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    dkirschner's Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar (PC)

    [November 21, 2010 01:20:13 AM]
    After just a few days not playing, I dove straight back in after Far Cry 2 turned out to be a bad idea for me. I had a couple things I wanted to do on my Lore-Master. One was try a dungeon, which I didn't do yet because I'm kind of hesitant, not quite sure what it will be like, and I really want to enjoy it. I'll get on it soon. The second thing was level up my professions, one of which was a quest into the North Downs. I haven't bought that quest pack (595 or something Turbine points), but I did buy the Lone Lands one, on sale for 50 points, which I had on my character. Turns out you can travel freely through the zone even if you don't pay for it, and you can see the quests and interact with NPCs, but you just can't take their quests. Main story and profession quests are exempt, so I got my Master Journeyman Tailor quest, which I'll bother doing later. I just wanted to see if I could go get it. The monsters get significantly stronger halfway across the zone, jumping from the low-20s to the upper-20s.

    I figured I'd go on and make another character since I want to try more classes and play through the other racial starting zones. I went on and did a Hobbit Minstrel, and I really like it, better than the lore-master at the moment because he can do more. The LM just does lots of debuffs, which I'm sure is totally useful for group play, but the M uses songs, ballads, and anthems as skills. Skills are on tiers, so you have to play like a tier 1 song before you can play a tier 2 song, then a tier 2 song before a tier 3 song, etc. It's pretty neat. So minstrels concentrate on buffing and healing instead of debuffing and damage. All the buffs though do damage, but there are no cast times, so you're constantly using an ability, whereas the lore-master had some slow casts that enemies easily prevented from being efficient. I feel like the minstrel definitely has better survivability. Even though the LM can stun and daze enemies to control many at a time, the minstrel has a fear to occupy one, can pretty much insta-kill another, and then since almost all abilities are instant ranged attacked, the minstrel is quite the kiter, especially with this 5% run speed pocket item I have. I was wary at first of making two ranged classes, but they play very differently. I narrowed down my third and final character to either an elven ranger or an elven or dwarven champion. I will probably go with the champion, who is your typical destroy-everything warrior because I always like playing dual-wielding melee classes, and I've already got 2 ranged ones. Plus, there's this elusive set of titles you get for reaching level 5/10/15/20 without dying and I think the heavy-armor pure damage champion would be good for that. I think my LM died at level 7 and the minstrel made it to 9. The LM was my fault for attempting a really difficult signature enemy and the minstrel was just dumb. I got killed by a regular bear like one level higher than me, which I could have prevented by healing myself but I just wasn't thinking. And that's the ONLY time the minstrel has died so far up to 15 on accident. The other couple deaths have been on purpose. Here's to 20 without dying!

    So the minstrel hobbit, and presumably now all the races, have the same beginning story. They get tossed in a brigand's jail cell because they get captured in various ways, and they all escape with the help of Strider to rescue a Baggins who the enemy thought was Frodo with the Ring. Then you do the same set of tutorial quests to level 6 or 7 to try to save Archet, and then defend its destruction. After Archet, instead of staying in the burned out Archet like Men, you go back to the Shire, so I figure elves and dwarves go back to their respective places too and then have unique content through the introduction from 6 or 7 through about 15. Everyone winds up going through Bree between 10-15, and then from there can finish up Bree-land quests, Southern Downs, and then has to choose North Downs or Lone Lands to go from low-20s to past 30.

    The Shire is a ton of fetch and errand quests, which like I said before, is forgivable because it makes sense. Hobbits aren't going to go around killing monsters in the Shire. It's the Shire. There are two huge quest chains, one where you become a mail runner and run packages literally all over the zone from town to town, and another where you deliver this woman's pies, then discover the berries in them are all bad, and then go and retrieve pies from every town and bring them back to her. It's a LOT of running. There are at least 10 little hobbit towns and I ran back and forth and back and forth between them all doing quests. It feels very much like what I imagine the Shire would be like. The hobbit NPCs are funny too. Some bicker, they're nosey and hungry, they like fireworks and food. One quest I did a few things to appease this ghost in a woman's library, and after nothing worked, she finally asked me to brave up and go inside, wherein you discover a squirrel behind the bookshelf. It was cute. I'm almost done with the zone, but before I play next, which will be an epic level 15-20+ session, I'm going to use my 24-hour horse gift because timing it on those last 5 levels before I can legitimately quest for a horse is a good point.

