Many moons ago it was announced that Peter Jackson was going to start work on bringing the Lord of the Rings trilogy to cinema screens, I was cynical. I could not see how the books could work as a film. I was wrong. The films were well received by all and are remarkably enjoyable. When it was announced that there was to be a Lord of the Rings MMO, I was cynical. Yet again I was wrong.
Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar, gives players the opportunity to play as Hobbit, Human, Elf or Dwarf in an adventure throughout the lands of Middle Earth. Now Iím going to be upfront from the start, the game has a lot in common with World of Warcraft. This isnít a bad thing and it certainly doesnít feel like plagiarism. Many of the features found in World of Warcraft itself were borrowed from other games so fans of WoW shouldnít cry foul. The game is not a WoW clone though, it stands on its own merits.
Graphically the game is a bit or a treat. The landscapes are impressive as is character detail. In performance terms the game compares favourably to other recent MMO releases. I currently have the game set to low graphics settings (on an 18 month old laptop) and Iím not disappointed at all, in fact if I was willing to sacrifice a small amount of frame rate I could play closer to medium. Players with a mid range PC will be able to enjoy this game though like most games those with a low end machine will probably not be able to play.
The sound in the game is impressive for a number of reasons. Firstly, the sound sums up the feel of middle earth. Upbeat pipe music in the shire and more sombre tones in the more oppressive and derelict areas of the land. The one feature that is worthy of mention is player created music. Buy a skill to play an instrument and purchase the instrument and you can play your own music in game. This is done by pressing the number keys on your keyboard. One of the more amusing moments Iíve had in the game is getting ready to fight a boss while a guy next to me played Sweet Child of Mine on his lute.
Gameplay is fairly standard for an MMO. You create a character and gain experience points for killing creatures or completing quests. Experience points increase the characters level giving them access to more skills, weapons and armour. In terms of quests there are a lot to choose from and they are very different in type. Collecting items, killing certain creature types, crafting items, delivering items, escort missions and many more are included. The vast number of quests means that there is very little grind required as compared to some other games. Though if you do like grind then there is a feature that will cheer you up. Each game area has a number of deeds that can be completed, for example killing wolves, kill so many and you get given a title that can be displayed alongside your name. Continue killing them and you will be given a trait that can be applied to your character, improving his or her stats. Skill progression works similarly, use a skill or skill type enough times and you will be given a trait. A character can only equip a limited number of traits and so trait management is one way in which characters of the same class will develop in different ways.