(Imported from old blog 2007-06-13)
Lately I was messing around a bit in the Lord of the Rings Online "Open Beta" or "World Tour" and figured I'd spam about what that's all about in my view!
I tried this game first "way back" in closed beta and wasn't too impressed really, sure it had some fun stuff and all, but it just seemed a bit too far off and nothing new really, so I figured I'd just put it on hold. Now though, they released a "final" version of it, capped the level at 15 ("live" cap will be 50), invited everyone to join and offering all preorders to carry their character into live at April 24th! As such, I decided to give it another shot...
"Initial" impressions this time around were much better than they were the first time I tried. I decided to make a Minstrel character, and was dared by my friend, who I was going to play with, to make a male character... something I'm usually not quite fond of, especially when the class played seems quite fruity to begin with! However, after a short round of thinking, messing around with character creation and figuring "it's only beta!" Chrishero the Minstrel was born! People would of course notice the obvious fruitiness of the male Minstrel, but hopefully accept that he has a "non-Tolkien" name and just shrug instead of pointing and laughing.
Started running through the opening quests! It's all good really, having fun spamming my songattacks, humming along and just having the "first few levels"-fun that most mmo's have today ... and it just comes off as nicely rounded, well polished, and rather nice to look at too! (The game, not my character)
A basic overview of the not-so-standard features, compared to the "generic mmo" would be something like...
- The basic concepts of health/mana has been replaced with morale/power, and as such, the Minstrel - providing moraleboosting songs - is the primary healer of any group, or "fellowship" as they like to call it.
- Classes in general seem to be fairly heavily melee oriented, with only one caster class in addition to the Minstrel with their shouts and songs.
- There's an effect named Dread or Hope which affects your total morale, damage done, damage dealt and so on. All the "epic" encounters inflict heavy amounts of dread, making such encounters harder. Hope is as an example given nearby friendly "epic" characters and gives the opposite effects.
- The "Epic" storyline has a nice mix of videos and narration in it, with a fairly direct link to the events in the movies.
- Titles are bestowed upon completing certain given tasks, killing a set amount of a specific mob-type, exploring all of an area or for reaching a certain level without dying (I made 15 without dying, yay!)
- Titles, or advanced versions of the titles can translate into "abilities" (traits) giving you statboosts or other nice effects. Only a given amount of these traits can be active at any time, meaning characters will try to achieve as many of these as possible for versatility in different situations.
- Death penalty is low in terms of a fairly weak "res-sickness", but high as it screws over durability on all your items - not all of which are cheap to repair...
- PvP is done through "Monster Play" - where you transform into a monster to take on other characters... (!)
All in all, apart from the fact that I felt I was lacking a bit in the healing department (it was mainly spamming the one sane heal I had all the time hoping people didn't die), I figured the game was "rather ok", this being right smack in the middle on a scale from "sigh... next game..." and "I'll have 5 pre-orders! NOW!".
Here's where my main grief with the "game" comes. Mentioning game in that sense, as it's not really an issue with the game itself, but the way things are being handled in the distribution...
I decided that I'd probably give it a shot, and went online to find the pre-order. Note here that I'm a hard-working european gamer with a love for US servers. For those of you who are relatively new to mmorpgs and the US/EU server concept, a quick lesson would be that EU servers exist so that the frenchies and germans (and to a certain extent the UK-kids) won't ruin the gaming experience of those of us who actually don't mind reading and writing English! As such, it's all about the US servers here really, not like latency is an issue in mmorpgs nowadays, and it's already all downloaded, so how hard can it be?
Long story short, I won't be playing Lord of the Rings Online initially, as they don't have the "digital download pre-order" option available for the US servers, however, Codemasters has managed to put this up for the EU version in their EU online store, but the products are non-existant in the US section. Seeing as they allow the "digital download" for EU, I see no reason as to why they wouldn't do this in the US, and this just happened to tip the scale in favor of "not playing". Granted, had the game been the best thing since FF7 - I would've given it much more effort and maybe tried one of the sketchy online "key-resellers", or try to get some of my US friends to grab me a key and a game. In comparison I recently gave Vanguard a shot without having tried it at all, just because it's so easy and convenient to buy a digital download and get started right away, compared to possibly importing and paying excessive amounts of tax on this as the product ships in a few weeks later. (Granted, the digital download is the only good thing I have to say about Vanguard, but that's another story...)
All in all, fairly decent PvE game - will most likely not steal all WoW players, but will probably have a fair few LotRO fans roaming around exploring for titles the next few years...