    What else have I learned about this game? In looking back over the previous couple LOTRO entries, the game is still beautiful. I've taken about 40 screen shots, mostly of landscapes, and then of famous characters. At the beginning of the hobbit story, you actually encounter Frodo, Sam, and Perrin leaving the Shire! Then Frodo gets a bad feeling and they run off. Seconds later a Black Rider comes demanding to know where Baggins is, but he lied to you about his name, so you don't actually know it was him, and the Rider goes away. Then you get jumped on by bandits. Bad day, huh? The Black Riders look awesome and scary and like death incarnate, and the game does this cool being-watched-by-The-Eye perspective when you're afraid and full of dread and gloom in the presence of evil. It's intense to experience.

    The sound is still good, but some of the Shire music is grating. There are some high flute notes that I don't like. I'll actually be glad to get away from that flute. I learned that you can MAKE music in the game, which is part of why I chose a minstrel. You can purchase instruments and get proficient with them, and actually write music in the game, and if you Google LOTRO music, it's basically got tab for you to play a lot of songs in-game. Seems pretty cool, and I'd like to try it out once I get some more bag space, which unfortunately by the way, is becoming an issue. LOTRO has lots of things I want to hold onto that take up space, especially crafting materials. This second character is a Tinker, which encompasses Jeweler, Prospector, and Cook. My other character is a...I don't remember, but...Oh yeah, Explorer, which is Tailor, Woodsman, and Prospector. I didn't really mean to have two prospectors, but it makes being a Jeweler easier since I can just mail over minerals and gems from the lore-master. I realize that professions really complement one another in this game. I guess it's like WoW's gathering/crafting dichotomy. In WoW, you'd be silly to have Jewelcrafting without Mining. Same thing here with Jeweler and Prospector. So between my two characters, I've also got Woodsman, which goes with Tailoring because Woodsman lets you make Tailor materials from leather. With Woodsman, you can also chop wood, but that's for like Woodworking or something, which I don't have anyway, so I'm not chopping anymore wood. That's one less type of node to stop and gather at when I'd rather be doing something else. Then Cooking I don't have a single point in yet. I'm pretty sure I need a Farmer to utilize cooking. I can use some fish from the fishing hobby, but I need other food too. So that third character I make, I need something with Farming, something else that works with metal, like a Weaponsmith, which would be cool for a Champion, and something else. I think there was a Farmer/Weaponsmith/Scholar path. Scholars are beneficial for everyone, and as far as I can tell, you just loot Scholar materials off humanoid bodies and find them in ruins. So that should make for 3 useful profession types on the 3 characters.

    I did join a guild (Kinship) yesterday, so I finally get to see how that works. It seems pretty normal like a basic setup in any other MMO, except the guild has a HOUSE with vendors that give guild discounts! I haven't gone there yet, but I bought the reagents to fast travel there. I'm curious to see it. The guild seems really big, but I can't tell a number. At any time there seems to be around 20 people online, and lots of high level characters doing dungeons. I'll stick in it and get a feel for how the game allows guilds to be social and get things done together. Guilds have ranks (1-10), and this one is 10, which just means it's been around a long time and it has all guild benefits, like a house. I've pretty much figured out the looking for fellowship interface, but no one has talked to me through it and I'm too scared to start my own group for the low-20s dungeon since I don't know what I'm doing there. Oh, I also found out about trophies. You can kill rare monsters or fish rare fish, or do various other fancy things and go to a taxidermist to have them mount it on a plaque to put in your house. There are also home supply vendors and clothing vendors, where you can customize your house or wardrobe, all very cool. LOTRO lets you have 3 outfits: one is your fighting gear, and two cosmetic ones. The cosmetic ones don't even have to be in your bags to show off. It's very cool. There's also reputation with various factions, and I bought my first rep item today, a mail satchel, from some hobbit faction in Michel Delving. I can carry the satchel around. I just bought it because I could, but seems purely cosmetic.

