September 20th, 2009

Walking in the Shire

So I recently got a present from a friend.  They had extra copies of Lord of the Rings online and Age of Conan.   I have decided to take advantage of these gifts and give these MMO’s a try.  It is always to a good idea to see what all the other guys are doing after all and I can both of these out for free for quite some time.

I have played MMO’s since Everquest and single player RPG’s back to Bard’s Tale and Wizardry.  I will confess I rarely find them compelling for long.   Computer RPG’s lack the level of interaction of a table top.   I can’t go off and do somethign unexpected.  The rules ape tabletop D&D most of the time but with out the flexibility of a game master.  Also typing into a chat window is not quite the same as role playing. There is something of theater to actual role play that you cant get in a role playing game.

All of that said, if I keep playing them is for two reasons.  One reason is I like the folks I am playing with.   If I had to play WoW without having someone like Brandes to run around with I would eventually turn it off and walk away,  but when I am running around with him or other people it is loads of fun so I keep playing. The other thing that will keep me playing is a good story.  If i like the story as it unfolds I will keep playing to see what comes next.  Even if the mechanics are not awesome if the story is I keep going cause I want to see how it turns out.

Back to the two games I just got.

I have started out with Lord of the Rings online.  I will play it for a while and try Age of Conan later.  I installed it yesterday which took a while with the updates.   I have heard quite a few good things about the game.  It does not have the following that WoW does obviously and no one does.  WoW is it’s own thing separate from the rest of the MMO industry.  Judged against the rest of the industry LoTRO(the standard abreviation) does pretty well. I balk at trying yet another fantasy MMO but really there are not a lot of other options out there and I work on one of those other options.

I played for about 6 hours and I have to say I enjoyed it.  LoTRO has the standard fare in this sort of thing.   The combat system is not really all that revolutionary.  The abilities are activated by number push or clicking on an icon.  It is the usual thing there.   You have classes, levels, and races.  You gain special abilities as you go.  All familiar ground and once I got used to the control scheme’s minor differences I was pretty easily messing about.  One thing I did find was the game does a really good job of conveying story too you early on.  The introductory story line gives a strong feel of being involved and when town is burning and you have to go defeat the bad guy it was effective at making you feel a part of things and that you were a hero.

I should add I made a Hobbit Warden named Alstromo(mainly cause my first few name ideas had been taken) and I like the spear and shield style a lot.  Once you get out of the intro, you get sent to the Shire and you get to run around doing familiar mission structures.  I was pleased that they did go out of their way to make sure kill missions were not the most common mission out there.   Nothing would have felt less like your a Hobbit than having the first several missions be go kill 10 of blah.

I leveled up through level 11 in 6 hours and I generally didn’t notice the time passing.  I just kept taking missions and wandering around the Shire.  There is somethign of a brief thrill at seeing sites from the books.  The old willow is there as well as the site of Bilbo’s Birthday party.  The Hobbit holes look as they should and the atmosphere of the Shire is very much what you would expect from the books.   There are some breaks though.  As you get further out from Hobbiton you begin to wonder why they never mentioned in the books all the giant spiders, goblins, and really angry bears being inside the Shire but they had to make some allowances for people to have something to do beyond deliver and use object missions.

There were not a lot of people on my server.  There were enough for me to see people running by me from time to time but at no time did I see crowds.   This was a novel experience and honestly it may be a sign they have maybe a few too many servers but still not terrible.  I understand the game is sort of chaptered.  You moved from one section of the story to another and get to see things advance in the over arching story as you do.  That is what I understand but I have not seen that as of yet.   I look forward to seeing how that plays out.

Overall I enjoyed my first foray into Lord of the Rings online.   I liked it better than WoW in a lot of ways actually.  It is far better at conveying your part of a story than WoW is and the overall art direction and look of the game is more appealing to me.  The option of doing player housing also is a point above WoW.  I am however unlikely to convince my WoW buddies to switch over so it does lack one of the big draws of hanging out with my friends.  I have not seen the higher end content yet  so i can’t say what it is like.   I liked it enough to keep going though.   I have 30 days to decide if it is a game I want to keep playing. If not I can always cancel it before it bills me.

I know I may have some friends who have played LoTRO as well so I am open to suggestions as to things to do in the game and stuff to try.   Tell me your experiences.

Originally published at McCoy's Geeky Emporium of Thought. You can comment here or there.