Sitting comfortably in my mid 30’s I would like to think that I have grown into a mature adult that has a pretty good grip on, who I am, what I like and especially what I don’t like. So imagine the frustration when I find myself enjoying an MMO, which on closer inspection should be struck off my list of potential games. I am not even sure why I am writing this blog but I have a sneaking suspicion it’s a way for me to explore the reasons why I am enjoying a game that on paper shouldn’t even be allowed near my rig.
The game I am talking about is Lord of the Rings Online. Before all the fanbois begin battering down my door screaming for my heathen blood, just bear with me!
Over the past 25 years I have come to the realisation that I prefer Sci-Fi over Fantasy, love PvP and steer clear of PvE, I need a complex combat and crafting system, much prefer Sandbox over the traditional model, hate cartoon graphics and yes I admit, I attend pixel whores anonymous. If a game doesn’t have pixels to die for then I am ashamed to admit that I pretty much click ‘start menu’, ‘my computer’, ‘add / remove’ programs and kill the mother where it stands. I even run the antivirus to make sure the bastard is gone. Consider me a snob but I don’t spend thousands of pounds on a PC that can run 3 small countries just to play a crappy graphic engine fast. If I feel like retro then I can always fire up the Wii.
Looking at LotRO it’s a PvE centric game with virtually zero sandbox elements, has no PvP (yes I know there is monster combat… but seriously?), has very nice graphics but it is borderline cartoonish with bold coloured scenery. To top it all off the combat is clunky and I can play the whole game using one hand. So why would a game with the exact opposite of everything I want, grab my attention so much? I wish I had the answer…
What I do like about the game is the deed and trait engine with the epic storyline running in the background. I feel that most games suffer the long dry barren wasteland known as levelling and all of us have been there way too much. Codemasters has been clever with this game by adding in little wins along the way. For those that are not aware of the deed system, in short you can complete deeds throughout middle earth and once finished you are awarded a new title and trait, this can be equipped to give you bonus’s in different categories. The epic storyline idea is not unique as I have also seen it in Age of Conan. However in LotRO you can participate in the epic storyline a lot as opposed to AoC where you can only interact at certain levels. So I admit, there has been some clever programming going on and even though LotRO suffers from fatigue like all games, it does have enough routes that a gamer can follow to keep things lively. The next big win for me is the grouping. I would consider myself a hardcore gamer who plays casually…a demanding real life will do that to a guy, sadly gaming comes under the ‘non essential’ activities when organising a family and career. Unfortunately some great games have fallen victim to this (EVE Online I am looking at you) and I find myself measuring my gaming time in 30 minute slots. Shed a tear for a fallen gamer…
I am sure a lot of people can relate to my biggest issue with MMO’s, which is completing the group missions. Most firms develop group missions that need a freaking camp over and intravenous drip pumping coffee into your veins just so you can make it through. Not to mention the hours standing around screaming, “lvl 50 Cleric LFG, you know you want me!!” You then have to deal with players asking idiotic questions like, “do you have a healer? I’m a tank but don’t want to tank is that ok? Can I just do the first part? Is 30 min enough to do it? About to have dinner can you wait?” etc… you kidding? Why don’t you just come here so I can stick my epic + 40 morale sword through your skull!
In almost every MMO I feel that I am missing out on the best parts since I don’t have a time pit that I can sink half a day into. It bugs me and I am not suggesting companies change their entire methodology to suit me but Codemasters has almost cracked it. When I first started LotRO I ignored group missions as I expected them to be epic with multiple levels. However over the past week or so I noticed that nearly all group missions can be done within 10-20 minutes, even the epic storyline ones. What this means is that players are more willing to quickly join up and even jump in for the ride.
To top it all off the game still has a very healthy population with crafting and trade being an integral part of the community. However a friend of mine did leave after his trial because he didn’t like the idea of trading for components to finish an item, I think he misunderstood the word ‘community’. *smacks forehead*
LotRO probably won’t live with me for years to come but it has certainly taught me a very valuable lesson. No matter how much you think you know the gamer within you, there are always exceptions. So I for one will now hesitate before saying I will never play a game purely based on its features. If you are reading this and are currently stuck in gaming limbo, maybe trial an older game or two and you might just find an unlikely MMO grabbing your attention. If you do let us know!