For the past month or so, I’ve been playing Lord of the Rings Online. Its not really a terribly deep game – hit things with a sword until they die, take their loot, repeat – but I’ve been having fun so far. Its a rather casual game. Well, so far, at least. World of Warcraft promised to be casual too, at low levels, but it lied… So far, though, I’ve been doing fairly well in LOTRO just playing off and on solo.
In some ways, the game manages to combine some of the aspects of WoW that I like (in that its virtually a clone, mechanic-wise) with some of the aspects of UO, specifically the ‘real world’ feeling.
Ok I’ll admit it – I’m a graphics whore. Well, sort of. Well, in some ways, at least. I love anything that makes a game world feel real. Trees and weather effects especially. I enjoy being able to pretend that I’m inhabiting a real world .One where things are going on behind-the-scenes, where I’m not just wandering around from one cardboard set-prop to the next. A world where my actions have meaning.
That last one is where MMOs tend to fail. You kill a boss, it respawns 10 minute later. LOTRO actually manages to at least partially avoid this problem via a rather interesting mechanic: your actions DON’T matter. You’re not the hero of the story. You’re not going to save the world. At best, you’re going to bash some goblins before they can interfere with Frodo so that HE can save the world.
It sounds odd, but it actually works. Its a lot better than WoW’s method, wherein you save the world via a 20 person raid on a massive dungeon, and after being congratulated, you wind up back in the same dungeon fighting the same boss for kewl loot. Over and over again. Forever. Or at least until the next expansion pack comes out. Knowing right from the beginning of the game that you’re really not all that important, and you’re never going to become important, is actually a refreshing change of pace.
There are, of course, a lot of sucky things in LOTRO. The crafting system, for example, is probably about the worst I’ve seen… Well, ever. The mastery system – wherein you become a master at each level of crafting (apprentice, journeyman, expert, etc) which unlocks better quality items – essentially guaranteed to never be able to craft anything particularly good for your own use, since its virtually impossible to become a master in any given tier until you’ve out leveled the items you can craft on that tier.
You’re also limited to only selecting a ‘profession’, which contains 3 ‘vocations’, pretty much guaranteeing that you’ll be forced to take at least one skill you don’t want in order to get one you do (want to make bows? Pick Woodsman. You’ll get forester, to harvest wood, woodsman, to make the bows from the wood you’ve gathered, and, um, farmer. So you can, um, grow blueberries. Which you can’t do much of anything with because you don’t have the cooking skill.)
Still, so far, the fun parts are outnumbering the not-so-fun parts, which is all I really ask. I’m sure I’ll get bored in another month or so, but as long as I’m enjoying myself in the meanwhile, that’s all that really matters.