Lord of the Rings Online (LotRO) - A Review

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LotRO - A Review

Did you ever wonder what made Turbine bring so many players to this site to win round after round? Did you wonder what made Old time escapists post that they hate the Wii but vote for Nintendo anyway? I will try to give you an insight what made ME vote for Turbine - and what makes me stay here.

About me

I'm a male software consultant from Germany, nearly 40 years old, I have a wife and two loveable kids, a house, I wrote a book about programming and I have a 60 hour working week. I have time for anything but playing computer games.

About my gaming background

I was playing computer games for more than 20 years now. I started on a Commodore 64 and preferred adventures and round based strategy games. I spent many a night with my friends on a computer playing games like Football Manager or Empire (the ancient one ;).
Then I moved to another city, got a job and a wife and suddenly had not chance to play with my friends anymore. So I settled on games like Civ (yes, Civ 1), Colonization, Alpha Centauri etc. Additionally I started playing PBMs (yes, I sent the moves by snail mail those days).
Internet came and I started playing PBeMs. Free form story writing games e.g. And then there was WoW.

About MMOs

When I first read about WoW I thought it would be fun. But I also knew that I wouldn't have the time to play 20-30 hours a week, do a regular raiding etc. So I fought the WoW virus for more than a year. Then three months before the release of BC there was a CD with the client and a 2 week trial key. And I was hooked.
No, you won't hear any story about losing wife and job here. I still was only able to play maybe 5-10 hours a week mostly no more than an hour a day. And I found out that even while I enjoyed chatting in the different channels about the game and everything else I missed a lot of the game due to the fact that I had no time to enter the instances, let alone raiding. When I added someone to my friend's list I found out that after two weeks he was ten levels ahead of me. But still I enjoyed playing an MMO more than I enjoyed Civ 4 or other similar games.

About LotRO - The beginning

Early 2007 there was a lottery for LotRO Beta keys on a popular German gaming site. Being a fan of the books for more than 20 years it was clear that I had to participate. So I entered the contest and received a key. My computer was three years old these days and the hardware requirements were a step ahead from WoW but I tried it anyway. And I was completely overwhelmed. There was a very beautiful world, nicely written quest, and, most important, lots of nice people. The first chat line I read on WoW (on a German RP-server) contained more digits than letters and it got worse. I never read 1337speech on the German LotRO RP-server Belegaer.
So I preordered LotRO and bought a Collector's edition. It cost 250,-€ these days because it came with an LTA which meant I didn't have to pay monthly fees. As I always had the problem in WoW to justify 12,-€ per month for 6 hours of playing this was a fine concept for me.

LotRO - The Launch

LotRO had one of the smoothest launches ever. They opened the servers one day before the announcement and I think there were only one or two restarts the first days. I created an elven hunter the very first day and joined a kinship (the LotRO word for guild) I had contacted during the beta. And what began in the beta continued in the real game. Even if I didn't play as much as the others and I quickly lagged in level there were always some helpful people. You always found groups to do some small quests. LotRO was about cooperation where WoW was about competition.

LotRO - The books

Two months after release they added the first patch, or book as Turbine calls them. And again it was overwhelming. Where WoW added one raid after the other, Turbine added a whole new area for questing. Only two months after release. And it continued that way. Every two to three months there was a new book with both solo and group content, new features like housing, fishing etc. While there were some bugs I never experienced serious problem that the GM team wasn't able to handle quickly. And then there came Moria.
Lots of small gaming sites I never heard before had talked a lot about Moria. There even was a website by Turbine with some mini games. It was announced the biggest underground area in a computer game and it probably is.
Moria added a ton of great features: The graphics were even better, the character development was streamlined and made more understandable, and there were legendary items that level as you do, a great concept for players like me who mostly play alone.

A detailed Review of LotRO

Graphics: The graphics in LotRO are mostly beautiful. I sometimes call it the best screenshot generator ever. But I admit that the pictures often look better than the real game because animation is often a bit slow and looks unnatural sometimes.

Sound: The sound is simply great. Whenever I enter a new area I often take some time to listen to the music. You also have the chance to learn different instruments where you can make music inside the game and the other players are able to hear it. Simply awesome.

