Saturday evening I actually got a chance to log in to Lord of the Rings Online. As is my usual practice, the first thing I did was make a dwarf. Why do I always make a dwarf first? And why is his name always Nomu? I have no idea, but I seem to have a track record in that regard.
The dwarf models are, well, very dwarf like. I chose a champion, as that seemed a very dwarf like class to me.
I ran through the first quest chain, which introduces you to the game and leads you into one of the starter areas. At one point you face a huge cave troll, just like the one in the movie, from which Gandalf saves you, turning the troll to stone. You actually run across this stone troll again later, which is kind of neat, even if it is a gimmick swiped from the books. Here are Gimli and I being saved.
At the end of this you find yourself in the starter area. It was snow covered, just like the dwarf/gnome starter area in World of Warcraft. Snow is really boring visually in a computer game, so after a couple of quests I logged off my dwarf and made an elf, thinking I would at least get away from the snow.
The elf models are okay, with the exception of the who pointed ears thing, but I guess that is just me. Everybody else seems to be fine with the Spock ears on steroids look. I am just sorry that those ears have to stick out no matter which hairstyle you choose. I was happy when I finally got a hat that covered them.
I made a minstrel and gave him the name “Celinbran” so I could correct people when they pronounced it with a soft “c” sound.
I ran through the opening quest with my elf, which was much prettier than the dwarf quest, and ended up in the starter area. The same area, snow and all.
Fine, I’ll play in the snow.
It was stress test weekend, so there were a lot of other players on with me, and every single one of the elves appeared to be a hunter. On OOC this was being referred to as the “Legolas Syndrome.”
I suppose I should have been fine with this. An elf with a bow is a pretty stock character. The only problem was I was now the only elf without a bow. I spent a little too much time running up to mobs only to have them snatched from me at the last second by some William Tell wannabe to be happy with the situation.
Still, the run through the starter area was fine. I did all the quests I could find except one. That one required the slaying of a named mob, and the line-up for him seemed to be somewhat excessive.
The quests themselves were clearly written. They all included sufficient detail to get you headed in the right direction without spelling everything out in detail. Your destination was mostly in the form of “to the West” or “South of here,” though at least once it was as complex as “follow this path down to the crossroads then turn north.”
The game ran smoothly enough. I insist on running my monitor at it’s native resolution, which is 1600×1200, so that is saying something. I did get some lag when running around a lot of players outside. In the tunnel instances the game ran as quick as I could have wanted.
The UI is okay. There isn’t anything daring about it. The game sticks with the standard conventions of the industry (more so than Vanguard), which means people will say it looks like WoW, even though many of those conventions pre-date WoW by a decade. (That round mini-map in the upper right for example… that idea has been around for ages people.)
A couple of things did bug me about the UI. The first was that the standard “attack” command gets its own permanent button on the UI. While it is big and easy to find, I have a long time standard of mapping the standard attack to the “2” key, so I would rather have “attack” in the button bar with the special attacks.
The second was when you mouse over one of your skills to try to figure out what it does, the description pops up at the very top of the screen. Nearly 1000 pixels is a long way for the eye to travel and it makes it difficult to mentally link the button to what it does. I found myself looking up and down the screen a couple of times to try and make the association and to be sure that I had not accidentally moved the mouse over another skill.
I could also do with a few less rings overall. The “One” ring, glowing with the elvish script visible, is the icon for the game itself, its tray icon, the graphic above quest givers, the graphic for quest givers on the mini-map, the icon next to quests in your quest tracker window, and the icon on the button to bring up your quest journal. Heck, even the mini-map is surrounded by a golden ring at times. I think they may have overdone the ring thing just a bit.
One additional gripe is the way names are shown in game. Everybody not in your fellowship or kinship has their name above them in the same size, style, and general color. NPC names a are a little more yellow than PC names, but not by much. You can see an example here where Moparisthebest (no doubt of Hemicuda elven lineage) is speaking to Merethen, an NPC.
They seem pretty distinct in this shot, but there are places where close to a dozen NPCs reside with players all around them, at which point names becomes indistinct and confused. Everybody gets the same size and style of type, even the cat.
Otherwise, the game ran well. It seemed to be solid, it didn’t balk and awkwardly redraw if I tabbed out then back in. I did not run into any overt bugs aside from a couple of typos in the quests. It certainly looks ready for prime time so far.
Still, I have quite a bit more to explore in the game. These are just my first night impressions.