Second LotRO thoughts

I haven’t hit the limits of the open beta for the Lord of the Rings Online game, but I have had a chance to play around a bit more, so it’s time for a few more thoughts on the game. Again, there will be a handful of comparisons with Warcraft just because that’s my other game of choice so it’s what I have to compare it to.

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Immersion: A couple of days ago I said:”I do find that LotRO “feels” more like a video game than an immersive world to me, at least compared to WoW. It took me a little time to put together why, but I think it’s because WoW’s graphics look like artwork, so it’s not too much different than watching an animated movie. Whereas LotRO’s graphics look like computer-generated graphics to me.” Allow me to now expand on that and clarify a bit.

Now that I’m not quite as overwhelmed by all the information coming at me and can look around a bit more, I have to say that the world looks far more real than that in WoW–trees, hills, and water are incredibly well-detailed. The thing that breaks this, however, is the character graphics. I have trouble telling whether a character is even male or female; for all that you can meticulously muck with all sorts of aspects of your character’s visual appearance during creation, the toons all look pretty much the same once you get into game.

The end result is that sure, WoW looks more cartoony, but because the characters are extremely varied in appearance and totally fit into the style of the world, it’s a very immersive cartoony style. LotRO looks more realistic in appearance, but because the characters look like computer-generated androgynes running around in the midst of it, it’s less immersive overall.

Quests: The quest log in lotro holds 40 quests, which seems like a little thing, but acts as a huge boon. Perhaps it’s just that I’m not used to the world yet, but the quests and story feel much more chaotic than I’m used to with WoW. I tend to have more trouble finding some of my quest objects, and I often end up filling my quest log with everything I can find, running around resource-gathering and killing everything in sight, and hoping that somewhere along the way I manage to stumble into finishing a quest or three. I’ve often found myself completing quests I didn’t even remember I had because I happened to get a quest item as a drop. It’s rather confusing, but again, maybe that’s something that will get better over time.

One thing that might contribute to this is a certain clumsiness (IMO) in the quest interfaces. The quest tracker tends to overlap with the bag bar, and the fonts and such in the quest log make it a bit cumbersome to easily glance through.

Crafting: I really like the crafting system; it’s a lot of fun to play with so far. The different crafts are highly dependent on each other for materials, though, so you’ll need friends or alts with complementary craft skills. My one complaint is that for one vocation they bundled together two gathering skills (prospecting and forestry) yet don’t allow you to track both at once–which kind of eats into the utility of having both. This is particularly the case as you need to have a different item equipped for prospecting vs. collecting wood, so if you’re trying to collect both, you’re constantly switching back and forth. In WoW you only need to have the items in your packs, and automatically equip them when you gather.

It’s really hard to know how long lotro will ultimately keep me coming back without knowing a lot more about further game content, but so far I definitely enjoy it as a Warcraft-alternative, and plan to play both.

A note regarding the cafepress stores: One of Cafepress’ image servers went kaplooie, so some of our designs are currently unavailable. They’re working to restore the images and the missing items (basically, our most recent designs from the last month or two) should return within the week. If they don’t, I’ll re-upload the designs and re-deploy them.


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