Monday, February 20, 2017

LOTRO is getting a lot of updates and attention this year, I recently completed the journey to level cap to the first time, here are some of my likes and dislikes for the game.



LIKES

Middle earth: To anytime who has ever read the books, just walking around in Bree and The Shire is bound to be such a treat. The developers have put so much thought, care and love into the bringing alive of this world that is simply mind-blowing. From the tapestries in Edoras to the giant grim halls within Moria, everything small and big has a tremendous attention to detail and shines with love for the source material. And that is simply coming from someone who only read the main books and saw the movies, I didn’t read the simalirion and other Tolkien related works. I’m sure that someone who is a true Tolkien fanatic can spend hours walking around in Bree alone. Keep in mind though that the game is an adaptation of the books, not the movies. So some area’s and characters might look slightly different and unfamiliar if you watched the movies a ton (like I did).

Pretty Fair F2P model: What makes LoTRO’s cash shop pretty sweet in my opinion is that it’s premium’s currency, LP (LoTRO Points), can be earned in game. And not from random loot box drops and what not, but from simply playing the game and getting achievements. Questing, killing mobs and exploring all grant LP. Gaining reputation with the different factions that reside in each zone also gives you lp. The system is pretty easily exploitable, just make an alt and do some basic achievements, get the lp you need and then delete the character and start over. But the developers seem pretty cool with it. What is in the cash shop is also pretty basic. The riding riding trait is what you are going to want to buy as soon as possible, probably running around and questing in your starting zone is enough to buy it at lvl 15. Zones also need to bought here, you are free to explore and run around and kill stuff in every zone in the game, but if you want to quest in zones after lvl 30 you are going to need expansion packs and quest packs (Going to recommend Evendim and Angmar probably the quickest zones to reach lvl 50 and get into expansion pack content.) The game is more free to try in my opinion, but because you can unlock zones permanently and grind towards earning enough to unlock them I am pretty ok with it, it’s definitely not as generous as GW2 free model but not as bad or P2W as some other MMO’s either. Cough Archage Cough

Questing: So this is bound to be controversial, but I actually like LotRO questing system. Most of them are the basic kill 10 mobs, collect 10 swords of certain mobs, defeat the captain, destroy supplies, etc etc. But what makes it better is that the game uses these relatively boring quests to tell great stories. Instead of “Kill 10 mobs cuz I need their skins for a potion or something” it’s “Thornhope used to be a beacon of Rohan strength, defeat the filthy orcs that walks in the streets and avenge my family.” The game is very good at providing context for simple and boring tasks which makes the game a lot better. And since LotRO’s main way of gain exp is through quests, you’ll be doing a ton of them anyways.

Community This is probably one of the best know attributes of LotRO and for good reason. Everyone is nice, helpful and out to make your day a better one. People on /world often give away free items, some of which can even catch quite a price on the games market if they had decided to sell instead. Not only that but people are giving advise all the time, on trait specs, quest lines to play or avoid and what to buy from the store.

DISLIKES


End game content: This is completely subjective, but after reaching level cap all I can say is that I am a bit disappointed. Basically end game content revolves around the latests zone, raids and featured instances. Basically, after reaching level 100 the game stops giving you normal armour, instead you get socketable armour. This armour has pretty bad stats, but you can make the armour and yourself into absolute beasts by slotting it with essences. For example a piece of end game armour comes with 4 slots, and a normal boost of 500 hp, now you slot those with the four best essences of hp in the game, and suddenly instead of getting a 500hp boost when equipping the armour, you get a 4500 hp boost. And these essences aren’t just for hp either, also for mana (or power as it is called in game) and any of the other major stats in the game, influencing your crit rates and such. At first my reaction was that this was super sweet, it opened up to make your own builds if you will, you could make your tank have super high hp or you can make sure it’s able to better dodge in coming attacks or you could have it’s mana increase so you can use your mobs pulling attacks more often. Where the system starts falling apart is in how you obtain this essences. Simply put, it is just a grind, and I wouldn’t have minded a grind, but it is a grind with a day long reset and having to put your faith in to rng and your in game cash. The only real way your are going to be able to fully armour yourself with end game gear is if you make a legion of alts and don’t mind running the same featured instance over and over again. And even then it’s going to take a long time. For someone who was just one character at level cap, it would probably take you until the mordor expansion releases to get yourself equipped to handle the newest raid, which drops better armour that need even more essences. It’s just a grind that is not friendly to any players who only recently reached level cap and has no level cap alts and that just sucks.

Small player base: yeah, LotRO’s community may rock, but the quantity of the player base is definitely annoying from time to time. Not being able to gather a group for content and not being able to buy common items is one of the most annoying consequences of this, but it has much causes much smaller annoyances too, like not being able to gather information on certain topics because there aren’t enough players to fully write everything down, this becomes very annoying when doing research into essences and armour and what not, often leaving you in the dark on what to equip for raids (Lotro’s community is just as demanding on armour for PvE content as any other game) It’s more of a quality of life annoyance if anything, but it is very annoying non the less.

Instant level cap item: So pretty much in every game with an instant level cap item the community doesn’t like it, but here there is an especial hate for it, and for good reason too. Although the game advertises as a way to get instant access to level 95 content, (Which is even 10 levels off level cap but whatever) you will be at a severe disadvantage if you use this package as a way to get quick access to level cap content. Not only because you are going to be missing the essentials on how to play your class like in other game, but also because you are going to lack any virtues. Virtues are awarded for completing the above mentioned achievements, you’ll get pretty close to maxing them out by the time you reach level cap by just playing the game casually. But won’t have any if you use the instant 95 item. If you are thinking of using this as a quick way to get into the latest end game raid, you are going to be out of luck, the raid is so difficult that you’ll need any advantage you can get, not having any virtues is going to put you at a significant power disadvantage, making the entire thing very costly and close to useless.

Bugs and optimisation: This is another thing that never fails to destroy my fun with a game and it is in full force here. It’s not too bad at first, you are going to encounter some slight frame rate drops and slowdowns when first loading into big instances and in general just seeing a lot of players run around at the same time. It get’s worse in heavily decorated area’s like Bree, the main low level hub of the game. As you get closer to end game it get’s worse. War Steeds, a mechanic introduced in the Riders of Rohan are just a buggy mess, you jump over a fence three seconds later the game notices you may not have made that jump and sets you back. It’s really annoying and happens very often. Later on Epic Battles are introduced, having sometimes thousands of enemies on screen at a time looks really cool, but in an old engine like LotRO it’s mainly going to cause many issues. Crashes back to desktop, being disconnected from the game, heavy slow down, frame rate drops, all of these I have experienced. Even worse when playing through one of these epic battles last night solo, which takes about 45 minutes, I had the game crash upon completion of the instance, meaning that I was going to have to play through the entire thing again just in order to complete a quest. Very annoying.

There are some smaller details I like/dislike like: Very RP friendly, great clothing system, some raids can’t be experienced at level cap making them useless and a bit of a joke and the fact that the voice acting is very hit or miss (The Nazg├╗l are great, King Theoden sounds like a hobo they forced into a voice booth with no voice acting experience at all). But those are my main likes and dislikes from the game.

TL;DR The game is a very nice experience that is completely free till level 30, if you like that I’ll recommend you buy the Evendim and Angmar quest pack so that you can head into expansion content. The game is worth the journey to level cap. If you want to stick around for a very long grind after that is up to you, Though my recommendation is that it’s no worth it, but I am just an internet stranger so don’t take my word for it.

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