Lord of the Rings Online
Lord of the Rings Online is a basic MMORPG, just in a brand new super shiny wrapping with a little pink bow tied on top for good measure. The developers of this particular game have obviously chosen the How about we make this like every other MMORPG on the market approach and in doing so have thrown nearly every single theme that echoes throughout the Lord of the Rings books and movies out of the window (flattening a passing hobbit who was just about to take a bite into his well deserved cheese sandwich). So is LOTRO worth your money? Or more importantly, is it worth the time it will take away from being with the ones you love?
Let us not beat around the bush here, Lord of the Rings Online is presented to you, the avid gamer, with beautiful graphics and a wonderful, and utterly breath taking, music score. The attention to detail, whilst you sit in your chair and neglect your partner for a couple of hours, in the huge world of Lord of the Rings will make you drop your jaw in awe. Be it the realistic sky or the huge, over-towering hills there is something in this game that will surprise you and make you think Holy cow! Real life does not even look this good! The music that accompanies you on your quest to defeat the demons that haunt Middle Earth is excellent, giving you appropriate tunes for each area whilst at the same time providing you with some decent voice acting to listen to. If I had to complain about one thing, which I do (it is in my contract, one review, one complaint), it would be that despite the world looking as good as it does you do get a general feeling that the new Middle Earth lacks charm, as there is no real sense of doomsday among the inhabitants and the world seems pretty calm and kind of boring. You will not get the feeling that a huge war is brewing and the general feel of desperation and impending doom that is apparent in the books and indeed the movies is lacking. LOTRO all in all lacks the atmospheres that the movies and books dispense making the game seem almost soulless.
The gameplay does nothing to improve the general lack of heart in the game. Whilst the mechanics are not bad, they are just the same old basic gameplay. Click on an enemy, stab him to bits using a vast variety of skills with weird names, and then loot the foes dead corpse (it was his fault for being stupid enough to cross your path in the first place) and repeat. Although I am happy to celebrate that the game does not make you grind as much as other MMORPGs, hurrah! Rejoice! Lord of the Rings Online does have some funky ideas in it though, such as the ability to wield titles which make your character look extra awesome when you are saving a friend from a bombardment of spiders, and with some cool character customisation options, you can well and truly make your character as wacky as you want.
To accompany the average but that is okay gameplay is a storyline that definitely impresses. The storyline in LOTRO is most certainly its strongest feature as the game makes new characters, uses old ones and creates whole new situations and story arcs to add to the existing power house that is the Lord of the Rings story. For players who are not as all knowing about the storyline as they should be, they may find that the storyline (whilst good) is not as engrossing as one would have hoped, yet whether or not you are an devoted fan of the series, youd be hard pressed to find a flaw in the storyline.
As you can no doubt see, this game is not too bad and perhaps even looks enjoyable, however sometimes this is definitely not the case, as LOTRO suffers from a poor design which erodes the game at its core. Lord of the Rings Online is more of a free roaming MMORPG. You will not get told where to go, and you seem pretty much free to explore wherever you want in the Lord of the Rings universe. However, you are not. The game keeps you from exploring too much by putting high level monsters in the way of your exploration. So you are allowed to go wherever you want to, but you cannot, and you will not know where to go in the game to get further through it, as the instructions for quests are more than unhelpful, they are downright crazy. You will end up in a situation where you will become stuck, not really knowing where to go, or what to do. Whilst this sense of confusion and aggravation is not experienced all the time while playing LOTRO, you will experience it a lot more than the simple once, or twice.
Lord of the Rings Online is an all around average game, but the game lacks charm and is definitely stuck with a design flaw which has existed from the beginning of the games development. There are better pay to play games (and even a few free MMORPGs) than this, however if you feel the need to explore the Middle Earth world, then by all means take a step in. Be warned though, at some point you will take one giant step back after you realise just what is wrong with this game.
By Joshua Temblett