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and this review is more my personal opinion than anything else - as others suggested the best way to figure out if this game is
on November 6, 2014
First up I'm a big Lord of the Rings fan, and this review is more my personal opinion than anything else - as others suggested the best way to figure out if this game is good for you is to make a free account and play what you can. It's not truly f2p, but enough to where you can probably get a decent idea of what future gameplay will be like.
I played Lotro for about 1-2 years (6 characters lvl +25, 2 characters lvl 85) & pretty much bought everything lvl 25-85, but haven't gone back since the other half of the Rohan expansion or the new Gondor expansion because it seemed as if Turbine was just adding more of the same (more or less) so some of what I say might have been addressed. The game is a technically good game - custom wardrobe that allows for appearance swaps without affecting actual gear stats, inventory search options, individual loot (you will still get loot from most mobs even if you weren't the first to hit it), good environment (mostly), good universe to pull from, etc.
However, it does a number of problems:
1) The grind - yes, there's some degree of grind to most games & especially MMO's, but to a person who has played the game up to 85 twice it's personally quite unbearable. It's not bad levels 1-~60 because of all of the character progression (skills, trait-lines, legendary weapons) & unique environments (i.e. Barrows, Moria), but after that things begin to really drag out because most of what you are doing is relatively the same which alone wouldn't be particularly blameworthy but is exacerbated severely by mob-design, environment, & lack of voice which I will explain further below. At least on my server, there was a clear lack of people in or engaging in levels 20-50 & 65-75, which made the grind all the worse.
Of course, it also suffers from a problem that plagues a lot of MMO's - the grind to get to the grind of end-game content (re-running ~2 raids & ~3 small group dungeons) largely eliminates the relevancy & replayability of all of the earlier levels. It's just a rush to grind out end-game gear which isn't helped by the frequent raising of the level cap (now up to 100 I believe) over the past few years. An example I would point to would be Isengard - an excellent, diverse, & rewarding set of 6 raids that unlocked a final boss raid that has become obsolete & largely unplayed on my server ever since the level cap was raised to 85. This would be more acceptable if the new end-game content was up to par, but in my opinion it hasn't.
2) Armor/Mob/Environment/Voice Design - A big part of a game is looking suitably bad-a** & killing equally bad-a** enemies in a extraordinary environment, and I think this Lotro is severely inhibited in these regards either because of laziness and/or a desire to conform to "lore".
As of the first Rohan expansion, the only good-looking armors in my opinion were Moria sets (60-65), and the Isengard/Draigoch Sets (75) along with some armors you could pay for & some pieces of quest armor. However, the Rohan armors weren't nearly up to par - go look it up. Quilted vest-shirts (Medium armor), caps with neck clothes, etc. Turbine seems to be attempting to adhere to what the warriors of Rohan might wear in lore, but they haven't taken enough license to design armor that seems appropriate a character that's so far in the game. This is alleviated somewhat by the game's wardrobe system, but decent appearance options are still rather limited. Turbine's strict or lazy adherence to the lore of the game also causes similar problems with the game's mob design & environments.
Mobs in Lotro are horrifically repeated - higher stats, different names but otherwise largely if not completely the same. The orcs you slaughter at level 20 will have the virtually the same models as orcs 30, 40, 50, 60, 70, 85. You'll still be killing wolves, bears, spiders, giant dragon-flies, crows/birds, etc. no matter where you go. There is some variation, but not nearly enough for my taste. Again, go look it up.
The environments in Lotro are good early to mid game - Shire, Barrows, Evendim, Moria, Mirkwood, the Golden Wood, etc. - but after that it all kind of becomes the same. The area surronding Isengard & the hill area preceding it are mostly just woods/plains. Same thing with Rohan, though I'd imagine the newer areas in the lastest expansion are more lively.
Lotro has a near unparalleled universe to draw its lore from, but unfortunately it isn't emphasized enough either because of the game's age or again Turbine's laziness. If I wanted to read Lotr's story, I would just pull out my copies of the series. The lack of voice in Lotr is something that keeps me from immersion, but this may be more to me being spoiled by other games as opposed to an actual failing of the game.
3) PVP - PvP would have been an excellent area to bring to the game the sort of dynamism & freshness that its PVE content lacked. Unfortunately, the game design was flawed from conception - having two deliberately unequal sides. Players can choose to pvp as either their "freeps" from the main PVE game or "creeps" - orcs, spiders, uruks, wargs - that are limited to the PVP world known as the "Moors". It sounds like a very fun prospect at first, but in practice devolves into a lot of frustration. At the last time I was on, freeps held a distinct & at times near insurmountable advantage over creeps, at least on my server. Freeps simply have better overall stats & abilities, especially if a creep hasn't got the bonuses & skills earned from ranks & unlocks. This leads to a lot of creeps grouping together which then leads to a lot of freeps grouping together, which leads to the creeps rage-quitting, which leads to a lot of dead time in the Moors. Creeps certainly can have success, but usually this is only within the context of superior numbers and lots of high ranks.
In sum, Lotro is a good game to try for people that really enjoy the Lord of the Rings universe - to anyone else it's probably going to be a generic MMO. To me, it was good for a time, but has become soul-sapping grind fest. Again, you should personally try the game if you are at all interested.