By Al Rozon
Contributing Writer, [GAS]
I received my invitation to Beta Test Lord Of The Rings Online: Shadows Of Angmar around 2 weeks ago, and since then, I have immersed myself into Middle-Earth. The main reason I applied for the Beta Program is because I was curious to see if LOTRO would be any different from all the other MMORPG’s out there (Everquest, Guild Wars, D&D-Online, WOW). In this short review, I’ll share with you guys the observations I’ve gathered about the game thus far.
Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar.
Processor: Intel Pentium® 4 1.8 GHz or equivalent
Video: 64 MB NVIDIA® GeForce® 3 or ATI® Radeon® 8500
DirectX: DirectX® 9.0c
OS: Windows® XP
RAM: 512 MB
Disk Space: 7 GB available
Internet: 56kbps Modem
Optical Drive: 2x DVD-ROM
Upon installation, I was immediately impressed with how smoothly the setup went considering this was a Beta version. If you play Dungeons & Dragons Online, you’ll notice that this game has the same installer and launcher (at least it looks the same). Once the game is started, you will be given a list of servers to play on; each one with a different instance of the game. Select the server you want, and create a character.
Races: There are 4 races from which to choose.
I chose a she-elf. Why? I have found that in most MMORPGs, others within the game are more willing to help a good-looking elvish girl than a brutish dwarf hauling an axe. Yes, I know, all of this is quite ridiculous, but true nonetheless.
Classes: There are 7 classes to choose from.
I decided to choose the Huntress class for my main “Toon”. I also created a male human burglar on another server just to see what the differences between the 2 characters would be. The cool thing that I noticed was that depending on the server and class you choose, the story line is completely different: You start in a different part of Middle-Earth, the missions are different and even The NPC’s you deal with are not the same. That was definitely a neat change from Guild Wars and D&D online.
The second thing that struck me about this game is how well developed the graphics are done. The landscapes are incredibly well detailed, the characters are well animated and richly rendered, with real-looking features, and the skies are gorgeous (at night or during the day).
These are actual screenshots from my game.
The gameplay is much like any other MMORPG. If you set up your keyboard controls like a FPS, you can roam around in first person mode. You can also choose to view the world in a 3rd person view. Where Guild Wars is run in session when not in a city, LOTRO takes a page out of the Everquest book and has you roaming Middle-Earth freely with the rest of your fellow players. This is sometimes problematic.
For instance: If your mission is to hunt down a nasty Goblin in the ruins of an ancient city, you will find that once you get there, you are competing for the kill with 15 other players. The first guy to hit the baddy gets the kill, even if you’re helping him do the job. So you find yourself waiting for the monster to respawn, and hoping that you will hit him first the next time, because if someone else does, you’ll have to wait again for the next respawn. This forces you to set up a “Fellowship” with those around you. If you do that, then the kill is shared, and subsequently your mission is a success. Great, right??! No, not for me. It defeats the purpose of the mission. The ‘Boss’ is supposed to be a bit of a challenge. With 10 people in your fellowship beating the poor goblin to a pulp, the battle lasts, all in all, about 10 seconds.
On this point, Guild Wars did it right. Mission sessions with only your party members in it and no competition to see who hits the ‘Boss’ first is the best way to go for me.
Engaging in battle took some getting used to, and I can see how some in the beta forums would complain that the battle sequences are frustrating.
One of the main problems for some beta players is that you have to face your opponent to fight him. You can’t just click on him and push an attack button to have your toon follow your orders. If you don’t actually turn your character to face his foe, he will not attack. This little detail doesn’t bother me so much. I am a lefty. My mouse is on the left (which is handy for games like this). I have my keyboard and mouse setting set with all movement using the NumPad, and full spin action using my mouse. It is nothing for me to turn my character to face an opponent. But for those of you that turn by using the “D” and “A” keys on your keyboard (or your arrow keys) , I can definitely understand your frustration. Using those keys to turn leaves you susceptible to attacks for precious seconds where you can receive a lot of damage when fighting a challenging bad-guy. To those individuals I say: learn how to use your mouse to turn and forego movement using ‘A’, ‘D’, ‘W’ and ‘S’.
Traits, Skills & Goodies.
This is where LOTRO did things correctly, in my opinion. They really allow you to customize your character by not only providing him with cool skills that help in combat, but they’ve also added traits and passive skills that shape your character’s behavior. For instance: As you roam around Middle-Earth, you can visit landmarks that get marked on your map. The more of these landmarks that you get, the more points you receive towards a trait that can make you, say, heal faster, or gain wisdom that improves how NPC’s react to you etc. etc.
As you train with your active skills, so too, can you improve your passive skills. This will allow your character to do such things as automatically parry an oncoming attack, or give you an edge in battle by improving your critical hits. All these little things will make you strive to see as much of the world as possible, and that’s definitely a positive point.
The other cool thing that they’ve added, that I know they don’t have in D&D online or Guild Wars, is a profession that can have your character make money by actually building their own materials or items. Lore-Masters (mages) can become Historians and make potions and magic items. Heck, my Huntress can play the clarinet, imagine that!!! But for the important stuff, she will be an Armsman with the skills to seek out materials to make bows or swords. Once done, I can either use them myself, or just sell them. Each town provides merchants for the particular skills that you are focusing on and “Provisioners” are available to buy materials. You can be a jeweler/prospector in this game, going to mines to collect gems and other cool things. Regrettably, I have not witnessed much of an in-game economy, which is very prevalent in Guildwars, WoW, and Everquest. Perhaps as the game grows, this will change.
Cost: Lord of the Rings Online: Shadow of Angmar can be pre-ordered for $49.99USD
Fees: $9.99/month for regular players and $199 for a “founders only” lifetime membership.
I’m not sure if I can justify spending $199 for a lifetime membership yet. I do dislike having to pay a monthly fee, but as my character gets more and more experience, I’m finding the game becoming increasingly addictive.
Is it worth spending $199 to play forever? If you think you will play this game at least 2 to 3 times a week for the next two years, then yes, it is. If you’re like me and have many games waiting in line to be played, then probably not.
Would I recommend this game? It seriously depends on what you like in a game. If you are an Everquest fan and just need a change of scenery, I would definitely recommend it. This game is sexy to look at, and for the most part, it’s entertaining. Getting others to play with you in the game is easy enough, and I’ve found most players to be very helpful. LOTRO supports in-game VoIP, so you can talk to your fellow players without the need of a third-party application. Unfortunately, if you want to play this game on your own, you can only do that in the beginning. As you progress in the game, most missions become way too difficult to play alone, and LOTRO does not provide NPC henchmen to help you.
On a scale from 1 to 5, I give this BETA a 3.0