be honest, Turbine had to do some major sacrifices to stay true to Lord of the Rings. You are only playing one part of Middle-Earth (Eriador vs. 70% of Azeroth + an offworld continent). They say future expansions will add more regions. I guess the reason why they didn't implement opposing races was because the bulk of those opposing races are in Mordor (far from Eriador).
Eriador is pretty big and I don't think Turbine had the time to do all of Middle-Earth. My opinion is that they will implement PvP, new regions and more in future free content patches and expansions.
Middle-Earth only has 5 wizards so a magic class is out of the question. But, Turbine could have done some things differently, such as the kinship/guild management and the other things you have mentioned.
I come from a PvE background so everything in LotR is satisfactory.
I bet that if Turbine did all of Middle-Earth, your opinion would be highly different. There would be varying regions, opposing races, amazing cities, large/epic-scale PvP battles and more. It isn't easy to convert a literary masterpiece into an online game and stay true to it. =P
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| Droniac (114) Mar 22, 2007 - 12:24 pm|
|Haha, I was actually thinking about including a line in that comment: "unlike WoW's music which I still had on in the background by the time I quit playing". So yeah, I guess our tastes in music differ a bit ;)|
Turbine hasn't even finished filling Eriador yet, most of the map (of Eriador) is empty and will - according to developers - be filled later on by means of patches. The expansion packs in turn will introduce all those other regions like Rohan (and when you look at the world map in LotRO... there's A LOT of other regions) from the books. It's definitely a small world they have now, but it's totally packed with content in comparison to just about any other MMO. There's beautiful sights everywhere - and travel times are generally low - but the low amount of actually differing locales turns it a tad repetitive.
As for those evil races, from what the devs have been saying those weren't included because the books and the entire lotro setting is about the good guys prevailing over evil. Then it indeed doesn't make much sense to have players in the role of evil characters, because then evil can triumph over good.
My opinion would probably be swayed if Turbine surprises everyone and releases the game with all of Middle Earth, enjoyable PvP and proper Kinship systems included. It'd be much the same as ArenaNet did with Guild Wars, but in Turbine's case that seems exceedingly unlikely. As it stands they're largely emulating World of Warcraft, which they've done rather well... it's like WoW for more advanced players with a much more well known and interesting setting (imo).
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