    That's LOTRO so far. Plan is to play the minstrel using the temporary horse until it goes away, and then set it aside until I have a good month to play it a lot, which will probably be at least a few months from now since Cataclysm is right around the corner and I'll be home for a month not playing anything.
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    [November 18, 2010 07:24:45 AM]
    I'm officially into this game. I've had an absolute blast this week playing my way through all the beginner content up to level 22 so far. Sort of unfortunately, this is where the F2P players will hit a wall and want to buy some Turbine points, but on the plus side, Turbine's payment model is the best I've experienced. They've got three subscription tiers: free, premium, and VIP. Free players play for free, have the most restrictions (which are basically negligible until where I'm at, mostly because at level 20, you can do a mount quest -- only if you buy it from the store or are VIP), and can purchase Turbine points or stuff from the store for Turbine points accumulated in-game. Players get bumped up to premium -- forever -- if they make a single transaction in the store to purchase Turbine points. Premium players get a few more perks like 2 more character slots and a higher gold cap, nothing really. VIP players are those who pay the regular $14.99 monthly subscription and they get full access to everything, except special things they can pay extra for in the store, and they get 500 Turbine points every month for that anyway. So here's the deal. If you ever went VIP, as in ever paid for a month, you go back down to Premium when you quit paying -- forever -- but you retain certain luscious VIP benefits such as 5 bag slots instead of 3, the ability to sell things on the auction house, removal of many chat hurdles, no gold limit, the riding skill to get mounts, and a couple other minor things. Here's the other trick. Free accounts get two character slots, while premium gets three, so if you make and level up two characters to 20 or so (for mount skill), then time your VIP right, level up a third to at least 20 before the month is up, then you'll have three characters with free mount skill, and any character that you played during VIP retains all those random VIP to premium benefits, so you basically would have 3 enhanced premium characters for timing it right.

    Obviously all this is precluded by one's decision to stay with the game for some time. I mean, I've got like 6 level 80s in WoW, and I've leveled up countless characters in countless other games in my life, so leveling 3 of them up to 20, which will take however long, and paying $14.99 one time for this triple-A game is such a good deal. Plus I figured out how to earn Turbine points in-game. You do deeds and complete special quests. My level 22 has about 100, which is enough to buy the Lone Lands quest pack that should take me to like 35. Plus, each character you make just contributes Turbine points to your total, and things like quest packs are available to all characters, so it's a huge benefit to get extra Turbine points. Plus, and this is really it, I have really been enjoying this game, like a lot, so I want to play it more.

    LOTRO does have its slight downsides that I can talk about, such as a lot of quests that have you running back and forth, back and forth to NPCs, the endless amount of quests to just kill boars, bears, and wolves, which, thank god, might have lessened out of the sub-20 areas. Middle Earth apparently has a plague of nasty woodland creatures. Those are my two biggest complaints, and they're not that big. I expected LOTRO to be a bit more epic, but after playing and thinking about it, it's epic in a subtler way. The tutorial and early main quests are amazing, action-packed, urgent, just superb. Then the game mellows out some, and just as I found myself against that F2P wall and out of the newbie zones, it seemed to be about to open up again. Here's the weird thing. All the boar and bear killing just seems okay in this game. Something about Middle Earth, running around Bree and the Shire and so on, is innocent. High fantasy doesn't have vicious trolls and dragons roaming the countryside. That's where the people live, and in a place like Middle Earth with its huge cities and townships, there are a lot of people. They've got a lot of things to do and I think from reading the books and seeing the movies, and having LOTRO being just a big cultural thing in my life, I find myself more interested in the world, including the people in it and their daily lives. If some Hobbit wants me to go do a lot of quests involving a missing pie, I'm going to like it because, aw, it's a Hobbit and Hobbits like to eat a lot and I've basically grown up with Hobbits in my head. So in a sense, this game is excused from giving me a lot of pie and bear quests because it just feels right. Now, if it keeps it up, it's not okay, but like I said, it's getting darker.

