Like so much of LotR:O, the Player versus Player (PvP), is very different to other MMOs. Instead of the standard characters fighting directly against each other, Turbine has come up with a completely new way of doing things. It wouldn't fit well into the lore for us to be fighting each other; after all, we're all on the same side here. So instead, you can play a monster. Once you reach level ten, you are granted the ability to create a monster character. Players are given four choices when creating a monster character: Orc Reaver, Spider Weaver, Uruk Warleader and Warg Stalker. Each has their own place in the grand scheme of combat and play. Generally these characters can be played in a very similar way as your normal characters, e.g: deeds and quests. Instead of gaining experience as you would normally you gain Destiny Points instead. As you accumulate these points you can choose to either spend them on permanent enhancements to your monster or on temporary ones for your regular character.
The PvP part of the Monster Play comes into focus when raids are done on free people locations. In these areas you could come up against other players in their normal free people characters fighting against the monsters. This kind of PvP keeps with the story and feel of the game and is something that even someone who doesn't like traditional PvP can enjoy; on the other hand, more serious PvPers may find it a little less than satisfying.
There is more to the land of Eriador than fighting. Should you need a break from the hectic world of killing the bad guys, you can always put those looted items to good use with a bit of crafting.
LotrO crafting is split into several vocations with three skills associated with each. The following is the breakdown:
Some of the skills repeat across the different vocations, but rarely does a single vocation have all of the skills it needs to advance. A lot of the items that are needed for crafting can be found by looting corpses when you're out hunting, but others need to be harvested, e.g.: ores and woods. The collection of items for crafting from creatures and around the lands encourages exploration. It can be a lot of fun trying to get a good collection of items to master a crafting skill.
The only down side to crafting is that it isn't very complex. There is no skill in item combination to make a good item. This lack of complexity makes crafting very easy to learn (which could be seen as a bonus). Your crafting recipes will tell you exactly what you need and how many in order to create the requisite item. A definite bonus to the interface though is the lack of it being a click-fest. You can indicate that you want to make a specific number of items and then just let you character do his/her thing.
The landscape of Eriador is beautiful. As you're out exploring or hunting, you'll come across many sights and locations that have, for the developers, been a pure labour of love. Turbine has definitely taken advantage of their talented developers and artists and made a world that is visually detailed and very well put together. When you enter an area, such as the Shire, you need it to look and feel a certain way. Turbine has managed to create something that feels like the books, yet is distinctly different from the movies. Places look beautiful and have a feel about them that makes you believe you're really in Middle Earth.
Unfortunately, the lovely graphics have a down side to them; the armour skins. When you begin to play, your clothes will look atrocious. This isn't just a case of being low quality clothes like you'd normally expect; rather, it looks like the models just weren't given a lot of time and attention. The clothes models do begin to benefit from some better detail and design at the higher levels, but it can be a bit disappointing for quite some time if you're someone who likes their character to look a certain way.
Where would we be with lovely graphics if there weren't some good sound to go with it? Turbine certainly has not skimped on the ambient sound for Lord of the Rings Online. All of the ambient music has been composed and created in-house by Turbine themselves. Alongside the wonderful landscape graphics the sound helps to make the land of Middle Earth spring to life right before your eyes and ears.
There is a down side to the sound though, and like a lot of MMOs, that down side comes during combat. The sounds you, your mates and the creatures make during combat aren't exactly bad, but they certainly aren't very interesting. There is little variation and they quickly become repetitive.
Customer support is split between the two server sets. Turbine handles the US servers, while Codemasters and Alchemic Dream handle the EU support.
I found the Turbine support to be generally good, while the Alchemic Dream support can sometimes be inconsistent. Both are better than the support in some other MMOs, but neither makes me want to write home raving.
Turbine has obviously put their hearts and souls into the adaptation of a classic piece of modern literature into an MMORPG. I think that they have, so far, done a good job of creating something that many players can love and enjoy. With additional developments just over the horizon, I'm sure they will come up with even more.
Personally, I think everyone should try this game out at least once.
*All scores are representative of North American client gameplay only.