Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Lord of the Rings Online, Thoughts of a level 40 Elven Hunter

Like many Fantasy fans I used to play World of Warcraft. I didn't really get into it right away. It was a gift from a friend one year for Christmas. I played it off and on and enjoyed what I played, but at the time my computer wasn't really up to snuff and so I frequently got knocked off the game. As a result my friend got way beyond me level wise and I never really caught up. That seriously impacted my enjoyment of the game. True to real life, I had no better luck making new friends online than off. So I spent a lot of time playing by myself. When I got to top level, and because I didn't play a "Useful" spec I spent a lot of time bumming around capital cities trying to get into groups. After a while, I simply got tired of paying for this privilege, and quit. I dutifully came back each time an expansion was released, I'd play through the new content and then as usual, the same actions would repeat and I'd get left standing around in Ogrimar or Ironforge twiddling my virtual thumbs.

I realize that the following statement may sound odd for an mmo player to make, but I don't really like the "Multiplayer" aspect of the games. I'd be just as happy going back to the Neverwinter/Elder Scrolls model for Fantasy RPG's... I play too erratically to be relied upon, or to really find a group to play with.

World of Warcraft isn't really built to accommodate players that don't fall into either the dedicated camp or the casual camp. It's high end content is heinously difficult sometimes, frequently requiring guilds to maintain high numbers of alternate players, mid raid swap outs, and tremendous amounts of time and energy to complete. On the other end, some of their base level stuff is extremely simple, especially now after their various updates. It's fully possible to play through the entirety of levels 1-60 in a week's time without spending more than a few hours a day playing. It wasn't always that simple, but it was always accommodating to people who would maybe play an hour a day a few times a week. The Zones were small, the quests generally pretty easy. But for the middle ground it lacked some what, especially if you were mainly playing for the storyline.

In order to truly grasp the big picture, you had to play nearly every race/class combination for both factions. It had no "Story specific" quest lines. The closest you really got to that was the Missing Diplomat quest chain. This is where I feel Lord of the Rings Online really wins out.

It features some really difficult quests, and some enormously huge zones. I've been in the Lake Evendim zone for 8 levels now. The only wow zone that even approaches that is Stranglethorn Vale. It's not perfect though, some of the zones and quests have not been retooled for an individual player to complete yet. I've still got a couple of level 33 "Story Quests" kicking around because they are heinously difficult. But that was true of the level 30 and up zones on wow as well. It's the games way of telling you it's time to make friends.

Where as you can get to just about any place on wow in a few minutes, it can turn into a 45 minute long slog to get from Evendim to Rivendell, this is of course partly because there are certain transit stations you have to pay for separately every time you use in Lord of the Rings online. Which exemplifies exactly what makes it so different from wow. Your level of commitment to the game is proportional to how much you are willing to pay to play it.

For 0$ you can play a virtually limitless number of level 1-21 characters. You can experience the Shire, and Bree, just shy of making it to Weathertop. The important aspect is, almost from your first quest you are interacting with characters who are important. You are told that you as an individual player is valuable to the coming war effort. You are tasked with distracting black riders, trailing the fellowship, finding potent artifacts to be turned over to the big fish like Gandalf and Aragorn and Elrond. All of that for free. If you want to keep playing, you pay a fee and unlock a new zone and keep playing. The Lone Lands, The North Downs, The Tollshaws. Get bored? Don't buy any more. I've probably spent about 60$ already on the game, and haven't quite unlocked everything I would have had I bought the game when it first came out.

That Lifetime membership they sold for 200$, is still a fantastic deal, considering I've probably got another 100$ at least to spend before I've unlocked everything up to Mirkwood.. and a new Rohan/Isengard expansion is slated to come out later this year, I'd like to see it, but I've been playing this character for about 6 months now and still have another 20 levels before I will even make it to the first expansion. I'm sure I'll keep playing, but I've begun to feel what differentiated LOTRO from WOW is beginning to break down. It's beginning to feel that the things that made it different are dragging it over towards sameness. Difficulty meeting groups. WOW has addressed this marvelously with the cross server looking for group mechanic. You simply get in queue and the game will automatically assign you to a group.

So if anyone reading this has a character on Dwarrowdelf Server.. let me know if you want to group up.

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