After two weeks of sporadic playing of Lord of the Rings Online (lotro), I have begun calling it the “grown up” MMO; the adult to World of Warcraft’s teenager. This is because of three main things; requiring some work/thought from the player, the sense of mystery it retains, and the look and feel of the game.
Let’s start with games requiring a bit of work.
When I first started playing EQ things like quest logs, in game maps, and not having to wait between every fight would have been heavenly. But as the trend in games has been to make things easier I have found that I am starting to think things are getting to easy. What I mean by too easy is faster leveling, faster fights, faster travel, less thinking about where to go and what to do when you get their and providing data that some players can access but others can not.
For me as this continues to happen, I find less of a connections to the world and my character, since all of these “features” allow me to not pay as close of attention to things. Also there is a bit of peer pressure involved in simply reaching “the end” and optimizing stats. All of this makes me a bit sad, because I enjoy the “story” and want an emotional attachment to my character and the adventures he embarks upon.
Lotro stands out to me because it does not tell you exactly where to go, yes there is a lot of running, yes there is a lot of reading, yes their is some “grinding”, but right now it feels like just the right work for me. This level of work forces me to “slow” down a bit, explore the world and my character’s abilities, and when I do complete something I to enjoy the rewards. And yes, I admit that might change as I continue to play.
Second, and tied to the “more work” part, is how lotro retains a sense of mystery for me. Again I admit if I ever spent as much time in lotro as I have in wow I suspect my thoughts will change since much of the mystery will be stripped away.
For now though, the game mechanics are still a mystery for me, as well as the world, quests, monsters, and story. While small part of me wants the overland map to look more like this one , and a dot marking where I should go, the rest of me loves the fact that the map looks like this and I have to read the quest test and find locations on my own!
Third, the look and feel of the game. Lotro’s landscapes are quite a sight, thus far the capture what I imagine middle earth to look like to an amazing degree. The character models and animation match the look of the landscape and are not a distraction. The gear used by players and NPCs also fits nicely, it is not crazy over the top, but captivating enough to reward me. And finally the UI; it matches the style of the game, and presents information without a lot of clutter. All these things work to present the player a world that is more mature than some other games, and I like that.
Of course as I started thinking about writing this up, Turbine released the first set of patch notes for the next lotro update. This update has some items that a designed to make the game easier, and I am not sure such changes are needed. But I guess they have to appeal to where the money is, which I guess is in players that I tired of having to as work hard to get through the game.