Sunday, April 22, 2007

First Impressions: Lord of the Rings Online

I decided to check out the open beta (World Tour) of Lord of the Rings Online. Here are some thoughts. Keep in mind that I didn't get very far, only about level 6, and my computer is at the low end of the scale, which may account for a lot of my impressions.

If I had to sum up my LotRO impressions in a single word, it would be: drab.

Seriously, the entire colour scheme is greens and browns, and not even vibrant greens and browns, but this faded, dull look. Maybe it shouldn't be fully cartoony like WoW, but everyone doesn't need be dressed in brown. Primary colours are good.

LotRO generally lacks that veneer of polish that separates great games from the rest. It's a lot of small things, the way icons are really hard to tell apart. ( A pink arm on a red background is really hard to distinguish. Whatever happened to contrast?) Or the fact that a couple of UI elements overlap each other.

Also, it shouldn't be this hard to make an attractive character. If I'm making a female elf, I would like her to look like Liv Tyler, not Hugo Weaving. (Though Orlando Bloom is a reasonable option.) Character generation has a thousand different combinations, but it was so much work to make something that didn't look stupid.

This extends to animations. Watching people move in this game is painful. Most people look like they are skating on the grass.

Mechanics-wise, it seems okay. Very similar to WoW and other games. I tried a Captain, Minstrel, and Defender for a bit. The minstrel was pretty interesting, but pulling out a lute and strumming for half a second in the middle of combat was really weird.

I played the captain the most. It's a sort of combination of paladin and hunter. I really liked the shouts you could cast upon defeating an opponent. The biggest thing that bothered me was the sound my captain made when doing one of her warcries. Unfortunately, that was the ability I used to pull mobs, so I heard it at the beginning of every fight.

There were a couple of nice touches, the way quest goals changed as you completed them. For example, if you had to kill 10 boars, after you killed them the goal displayed on screen was "return to questgiver". Additionally, being able to click on the quest tracked on screen and open up the quest log was very useful.

As well, the way they use instances and zones is really intriguing. For example, you have to defending the starting town from an attack, and there are two zones: a pre-attack zone and a post-attack zone. After you do the attack quest, you end up in the post-attack zone, which looks just like the pre-attack zone. Each zone contains all the people at that stage of the game. Pretty clever, imo.

All in all, it seemed like a decent game, but really lacking in polish. I stopped playing after my captain hit level 6, mostly because the colour scheme depressed me, and I was having a hard time telling icons apart. I guess I really prefer the more colourful, "unrealistic" games.


  1. I figure it's worth noting that the open beta client for LotRO had much lower quality models than the real deal. This has caused many people to get the impression that it looked a lot worse that it really is. The intent was to minimize download size of the game... IMO this was a horribly bad idea, since this was not openly advertised (only found it out after the Beta), thus many players got the impression that this was the final product and reacted like you did. This may not be enough to make you give it another shot in retail, but just figured I'd let you know.

  2. Hmm. Interesting. Maybe I'll give it another shot if I get tired of WoW.

    Though it wasn't really the 3D models that bugged me the most, it was the spell icons, which I assume is the same as the real game.

  3. Maybe it's just a different style of play, but the icons for me are only a real issue while I'm learning how I have my quickbar setup. When I'm playing almost any game I eventually memorize what button (or button combos) do what, and barely ever look at my quickbars. I only really look at them after I've made a big change or when I'm using an ability I rarely use (like Remove Curse on my Mage).

    In the end, my feeling is that LotRO is a game for those who are tired of WoW. It has some aspects that are better, and some that are worse, but for me it's close enough that the differences are overruled by it's similarities. Barring that the idea of playing in Middle Earth was just the most amazing thing ever, and WoW is still entertaining you in some way, shape, or form why would you give up on upwards of two and a half years of playing a charater for something that's pretty much more of the same?