published Tuesday, Sep 07th
The Lord of the Rings Online is a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game, taking a third person character through a cooperative environment. It was originally released in 2007 under a subscription service, where a player would need to buy time upfront in order to play. Now the game is facing a re-release with a free-to-play model giving players access to regular play without charge. As discussed in The Lord of the Rings Online store preview, Turbine Inc will generate income by selling extra digital content; therefore with the free purchase, will it bode as well on your free time as it does on your wallet?
Being an avid fan of the books by Tolkien and the Peter Jackson trilogy of movies, I have always had an idea of how Middle-Earth should look and feel in so far as its atmosphere. The Lord of the Rings Online holds such as stark difference, it is more akin to the cartoon films of old. I’m all for a colourful, not-too-serious look about a game, but all in the right context. The light-hearted non-player characters, out of proportion enemies and fantastical situations bring thoughts of carelessness with the Tolkien licence. Add off the mark voice acting, repetitive quests, and generic items, and The Lord of the Rings seems like a name that was slapped on at the last minute to gain a few extra sales.
As far as the game actually plays it is a competent online role playing game. The player starts with character creation; forming the player that they will control about the environment. Men, Hobbits, Dwarves, and Elves can be chosen from, given a gender and a name of the players choosing. The random name generator can be a useful tool to find a Tolkien style name. Before being inserted into one of the four race-centred starting locations the player will first have to choose a Class, which again are generic, such as Champion or Rune-keeper.
Each of the races begin their Journey, set when the Fellowship is first formed with Frodo and Sam, in a settlement littered with their own kin in a struggle with a local enemy. Each of the starting areas can be different for Men, Hobbits, Dwarves, and Elves, although some are interwoven, such as in the interwoven stories of Men and Hobbits. The quests start with an incident which the player must overcome in order to open up an area for free-roam, the incident usually being an attack by an oncoming force. From there the objectives lead the player on paths of exploration around the local area; collecting objects, disbanding packs of wolves, and gaining allies. The story expands in books, which are added to progressively by the developer, and match chronologically to the main story incidents of Frodo and the Fellowship, and eventually volumes with the expansion packs.
The Lord of the Rings Online features an age old levelling system, expanding the health bar and other traits as you rise through the ranks, and allowing access to purchasable upgrades and skills. Skills are unique class abilities that are special moves and attacks to be used in combat. I found them particularly useful as a sink for all of the money earned from quests, of which there was plenty, and a reason to push the experience to get to the next level.
The Lord of the Rings Online is a sound MMORPG with constant, if not slow, pace through the objectives, expanding the area of exploration. Its major problem, at least for me, is its attitude towards the Lord of the Rings universe. I would have much preferred a grittier, darker style of environment, rather than the cartoon, unrealistic approach to art. The Tolkien licence seems to have been exploited only for place and character names, and not used to its full potential as a fantasy gold-mine. If you are just looking for a solid RPG, and are not too fond of lore backgrounds then there is no reason not to give this a chance, especially when it is free. If however you are drawn to the MMORPG genre by the name alone, then it would be best to leave the One Ring to its fate.
Before the game’s re-release on September 10th The Lord of the Rings Online will have a short four day beta program running from September 6th. Sign up here and you will have early access to the game, and the option to carry on from where you left off when the switch is made this Friday.