LOTRO Beta: My Impressions

Let it be known that this is merely my initial thoughts of the game. I will not go into detail on any subject and will not write my review until the game is in open beta.

First I’ll give you all a little perspective on my background with LOTRO. I’ve been in the Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar beta program for about two months now. Before my acceptance into Beta I was working diligently at the LOTRO Vault authoring the weekly forum digest. While writing the digests each week I am tasked with visiting the various message boards such as Turbines, Codemasters, TTH, and the vault’s board. So to keep it short let’s just say I have been “in the know” for about 5 months.

When you think Lord of the Rings what comes to mind? Epic story, basic fantasy staple, elves… ya you get the idea. Tolkiens novels were and are a main resource for almost every Fantasy MMO out there. So now that Turbine has been taxed with creating the very world that fathered the genre – can they do it without bastardizing it beyond recognition?

The Shire: These screenshots were taken on my pc at 1680×1050 resolution running LOTRO at the highest possible settings.

The first thing you see when you log into LOTRO is the beautiful world. Turbine really went to great lengths to bring players the full Middle-Earth experience. The best part? These graphics do not make your system whimper and beg for mercy like Vanguard’s engine/coding. You can see this world even with a mediocre card and still have it feel real.

Let’s talk classes and races. I’ve played every class and race to level 15 and taken my Man Champion into his late 20’s. I can say with certainty that I have a strong grasp of the different classes and how they operate late-game.

Due to the lore or intellectual property, whichever you prefer, Turbine has restricted the use of magic to NPC’s. This is a breath of fresh air for the genre. I’m tired of every game having Fireball Rank I – where’s the originality? Turbines response: Lore-Masters.

A keeper of ancient lore and otherwise lost knowledge, the Lore-master uses his knowledge of the lesser and greater powers of the world around him to stave off the advances of the shadow for a time, and to treat the wounds and suffering of his companions. In dire need he can use this knowledge to hurt his foes; but this task being extremely difficult, a wise Lore-master would rarely attempt it.

Close enough to a wizard but much, much more. Pets, heals, “damage abilities”, melee strikes, you name it they got it.

Let’s talk tanks. You have your basic run of the mill warrior, the Guardian. There’s not much new here except the majority of his attacks come from using shield bashes and abilities. More fun than you would think but it bored me quickly.

Then there’s your basic dps class: Champions. Dual wield, 2h, goes all out to deal damage but in the process suffers from weak defense. An extremely solid character if played correctly. This character has received a great deal of attention in the past few beta patches and even now feels incomplete.

An interesting addition to the genre is the Captain. A pet class that wears plate armor, carries a two-handed weapon, and adds much utility. A somewhat complex class that focuses on tiered abilities. HoT’s, shouts, and a pet. Good stuff!

What is a MMO without a Hunter? This class plays exactly how you would expect. You get range, you shoot your bow, you melee when close range. No pets, unlimited arrows, and a whole lotta damage. Turbines “nuker” class. Legolas would be proud.

Every game has that “primary healer” but not every game gives it to you in the form of a Bard-like character. Minstrels are the primary healers of LOTRO. The implimentation of the class is really well done. You get heals, ranged damage from instrumental musical attacks, and melee abilities.

Now to the oh so famous “Rogue” type class. Does it exist in LOTRO? Sure it does. Burglars are your stealthy backstabbing weakness exploiting beasts. Oddly enough they are currently the most underplayed class. Their damage is not consistant with other MMO’s – instead they are almost more of a utility class. By far Burglars are the most complex and intricate class. Big kudos on this one.
Races: Man, Dwarf, Elf, and Hobbit. A very small selection but due to IP/Lore constraints they really can’t do much more. It’s not as bad as you think and you’ll get over it quick. Man and Hobbit start together in Archet, then separating after the initial newbie “instance” experience. Dwarf and Elf races start together but also split up into separate parts of Ered Luin. My initial opinion? Man have the best area of the bunch.

The game controls are basic and standard to the genre and customizable. The interface is also standard and quite customizable. It’s been said that LOTRO will not support the use of any third party applications – so your UI mods are out of the question(thank you god! You don’t want to get me started on my hate for UI mods – thanks Blizzard.)