    Here's another initially upsetting but now exciting thing, and half the reason I thought this game would suck when it first came out. You don't play as a hero in the books. You can't. You're just in that world while the Fellowship is on its quest and the events of the books are unfolding. A long time ago when the game came out, I thought this would just be a terrible let-down, and I thought that the game would suck on principle because it's based on such a popular IP (that was made into movies, and although great films, everyone knows that movie games are awful, except for Chronicles of Riddick). Anyway, point being is that the way the story is told, the way your character is placed at the periphery of the events of the books, is, so far, absolutely brilliant. I care. I actually care about an MMO's story. I can get into single-player games that have finite beginnings and ends, but MMO stories I could never really get into because there was just too much, too dense of a mythology to learn about that didn't prohibit my enjoyment of the game if I was clueless. But in LOTRO, I already know the story and all the main characters! It's brilliant. I automatically care about what's going on and I'm deeply curious and excited to be a part of it. See, your character is involved in side-plots that take place weaving around the main Fellowship quest. You have a series of main story quests, arranged as volumes and chapters of a book, that deal directly with this, i.e., I've encountered Strider and other rangers. Strider was on business of course following the hobbits. I found out from a Baggins that Frodo had a ring and that's why Sauron's minions were casting an eye on the Shire. I went to see Tom Bombadil, who led me after the Witch-King. My current quest seems to be following the Witch-King around and preventing him from interfering with the Fellowship. You basically are a hero behind the scenes, making it so the Fellowship can complete their journey. This encountering book characters and playing a part in the unfolding of the book plots is words.

    That said, I'm not sure this is something to play through any more than once. I do want to try out some different character classes because the game is even fun to play, and I will, but as far as story, I feel it could turn into a level grind after you've done the main quest already, which I'm not necessarily into at this point. For now, I just want to try out another class, pay for a month at some point, try out a third class, buy quest packs to get through the main story line with lots to do, and see what's at the end of the game. My character now is a Lore Master, which I'd compared to a Warlock in WoW, but that was after a few levels and now I'm not so sure. He's pretty unique. He is a pet class, and now I can summon a raven or a bear. The bear is more tank-like, but still not a very good one, and the raven's special abilities include making targets vulnerable to fire (I cast a fire spell or two) and rendering archers impotent (which is a great help). I like the bear because he takes a little more damage, holds aggro a little better, but I like the raven because he just debuffs and confuses enemies. I tend to swap them out. And then my abilities, I have several offensive spells, but the main focus of the class seems to be debuffing. I have several stuns, a cool Earthquake spell that roots targets after 10 seconds (so cast it, attack, attack, then when they get near you and rooted, run away and finish them off -- good for survivability!), debuffs that decrease attack speed, melee damage, chance to hit, and so on, and then a couple heals and a couple power abilities that let me suck power from an enemy and transfer power to an ally.

    I haven't played with a group yet, but I really want to since I'm not going to do anything else in the game, except level another character to 20, until I pay for a month, which won't be for a while because I want to actually play it a lot when I have all the VIP perks for that month. There are instances (for 3 or 6 people), and the first one is low-20s where I am now, and I want to try it out. I think MMOs are largely defined by how fun the group play is. I remember trying EQ2 and going into a dungeon, and thought it was the dumbest thing ever. So hopefully I'll enjoy these. There are also Skirmishes, which are like PvE instances events, but not dungeons, where you can replay some little story arc over and over, setting the difficulty and the number of players, and getting Skirmish marks, which you can use to buy various rewards for yourself and to upgrade your skirmish NPC, which is an ally who will fight with you in skirmish battles. You can change everything about him or her, the class, equipment, traits, even appearance! You buy them stronger abilities and they basically level up along with you if you keep them in tip top shape. PvP, or as LOTRO calls it, PvMP (player versus monster player) sounds incredibly cool, but alas, it's only for players 40+ VIP. Maybe I can get a character to 40 during that free month to try it out, but basically one side are good and one side take the role of monsters. Something like that. Sounds interesting.

