It is hard for an MMORPG to survive these days if it does not live up to the standards of the almighty World of Warcraft. WoW is possibly one of the most polished MMOs one can ever play, which keeps it on top of it’s competitors. There are other good MMOs out there if you look hard enough. Rift, Aion, Guild Wars 2, and Lord of the Rings Online are just a few other options to play besides WoW. Lord of the Rings Online has been surviving since 2007, and been doing quite well for several reasons.
Before I start, LotRO is a typical MMO style game set in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, and Hobbit setting, along with Peter Jackson’s film adaptations. It takes place during the same age and time period as The Lord of the Rings. The player follows the main story, in game called the Epic Quest Line, through a series of books. This Epic Story has the player aid the fellowship as they move throughout Middle Earth. The story is very slow paced though. The game was released in 2007, and they are just now releasing the Helm’s Deep Expansion.
The game offers several different classes to choose from to complement your gameplay style. I chose a runekeeper for its healing and damage abilities. All classes are based off of lore and book characters. Similar to other MMOs, this game implements the “trinity” style of classes. Trinity means there are tanks to hold aggro, damage dealers, and healers keep everyone from dying. Each is functionally different, but equal in importance.
LotRO has much to offer in the way of gameplay. If you are like me, then you might not necessarily be good at end game content such as hardcore raiding or PvP. Instead there is an overwhelming amount of other things to do. You have crafting, deeds, housing, exploring, and so much more. I am not even at max level yet (but very close!), but I already have a list of things I need to do once I am there.
What fascinated me was the accuracy to the actual lore from the Tolkien books. This is possibly my biggest drawing point to the game. I am a huge Tolkien fan, and like most book fans, it is frustrating to see changes from the original. You even come across characters Peter Jackson left out from the movies, like Tom Bombadil. Even if you are not well read in the books but enjoy the movies, you’ll notice that every region in Middle Earth is expanded. Mines of Moria in the Fellowship of the Ring seemed like a road going through a mountain. In the game the Mines are a massive expansion including about 10 regions to explore and kill monsters. It took me almost a week to finally get out of that mountain!
I cannot speak for the other player base, but while this is an MMO, I feel small and alone. During my time leveling I had very little player interaction with other players even though I was on the most populated server. I am not saying this is a downside, I for one like the massive immersed feeling. But some people like to have more player interaction to form groups and work together. This was partly my own fault beside I never joined a kinship (guild). On a plus side, the smaller a game community, usually the better quality it is. Large MMOs like WoW with several million players have a horrible community because of anonymity and larger range of ages and players. Players in LotRO are generally helpful, and are fans of the books and lore just as much as you and I.
One other downside side of the game is the graphics. With the game being released in 2007 using an old graphics engine (Turbine G3 using Havok), the game just does not look as good as it could. The graphics need to be revamped, it looks like a flashgame you would find online. I am unaware if Turbine has any plans to overhaul the graphics anytime soon. But they are with Warner Bros. which is a corporation. Corporations wants to make money, and new graphics cost money.
This brings me to my last point. This game uses a free-to-play model. Turbine tries as hard as they can to have you spend money in their store. Now, keep in mind this game is not pay to win. The LotRO store basically entails cosmetic items, other mounts, and items to help you speed up leveling. Some regions of the game you have to purchase the quests if you want to level there. But in general, overall one does not need to spend any money to play this game. I have managed to get very far with spending little money, only to buy the expansions.
Overall, I really enjoy this game. It is hard and very overwhelming and confusing at first. Once you stick with it for a few levels, it is easy to get a hang of, and is hard to stop playing. It is one of my most played games on Steam, and will continue to be so as long as I have things to do in game. I might start writing more in depth about the game once I am max level and figured everything out.