The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar
This Latest Stab at recreating the hallowed lands of Middle-earth doesn't niess: from the very start you're dabbling in and around the much loved and extraordinarily well-known Fellowship storyline, spanning the lovingly recreated lands of Eriador. Be it clearing the path for Frodo and Sam with Boromir, or bumping into much-loved tree-hugger Tom Bombadil. you'll be thrust into your own personal story within the events of Middle-earth, without necessarily infringing on the adventures of certain furry-footed ring-bearers. While in Azeroth your beginnings are decidedly humble, your first minutes in Middle-earth thrust you into a fantasy romp of epic proportions. Even the hobbits get their fair share of scares from the off, watching as ring wraiths stare down their friends in search of the Baggins boys.
Turbine havent re-invented the wheel, but instead have tried to roll it in a Guild Wo/s-esque direction of having a gigantic, over-arching quest that affects everything you do. Not to say there aren't a bevy of side-quests, but there is an emphasis on putting yon into a storyline as vast as Peter Jackson's pre-Atkins gut.
While its hard to call it generic, what with the landmark source material, the starting races are exactly what you'd expect from a Lord Of The Rings game: dwarves, hobbits, elves and men, each with their own particular starting areas (though the dwarves and elves share theirs). Each race gets their own little side-instance that teaches you the controls and eases newbies into the gameplay, while at the same time setting the scene for the rest of the game. Though training missions aren't anything new, they directly lead into the rest of the game's quests and are worth a once-through, even if you have to groan through the 'press W to move forward! prompts.
Interestingly though, the developers want to start the game off on a good foot - you're a hero from the start. "You're not the shoe-maker of Middleearth, but one of the adventurers - you're going to change the world," explains Turbine CEO Jeff Anderson as 1 take my first steps into the fray.
A Class Apart
Angmar's class system is a mishmash of the last few years of MMORPG development, taking some of the best pails and trying to make something that fits into the LOTR canon: put away your robe and wizard hat. there's little magic here. Champions are essentially like WOW's warrior class, building furore' (rage) to use their bigger attacks. However, they take more of a damage-based role, with Guardians being more defensive, taunting enemies away from weaker players.
Captains buff their group and hold down the enemy. Burglars do what Rogues usually do in other games, with trips, stealth-attacks and debuffs, and Hunters are essentially hunters from WOW; ranged damage with a bow. using traps to gain the advantage. The really interesting classes are the Lore-Master and the Minstrel. Lore-Masters are a mixture of curing, direct-damage and cfebuff ing, created mostly to remove the annoyance ot needing particular magic class. Minstrels have a similar jack-of-all-trades feel to them, harking Kick to bard class without the tiresome necessity of constant song weaving.
He's Behind You!
Kicking off with a bang, a noob character begins by joining Gimli in a mine in Thorins Halls, murdering cavemonsters and trying to stop an old dwarf from wasting his time cracking open a wall. All this, only to see it shatter in front of him, and watch in horror as a bloody great troll sends him tumbling across the floor, dead. As your life flashes before your eyes, big-and-beardy Gandalf jumps in to save the day, cracking a hole in the top of the cave and turning the bastard to stone.
Actual levelling is done in much the same style of H/OIV, with the usual state of killing things and doing guests rewarding you with experience. Predominantly, guests require you to get to a certain goal, for example, making it to the end of an instance alive to view Angmai 's equivalent of a cut-scene - usually a chunk of storyline unfolding in front of you. To mix things up, Turbine have given players something a little different, using Xbox 360-ish achievements to keep you playing. As a champion for example, you can get stat upgrades by using certain attacks more.
These achievements can also be unlocked by visiting certain places, killing certain monsters or just doing the right thing. The rewards vary from a paltry title at the end of your name to traits, which add depth to character customisation beyond simple gearing-up. Whats more, with a lot of these coming from character achievements, theres a lot of potential for diversity. Plus, with class boundaries being somewhat diverse, there's the ability to ready yourself for a lot of situations.
Groups and guilds will be pleased to know that fellowships and kinships look easy to set up too, the latter being a case of inviting whatever members you want, with no limits to how many or few people you can have in each guild.
Angmars fellowship system is a similar take to EverQuest H's heroic opportunities, using a combo system that allows you to damage your enemies or heal your group with the right series of moves. While not rocket science, it allows for a bit of variety to the otherwise stoic MMORPG cliche of bashing your number keys and staring wide-eyed at your health-bar.
Since the beginning of development, Turbine have had an uphill battle to extinguish the fires of past development hell and push LOTRO to be a competitor in the MMO industry - especially with its intention of being the "one game to rule them all". They've taken bits and pieces of other games, from the tactile feeling of combat in WOW and the deep quest system in EverQuest II, and then built upon them to make a significant whole immersed in the Tolkien mythology. As far as things are shaping up so far, it's thoroughly enjoyable, immersive and fun stuff.
It remains to be seen whether or not LOTRO: Shadows OfAngmar can truly challenge WOW. It's got a great deal going for it and feels like a wild fantasy-adventure rather than the salacious grind of every other MMO out there, but it's not doing a great deal more than pushing an extremely strong game-world. It's going to be a case of seeing whether content beats innovation, and whether Turbine have created a strong enough supporting cast of quests and characters backed by an addictive enough game to steal people away from Blizzard. Only time will tell - and when it does, we'll let you know.
Processor: PC compatible,
OS: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game Features:Single game mode