As someone who's been playing LotRO on and off since launch, I think it's downright refreshing to get to experience the game through a whole set of newcomers' eyes. You remember how it was when you were just a low-level Hobbit skipping through the Shire and ignorant of the larger world. It does wonderful things to cleaning off the crusty familiarization that builds up on veterans, I tell you.
I thought it'd be a good learning experience to talk to two of my guildies -- David and Mark -- to show you their perspective as LotRO newbies in 2013. Yes, it's true: New players do come into this game all the time.
David: I suppose there are two answers to this question. First would be why I was looking for a new MMO to begin with, and that's mostly just due to burnout with the games on the market currently. Some newer titles just were not appealing to me after a few week of play, and others were not evolving in any meaningful way.
As for LotRO itself, to be honest we came to it the same way I assume most of the new players to the game did. Both of us saw the new Hobbit film, liked it, and were reminded that there was a game out there based on Tolkien's world. Being free-to-play, it was easy to pick up and give a shot with no real investment, but we were quickly swept up in the world. I would say two days of play was all it took to get us both hooked, subbed, and in it for real.
Mark: I participated in LotRO Beta and bought the CE (which is sitting right here in front of me actually). The game did not hold my interest for very long after launch. I can't pinpoint the reason, but I suspect all my friends were playing a certain other MMO and I went with the crowd. However, I have always had great admiration for LotRO, especially the community. After seeing Jackson's The Hobbit, I got the urge to see Tolkien's world again, and here we are.
How do you think LotRO holds up against more modern MMOs? What advantages and disadvantages do you see?
David: Well there are obvious technical advances that are missing, and just some general forward-thinking on UI and game design, but there are also things LotRO is doing that are miles ahead of games that just came out this year. For instance, the music system is an amazing social tool that should be present in any game that bills itself as a multiplayer social game. The ease of the wardrobe system puts many modern MMOs to shame, and the scaling dungeons make getting friends together for group content a breeze.
On the negative side, I feel inventory management could use an overhaul, and the fellowship member frames are clunky and could be made more streamlined and useful. But there is nothing so far that has even remotely dampened my enjoyment of my time in LotRO.
Mark: The first thing that comes to mind is the various ways to level your character. I love having so many different geographical locations to level my characters. I love playing alts, and I can level alts in totally different questing areas and not necessarily repeat content. This is something that is refreshing since I'm coming from SWTOR.
I am also very impressed with the cosmetic outfits system. I noticed that players even in the very early levels looked unique and different from each other. The varieties of armours and cosmetic options in LotRO are easily competitive with more modern MMOs. I think LotRO is very competitive visually as well.
In regards to disadvantages, I would say that many people I know seem to have formed an opinion about LotRO from their experience at launch and are hesitant to take a second look. The game is so vastly improved it's a shame more people aren't playing it. Also, my opinion is that the actual avatars have not aged too well.
What features of the game are you liking so far?
David: As I stated before, there are a lot of cool social things LotRO does that place it far ahead of the competition. Its really no surprise to me to see such a strong community here, especially the RP community, while other games have faltered. The ease of the cosmetic and wardrobe system, the player music, and the fast array of fully animated emotes makes social interactions in LotRO so much more rewarding that any other game I have played to date.
Mark: As I've already covered, the cosmetic system is outstanding. I love exploring the large, at times visually stunning and open game world. Skirmishes and dungeons are a blast and sometimes very creative. I'm extremely impressed with the implementation of horses. The animations of the horses in LotRO are just outstanding. Group content is very fun.
I am also very happy with the crafting system. It is easy to pick up a craft, and items you make in the earliest crafting levels are very much usable and better than most drops you find while questing. I am also pleasantly surprised at how complex the game systems are. There is a lot more to LotRO than meets the eye.
David: We really don't have many. Part of what burned a lot of us out in past games was trying too hard to hit too many milestones. We are just taking it easy in LotRO, and enjoying the ride. That being said, we do want to get as much as possible from what the game has to offer. We are trying to get all our active kinmates into as many of the skirmishes and dungeons as we can, and we have been kicking around the idea of doing some group music events in game as well for those interested.
Mark: Red Mercy, our Kin, is being mentored by Bridget of Geek Sprinkles. Bridget is a big raider, so my goal is to level to cap and learn the ropes from Bridget. My immediate goal however, is to get to Rohan and experience the content. Everyone tells me how amazing the expansion is. I can't wait!
What's your favorite zone so far and why?
David: Well I have not progressed too far (my highest level is 34 right now), but from the limited amount of game world I have explored, I think I have enjoyed the Barrow Downs the most. It was sufficiently creepy, and I loved that each of the different barrows provided a unique little mini-dungeon to explore.
Mark: I will mimic David here and say the Barrow Downs, with its multitude of varied dungeons and rolling Scottish hills of undead is a blast. Honestly, though, everytime I move on to another area, I'm kind of in awe. Walking into Weathertop for the first time was so nostalgic. Unlike some other more recent MMOs, I have not been bored in an area yet. I am really enjoying the quest progression Turbine has fine-tuned in LotRO.
Share with us a memorable story from your time in the game so far.
David: My first run through the Forsaken Inn three-man dungeon was the most memorable (and fun) experience so far. I tried, along with guildmate Tarentella, to two-man this dungeon one afternoon, and while we ultimately failed, I have rarely enjoyed myself so much in doing so. Puzzles, traps, riddles and (literally) twists and turns made this one of the best dungeons I have even played through. I won't spoil any of the Inn's surprises for people who have not tried it yet, but at one point, I did scream out over vent in a manner not unlike a small child. I've run it four more times since then, and it's still a blast.
Mark: I could give you an example of running content, but I think what I'm enjoying the most is that our guild is once again focused. We have been somewhat nomadic as a guild since we lost many to SWTOR fallout. After SWTOR, we tried a few games, went back to SWTOR, and then by chance stumbled into Middle-earth. We thought we might get three to four people to consistently join us. It's been a month now and our kin is approaching 15 unique players and still growing. As a guild we are once again enjoying a game together. David and I are both surprised at the level of participation. It's really been a blast.
Thanks for sharing with us, guys!
When not enjoying second breakfast and a pint of ale, Justin "Syp" Olivetti jaws about hobbits in his Lord of the Rings Online column, The Road to Mordor. You can contact him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or through his gaming blog, Bio Break.