LotRO: First Impressions

Almost exactly two years ago, I wrote a post like this about World of Warcraft, in which I wasn't all that impressed, and saying I was pretty damn sure I'd stick with Dark Age of Camelot. Two years of playing WoW later, in this post, I shall be saying that while I am fairly impressed with Lord of the Rings Online, I'll probably stick with World of Warcraft. Note the less extreme positions: LotRO is a good game.

The first thing that strikes me, coming in from World of Warcraft, is that the graphics are not cartoony. And, annoyingly, I'm not as pleased by this as I might be - I'm very much in favour of it in the landscape and objects, but character animations in particular look unnatural when they're aiming for realistic. The landscapes and towns look very fine, though, and I note that the Elven starting area looks rather like WoW's Blood Elf architecture, minus the floating bits. The lands of Men are perhaps a little dull in comparison to Elf and Dwarf areas, but that's something of a consequence of the source material.

Gameplay and interface: If you've played WoW, you know this. The interface is essentially the same, with a few small differences. These stand out, of course, when you find that F12 in LotRO makes the interface disappear, not open your main bag, or that you can't sell things by right-clicking on them. Once you get past those quibbles, it's a very fine interface.

Fighting: Being as my Elf Lore-Master is only level 10, I haven't done a huge amount of this. Questing drives levelling even more than in WoW, I think, and the experience from killing mobs as opposed to completing quests is pretty low. Nonetheless, combat, as far as I have experienced it, seems balanced and reasonable, and again, there's great similarity with WoW, which makes things easy.

Crafting & Tradeskills: I like this area of LotRO. You choose a vocation, which bundles three tradeskills. Generally, one is a gathering skill, one is a related production skill, and the last is an extra. My particular vocation includes Forestry, Prospecting and Tailoring. Forestry leads into Tailoring by providing it with leather. Materials for crafting are about half and half between drops/finds and bought items, possibly a little more on the drop/find side.

Stickiness: Less than WoW. As a number of people have said elsewhere, this isn't necessarily a bad thing - WoW's sheer addictiveness is not always a good thing. I'm happy to play LotRO, but it doesn't draw me back with the same strength that early WoW did.

In summary: Damn good game. I'd be happy to play it, but my gaming friends are all playing WoW, and the social aspect is very important to me. We'll see where I am in six months, mind...

Posted by Drew Shiel at June 15, 2007 12:08 PM

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