I hate to start with the game's low point, but you might as well see the worst first. LotRO's visuals are bland and uninteresting and definitely don't do the world of Tolkien justice. From the zones to the character models to the clothes, any kind of stylization is almost completely absent. Even Turbine store-bought attire is about on the level of standard gear from other MMOs. The weapons, too, are underwhelming, coming in three varieties: boring, too skinny, and way too big.
The user interface doesn't make it any better. It looks primitive and unprofessional, as do the little skill pictures the populate it. The map of Middle-earth follows this trend of dullness and datedness.
Not much to say here. If you played Everquest 2 or World of Warcraft, then playing LotRO should come almost automatically. You start the auto-attack and then rapidly mash your combat skills. A few classes, like the Warden and Runekeeper, employ addition systems, like the Warden's combos and the Runekeeper's attunement.
One of the more interesting elements of gameplay is the Skirmish, a sort of soloable dungeon that you can set up at any time. Players attempting skirmishes are joined by their soldier, a useful sidekick who can heal your character or beat up your enemies, depending on how you choose to spec him. Skirmishes scale to whatever level you please.
Beyond skirmishes, there isn't much new going on in the world of Middle-earth. The PvP system is interesting; Monster play allows players to jump right into the battle as an orc, spider, warg and more. Besides skirmishes and Monster play, there isn't much to say.
In nearly 10 months of playing LotRO, I haven't encountered a single serious bug. The detailed world of Middle-earth runs like clockwork, complete with excellent sound and carefully orchestrated events populating the epic story. Every class works exactly as it should and so does every quest.
This game takes a long time. There really is so much to do. With two starting zones, four racial homelands and plenty of epic story to go around, it hard not to become an altoholic. The classes, although not particularly exciting, are different enough from each other to make mastering each class a challenge. Scaling dungeons and skirmishes mean you've always got an instance to run with your friends.
I think it's also fair to mention that LotRO is supposedly 30,000 sq. miles total, making it the largest MMO and the second largest game of all time. This is not counting games set in space.
One of the truly high points of the game. LotRO really does feel like a family, with remarkably few trolls and imbeciles cluttering the chat channels. Guilds (or "kinships") truly form the backbone of the very laid-back community. And when I say laid-back, I mean it. Dungeons runs often don't feature any coherent form of the holy trinity, and no one seems to care. Players twenty levels above the rest of their party gladly run dungeons.
There is one bad spot in the community, however: the Lore Wars. Especially on the game forums, a nonstop debate about what is acceptable by Tolkien lore and whether lore even matters rages furiously, and between those you think the Runekeeper is as bad the NGE and those who thinks they should be able to play a necromancers, there isn't much of a middle ground.
LotRO isn't really free-to-play as much as freemium, and the system works very well. If you pick the right bonus TP weekends and sales, you can easily get through the whole game with a hundred bucks. Or you can pay the standard pay-to-play fee. Even with no money down, you can reach the mid-30s without the available content narrowing down.
| Massive game world
Unique Middle-earth setting
Some innovative classes
| Limited PvP
Wolves. And more wolves. And even more wolves.
Some dull classes