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Hands On: First 10 Levels

Dana Massey Posted:
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Lord of the Rings Online: Hands-On, First 10 Levels (Page 3 of 3)

On the downside, the monsters did have a bit of a petting zoo feel to them. It was rather easy to solo, which is good, but it also took away some emotional impact when I could simply sneak into a goblin camp during one quest, draw out a single goblin and kill him on the field. It's the oldest trick in the MMO book and perhaps a necessary evil, but it still stings to see it in each progressive generation of games. In that respect, the gameplay experience has not evolved since Dark Age of Camelot.

While the petting zoo feeling was disappointing, it is hard to fault Turbine for doing what almost every MMO on Earth has ever done. Plus, Turbine did a much better job of placing these pens and making sure players were never forced to spend so long in one wing that it bored them. Idealistically, I'd hoped things would be different, but given no one has yet presented a better way of doing things, perhaps that was a bit naive.

The Burglar
The name implies theft, but really, the Burglar is the archetype of Bilbo Baggins of The Hobbit fame. In MMO terms, he's a rogue. In the early levels, I was a lightly armored warrior, but very quickly, the game gave me skills that felt rogueish. Soon, I was throwing knives to draw things in, or sneaking up behind to do a vicious backstab. At level ten, I even got a skill called Riddle. This skill allowed me to riddle an "intelligent" monster (no riddles for dogs and spiders) and confuse them. It's a weird twist on a typical stun or taunt and one of those deft touches that makes this game feel so much like Lord of the Rings.

Another neat thing was that I soloed my Burglar all the way to level ten. That's not usually possible for what most would normally call a support class. True, many of his skills were geared towards groups, but I often found ways to use them by myself as well. I greatly enjoyed the freedom to level up as I chose to.

Sneaking is the strength of this class. Like most MMOs, stealth is a skill that, once activated, turns the character translucent and invisible to monsters. If I went too close, they'd detect and attack me, but if I was careful, I could get close enough to do a high damage backstab and start the fight in my favor. It may have been my imagination, but I also found that I was much less likely to be detected when I snuck up from behind. These touches really added a lot to the class and made me feel like quite the accomplished rogue.

Back to the real world
Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar offers a wealth of other features, such as their PvP solution "monster play", group combo attacks, epic armor and a story parallel to the Fellowship itself that has players warding off the evil kingdom of Agnmar. Most these things I did not get to see myself and will be covered in future previews.

I traveled to San Francisco as an extreme skeptic. Honestly, I'd never been that impressed by what I'd seen and heard of Lord of the Rings Online. Once there, I was pleasantly surprised. The game is extremely polished and quickly sucks players into a world where time has no meaning. Is it innovative? Not really, but neither was World of Warcraft. Turbine has done a magnificent job of making a polished and content-laden MMO experience in a setting no one can stand up to.

Turbine has made a few of these things to admittedly mixed reviews. Asheron's Call inspired many of the MMOs out today, but Asheron's Call 2 died a painfully public death. Dungeons and Dragons Online proved they could do a modern MMORPG, but the reviews have been at best mixed. Now, with Lord of the Rings Online, they may have finally nailed it... at least in the first ten levels!

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Dana Massey