World: The World is big and great. You don't have any loading screens like you have between the different continents of WoW. When you start in Thorin's Halls and make all your way to Lothlorien by foot you probably take half an hour or more of walking - without a loading screen.
In addition you find that the world is coherent. There is no desert besides an icy plane just to make the areas look different. When you study the books you feel that Turbine's creation could be the REAL middle earth. When you climb a mountain just to take a look from the top you know that there is something good about it.

Quests: There are lots of quests and they are mostly well written. Every quest helps support the feeling of the current area (in the Shire farmers are looking for their chicken, in Moria the freshly arrived dwarves seek help in securing the area). In WoW and many other games I had the feelings that most quests were more or less random, in LotRO the quests nearly always fit into the story. Plus there are epic quests where you follow a story line with the characters you know from the books. Shadows of Angmar Book 7 to 15 must be one of the longest quest lines in computer games history (about 100 quests that you need to do sequentially).

Combat system:

The LotRO combat and game system is very similar to WoW, just a bit slower. If you're looking for a way to prove your skills with mouse and keyboard, LotRO is NOT the game for you. Every two levels you learn a new skill or two that you can put on an action bar. Using a skill costs power. When you hit an opponent you reduce its life (which is called Morale here) and when the mob runs out of morale you can loot him and get some more or less useful stuff. All in all it's basic and simple.
There is one thing that LotRO introduced into mainstream MMO. Traits. When you kill x monsters of a special type or visit y places you receive a title or a trait. While a title is something to display over your head a trait is something that improves you character. And the good thing is that this improvement - contrary to improvement by items - survives a max level increase. So if your trait adds 20 to agility it doesn't matter if you're level 50 or 60. If your item adds 20 to agility you will probably replace it by another item when you level up 10 levels. This concept is now more or less copied and enhanced by WAR (Tome of Knowledge) and WoW (Achievements) but both MMOs turned it more or less into something to pose with.

PvP: There is no real PvP in LotRO, just PvMP (player vs. monster player). When you reach level 10 you can create a monster to battle the high level characters. It is more of a fun thing but I never tried it.

Disadvantages in LotRO

Lately there was more and more mourning in the LotRO community. Balancing was a bit out of line between the classes with Moria. Now they turned it back with book 7 but seemingly too much. Additionally instances were buggy and full of exploits, the legendary item system looks more like a lottery than a long term motivation and the 12 men raid that was announced for Moria was delayed the second time.
Turbine seems to have a quality problem with LotRO at the moment. To me it seems that the software design is a bit lacking somewhere so that fixing one bug opens another one. But I didn't experience any one of those bugs so all in all it isn't as bad as it sounds.

Summary

LotRO is the best MMO for players like me who don't have enough time to play an MMO competitively. Combined with a mostly peaceful and nice community (on both sides of the Atlantic, I play on a European and a US-Server) it is the MMO for the casual. If you want to spend 20+ hours per week LotRO might not be enough for you. But combined with the lifetime payment which is still available for everyone, only at a higher price, you'll find the perfect MMO you can enter to relax from the farming stress.

My recommendation: Buy it!

And here I was, looking for "fast-pace" action in an mmo, well, if the game isn't that entertaining (finally being able to log in atm, few hours before classes), guess I might check out EVE Online.

Anyways, extremely well written review. Can't wait to uh, collect flowers in the shire with a dwarf.

Great review there!

I'd only add a very short comment about high-end gaming, as it is about the only part of the game you haven't covered, for very understandable reasons ;)

The pace in the highest raiding instances can get pretty frantic at times... Not in the same way as WoW gets, to the point that spamming your skills every 0.25643s is needed to beat a boss, but more in a we need to react all together and use the right combination of skills if we want to take that squid(TM) down... kinda way.

Anyway, I love this game that lets me fight a Balrog or deliver mail depending on my mood...

I don't play MMOs specifically because of the player base. Some will whine some classes are too strong, so devs nerf them. Some complain some are too weak, so dev unbalance the game to buff them. Most just complain about the direction of the game not going the way they want it too, and expect the devs to bend to their will.

I'll stick with my PC games. They are made the way the devs want them and you just deal with it. Or try new mods.

Very nice review. I believe we may have gotten our beta key from the same gaming site.

I'd like to add about the graphics and hardware requirements. With some tweaking it is possible to run LotrO on netbooks and very old computers, but the graphics won't be impressive. Using DirectX10 and everything set on very high will turn it into an amazing beauty, but will be very taxing on your hardware.

