The Lord of the Rings Online went free-to-play (freemium) some time back and a friend recently suggested that I might like it. I’ve not played any MMORPGs apart from a brief flirt with Flyff a long time ago, so I wasn’t sure what I was expecting going in, but my last week and a half have vanished into a blur of questing 🙂
The install process is a bit long; you download a small installer, which then downloads (slowly) and installs 8Gb of files, then you run the launcher and it patches your game (why aren’t the current game files in the original install?), then you finally log-in to a game server and create a character (all in all it took about 5 hours!).
As with most current MMOs they are designed with pretty low system requirements to allow older PCs to still be able to play, but LotRO also supports some DirectX 10 and 11 rendering techniques (for water and shadows, etc) that make the world look much more beautiful when turned on. After heavily tweaking the settings, and going key-blind over the many, many keyboard shortcut options, I finally head out in the starter zone.
The starter zone begins with an ‘instance’ that leads you through the basics of controlling your character with a dramatic story-driven tutorial. These instances are race-specific and you will meet a significant character from the book (Humans meet Strider, Elves and Dwarves meet Elrond, etc). These Epic instances often link to important parts of the book, such as later in the Human Epic quest line visiting Tom Bombadil in the Old Forest and Weathertop.
You then move on to more general quests in low-level areas, with early quests gaining you your starting armour and weapons, crafting skills (and tutorials on how to craft), introducing the various trainers and suppliers you will need to interact with, etc. A lot of low-level quests are ‘fetch and carry’; go to person A, person A sends you to person B, person B gives you an item to deliver back to person A, or ‘harvest’; person A sends you to kill creature X until you collect Y item drops, return them to person A, etc. There are also Deeds, race, class, and area specific usually involving killing or collecting a certain amount of things, visiting all of the areas within a region, using specific skills a number of times, etc. There are even region-specific Tasks that you can perform, usually collecting x amount of ‘trophies’ which are specific drops from creatures.
You gain Turbine Points for some of this that can be used in the game store to buy some of the many, many things available (such as removing the 2 gold cap on free-to-play players), there is even a tutorial quest that shows you how that works 🙂
My first forays I played with a friend who was starting his fifth character. I felt a little out of my depth, because he knew where to go, etc, and I felt like I was just trailing round after him without much time to read the quest text, of which there isn’t a huge amount but it is relatively well written. I started an ‘Alt’ character to act as a gatherer for me, each craft relies on at least one other to supply crafting materials and I wanted to be able to stop asking my higher-level friends to gather low-level materials for me. I took my time with my Alt, reading all of the quest text, taking my time exploring new areas, etc. I would suggest new players play to somewhere between level 10 and 15 before joining up with more experienced players, although temporary fellowships (grouping) with similar beginners could be beneficial.
The quests gradually lead you into higher and higher level areas so there is always a challenge, and there are many, many quests to undertake.
I now have a character at level 25 yet still have much more to explore having only really visited 3 of the 16 major regions. There is still much more of the game for me to experience, I’ve only tried a few Instances (some are tough challenges, solo and group), I’ve barely started with Skirmishes (battle instances) and I’ve not participated in a Raid (group instances) yet.
Now, I’m off to explore. More later…