Turbine’s and Midway’s Lord Of The Rings Online, previously known as Middle-Earth Online and in development over at Sierra, launched two weeks ago. I find that I’m interested in trying it, supposing that they release a trial version at some point.
I haven’t played many online RPGs – or “MMORPGS”, as the videogame industry for some reason insists on calling them – just some Anarchy Online, Maple Story and Eve Online. I remain very interested about them, but think that they’re generally missing the things I want to see. One big problem is the massive disregard for suspension of disbelief. The online game worlds are full of identical heroes, normal people are nowhere to be seen. You can rarely actually leave a mark on the game world – your massive undertakings only result in better stats and gear for your character. And the time requirements are just ridiculous: I have maybe one hour per day for gaming, I don’t want to play a game that’s tuned for all-day gaming.
Based on reviews and interviews, the Lord Of The Rings Online development team has tried to solve some of these problems. One of the big developments is the focus on story. The game is split into quests which are a part of a larger whole, and the game world changes accordingly. Of course the changes are instanced; only players who’ve done that part of the story see the changes, but I believe it will be rewarding.
Then there’s Middle-Earth, of course. The game is based on the books, not the movies, and it looks just beautiful. I believe I could spend a few months exploring the land and the storyline. Which brings me to the final piece of the online RPG puzzle I’m piecing together in my head: am I ready to commit myself to this game for, say, the next year? Who cares? I play most games for a month or so actively, why should online games be different? So I’m not at all worried about the murmurings that there may not be enough high-level content in the Middle-Earth. It would probably take me forever to get that far anyway.
As an interesting decision, Turbine has forbidden player vs. player gameplay, instead developing so-called “monster play”. Depending on your character’s level, you can take on the form of a monster in a separate monster area of the game, fighting human characters in a territory contest. This should be a nice change of pace later in the game.
Then there’s the Conan RPG that’s incoming, too, and also doing interesting things with the online RPG staples. That will also see an Xbox 360 release, I think, which might make it a more likely choice for me to play.