LOTRO’s leveling system is quite simple. Questing is the only viable way to level because honestly the grind on mobs is unbearable. But is this truly that bad in a game that is story driven? I like it – and so will anyone else who can read at an 8th grade level… crap there goes half of you! The quests are everywhere and if you play it halfway smart you will never run out.

Aside from a frequently changing economy(my Hobbit burglar could not afford any of his skills at level 10) the devs have the game fairly polished. I’ve participated in a half-dozen MMO beta’s over the years and not a single one had the polish and finished feel of LOTRO.

I’ll keep you updated as the game patches over the next few days. Closed beta ends March 25th and Open Beta begins on the 30th.

Welcome to Keen and Graev’s Blog

Welcome to the first of many entries in the adventures of Keen and Graev. In this first entry I am going to explain a bit about myself and why I am doing this blog. First I would like to start off by saying that the content of this blog is that of my own mind and imagination. Anything said on this blog is not to be taken personally nor is everything we say to be taken as fact. I ask that if you choose to use anything from my blog that you ask me first for permission. I am always happy to lend my opinions and insights to various websites as long as credit is given where it is due.

Now to the part where I explain a bit about myself. I’m a 22 year-old student living in beautiful southern California. Currently I spend most of my day playing PC games and loitering around on message boards. I am currently on the staff for two IGN Vault’s. On the Vanguard Vault I work in the News department to keep readers up to date on the latest happenings. On the LOTRO Vault I create a fantastic Weekly Forum Digest highlighting all of the hot topics on the various message boards.

I suppose now would be as good a time as any to explain where the name “Keen” originated and why I chose to hang on to it for so many years. During the golden days of DAoC, pre-ToA, I had a little Lurikeen who truly ripped other players apart in RvR. After a very large 16v16 fight one afternoon at the Emain gate a pal of mine said to me, “You’re one mean keen!” and it stuck. I was forever known as Mean Keen the Lurikeen and used the name “Mean Keen” on the FFA PVP server for some time.

How about a bit of information on my gaming background? I started young in the gaming industry by getting my hands on that old Mac back in 1989(thanks mom & dad!). Mixed-up Mother Goose was my first PC game that paved the way for my gaming future. Quickly leaving the dark ages behind let’s get back to the present. To date I have played every major and even some minor MMORPG’s worth mentioning.

While MMO’s are my home that is not to say I do not dabble in fps, rts, and other platforms. I have owned and currently do own a Sega Master System, SNES, N64, PS2, Gamecube, Xbox and 360, Ps3, and even a Wii. While I do often play with console systems, my brother Graev is the major console fanatic. Graev will give his introduction to you all soon.

Alright it’s now time to talk about why I have created this blog. I spend countless hours browsing the internet every week. During any given day I might come upon a gaming website or affiliate that offers lots of great guides and tips to the new or uninformed gaming community. I might browse the normal websites that “review” a game and attract a cult following. These websites do a great job at presenting mass information to the players in a really friendly format – by no means am I ragging on them. But what do those websites lack? They lack the “real game” feeling. Their primary goal is not to give true unedited, uncensored, and unbiased opinions. They worry about ads, sponsors, affiliate status, and keeping traffic flowing to their websites. I have a different agenda.

Wouldn’t it be nice to browse the internet and stumble upon a true review and not just some jaded article writer playing the game for an hour and giving it a number from 1-10 based on how much fun he had killing boars? I will strive to bring you true opinions, insight, and information on the latest games that I play. My opinions will be based on first hand experience and will be delivered to you based on my extensive knowledge of the genre. When you visit my blog you will know the adventures you read are real.

Now, reviews are great and often enjoyable to read. What about regularly updated adventure logs? If you’re like me you really enjoy watching characters progress in an online world. Here at our Blog we will be bring to our readers the daily adventures of two brothers in a MMO world. If we just slaughtered our way through legions of wights and ended the day by downing an ale in the tavern you’re going to read about it, see it in screenshots, and wish you were there with us.

You may be telling yourself right now that there are already blogs out there doing what Keen just rambled on about. I don’t care! My experiences are unique and my perspective is original. I will enjoy sharing what I have experienced and take pride in knowing that what I am doing may be in some way useful to other gamers out there.

Sit back and enjoy. The Adventure begins…

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