I bit the bullet last night and started a 10-day LotRO trial, after my obligatory half hour playing TF2. To my surprise, I found myself having fun with it.
Now, there’s nothing that says fun now means that there will be fun in ten minutes. And I have had gamebusting issues with LotRO thrice in the past, which I’m not going to elaborate on again – dig through the archives of this blog if you want the details of that.
The step I’d been working through before starting was to mentally divorce LotRO Middle-Earth from Tolkien Middle-Earth, and imagine the game setting as a well-intentioned and vaguely Tolkienesque knockoff, not unlike what we see in most fantasy games, except with Hobbits. Even writing that without bitching about LotRO’s fundamental disconnect from the source material was hard, but at this point I am looking for stuff to like rather than things to complain about.
I started a human Lore-Master, a class I hadn’t tried before, and got him up to level 7 in a little over two hours. I didn’t get very far in the ‘main’ quest line, which I know from both experience and discussion is quite well-done and one of the best things about the game. It’s a lot like Age of Conan’s 1-20 experience, actually, except that filler (i. e. other stuff you have to do to pad out your advancement,) is more ably tucked into the gaps. Aside from AoC’s full voiceovers the LotRO equivalent is just as good. Better, in a way, since it runs all the way to the level cap and beyond, and also implements WoW’s “new” feature of phasing a couple of years earlier, to better effect.
The community seems as well-behaved I expected, and as far as I saw (on Landroval,) folks seemed to choose vaguely Tolkienesque names, as befits vaguely Tolkienesque characters in a vaguely Tolkienesque world. With Hobbits. *Ahem*
LotRO seems to work best when engaged at a leisurely pace due to the structure of the combat and the placement of mobs in most areas. And even if you have negative feelings about the whole game it’s hard to argue that it isn’t one of the most full-featured fantasy MMOs on the market, so there really is plenty to do, even aside from the main questline. Side quests… well, they’re side quests, and you can tell that they’re side quests, but they mostly manage not to seem incidental or trivial at the same time. Maybe they do in the Hobbit areas, but I’d expect a certain amount of “deliver these muffins” content there. There’s also Deeds, which are the still-superior implementation of the same “genre-changing” idea that Mythic pimped to high heaven, and crafting (which I’ve never tried but which is said to be decent.) And housing.
So far, after a couple of hours in-game, LotRO has not sold me on itself. But neither has it really driven me away. It’s not a ‘gee-whiz!’ game, nor a game which blows me away on really any level, but it’s full-featured and generally solid all-around, which is totally consistent with everything I’ve previously said about it. It’s working for me better than it has in the past, despite not being a sunstantively different experience. That doesn’t mean it’ll continue to do so, but I’ll give it another go tonight or tomorrow.