Having the choice of a lifetime subscription is a very nice payment option. After almost two years since release it has well paid off and it's great to take a break and another look whenever you feel like it. Sometimes they have special offers, like during their one year anniversary when the LTA was €149.

The community, at least what I've seen on the English EU servers, is mostly adult and very helpful. And the main reason I've stuck with this game for so long. Every so often they not only answer any question you might have but go out of their way to help you out, too.

Another addition to your nice review is the fact that when playing in a group, one of the true strengths of LOTRO shines through. You get the fellowship manouvres that you get to trigger. A fellowship move is one where you can all choose one out of 4 different attacks, combined they become a lot more powerful. There are several fellowship moves to unlock and all will have a different effect. If your groups is running low on power, all of you can hit the blue attack and you will get "Power in numbers" which will regen a lot of power and there are many many more of these. If the leader of the group has a certain move unlocked, he or she can set this one to be the move to make when one is triggered, it will then be displayed to all the members of the group and a strategy to streamline such a move can be suggested.

For example, a Minstrel (the healer in LOTRO) usually has a need for more power, no power, means no heals. So let's say you want to kill a certain mob with your fellowship move, but the minstrel is out of power, then everyone hits red, followed by the Minstrel, who will hit blue. In this case the Minstrel will get a power regen, and..as an added bonus, a ghost will come and fight for you.

cainx10a:
And here I was, looking for "fast-pace" action in an mmo, well, if the game isn't that entertaining (finally being able to log in atm, few hours before classes), guess I might check out EVE Online.

Anyways, extremely well written review. Can't wait to uh, collect flowers in the shire with a dwarf.

Heh

Actually you CAN collect flowers during festivals. You can also fish, play music that you write yourself or that is from a popular song, you can spar and test your skills, you can craft to build armour or weapons, or protective items and potions. You can drink in the taverns and feel drunk. But - you can also kill things in fast-paced action instances and places - kill things like orcs, goblins, evil men, wights and strange singular creatures like the dragon of Helegrod, the watcher in the water and the balrog of the Rift. You can choose the difficulty of an instance for better rewards in Moria. By your deeds you earn reputation which in turn allows you to buy special items and gives you a reward for friendship.

So, its just not a fast pace action game but also it can be whatever you wish it to be. The best thing is, it's up to you to decide how you want to play.

8bithero:
I don't play MMOs specifically because of the player base. Some will whine some classes are too strong, so devs nerf them. Some complain some are too weak, so dev unbalance the game to buff them. Most just complain about the direction of the game not going the way they want it too, and expect the devs to bend to their will.

I'll stick with my PC games. They are made the way the devs want them and you just deal with it. Or try new mods.

Actually, the LotRO community is outstanding. I've never seen so many people willing to help out lowbies they don't even know, or advice given when asked. It's not like WoW where evey question is answered with n00b calls. It probably has something to do with everyone being on the same side in LotRO instead of divided between alliance/order and horde/disorder.

Meado:

8bithero:
I don't play MMOs specifically because of the player base. Some will whine some classes are too strong, so devs nerf them. Some complain some are too weak, so dev unbalance the game to buff them. Most just complain about the direction of the game not going the way they want it too, and expect the devs to bend to their will.

I'll stick with my PC games. They are made the way the devs want them and you just deal with it. Or try new mods.

Actually, the LotRO community is outstanding. I've never seen so many people willing to help out lowbies they don't even know, or advice given when asked. It's not like WoW where evey question is answered with n00b calls. It probably has something to do with everyone being on the same side in LotRO instead of divided between alliance/order and horde/disorder.

I think it has more to do with IMHO the average age of a LOTRO player from my two years there seems to be over 30 and it seems half the players had never even played an mmo before and were drawn in by it being LOTR... Ive played MMOS in one ofrm or anothr back to text based muds 15 years ago or so .. and I concur lotro is the most mature ad friendly overall community ive ever been a part of in gaming ....

I am a boxer and now have 6 lifetime accounts and run 6 toons about half the time i play ... which unfortunately is nto a lot becuase i own a business with 300 employees and am married with three childen .. so im lucky to get 10-12 hours a week in :(

I've never been a fan of click based combat or mmos in general, but, oh well. To each his own I guess. For me it's FTP or bust.

Telumendil:
Great review there!

