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World of Warcraft Column: Fighting Talk: LoTRO vs. WoW

By Adam Tingle on August 26, 2010

Today dear reader, you and I, will delve into dangerous territories and examine just which is the better, Lord of the Rings Online or World of Warcraft. Grab a stiff drink of whisky, unhinge your jaw in preparation for horror, and try not to scream to loudly. This article is what the edge of your seat was made for. Nothing is left to say except gather round, chant “fight” in a low hum and try not to get too scared. Let’s get ready to ruuuuuuuuuumble!

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In the red corner

World of the Warcraft is a game that since inception has captivated audiences worldwide. Boasting a massive subscriber base of 11 million, Blizzard’s game garners praise and criticism in equal measure. Some say it is too easy, too shallow and too child friendly; others say that it has revolutionized a genre and surpassed everything that has gone before. Six years old and showing no signs of slowing down, the reigning champion of the MMORPG is going to be a tough challenge for any contender.

In the blue corner

Lord of the Rings Online realizes the dream of virtually exploring through the world of J.R.R. Tolkien’s imagination. Developed by Turbine, this is a game which builds on the studio’s previous success and delivers not only great MMORPG gameplay but adventure to boot. With a “F2P” program coming through in the pipeline, LotRO’s sparkling veneer and stylish delivery may just cause a few moments of worry to competitors. Tough competition is a foot in the form of WoW, but the Middle-Earth is more than ready for the challenge.

Both games will be scored out of ten in a number of categories. The highest scoring will be deemed the winner. I can feel the excitement and hate mail already...


Game World

Originally conceived in the isometric viewpoint, Azeroth is as charming as it is expansive. With the use of one gryphon ride, players can travel from arctic tundra to volcanic dominions and further to woodland delights. The sheer variety on offer to the player is a major positive for World of Warcraft. The climb to the level cap can be undertaken in numerous locations and all areas will hold a special place in your heart. From Westfall to Arathi Highlands, World of Warcraft fills the player with immersive glee and the expansive lands afforded by the developers are a joy to behold. Cities are sprawling testimonies to Blizzards creativity and my only criticism would be a lack of Towns rather than cut-and-paste style villages.9/10

If you have eyes or indeed the ability to read, chances are you have already found love within Middle-Earth. The lands of Tolkien are expansive, varied and full with excitement. Turbine does a great job of realizing these dreams as the lands Eriador illuminates lustfully around your eyes. Towns and other settlements stay true to the lore and with dozens of expansive areas to explore; you will never find yourself without adventure. My major issue here though is that Turbine was perhaps a little unambitious with the license they have. In the novel and film, a trek from The Shire to Combe was said to have taken weeks, in-game it will possibly take about 15 minutes. I am not saying that the developer should make the game impossibly expansive but I would expect that the Old Forest would be more than a linear woodland path. 8/10


Player Character

Will you choose Orc, Human, Elf or Dwarf? The choices of race, class and customization are endless within WoW. Each character has a distinctive area assigned to them and you will find yourself trying out every possible option. Within World of Warcraft there are a number of classes on offer, all which can be customized with the talent tree and the player can really impart a sense of identity. Blizzard’s game is all about choice and ultimately, this is what I want in an MMORPG. My only concern with the player character with the game is that certain avatars can look a little cartoonish and for instance, the human race runs like a fool. While still excellent within class and customization, as the game ages, the character models look a little tired, animations are becoming a little stiffer and the whole package suffers a little. 7/10

While there aren’t as many choices in race or class throughout Lord of the Rings Online, Turbine makes up for this with variety and fun of play. The four races on offer have distinctive opening areas and each avatar looks excellently animated and crafted. There is nothing like equipping a new bow, staff or sword and marveling at how badass you now look. Each class plays differently and while the choices are slimmer, the sheer distinction of each option makes for some amazing gameplay. With better looking avatars and some bold decision with classes, Lord of the Rings Online takes the biscuit here. Rolling a minstrel has never been so much fun. 9/10


New Player Experience

The world of Azeroth is an exciting and varied place to venture. World of Warcraft’s new player experience is simply exemplary. With a number of different areas, and indeed factions, in which to start, the game adds replayability and sense of freshness with every new attempt at that mountain titled “level 80”. A once revolutionary quest system guides a player without ever blatantly explaining the mechanics of the game and the whole affair just screams immersion. With the game nearing six years in age, certain beginning zones are feeling a little tired but Blizzard is attempting to fix this with an upcoming expansion. Overall WoW’s new player experience is excellent and looks set to carry on in a similar trend. Parting comments? Try telling me a small part of you didn’t fall in love with the game when first approaching Goldshire. I didn’t think so. 9/10

Turbine took a bold direction with their opening experiences in Middle-Earth and it paid off. Rather than throwing a player into an aimless adventure of their own, LotRO opens with exciting plot-lines for all races and this really involves the player. Quests and progression impacts on starting zones and the sheer beauty of certain areas can be overwhelming at times. My only criticism here is that with no opposing faction and with only four races, choices can be a little slim in recapturing that first experience. Beginning zones melt away around level 20 and all races are funneled into the same places. New players will marvel at the sights the first time round and the storylines will keep you involved far more than any WoW quest- it is a real shame this cannot last into further characters. 8/10


