It wasn’t that long ago that I mentioned Sodality and I have returned to Lord of the Rings Online to give it another shot after a long two year hiatus. Our original trip through was not that noteworthy and our impression of the game was quite low. Now that we’ve spent a few weeks in Middle Earth I feel it is fair to talk about some of our experiences this time around.
With any MMO my major focus has been and always will be the guild interface. It is quite natural and logical for me to want the most bang for my buck when it comes to running Sodality in game. It is in this area that LotRO is the weakest. Very few features are offered to the guild leader and customization is pretty much non-existent. Additional ranks cannot be added and the names cannot be changed. There are no permission options and the interface is not very useful beyond seeing who is online and where they are playing.
To be honest I am surprised by this. The systems by which guilds are managed have come a long way in the last few years and LotRO is a mature product. In addition to that LotRO is a PvE focused game that highly encourages grouping and raids! You would think they would make guilds as useful as possible to encourage those activities. It is my hopes that sometime in the near future we’ll see an upgrade to these systems.
In little over two years Turbine has added large amounts of content to their product. Middle Earth has grown by leaps and bounds with the free mini-expansions and the Mines of Moria. The amount of new quests that have been added is staggering. It honestly feels like there is more to do than can ever be done on one pass through the game. The quests do suffer some from the traditional “kill ten rats” plague but many are quite interesting and inventive. The stories are wonderful and the opportunity to interact with some of Middle Earth’s greatest heroes is quite intriguing. I am not a huge fan of the quest grind but LotRO makes it easy to tolerate.
LotRO also seems to cater to the microcore when it comes to raids and group content. There are a lot of twelve-man raids and grouping is supported from the alpha to the omega. At any time I have a half dozen group quests waiting for me and my friends. Dungeons abound and are both challenging and fun. To be honest I was almost shocked by this. I’ve been through so many PvP and solo focused games lately. Lord of the Rings Online has warmed my cold and jaded heart. I can group again!
Legendary Weapons are something I haven’t experienced yet but I love the sound of them. Weapons that can be improved over time and level with my character? That sounds good to me! I hope to learn more about these little goodies shortly.
There is a lot of positive aspects when it comes to the content department. The only real dig I can have on LotRO is that it is too much of a quest grind. Regular mobs just don’t give enough experience per kill to support traditional grinding. I know people generally don’t like to do this but I always feel like the option should be there. With that being my only “negative” however, I think the game is in good shape in this department.
Game play has improved a lot since the last trip I took to LotRO. Combat moves much smoother and feels responsive. I also no longer feel like I’m just chasing mobs and attempting to attack as a melee. That was one of my complaints from before. It is much easier to close ground and actually engage a mob.
In game menus and the UI are also easy to work with. There is plenty of room for all my abilities and a lot of options when it comes to customization. The chat filters are easy to use and in general I don’t feel like I’m straining to find what I need. The controls are equally easy to customize and use and don’t leave me scratching my head. A new player would have no issue stepping right into this game.
One thing that does seem to get into the way of my game experience is the size of the character inventory. I have not found a way to expand it yet and the amount of space just isn’t that impressive. Loot frequently only stacks up to 10 items and I constantly find myself cleaning out my bags and feeling frustrated. There should be some way to improve this and, if there already is, someone please comment and let me know how!
Given my past experience with the game I was expecting very little. I am, however, pleased to say I received a whole lot! I am absolutely loving LotRO and by the huge surge of Sodality players into it I think they are too. Turbine has done a terrific job of turning this game around and pointing it in the right direction. With each book they refine the good and amend the bad. I can see staying here for quite some time if the raid content is as good as advertised.
The game does suffer when it comes to the guild interface and slightly in the intellectual property department. Due to the constraints of the IP you will frequently find yourself killing the same mobs from 1 to 60. It would go a long way to add a greater variety of models to those repeated encounters. When it comes to mobs, bigger and a different color doesn’t exactly do it for me. It is cute once or twice but over and over again is just abusive.
Beyond those minor complaints I am truly enjoying my return to Middle Earth. I think LotRO would be a great game for anyone who is interested in small raid encounters and grouping. Fans of the books would also find a trek through the various locations quite entertaining. I do expect my opinion to change and evolve as we near max level and the end game but, at least for now, I give Lord of the Rings Online nine out of ten gnolls.
Originally posted on Epic Slant.