Does LOTRO have any drawbacks? Well, there are the usual stability issues that any new MMO seems to go through in its first few weeks, and I have encountered a few problems with the client on Windows Vista. Long-term, the biggest concern may be player choice. With only four races and seven classes (some of which aren’t open to all races) there is already a slight feeling that the game doesn’t offer enough variety, and only two of the classes will suit those who prefer wielding magic to swinging a sword. On the plus side, with skills, deeds, costumes and titles there is still plenty of stuff with which to differentiate your adventurer, and at least the classes and races used give the game an authentic Tolkien feel – it would have been awful had LOTRO succumbed to the regular D&D archetypes.
Overall, you can’t escape the fact that in many respects LOTRO presents a new high water mark for MMOs. Visually, it’s easily the most accomplished, marrying Vanguard’s glossy new shader effects to a production design that can match World of Warcraft’s. It even outdoes Guild Wars for vistas of pure scenic beauty. The music is stirring and fantastic, and the whole presentation is simply top notch. Above all else, however, it’s the intangibles that make LOTRO so good. It has the elusive quality that every MMO desperately needs – a real buzz – with busy servers packed full of people who are clearly having a good time. The atmosphere reminds me of the early days of WoW, with players happy to help each other out, and no shortage of happy-go-lucky heroes ready to lend a hand when the forces of darkness overwhelm a lone adventurer. Maybe the usual snobbery and guild (here kinship) one-upmanship will grow with time, but at the moment LOTRO is the freshest and most amiable MMO around.
Does that mean it’s better than WoW? Frankly, at this point it’s far too early to say. WoW has grown richer and deeper with time, and it’ll take more than a few weeks before we can say whether LOTRO has its long-term staying power. Its lack of races and classes may eventually prove telling, and nobody knows how far or how deep the experience goes. In addition, until we try its PvP option – not available until higher levels – we won’t know how it matches WoW in that sphere. For newcomers to the genre or disaffected WoW veterans, however, it’s hard to think of anything better. For me, and for the foreseeable future, this will certainly be my MMO of choice. Try it, and I’ll be surprised if you don’t come to the same decision.
An MMO that does justice to Middle Earth, and the first to get in range of matching Blizzard’s towering benchmark in the genre. Whether you’re a newbie, a Tolkien-nut or a hardened online warrior, LOTRO has what you’re looking for.