Gaining fair recognition upon initial release in 2007 and with each of its subsequent expansions, Lord of the Rings Online still failed to quite ignite the same passion as the ubiquitous World Of Warcraft. In a muddled genre of often perplexing interfaces, expansive lands and grinding gameplay, it appears that even a proficient handle on gameplay matched with the power of a universally acknowledged brand can’t guarantee fingers on keyboards.
Now touting a free-to-play service and implementing further enhancements, Lord Of The Rings Online is hoping to ensnare many victims of the ongoing recession pinch. It’s also an apt way to differentiate itself within the increasingly competitive genre, offering many of the same gameplay mechanics without the burden of monthly payments.
Traversing Middle Earth holds an accurate representation of Tolkien’s tome. Each race and location is lovingly anchored in the series’ lore; visually dazzling and inviting fervent adventuring. What the game has in scope, however, dwarfs (pardon the pun) newcomers, bewildering anyone unfamiliar with Massive Multiplayer Online games or even RPGs. However, beyond the early monotonous routine and fumbling there is plenty to admire in the range of quests and narrative focus. The familiarity aids to the experience, offering diverse environments recognisable in their incarnations, with the plot itself running concurrently with the classic trilogy.
While it doesn’t necessarily fail in any area - with impressive textures, models and collision detection all present and correct - there aren’t many surprises hidden within these Misty Mountains. The new store contains plenty of items to further customise your mythical avatar at a premium, offering further depth for those seeking it.
The core gameplay may remain unmodified but the experience offers enough strength in action, conjuring and community to guarantees exhaustive hours of play. As a standard release it’s an above average effort; in its new free-to-play form, it’s a remarkably comprehensive online experience for less than a loaf of lembas.
Reviewed by David Scarborough