Monday, August 06, 2007

LoTRO Journal: 8.06.2007

Last week the friend of mine that originally got me into the Lord of the Rings Online informed me that he too was returning to the World of Warcraft. Thus it has come to pass that every single person I know that went to LoTRO from WoW has returned. His complaints about LoTRO as well as the complaints from my other friends that left all got me to thinking about what it is that WoW has the LoTRO doesn’t. It has been gnawing on me for some time as well. I have been enjoying my time in LoTRO and will not be returning to WoW since I’ve really done all I care to in the game. WoW is a great game, but the fun for me runs out quickly once I reach a level cap.

So what is it about LoTRO that is different? Most of the complaints I have heard thus far have to do with the level of refinement in LotRO verses WoW. WoW is a very polished game. At this point, most of the stuff in the game happens because that’s exactly what Blizz wants to happen. The look of things, the way a combat animation appears, what happens when character x interrupts ability y to do action z and so forth. LotRO has a number of things that, while not broken in an I’ll-quit-the-game-if-it’s-not-fixed way, are not right.

Take the number of stackable debuffs on guardians, for example. Animals can wound a guardian such that they cannot block, evade or parry blows. Blocking and parrying attacks open up reactionary attacks for a guardian. Remove those, and a guardian can only use a handful of low-damage attacks and auto-attacks. Add to that the relative expense of leveling a guardian and it has become an undesirable class for many people to play. My burglar can also get hit with all three debuffs but I really don’t care much since all my abilities would still be available, I’d just take more damage for a bit.

There are some map / image oddities. For example, last night I was swimming around in the lake in Evendim (with my burglar where there’s a bug that if you swim stealthed you actually move at running speed – yet another glitch). Near the fortress at the southern end of the lake, I noticed a giant seam down the middle of the lake. The waves on one side are moving out of synch with the waves on the other side. Some things seem out of place, like the large statue of a king on the Kingspan in Evendim. It took away from the epic feel of the place to see something I could make out of Lego blocks.

Mob placement issues abound. Using a mount is next to worthless in some areas due to the presence of stealth mobs that can unhorse you in a single hit. Too many of these mobs are actually on the roads. There’s another glitch with swarms of locusts following players out of the farm areas in Evendim and all over the map until the player kills them or the guards pick them off. Even then, there are ways into town without passing any guards, so there are random clumps of locusts in some spots or piles of dead ones lying around town.

Quests are inadequately or inconsistently labeled. I have easily soloed some quests labeled group quests and have needed a full group for others that I could supposedly do solo. The sheer number of group quests is a problem too. Many players want to create an level one character, so if they advance along with the rest of the server, they can do all the quests. New people or those that roll a lot of alts, such as myself, tend to have to abandon the group quests because there’s not enough people around to bother with them.

In summary, LotRO’s problems aren’t one huge, game-breaking thing. It’s more like a death of a thousand cuts. Each little problem or bug makes the game less fun and more frustrating to the point where people are walking away to more polished games like WoW. The good news is that LotRO is still young. WoW has been around for two-and-a-half years now. I believe it’s DAoC that has been around for ten? (Or maybe I’m thinking of Ultima Online?) There are still people playing Everquest one. LotRO is only a couple months old, post-beta. They will fix or change things for the better including the anomalies and content issues. Expansions are in the works. LotRO will improve.

The question is will Turbine manage to implement the fixes before they lose too many people? I suspect that the really trying time for LotRO will be when the Age of Conan and Warhammer Online come out. There are still a lot of WoW refugees in LotRO – people that got tired of WoW and may be willing to try anything new to find their next game to play. If the problems with LotRO persist, they may be tempted to make a permanent move to another game.

I have high hopes that LotRO will pull out of the problems and make as a great and as engaging a game as WoW or EQ or CoH. Time will tell.

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