    What else is there? LOTRO has a deep, deep crafting system that I both love and hate. I like it because it's a bit different than how I've crafted in other games. You gather materials, easy enough, and then when you make stuff, you begin as an Apprentice. There are a handful of tiers, all the way through like Grand Master, but each tier has two levels that you have to fill up, Journeyman and Master. It's just a lot of gathering and making things to level it all up. I want to see what all professions can do in the game, but it seems like it'll take a long time to level them for the promise of great rewards. I perhaps naively chose two gathering professions and tailoring since I wear cloth. The gathering professions just tempt me to stop all the time out in the world to chop wood and mine ore, which is a fair amount of time spent. It's kind of rationalized though in that I know no future characters will take those professions and have to gather, and I'll have materials for things they might choose to make.

    The graphics are still amazingly beautiful, and I'm still in love with the soundtrack, except only when you encounter a monster, which triggers this annoying rap song in my head because the beat kind of sounds like the chorus, and it's been stuck in my head now for a week. Apparently you can learn how to play and compose music in the game! Minstrels do it as a class, and they can mentor other characters in the use of instruments. It sounds neat, but I haven't really explored it. There are also guilds, or kinships. I haven't joined one, but i really want to. I don't know anything about how they work, except that they have levels which I assume have meaning beyond the cosmetic, and they have like guild houses, or at least people can purchase houses for the guild. I mostly want people to interact with. There are a ton of people in the game any time of day or night, which is awesome. I chose a populated server and with F2P, there are lots of people in the lower zones. Housing is another amazing thing. I've never played a game with housing, or at least I haven't gotten to the housing part. EQ2 had housing, but I didn't like the game, and Oblivion had housing, but I got bored of the game before I bought one. In LOTRO, you don't just buy a house; you buy an entire plot of land! Some houses are bigger or smaller and there's actually like a broker who tells you what's available in which neighborhoods. Yes, there are neighborhoods. You get your own space and address. You can zone into a neighborhood and see each person's individual home, their yard decorations, etc. I'm not sure if you can go inside and look around other peoples' homes. Every time I tried, it seems the person hadn't been paying their rent, but so I wonder if a lot of these homes aren't just essentially abandoned by older players. Still, the individual home and address thing in actual space in a neighborhood with other people is extremely cool. I have about 3/4 of the cash needed to buy the cheapest one!

    That's about it. This game has lots of potential to continue being awesome. I foresee getting more into it in the future, and hopefully it stays cool in later levels.
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    [November 13, 2010 08:18:55 PM]
    First (second) impressions of LotRO are positive. This is the next of the games to try that have gone free-to-play, and according to Turbine, they doubled revenue the first month of going F2P, got back 1/5th of old players, got 1 million new accounts, and have tripled the number of players online. Like, wow. After playing DDO and EQ2 F2P, I can say LotRO's is infinitely better. Not only do I enjoy the game more, but the F2P model provides more options for actually playing for free if you want. I hear you can play pretty much the entire game hassle-free, which, if it's anything like the quality of the introductory levels, is awesome. I feel no limitations with my F2P character so far. I see I only have 3 bag slots, which is fine for now, and infinitely better than EQ2's smaller 2 bag slots. I'm sure there are probably some chat and mail and auction restrictions, but so far the game is so engrossing that I don't really care. This is in contrast to EQ2 where I was bored out of my mind after 10 levels. Granted I'm only 6 into this one, but it's looking bright.

    I made a Human Lore-Master, which I can best place similar to a Warlock in WoW. I cast spells, have a Raven pet, can put DoTs and debuffs on enemies, and even have a nice self-heal. The class seems unique still and has a little different feel from anything I've played. You start the game in a race-specific tutorial instance, which in my case was busting out of a prison to rescue some hobbit and a man with another NPC, but at the end one of those hooded guys with the cold blades stabs the man you were trying to rescue, and at the end of the introduction, level 6 or 7, he turns and follows the bad guys after they all burn the human starting town. The tutorial is a private instance, and then the introduction is a public instance with just other beginners. Actually, I just assume the beginning was Man only because I remember when I played a dwarf a while back it was a different starting area, but here I saw hobbits too, and I thought they started at the Shire. Anyway, the story is presented really well, and even though it's something similar to stories I've played before, it's mixed with LotR lore, which makes it better without diluting LotR. I mean, if you didn't know anything about LotR, it would be straight up recognizable fantasy, but having seen and read LotR, I at least recognize some names of places, the races, the hooded guys, what happens if you get stabbed by one, etc. Yea, otherwise it's killing some boars and spiders, finding some herbs, saving a town from bandits, which happens in a very cool instance with a lot of fire. The cool thing though is the little quests mostly relate to the larger story line of trying to save the guy who got stabbed and trying to unravel this bandit plot to sack the town, which they are under orders from Mordor or something to do in order to retrieve the guy who got stabbed. So it all makes sense.

