|Game:||Lord of the Rings Online|
Basing an MMOG on an already successful franchise can be a risky proposition. On one hand you have a built in core fan base that will stick with you through thick and thin, see Star Wars Galaxies as an example. On the other hand you risk alienating a large section of the general gaming public who may not feel immersed enough in the I.P. to want to invest their time or their money. There is arguably no franchise with greater sway in the world of high fantasy than Tolkiens epic saga about a rag tag band of heroes charged with nothing less than saving the world. It has sold millions of books, videos, graphic novels and filled hundreds of thousands of theaters to capacity all around the world. Commonly referred to as LotRO, the massively multiplayer version of this tale has seen its ups and downs, but by realistic expectations it has mostly been a success.
Experienced and novice MMOG players will feel equally at home with the UI and gameplay mechanics employed in LotRO. Combat is straightforward and everything is laid out clearly and cleanly. The only hitch in a smooth leveling experience that I found was in navigating the game world. There were several points along the way where I felt a little out of my element in moving to the next quest hub area, or travelling between areas. In many cases I simply needed to grind out the end of the level to move into the next range of quests and storyline. I did find myself wishing that there were more players to group with, explore with, or just ask questions of while I was in the lower level ranges.
Modern MMOGs usually fall into one of two camps: those with bleeding edge graphics that have their players longing for a nicer system, or those that render their world with highly stylized graphics that give them a unique flair. LotRO is one of the few titles that successfully straddles the middle ground. Mixing stylized avatars with intricately detailed environments gives it a unique look that is often times strikingly beautiful. I found myself the victim of several untimely demises due to galloping over a cliff or falling off of a bridge because I had become distracted by my surroundings. The real beauty of the look of LotRO is how well things flow together to create such a vibrant world, a world that can easily exist almost unnoticed in the background or just as easily captivate your eyes if you allow it to.