Wednesday, April 25, 2007

LotR: First Impressions (minor)

Lord of the Rings is now live, but I hopped onto their open beta a couple of weeks ago. But, for uncertain reasons, the game didn't really catch my attention. There just didnt seem to be much that was different or unique.

I played a Dwarf Champion up to level 10, then spent a couple of hours as a Warg in Monster Play.

Gameplay is pretty standard. Get quests, press buttons, drop new abilities into hotbar slots, gain levels and gold. The quest icons would often be obscured by the NPCs name.

One cool feature that was definitely different and welcome, is the ability to gain titles and special abilities based on your activities. Kill a bunch of Goblins and get the title Goblin Slayer. Kill enough and maybe you'll get access to a trait that will help you kill them faster. Use a certain ability or spell often? Then you'll likely learn end up learning how to do it better! It's a nice way to combine a level system with a pseudo-skill system.

And of course, there's the much talked about, Monster Play. Monster Play started off interesting, but, once you actually start looking around, it's just a bunch more of the same type collection and kill quests. Though I do admit that I had a lot of fun the first time I snuck into the hobbit-town as a Warg and ambushed gardeners on the outskirts of town and collected their cute little hairy feet as tribute to the Dark Lord! Not long after I arrived, two orcs showed up and proceeded to pillage in a more direct fashion. It felt good to be bad! But otherwise, this mode also didn't keep my attention. I joined a raid one time, but it turned out to be against a bunch of NPCs, and the organization of it was exceedingly slow, so I left. In the few hours I spent as a monster, I didn't see a single 'good' player. Since it was still beta, I imagine that there simply weren't many characters capable of reaching the Monster Play zone, much less surviving for long. However, this does highlight a potentially troubling issue. If no human opponents show up, Monster Play will turn out to be incredibly boring. It's also unfortunate that Monster Play is restricted to a single zone. If LoTR gains enough followers, I wouldnt be surprised to see extra Monster Play zones opening up.

All of the standard features are there. Mail, Auction System, crafting, instancing, etc. It felt very polished and ready for release, unlike many other MMOs. But of those systems, I didn't really notice anything new or innovative that would draw me in.

One thing that I've come to the conclusion on recently, is that I really like the cartoonish graphics for my fantasy games a lot better than the pseudo-realistic ones. Everything seems a lot sharper and easier to look at in Warcraft as opposed to Vanguard and LotR. So while the LotR graphcis were beautiful to look at (and MUCH easier on my mchaine than Vanguard), it just didn't feel right. Of course, I didnt get a chance to see much of the world. Just the early dwarf zones and the monster play zone. I'm sure there are plenty of breathtaking, panoramic vistas to be found.

Anyway, not much hard info about the game, as I didn't really play as much as I had planned, thus the (minor) in the title. But, that sort of says something in of itself I guess.

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