Monday, July 02, 2007

Lord of the Rings Online – Part 1: The Basics

Well Serena and I have solo characters at level 8 and two duos at level 6, so we are fully versed in the tutorial levels of LOTRO.
The tutorial is in two parts:
The first is solo only and guides you through the basics of movement, looting and combat. It is very scripted and involves heroes/villains you will know from the books/films. You finish that at level 2.
Then you are in one of a pair of a small instances with other players of your own race (Man and Hobbit share one and Dwarf and Elf the other). You get about 10 quests to complete and by the end things have generally gone horribly wrong! What I mean is that these instances are set in the past and despite your best efforts things go badly and everything goes to hell! You are then transported to the present day and are in with the full gamut of characters from about Lev 6 upwards. The tutorial has no tradeskilling, no guilds and there is no real need to group up.

The quicker amongst you will note that I said we had two Duos of characters. After getting LOTRO up and running on our main PC and being pleasantly surprised by the performance we got out of it, I did an install on our laptop. The game was playable on low detail and an executive decision was taken that it was more fun to play two characters together than peering over each others’ shoulders. Hence another £27 was spent in Woolworths on Saturday morning. (The game comes with the first month’s subscription free).

Very nice on Normal (not so nice on Low) and I look forward to cranking them up to Highest on a new PC. The look and feel falls back to a lot of the LotR art done down the last twenty odd years but the fantasy artists Howe and Lee. The hero characters don’t look like their film actors, but Hobbits, Dwarves and Elves follow the look and feel established in the movies. The backdrops are very well created and my only gripe is that the trees don’t fade out quite enough when you are running through the forest. Like in NWN2 you can run into a point where you get very dodgy camera angles and have to blunder around a bit before you can see your character again.
Spell and Combat effects are modest so far, but then again we don’t have any characters that can obliterate an encroaching Uruk hoard quite yet!

Our sound setup is really bad at the moment so I won’t comment on the music and environmental audio at the present. So far there has been no bad voice acting or annoying characters (yet).

Basic Concepts:
XP is XP, except that it works in a DnD fashion rather than a WoW fashion. By that I mean the XP number doesn’t reset to zero when you level. So far about 75% of my XP has come from quests.
Health is called Morale – i.e. you don’t die in combat but are cowed and forced to retreat back to town. Special events can reduce your morale – like the presence of a Ring Wraith causing Dread, or the presence of Gandalf causing Hope. “Nukes” as a concept are therefore seen as things that reduce your morale, like fear, and “Heals” are acts that bolster your courage.
Mana is called Power. All classes use power for their special abilities.
Both Morale and Power regenerate fairly quickly out of combat.
Characters also build up renown by completing Deeds. These open up special abilities or Titles. E.g. if you make it to level five without dying you get the title of “The Wary”. Completing all the Quests in an area will give you the title of “Protector of ” etc. Special abilities are things like bonus hit points or regen.

Character Classes:
The game has seven classes which don’t quite fit the mould of other games, so I will break down the six that we have tried out (and a bit on the seventh).
Guardian – This is your bog standard Tank class. Good agro management. Good Defence. Poor Damage output. Your highest damaging attack comes from your shield bashes (certainly at level 6). Designed around sword / mace / axe and shield style of combat.
Champion – another fighter class, but this time you are focussed on damage output over defence. No much in the way of agro holding and not much in the way of multi-target attacks either. Designed around Dual-wielding or big Two-handed weapons.
Archer – the manual describes this as the “nuker” class. They are the high damage dealers. They can melee, but have crap defence – they fight like Legolas in the movies with short blades (dual wield comes at a higher level). The archers attacks become stronger the longer they have been stationary in combat, so in a group with a good tank they are lethal, whereas solo they need to rely on traps to immobilise their target. They don’t do well against multiple targets.
Lore-master – an odd mix. They can nuke a bit, they get pets and they get debuffs that look like they will grow into a proper crowd control line of spells. Kind of like the original EQ Enchanter class. However they are also quite good fighting with their staves! They can heal as well, however this is at the expense of their own health so it is not a long-term role for them.
Minstrel – a jack of all trades, they get buffs, proper heals, nukes and can melee a bit as well. I suppose that makes them the equivalent of a priest class. I expected them to be really weak solo, but Serena has had no problems with hers at all.
Captain – a really unique class that can only really be compared to Squad Leader in SWG. They can melee fairly well, but they also get event specific effects that can heal the party, damage all enemies, help everyone retreat from combat etc. They seem to be pretty group oriented as far as abilities are concerned.
Burglar – not tried this one yet, but looks like a fairly generic thief class. Probably quite hard to solo.

OK – got to fly so more to come soon.


GF said...

As I've said before (i'm sure), all these RPG-type games always fascinate me in principle when people talk about them or I watch online clips / trailers etc.

Perhaps it's just that I don't get it when I'm playing or something, I don't know - but it just always seems lost on me once it starts and soon nothing seems to happen. Take NWN as my obvious example - I so want to play and enjoy that game, it just seems to slow down to boredom very quickly where nothing happens - yet the video trailers show amazing battles and companionships and group hunts and things. Not for me, no I wander a little town, bored.

Jase said...

I have to say that both NWN and NWN2 both suffer from the running backwards and forewards completing quests problem, with not enough action. If you want something a bit more Action Oriented then look at GPGs Dungeon Siege line of games. (DS2 being fairly recent)
Online variants of RPGs (MMORPGs) tend to suffer from the running around problems as well. You can have "Epic" battles, but generally it takes you 3-6 months of hard work to get upto the high levels before you can participate in that content - which pretty much rules out the casual gamer.

GF said...

You calling me casual!?!?

No seriously, I read here (and mostly online in other forums) the love of WoW and it must be good, i'm sure of it.

I just think I'm missing out on something completely.

Jase said...

I can see a blog coming out of this... just give me a day to think about it!

GF said...

Ooh intruiging...

Jase said...

The blog is part written....
It could be a BIG one though and I will probably end up rewriting the half I have done today!

Jase said...

All yours Gareth!

GF said...

I don't have time to respond fully yet, so please, be patient and I promise I will... :)

Jase said...

No problem - see the comments on the main post for further comment (if you get what I mean)!