I'd only add a very short comment about high-end gaming, as it is about the only part of the game you haven't covered, for very understandable reasons ;)

The pace in the highest raiding instances can get pretty frantic at times... Not in the same way as WoW gets, to the point that spamming your skills every 0.25643s is needed to beat a boss, but more in a we need to react all together and use the right combination of skills if we want to take that squid(TM) down... kinda way.

Anyway, I love this game that lets me fight a Balrog or deliver mail depending on my mood...

Grrrghhhh! Don't mention that *epithet* squid, Tel! ;)

Great review, If I was to ever play an MMO, it would be this one.

Yes... but is there ROLEPLAY?

TsunamiWombat:
Yes... but is there ROLEPLAY?

Foreplay isn't important.

DalekJaas:
Great review, If I was to ever play an MMO, it would be this one.

Make sure you get a trail before you comment to it.

8bithero:
I don't play MMOs specifically because of the player base. Some will whine some classes are too strong, so devs nerf them. Some complain some are too weak, so dev unbalance the game to buff them. Most just complain about the direction of the game not going the way they want it too, and expect the devs to bend to their will.

I'll stick with my PC games. They are made the way the devs want them and you just deal with it. Or try new mods.

I don't understand your last statement there. MMOs are most commonly PC games.
And a lot of games are adjusted with updates quite often, based on player-reviews and requests for balance. So I don't know what the hell you're trying to convey there.

TsunamiWombat:
Yes... but is there ROLEPLAY?

There really is, at least on Belegaer, the German RP-server I play on. Europe has official RP servers where GMs have a deeper look on naming and you can get a warning for using improper speech in public channels. I also have an account on Landroval which is the inofficial US RP-Server and there is also quite some RP from Elven Whores to Hobbits sitting at a lake and chatting while fishing.
Don't expect to see ONLY RP and don't expect to have anybody else your understanding of RP (there are huge discussions in the European forums about this) but there definitely is much more RP than in other MMOs.

Perivayne:
Grrrghhhh! Don't mention that *epithet* squid, Tel! ;)

Teehee Peri, don't lose your temper on that *thing*... it's not worth it ;)

8bithero:
I don't play MMOs specifically because of the player base. Some will whine some classes are too strong, so devs nerf them. Some complain some are too weak, so dev unbalance the game to buff them. Most just complain about the direction of the game not going the way they want it too, and expect the devs to bend to their will.

I'll stick with my PC games. They are made the way the devs want them and you just deal with it. Or try new mods.

MMO's are PC Games. Well, unless you count console "MMO's" but frankly they are best forgotten.

Well, Lord of the rings online will just never appeal to me, not being too interested in MMO's or Lord of The Rings.

TsunamiWombat:
Yes... but is there ROLEPLAY?

Thanks for a well written and comprehensive review. I've been playing LotRO since late alpha and have a lifetime subscription, which has more than repaid itself. I especially appreciate the maturity of the player community, the responsiveness of the Turbine staff, and the effort to accommodate the demands of Tolkien lore and those of gameplay. And yes, the landscape visuals are extraordinary.

As for roleplay, there are individuals and even whole kinships devoted to it on all US servers, but as a previous poster indicated, the players designated Landroval as the unofficial roleplay server at launch, and there are more devoted to roleplay there. Players can indicate by a color change in their name that they are roleplaying, and there are indeed more of them on Landroval than on another high-population server I played on. Nevertheless, no one forces others to roleplay, and mature players respect those who have indicated their preference for RP.

With the addition of Book 8 in a week, it's looking to be a good time to start playing. They are going back and tweaking old quest chains for easier flow through, less backtracking. The crafting system is getting an update. They are even making it slightly easier to obtain the high end radiance gear you need for the Watcher and for the new 12 man instance (160 gloom and 6 bosses, YAY). Also adding more 3 man instances for those who want challenges not related to trying to find 11 other people to run with. I have been playing since beta, and while not every decision they have made has been perfect. They have all been workable. And how can you argue with free updates every 2 months or so. Makes the level cap ennui seem not so big a deal

I tried the trial for this, I played WOW, played GW, gotta say my favorite is still EVE Online. That said, a nice review, pretty comprehensive, though maybe some pretty pictures to break it up?

Don't make the game's name an abbreviation in the thread title. Folks might not know what it is.

I love this game and have loved this game for a year. Great review, it's nice to see I'm not the only one who loves this game.

I love this game as well, nice review!

