Well, in exactly seven days I will have been playing LOTRO for a month.
I have a preliminary review of my month playing and I figured I'd post it here for the sake of posterity. There will be a short blurb about each section in this review, preceded by my personal rating system. My rating system is based on the 5 point scale, 1 is so terribad that my head might fall off, 5 is a gamergasm.
LOTRO, a free to play (With offer of three levels of subs: Free, Premium and VIP) game that has a micro transaction store. There is a lot I can say about it, even with my short stay. I will NOT be reviewing end game, as I do not have an end game player at this time.
My first day of playing LOTRO (From henceforth in this entry LOTRO will be referred to as "The Game") was in interesting day. I logged on with World of Warcraft expectations... that I would see a lot of spam, trolling, rudeness and generalized "douchebaggery". I DID see some of the horrible things that I expected, but it was few, far between and on average, shot down by the masses. I was shocked to say the least.
I digress, let us get to the numbers.
1: Storyline * * * * 4/5
The storyline is a gimmie on this game. Based on the books of Tolkien (Mostly the Lord of the Rings books, but there are subtle hints at "The Hobbit" and such) it would be hard to say the storyline is lacking. I found myself actually getting excited over meeting the heroes of the books during my adventures. The questing is fairly well done (story wise) and has a feel of "behind the scenes of the fellowship".
I give the game a 4 out of 5 on this one, some classes do not seem to have a link to the storyworld and some of the arcs given during the first 30 levels leave you scratching your head, trying to fit it all in.
2: Graphics/sounds * * * 3/5
I honestly liked the graphics in this game, the effects were well rendered and the sounds were very pleasant. do not feel this game broke any new ground from DDO (Dungeons and Dragons Online) though and it very well could have. The sounds really do immerse you into the game, from growling wolves to the rush of water. Overall, I believe this game is average in both departments, with a good start that is waiting to get hammered down.
3: Learning curve * * * * 4/5
The game has a fairly easy learning curve, a good tutorial and a decent UI. I did not find myself being lost in what to do in a fight, what to do in a quest hub, etc. There were a few UI issues that took a bit of reading to handle, but the in-game support system handled that quite easily and fast.
Bringing us to the next area of the ratings:
4: Support: * * * * * 5/5
Five out of five. I was amazed with the in-game support, the speed of the Masters replying to tickets, the player's advice channel. This game followed with all the best from DDO, and yet I felt it exceeded the pattern. When seeing support, I also checked the website's forums and help files and did not find myself wanting.
5: Roleplayability (Not a real word, but a great word): * * * * 4/5
The nice storyline, the environment and the ability to wear "cosmetic" clothing, not to mention the "frill" stuff (Pipeweed anyone?) really hit a good spot with me. I felt it would be easy to get a great story about my little avatars, explore the world and make in game friends/fellowships. There are only a few things holding this game from a full 5/5 and they would be (In no order) 1: A dedicated rp server (not just the unofficial one), bonuses for rp instead of grinding (equal to, but not exceeding) and more emotes that involve a graphical response. I know that is a lot to ask, but it would have polished the rp effect greatly.
6: Character Customization. * * * * 4/5
This is a tricky one, but with as many faces, marks and hairstyles (Facial and otherwise) I still felt like a cookie cutter version. I know, I am picky... but I would love to see an engine that can really overhaul the character. I did like the idea of cosmetic clothing slots, keeping my armor on and not showing it. It really helped the game secure the 4th star, but in the end I was left wanting "just a bit more".
7: Playerbase: * * * * 4/5
The playerbase rating is based off of two factors: The amount of players available in off-peak hours and the quality of players. There were always enough people online (day and night) to get advice, fellowship with or chew the fat. The quality of player still runs the gamut, from awesome to crappy. The awesome players stand out hard in this game, as do the crappy players. When I say player, I mean personality wise. I was never called a noob, no matter what I asked. A few "Trolls" did show up and give bad advice, or act like fools, but overall, the "Normal" and "Awesome" players made it seem much better then any other game I have played.
8: Gameplay: * * * 3/5
Ah, the nitty-gritty of any game, the MOST important thing (in my opinion) outside of the players in an MMO. This game did not fare very well, but did not suffer either. Pure average. The controls could be tighter or looser, the camera felt clunky, some glitches hampered the play, etc. There is plenty to do, plenty to see and plenty of baddies to kill.... but I just feel that overall, this game did not excel or suck... just 98.6' of bland. Do not get me wrong, the Playerbase really made this bland rating not matter as much, but in the end, I do desire more. The crafting/gathering was fine, the hobbies (I should say hobby as fishing is the only option) were decent, well thought out, but just lacked anything to set it apart from the standard.
9: Time lost: * * * * * 5/5
O.k. I have to admit it, several times this past month, I have found myself looking up from my screen and noticing that I am 4 hours late for bed. There is so much to do, so many players and so many things to see that I easily found myself watching the sun rise.
10: PVP (or PVMP) * * * 3/5
The storyline will not allow for Elves to be raiding Hobbit villages, or Dwarves laying the smack-down on mankind. Turbine did a very interesting twist on PVP, allowing a level 10 player (With standard subscription if I recall correctly) to roll a "Creep" (read: Badguy like an orc, spider etc) to kill "Freeps" (Free people, Humans, Hobbits, Dwarves/Dwarfs and Elves) with.I tinkered a bit in that, as I am not a high enough level for my Freep to go to the zone. I found it interesting, but very.... limited. The "raids" are huge, the players are competitive and the battles are nice, but it was a bit hard to progress as a creep, as there is only one safe zone, and it's a quest hub. I am sure someone else could explain it better, but I see it this way: Get ready to have a hell of a time getting a creep decked out, and keep your ears peeled for the sound of horses.
OK, time for a breakdown.
Average score of the whole game (based on my thoughts only):
3.9 Riding just above average, with a lot of room for growth.
I do recommend this game for anyone looking for a good story, good people and an overall good time.
I hope that this has been informative, and if you disagree, feel free to let me know and why, I am not the only opinion out there.