Lord Of The Rings Online: Hands-on with the Lord of the Rings Online, Part Three

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But how do you work this thing?

The user interface is often a deciding factor in the user’s enjoyment of a title and Turbine hasn’t been asleep at the wheel in this department. The basic layout should be familiar to most players by now, as it appears to have been heavily influenced by World of Warcraft. Your typical portrait and status bars reside in the upper left, mini-map at the upper right, chat interface on the lower left, and various and assorted icons at the bottom. One nice improvement is the reactive hotbars. Instead of displaying row upon row of icons (though this is an option), additional rows are only shown when pressing the corresponding hotkey. For example, if you had an attack bound to Ctrl+1, the Ctrl hotbar only appears when the key is depressed.

In a similar fashion, the pet control bar is only visible when a pet has been summoned. You have access to the typical modes: guard, follow, attack, as well as a nicely implemented mode named Assist. When this mode is toggled, pets will attack the target their owner attacks, when the owner attacks. Pets are also smart enough to stop attacking should a player opt to attempt crowd control. Lastly, pet-specific skills and abilities, such as debuffs, special attacks, or damage spells, are available on this bar as well, though some are locked until the pet has reached the appropriate level, along with its owner.

The mini-map is also functional and quite useful. Quest-related NPCs have a handy ring icon denoting their position. If they’re inside of a building or in another zone, the ring will appear at the zone-line. Trainers, merchants, bankers, mailboxes, resource nodes, and a few other icons, all of which can moused-over for more specifics also make an appearance. All of this information can be selectively filtered if it proves to be too much, or needs to be whittled down to make life easier. Besides that, it also functions as a typical mini-map, giving a general idea of the surrounding terrain layout and the direction (and distance) to nearby towns. Additionally, as more of the world is uncovered, important areas are flagged and the marker becomes visible on both the mini-map and the full-sized map.

On the topic of improvements, the Social interface requires mentioning. Turbine has included a rather elaborate means of finding groups in the Looking for Fellowship screen. Both individual players and group-leaders will find features like filtering by level range and class useful. Characters and fellowships also have the ability to add a brief note next to their entry in the instance, such as what quests they’re hoping to accomplish; a nice feature, especially if you’re just looking to complete a specific set of quests or don’t want to wait while the group decides what to tackle. Other tabs include the options to manage Kinships (guilds/clans), friend lists, and raid groups.

Perhaps one of the neatest parts of the the interface is hidden in the unassuming Lorebook. Here you can access a listing of the Accomplishments you have discovered and completed. What’s an Accomplishment, you ask? Convenient, because I was going to tell you anyway.

Accomplishments are sort of mini-quests that depend on zone, skills, exploration, quests, or social interaction. To give you an example, in the Erud Luin area there are various ruins that any elf would stare longingly at (and perhaps write a moving ballad about), remembering the heights of elven culture. Visiting all of them would grant a reward that could boost your stats, affect damage input or output, grant you a new title, or unlock a new emote, depending on the Accomplishment.

Ah, titles. Gone are the days where you are simply known by your character name. Instead, players in the world of Lord of the Rings Online can know you by some of the deeds you have accomplished. If, for example, you’ve made it to level ten without dying, you can proudly attached, “the Undefeated,” to your characters name. Or if you were to complete a number of quests in the Erud Luin area, you might be known as, “Hero of Eruid Luin.” Titles such as “the Naughty” can be awarded for social interaction, such as being on the receiving end of a given amount of emotes. Another means of getting titles is often to explore an area or seek out specific landmarks. The award for exploring proves unnecessary, though, as the Eriador region of Middle-Earth is simply beautiful.

As we wrap up today’s article, you’ll be awarded the title of the Patient. Check back for the final installment where we attempt to answer the most important question: will it blend? No, wait, that’s not right.

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