I downloaded the trial of LoTRO, gave it the full duration and tried really hard to like it. Unfortunately I've never played a blander, more boring or generally uninspired fantasy MMO in my life. Quests were banal, combat was repetitive, skills and abilities unimpressive. The graphics were, admittedly, pretty, but the art direction lacked character and a style of its own, ironic since LoTR was the forebear to the whole fantasy genre! I really, really did not enjoy it.

I am glad, however, that some people did manage to find enjoyment out of it. I guess it depends on what style of MMO gamer you are really. That whole casual vs hardcore argument all over again.

L. Wrex

Lycaeus_Wrex:
Unfortunately I've never played a blander, more boring or generally uninspired fantasy MMO in my life. Quests were banal, ...

Did you read the quest texts? You may be right, LotRO is pretty toned down for an MMO. But Middle earth by itself is a world with virtually no magic of the WoW magician kind. But if you try to see the world as a whole world and not a collection of quest spots, LotRO is the best you can probably find out there.

cainx10a:
And here I was, looking for "fast-pace" action in an mmo, well, if the game isn't that entertaining (finally being able to log in atm, few hours before classes), guess I might check out EVE Online.

Anyways, extremely well written review. Can't wait to uh, collect flowers in the shire with a dwarf.

If you want fast-pace action in an mmo, then don't play Eve. Unless you like spending hours and hours and hours and hours and hours mining and then getting ganked by a pirate with 2 years more playtime than you and losing everything instantly.

I'd been thinking about getting this mmo, but no pvp? Bleh.

Silvance:

cainx10a:
And here I was, looking for "fast-pace" action in an mmo, well, if the game isn't that entertaining (finally being able to log in atm, few hours before classes), guess I might check out EVE Online.

Anyways, extremely well written review. Can't wait to uh, collect flowers in the shire with a dwarf.

If you want fast-pace action in an mmo, then don't play Eve. Unless you like spending hours and hours and hours and hours and hours mining and then getting ganked by a pirate with 2 years more playtime than you and losing everything instantly.

I was able to play LotRo, and to my big surprise, the fights were faster and more enjoyable than WoW. And that's exactly what I was looking for, and the character customization is the best I have seen in any high fantasy MMO as well. Wearing a classy cloth armor over your chain mail armor is neat. :)

i played the trial, and i cant say i was impressed. there was alot of glitches, the classes were pretty unbalanced (doesnt at all compare to Warhammer Online´s balancing, tho), and the graphics were just a bit under WoW level. to make it short, it needed a bit of polish.

also, after i tried it and deleted it from my PC, it didnt delete the VERY annoying Turbine programs.

i like your review, tho. it was pretty good. but sadly, i cant say i agree on your opinion.

Meado:

8bithero:
I don't play MMOs specifically because of the player base. Some will whine some classes are too strong, so devs nerf them. Some complain some are too weak, so dev unbalance the game to buff them. Most just complain about the direction of the game not going the way they want it too, and expect the devs to bend to their will.

I'll stick with my PC games. They are made the way the devs want them and you just deal with it. Or try new mods.

Actually, the LotRO community is outstanding. I've never seen so many people willing to help out lowbies they don't even know, or advice given when asked. It's not like WoW where evey question is answered with n00b calls. It probably has something to do with everyone being on the same side in LotRO instead of divided between alliance/order and horde/disorder.

really? i found the community very childish, most people i met were griefing quest kills and were speaking in a very poor english...

I played WoW for 3 and a half years (URRRRGGGGHHHHHH) and quit about a year ago, to get on with life, you know? Every MMO I have tried after that has paled in comparison (in the long run). LOTR sounds like a good well rounded MMO... I'm a PvP'er though. PvP was a huge part of gaming in the WoW days, and in every other game I played after that, MMO and online fps... Therefore the seemingly paced kind of gameplay, as you describe it to be, of LOTRO, probably wouldn't suit me. Great review though.

Guys, PvP here is called Sparring. You get a chance to clobber and challenge others, but you don't gain XP or something, only cheers and comments if you do it in a crowded area (The 21st Hall, for example.) For me, I love LoTRo and it's the best game for me. In LOTRO, people are polite, friendly, and have Lore-Acceptable terms, not like in other games where people have stupid names like "IGankedUrMom" or "MadKilla55".

Are there any pet classes? Because I seriously want to know before I jump right in.

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