Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar (2007)

Publisher: Codemasters

Developer: Turbine Inc.

Console: PC Online

Players: 1 / Mass Multiplayer Online

Genre: Fantasy Online Role-Playing

Australian Release Date: May 4th 2007

Australian Rating: PG

Score: 9/10

Explore the world of Middle Earth in a story run parallel to that of the book series Lord of the Rings by J.R.R.Tolkien that follows Frodo and the fellowship. As an MMORPG you can create and build your own character and play alongside other players from around the world, in a fellowship or passing by.

This was one of the first MMOs that already had years of back story to base its game on, and as a result, is solid and inspiring, and has a certain level of depth to it that other MMOs lack. Of course there are filler story lines when you go to each town and settlement, but these are complementary to the main story arc and add to the feeling of being a part of the world. You do not start as a hero. Each starting area for each race begins with a key story event, and you have your part to play in its success, but before you can really create a name for yourself you must start out doing menial chores alongside completing the main quests. These serve to help level you in the safer areas, start particular deeds which lead to rewards, and get you to know the lesser characters, which I find to be a nice touch. For those who do not care for these minor tasks, you can dismiss them, but that would take away from the overall feel of the game. Also, not all key book characters are met by only doing the main story arc, and these characters are worth the sometimes tedious tasks. Besides, as far as menial tasks go on MMOs, they are less tedious than on games such as World of Warcraft, as they have more valid reasons behind them, e.g. collecting samples of diseased meat to determine what is killing the stock in a particular area, or finding a particular item that was taken by an unnamed enemy. One aspect I do find tedious though, as there is no real grinding since levelling is much more balanced now, is completing some of the deeds. The fun ones are finding a group of a type of ruins. The tedious ones involved killing a particular amount of a type of enemy. But like I said, it is better than most current MMOs.

Character creation is what I would consider above average. There is more customisation than games like World of Warcraft and Guild Wars, but not quite as much as in games such as Ever Quest II or Rift. Firstly, you have 4 races (Man, Elf, Dwarf and Hobbit), all of which have two genders except for the dwarves (as the males and females tend to look the same, “It’s the beards.”). Secondly, each race has a different combination of classes to choose from. There are 9 in all. And lastly (that is, before gameplay where you then have the ongoing choices of armour, costumes, and skills), you have the cosmetic customisation. This includes choosing each facial feature, the shape of the face, any defining features (e.g. scars, freckles, etc.), colour of skin, eyes and hair, and of course your name. Something nice that I haven’t seen in other games to date is the added choice of origin. E.g. as an elf you can choose to be from Rivendell, Mirkwood, Lorien, Lindon or Edhellond. Each of these origins has a particular type of look to them and thus affects the range of colours available under each choice and general customisation, kind of like a blood line. The only other game I have played that has anything remotely like this if Final Fantasy XIV.

It goes without saying that how your character looks and the graphics of the game are dependent on the system you are using to play. When I play on my husband’s brand new gaming PC, I can see further into the distance and with more detail than when I play on my two year old laptop that runs Windows Vista. But even on that I can see individual flowers and blades of grass in the fields, footprints as I run, and a wide range of differentiating colours. I will add a link to the minimum and recommended PC Specs at the end of this review, but as long as you can play the game with minimal to no lag, the graphics are still some of the best as far as MMOs go (and the game is 4 years old now).

In regards to music, if you enjoyed the musical score of the movies, chances are you will enjoy the in game music as well. It is very strong and orchestral, much like you would expect for an adventure game, but can also be very relaxing in quieter areas like the Shire.

Game play is very similar to other MMORPGs. You use a combination of keyboard and mouse commands to execute tasks. Very simple. Combat is as simple as selecting a target and performing attacks, choosing a stance and/or healing yourself and others until the target dies. There are also items to replenish health (as not all classes have a way to heal), some which can only be used out of combat, like food, and some that can fortunately be used during combat, such as potions. Never underestimate the timely use of a good potion.

Levelling is also extremely simple. Once you have reached the required level, skills become available to purchase from class trainers. The other form of levelling available is that of a crafting profession.  Each crafting profession levels independently, and you have a total of three. To craft, you must first choose a vocation. Each vocation is made up of three professions: two complementary and one extra. These can be harvesting or creating in style, and their combinations are to encourage working together. Don’t panic if you don’t have a regular gaming pal to trade with for your crafting, as you can sell and purchase materials at the auction houses, or even trade amongst your own characters on the same server. An example to explain all this is the Armourer vocation. The three professions it contains are Prospector (mining ore), Metalsmith (creating heavy armour) and Tailor (creating light and medium armour). Metalsmith requires the ore obtained through prospecting, but Tailor requires boiled leathers obtained through foresting (another profession). Thus, to be able to use the Tailor profession, you must first acquire the materials from someone who has Forester as one of their professions, either by trading directly or purchasing from the Auction House. If this still doesn’t make sense, see the link below for crafting.

LOTRO has become free to play, but you have the option of purchasing points with cash to spend at the LOTRO Store to purchase items and quests in game (the extra vault storage is worth getting). This opens it up for people who cannot afford to pay for it each month (like kids or anyone who has other financial priorities) and feels less controlling of your time, as you can play it at your leisure, not so you can get your money’s worth for the month. I am fortunate enough to have had a lifetime subscription from when it was subscription based, so I have all quests already open to me, and receive a set amount of points each month to spend. It is an adequate conversion, I feel, for those who had the lifetime subscription, and practical in its application.

If you are already a fan of the Lord of the Rings stories, there is a good chance you will love this game. If you are yet to become a fan, the game will definitely grow on you. If you prefer games you don’t have to read and you can just run through killing things, stick to playing WOW (the cartoonish block characters and minimal story makes for an easy, colourful play with little thinking required – good for casual game play). If you are looking for a game you can immerse yourself in and play online with friends or people from around the world that you already know you have something in common with, get this game, and when the time comes, each of the expansions, as with each new expansion, another part of Middle Earth becomes available with more familiar characters to meet and more familiar regions to explore. Bottom line: as far as MMORPGs go, this is one of the best.

 

Scores: /10

Story                                   10

Graphics                              8

Music                                   9

Character Creation              8

Game Play/Combat             9

Levelling                               9

Ease of Play                         9

Enjoyment                           10

Overall                                  9
SchmandaRose

 

Links of Interest:

Official Home Page

http://www.lotro.com/home.php?

Specs

http://au.gamespot.com/pc/rpg/middleearthonline/tech_info.html?tag=tabs%3Bsummary

Crafting

http://lotro-wiki.com/index.php/Crafting

 

Expansions to Date:

Mines of Moria

Siege of Mirkwood

Rise of Isengard

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