Solo Play

World of Warcraft is the game that invented the solo experience in my eyes. With imaginative quests and a difficulty level that won’t see you waiting for hours spamming “Healer PLZ” WoW is the king of the lone adventure. It is possible to never interact with another soul during World of Warcraft on your way to the level cap. The game imparts a sense of independence to the lone wolf class of player, with most in-zone group quests disappearing, World of Warcraft is a friend to the solo experience and to be honest, nobody does it quite as good. 10/10

Journeying throughout Middle-Earth without a companion is entirely possible but difficult at times. Lord of the Rings Online is a game that thrives within group culture and certain quests throughout zones cannot be attempted without aid. These quests can lead to frustration and when nobody is about, a lengthy grind of assorted beasts as you try to navigate this obstacle. Good but not entirely solo-friendly, Turbines game doesn’t quite hit the mark but then again, why would you want to play an MMORPG alone? 7/10

Group Play

Instances, Instances and more instances. World of Warcraft’s approach to the grouping system, amounts to nothing more than jaunts through theme-park style dungeons. Players do not even have to physically muster a group together anymore either, the game does this for you, and while infinitely helpful, I cannot help but feel something is lost here. Running instances with strangers can be jolly occasions or can be fraught with “newbs” and “OMG” spams. While World of Warcraft certainly makes it easy to indulge in group-play, it fails to deliver the experience of adventuring throughout the world with others.5/10

Group Play is certainly Lord of the Rings Online’s time to shine. Turbine offers group questing, instances and all manner of adventure for the companion ridden player. The world is usually as wash with “Looking for fellowship” and it really brings back that old-school experience of excitement. Quests throughout the zones offer challenges for groups and instances can be devilishly tricky if not handled with patience and attention. This is a game that thrives while playing with others and truly captures that MMORPG feel. Excellent all round. 10/10


End Game

Now we come to the end game, possibly my least favorite category. In World of Warcraft, upon reaching level 80, the player is awash with choices. The battlegrounds provide adequate challenge, instances and quests offer up some of the games more spectacular sights but the real contender here are the raids on offer. Offering 25 man excursions, WoW’s end game is not just opened to a few hardcore guilds and players. The end game within in Blizzard’s creation is all inclusive; just make sure you adore collecting loot and gear.9/10

As Lord of the Rings Online progresses through its grand storyline it is difficult to see how Turbine handles their end game content. While we cannot battle Sauron or some of the major enemies as of yet, the raids and various quests and instances are challenging and fun. Everything is not as well put together as WoW is and this element is a little more closed off to a general audience. Good but not quite up to standard. 6/10

PvP

Player versus Player is an element in World of Warcraft that polarizes audiences. You either love dueling in Goldshire and engaging Battlegrounds or you hate it. The battlegrounds give you simple fun objectives and games such as capture the flag give a real change of pace to the game. With the most recent expansion, PvP can be undertaken in persistent zones and with the two opposing factions warring against one another, and who doesn’t enjoy some PK’ing? Exciting and enjoyable but at times it can all feel a bit frantic and for me personally, just how does one get good at a game that doesn’t involve twitch-reflexes and uses a linear class and level system? 9/10

The Player versus Player in Lord of the Rings Online is a damp squib. Monster Play offers players to face off against one another but to be frank, it is criminally underplayed and most people aren’t in Middle-Earth to hurt their fellow man. PvP seems a little bit of a non entity in LotRO, this doesn’t bother me too much but for some people this can be a real game breaker. 4/10


Community

In MMORPG land, community is key. World of Warcraft again divides audience with its incessant Chuck Norris gags, duel requests and the general maturity of the populace. While this is the stereotype my experiences with WoW were not exactly like this. I have met mature and immature players, some have annoyed and some have charmed, this is the case of any MMORPG. The constant duel requests however do drive me to murderous rage. My major issue with Blizzard’s game is that the older it gets, the more the developer seems to drive away the community and social aspect of the game. With in-game friend lists that span other games and Facebook pages, the whole community side of things seems to be a little difficult to get into these days. Still good in some places but the community lacks a little early sparkle. 5/10

Within Lord of the Rings Online, socializing is important. Groups are found through the LFF channel mostly and trade is commonly conducted throughout shouts and yells. The community here thrives simply because Turbine has left the game alone mostly. There are no shortcuts for groups or meeting people, waiting around is just one of those staple aspects of many MMORPG’s. Guilds are friendly and role-playing is rife within the community, Middle-Earth is a nice place to enjoy pipe weed and good banter. 9/10


The Results

World of Warcraft 63  -  Lord of the Rings Online 61

Blizzard’s game wins by a slim margin of two points. World of Warcraft’s strong gameplay and great design make it ever so slightly better than Lord of the Rings Online. While WoW fans have cause for celebration now, do not take LotRO lightly; with a few more expansions and one or two advancements, Turbines’ game will be a world beater that’s for sure.

Adam Tingle / Freelancer for MMORPG.com, 360 Gamer Magazine, and Play Magazine.

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