Lord of the Rings Online Impressions from Beta: Part I

As I mentioned, I’ve been in the LoTRO Beta for a few months now and generally been enjoying the heck out of the game. Its been very difficult to keep mum while under NDA because there is so much to write about—both what the game is and is not. I’ll hit a few areas of distinct impression now and dive into specific areas in future posts.

As others have said, LoTRO has learned many lessons from WoW’s (and every other MMO’s) successes and failures. The bar continually is raised by new games and if each new offering doesn’t incorporate the “best of breed” features, it will justifiably be left behind. LoTRO has also added a few new must-haves for future games.

I think LoTRO has largely taken the lessons of its predecessors to heart: it is a beautiful game, it performs very well compared to its peers and its fun to play solo or in groups. AND, Wilhelm2451 will appreciate this, there are no ugly dwarves with big feet. Without saying too much more in this post, I’m going to go out on a limb and call LoTRO WoW for adults.

Performance

There are no current system requirements specified for the game. I’m currently running an Athlon 64 X2 4800 with 2GB of ram, 7950GT PCIe with 512MB with a cable modem connection. I run WoW maxed out in windowed mode and cant seem to break it (up to 130fps with vsynch off). I generally run EQ2 in balanced (30-40fps average).

I’ve been running LoTRO set on “very high” quality in windowed mode. You can drill down and customize if you want. Much more so than WoW, much less than EQ2. I’ve been getting framerates in the 40s-50s, often much higher in enclosed spaces. If WoW and EQ2 are the opposite ends of the spectrum, LoTRO clearly comes down on the WoW performance side. You shouldn’t have to buy a new machine or expect the game to melt your video card. Huzzah!

Put a Frame Around Your Monitor and Hang it on the Wall

If you visit the LoTRO site and flip through the screenies, you get good impression of what the game looks like. Avatar customization is reasonable. Much less variety than EQ2, but it feels like much more than WoW’s simplistic but efficient cookie cutter approach. Its an interesting combination of being both highly stylized and photo realistic. A quick look at Fergorin, my dwarf guardian shows you what I mean.

Fergorin
The avatar and background clearly have a consistent style, neither realistic nor quite cartoonish. Armor and weapons are typically highly detailed (note the markings on his helm) and quite realistically proportioned. Note the reasonable sized war hammer he’s using to tenderize pork below. The light dances off these pieces quite nicely often revealing detail in different settings that you might not otherwise notice. I like.

fergorin2.jpgOverall, the world is just lush. Lush in almost an Oblivion way without crushing your system. Fields of crops and flowers wave in the wind, trees move, and yes, rivers actually flow. The boggy bits of Rushock Bog in the Shire are indeed boggy.

Just below, Fergorin is prancing in a field of flowers outside of Bree. Its quite intoxicating really. I would often find myself just gaping and a particular vista. Landscapes are refreshingly irregular. I never got that WoW-esque bowl shaped zone feeling. My main complaint with the landscape is that while the textures are great, the surface of the ground is rather angular and too geometric at times. EQ2 and WoW both seemed to get rolling hills and soft curving landscapes a bit better IMHO.

fergorin3.jpgObviously, quite a bit of attention has been given to the atmosphere with great success. Shadows look like the object they are cast from and don’t crash your system. Fire is quite nice, though when not contained in a vessel, the individual elements don’t blend terribly well, but where there is fire there IS smoke AND heat. Here my dwarf hunter Denoin stands by a burning brazier. Even if you can’t see it in a static screen shot, looking through the fire, you can see waves of heat distortion rising in the air.
denoin1.jpgdenoin3.jpg

Oh, and did I mention, you can also just sit and enjoy a nice bowl of pipe-weed and look at the scenery.fergorin4.jpg

 

Stay tuned for more impressions from Middle Earth.

Turbine Lifts Lord of the Rings Online Beta NDA

Turbine announced today that it was lifting the nondisclosure agreement on the closed beta.  I’ve been playing the closed beta for a few months now and its been increasingly difficult to hold my tongue about the tremendous progress this game has been making.  I’m looking forward to sharing lots of thoughts about what continues to be one of the most highly anticipated MMOs of the year.

Long story short, I will buy this game and play it from day one.  My spouse, who is also in the beta, and I are seriously considering pre-ordering since we would be able to roll our beta characters over to the full release.  I’m not aware of any other game that has allowed this (I’m sure someone will let me know if there is), but I think its a great idea.  The population will start off somewhat disbursed and the economy will have a bit of a jumpstart.  This will hopefully make for a much smoother general release.

Look forward to more reports from Middle Earth soon!