    The game itself is absolutely gorgeous to look at and the music is wonderful. One time in town, there was an NPC playing a tune and it was just so nice to listen to, and fit the mood of the town, that I sat and listened to him play and watched a cat walk around, sit, lay down, meow, rub against the musician's leg, for 10 or 15 minutes. I just looked at the town. I did the same thing out in the open. I just looked. I hardly ever take the time to just look because I usually find environments fairly uninteresting, but LotRO's is beautiful. There are lots of green trees, grass, tall grass, sparkling water, amazing dynamic shadows and lighting, mountains in the distance, rocks and boulders, and rolling terrain. It's not all flat and boring, but looks like a countryside with farms.

    The combat feels a little slow to respond, which could be a little bit of lag on my end, not sure though. I get 'can't cast while moving' messages sometimes. Like, I have to move, make sure I stop, and then cast. It's just a little less fluid than I'm used to. That's really the only hiccup. Everything else is good, or I'm learning how to do it better. The spell effects are pretty too. The training system is familiar to any other MMO. Go see your class trainer every level or 2 for new skills. There are like 5 menus, sets of abilities, talents or whatever, that I can see but can't access and don't really know how, when, or where to get them. I hope not too many are locked in F2P. I have no idea how long I'll play this for. I imagine until I hit some kind of F2P wall, but the genius of F2P is going to be when someone figures out how to make players invest so much time for free that they're willing to subscribe later or buy from the store. All other F2P games didn't make me want to keep playing because it felt so constrained, but LotRO seems more my style and less constraining, so who knows.

    One reason the F2P model here is more attractive to me is because you buy things with Turbine points or something, which you can use cash to buy, OR can earn in game. This one is new to me, earning points in-game. Now, I don't know how to do that, but it sounds like I could theoretically unlock the most important stuff I want to have without paying any money. If I'm enjoying the game anyway, and I can unlock things by playing it to make playing it even better, well that's just a win-win. This all depends too on how interesting the story is for me, and how much LotRO feels different from WoW or other single-player fantasy games I've played. I don't want to sink time into a game I've played 10 times before and then not be able to do anything at a high level unless I start paying for it. If the game is completely entertaining all the way, then that's fine, but I won't grind levels if I don't expect something cool to happen. So yeah, I'm thoroughly impressed so far. A lot of other people seem to be too. There are a ton, a ton ton ton, of players starting out. I haven't seen so many new characters in a zone in a long, long time. I grouped up with one person, who asked me if I played CoD: Black Ops, and I had to tell him I just started playing Modern Warfare. He named our group the Lore-Masters of wherever we were, asked me to explain my tactics in hypothetical situations he imagined, and tried to recruit other people to join our party. It was an interesting interaction for an hour or so. S/he seemed like s/he may have been playing the game a while, but seemed very noobish. Like I'm noobish to LotRO in particular, but I would only show it related to LotRO-specific things, not to playing an MMO in general, which, since LotRO feels very much like WoW, standard, I picked up immediately. So, we'll see when I get a chance to play around some more in Middle Earth. I want to beat Call of Duty's single-player mode first, which I'll probably have time to do today and get that out of the way. Then perhaps Middle Earth at home for a while.
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    dkirschner's Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar (PC)

    Current Status: Stopped playing - Something better came along

    GameLog started on: Saturday 13 November, 2010

    GameLog closed on: Sunday 12 December, 2010

    dkirschner's opinion and rating for this game

    Fun game, but let's face it. I'd rather play WoW.

    Rating (out of 5):starstarstarstar

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