Lord of the Rings Online

Lets talk about LotRO for a moment. If you didn't know this MMO now presents itself along with thousands of other ones under the "free to play" guise. And first I'll talk about the things I like and then I'll mention what I don't like, after all what's a review without both positive and negative critique right? Of course. 

LotRO from a Game Artist's perspective (I hold a B.A. Visual Art, Game Art) is wonderful. The art is inspiring for the imagination and strengthens the story of middle earth perfectly. The scenery is beautiful and I often find myself stopping in game on my horse and turning off the UI elements (F12) and taking screen shots (F11) of the scenery. Its like taking a mental vacation at times, very nice.

The detail in the city art work is also excellent and I was impressed. In instances (dungeons) the artwork keeps up the same level of detail and the atmosphere makes it all seem like your actually in the pages of the novels.

Game play on a system with a 1 GB video card and all the other latest bells and whistles is pretty good and FPS seems to be OK.

This game works on the notion of group activities or "Fellowships" you'll find most tasks require you to find other people to help you do them. The missions are vast from gathering item quests to the minor story line quests to the big story line quest with all our favorite big name stars in place, are all there to give you endless hours of things to do.

Trades are pretty cool too you can be a scribe, woodworker, weapon smith etc. Plenty to do for those that like the economy side of any MMO. Gold has a very realistic value in LotRO, its priceless so in this game a gold piece buys allot for example a ummm a house for example? Yes you can get a house for a little over 1 gold piece. I believe the monetary system is 1000 copper =1 silver, 1000 silver =1 gold. So its a bit of work to become wealthy in LotRO, most items are priced reasonably taking into account for example that house you can buy for 1gp. why would you pay 5 GP for a bow when a house costs you 1 GP right? You wouldn't, or at least I wouldn't; there are those in all MMO's that would try to rip you off though and it happens here too. Just keep the above currency scale in mind when it comes to eco.

Ok lets talk about some things I don't like. The biggy is Turbine's practice of taking the "free to play" people and queuing them for ridiculous amounts of time. I have yet to get logged into LotRO in under 10 minutes sometimes longer! Ridiculous and not a great magnet for business IMO. The initial front page client sticks and refuses to start, sometimes needing to be cancelled and restarted again, then the log in screen comes up you add your info and are introduced to a black screen for 5-7 minutes and then presented with sever full messages and a quit button, here goes attempt number.....? Frustrating!

Now next thing. Remember all those missions I was talking about? Well most of them and 80% of the content is unavailable to the "free to play" people unless you accumulate and purchase them with "turbine points". The process is slow and sometimes very frustrating as you must first gather enough turbine points to open up the missions or some new expansion, you can always cough up the cash, REAL cash though and buy Turbines to continue on. Kinda soils the phrase "free to play" huh?

Ads are another frequent addition to the game. not sure if "VIPS" (people who pay monthly) are subjected to them or not but as a "free to play" I get them at log in and every time you try to do something in game that requires turbine points or real money from you. Pop-ups will pop open the store page for your convenience so that you can lay out real money to get further along in your "free to play" game. Frustrating!

The real expression of "free to play" should be "limited free to play" its misleading to offer a game where regular content is secured by a charge IMO.

Over-all though LotRO is a fun and visually beautiful game oh one thing art related that I thought was more lazy than bad is the fact that the MOBS for example the goblins and orcs are to scarce in variety and it looks like your fighting armies of twins. It takes away a bit from the feel of the game IMO.

Anyways I do recommend you try it out, I don't know if you'll last if you have the issues I did but to at least experience the artwork I would sign up for a "limited free to play" account :)

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