If you’re the type that follows the ups and downs of the video game industry, you must have heard by know that World of Warcraft managed to lure 10 million players on its servers. With this colossal figure in mind, it’s a bit funny to think that, in a corner somewhere, a group of confused people are playing _something else_. Still, the number of subscribers for The Lord of the Rings online is high, and, not very surprising, is formed by a lot of people who switched from WoW. The transition isn’t difficult, as Turbine didn’t play around with an already winning formula, using a lot of elements from Blizzard’s game; so many, in fact, that you’re starting to have flashbacks, which aren’t enough to call the game a clone, but, still, the similarities are obvious.
What’s different, then?
Well, starting with the basic stuff, you need to create an account, which must be activated before playing, meaning you need a monthly subscription, paid using a credit card. Such as, and I’m only guessing here, a Visa Electron CC, ignoring the fact that it’s the exact card I tried to use before making up the “guess” part. So, using your little shiny plastic thingie you go ahead and try to use it on Codemasters’ website, a perfect moment to realize that the subscription isn’t working. Obviously, a mail was sent to the tech support people, who finally answered some time later with a quick slap on the head: you can’t use Visa Electron credit cards unless they’re issued in England!
Needless to say that a Paypal account, deemed useless until now, suddenly became a top priority.
That being said, the game.
Turbine did a good job in “translating” Tolkien’s Middle Earth in electronic format. Using points of interest from the Trilogy, you’ll manage to reach The Misty Mountains until you hit level 50, where the Fellowship tried to get up the Pass of Caradhras, and Saruman was throwing snowballs at them. This is where the game stops: Moria, Rohan, Gondor, Lorien and the rest will probably appear in the first official expansion pack (Moria was already announced as the main part of the expansion due this autumn). There’s also new content present, such as Angmar, the lands of the Witch King, or Evendim, a beautiful area where you can explore Annuminas and the Tomb of Elendil (in contradiction with Tolkien’s writings), as well as a huge lake, spanning over half the map.
All the major characters present in the books show up in the game as well, with the exception of those “native” to areas not implemented yet; They’ll go in instances with you, as NPCs, they’ll give you quests and other useful info. Fortunately, where Peter Jackson stopped, Turbine didn’t. LotRO does include Tom Bombadil into the storyline, together with Goldberry and the Old Forest. There’s even a series of quests led by Radagast, who is only briefly mentioned both in the books and in the movies.
Also related with the universe, we have the epic storyline, picking you up from level 1, and leaving you at level 50. It’s organized in “books”, and it’s filled with instances, characters from the books, and a general story which crosses the path of the Fellowship quite a number of times. For example, it was me who delivered the necessary ingredients for the reforging of Narsil, with a beautiful solo instance at the end of the quest, where you just sit and watch the remaking of the sword, and Aragorn lifts it above his head with the “classic” “Behold Anduril, the Flame of the West”.
If you like Tolkien’s writings and you have the heart of a geek its impossible not to appreciate these events, the story and the small lore related quests. Even if it’s a MMO, and you still have to “kill 10 wolves”. Also, you don’t need a raid to finish the epic storyline; a regular party is enough, so all players can enjoy it.