Impressions of Lord of the Rings Online

The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar open beta ended today in preparation for the retail release of the game. I played the open beta for a few hours. I didn’t really give myself long enough to get addicted to it, because I don’t want another World of Warcraft situation on my hands. And I don’t feel like paying monthly fees to play games (although you can buy a lifetime membership for $200. Hah!). But I did get a good impression of the game. Here it is.

The game looks, feels, and plays like a World of Warcraft clone. I don’t mean this in a bad way. Clearly, the designers looked at WoW, and said to themselves, let’s make that, but in the LotR universe. And you can’t really fault their logic. WoW is hugely successful, with over 8 million active subscribers. If LotROSoA (it will be fun using this acronym) captures even a fraction of that it will still be profitable. LotROSoA even has the same style of questing, with long continuous quest lines and trivial time-filler missions like “Get me six lynx paws.” The quest items even spawn like they do in WoW: only when you’re on the quest, and only when you haven’t gotten all that you need.

My character was a minstrel, which is basically the LotROSoA equivalent of a healer. The twist on it is that there are different tiers of songs, and they need to be chained together to reach the higher tiers. It makes combat slightly more involved than just hitting the same keys over and over again because you have to build up to bigger spells. I swear I’ve seen this kind of play mechanic somewhere else, though — maybe it was the monk class in EverQuest?

There are some new features, like the ability to “play as a monster”, but that’s not nearly as cool as it sounds. You’re not really playing as a world monster, you’re just playing as an enemy in the Battlegrounds-like zone. Since LotROSoA doesn’t allow you to play as the “evil” factions like orcs and goblins, the only way to get group PVP is to allow players to temporarily take control of enemy characters. Frankly, I think I prefer WoW’s PVP better, where you get to take your own character into combat rather than having to control some anonymous NPC monster half of the time.

My final verdict is, if you like World of Warcraft, you’ll like Lord of the Rings Online. That’s about all there is to it. I’d have to play LotROSoA more to see how much I really like it (something I’m not going to be doing). But I do know that I like the LotR mythos a lot more than the Warcraft mythos, which as far as I can tell, was made up for a computer game and then had its backstory fleshed out a bit. All other aspects being equal, I’d rather play LotROSoA than WoW because of its Tolkieny goodness.

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