The Lord Of The Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar
Lord Of The Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar is a game that has been in development quite some time. It was announced back in 1998 by Sierra-Online but due to financial troubles it was put on hold until Turbine in 2003 took over. They continued development and made a truly magnificent game.
With “Lord of the Rings” people immediately think of the movies but those that have read the books know that the movies only tell the main core of the bigger story. Many areas mentioned in the book are never heard of, let alone shown in the movies.
Lord Of The Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar plays in the Middle-Earth as it’s described in the books of Tolkien, a world filled with mystical creatures, brave men, elegant elves, burlesque dwarves, greedy hobbits and rancid monsters, huge cities, little farm villages, dark woods and breath-taking landscapes.
Next to all those little details like surroundings and races, you also get in touch with the actual story, the faith of Frodo and his homies. This contact was shaped in the form of Epic Quests, quests that are part of the great adventure we know from the movies and that are given to you by main characters like Aragorn and the others. When you successfully complete these you will make it easier for them to destroy the ring. All these special assignments have a link with the epic adventure from the books but also with the story of the game itself, the liberation of the Witch King of Angmar. After finishing these epic quests you’ll almost always get to see a short movie that clarifies your part in this great adventure and adds even more atmosphere.
Next to the Epic Quests there are of course also the usual bunch that can be received from NPC’s. Both types are also divided into categories like those for Fellowships (parties), others that you can repeat over and over again to earn money, those where you need to transport an item, … These quests of course also improve your character.
As player you’re part of “The Free People”, a group consisting of four races: man, elves, dwarves and hobbits. Each race has its own starting area and classies. The different roles you can take on are Hunter, Guardian, Champion, Captain, Loremaster, Minstrel and Burglar. These are pretty consistent with the usual classes from other MMO’s.
Everything sounds pretty familiar up to now except for the Epic Quests. That things don’t sound so extremely new is normal seeing that these are standard things for an MMORPG but there’s one game that has more things the same than any other with this title: World of Warcraft. Those that have played this topgame from Blizzard will quickly find their way in LOTRO. The map works in the same way, there’s also an Auction Hall (Auction House in WoW) and weapons and armor are bound to you, again like in WoW. Also the party and raid system are equal.
An important part of a MMORPG is the PvP aspect and again we see similarities with World of Warcraft. You can just duel with other players in The Free World, but there’s also Monster Play which I’ll elaborate on later. Now don’t start thinking this is just a copy of Blizzard’s hit, there are more than enough new elements that make this game more than worth checking out.
“What is new?” That’s of course the question and the answer is: quite a lot really. There’s the possibility to trvel on a horse where in a game like WoW you have to wait the whole ride until you arrive. This has its charm but after a while you’ve seen it and want to have things moving a bit faster. LOTRO has found a solution called “Swift Travel” with which you teleport yourself to any chosen location (teleporting is a big word actually, you get to see yourself leaving on a horse and after a loading screen see yourself arriving on that same animal).
Another improvement are Deeds. When you undertake certain actions in a certain area you get a Deed in your Deeds list. Examples of such are completing a certain number of quests, killing a number of animals or finding certain locations. These nice additions are bound by area and as such you’ve got them for Bree, The Shire, and so on… Next to area deeds there are also some bound to your race or class.
When you successfully do your Deeds you’ll either get a trait or a title. A trait can be seen as a talent from WoW, stuff that improves your character but usually you won’t be able to immediately use it. First you’ll have to go to a Minstrel where you can select your improvements at a certain price. The titles on the other hand are nothing more than some fun stuff to add after your name.
Another nice addition to the immersion is the possibility to play music. Indeed, play music yourself. You can acquire an instrument at the minstrel and then play your own version of the theme song of The A-Team in the middle of Bree-city. Work yourself up to become the pop idol of Middle-Earth and earn tons of… respect?
Also the crafting gor improved. Every crafter needs another profession to get higher up in his ability. The advantages of improving yourself are huge so it’s really worth doing. You can do critical crafting when you’re at the highest level and make more materials from one recipe than was prescribed. For instance, you can make a block of bronze from some tin and copper but when critical crafting you’ll be able to get six of them instead of one. More efficient!
As last important element there’s Monster Play that I already mentioned previously. Here you go fighting in an area around Angmar. You can choose on which side you want to play, you’re a monster or a normal character. Your usual char can be upgraded while playing but a monster needs to be improved by spending destiny points on the skills of it. These are earned by levelling up or by killing other players in Monster Play. The whole principle of this PvP mode is based on controlling as many points as possible for your camp and sounds a lot like controlling the flags in Battlefield.
All these extras and innovations makes this game some sort of improved World of Warcraft. Better graphics, better sound, but most important better gameplay. Everything is set up that tidbit more logically and you’re really rewarded for things you would just have to do in other MMO’s because you have to. The game plays really fluid and very intuitive which makes it a real joy to occupy yourself.
Forget World of Warcraft, the competition has arrived and overclasses completely. The fun innovations, smoother gameplay, better graphics and filmic feel makes this game a huge success. Buy it… that’s all I have to say.