Tuesday, 14 August 2012

The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar

Now we are really getting into the gaming with this post. Online gaming was not my sort of thing until this very MMORPG. I had been urged to try a couple of online games, before and after LOTRO (Lord of the Rings Online) but none of them seemed interesting enough to capture my attention and yes in that list are WoW (World of Warcraft), AoC (Age of Conan), DDO (Dungeons and Dragons Online) as well.
But I am not here to discuss other games. I am here to discuss LOTRO: SoA aka Shadows of Angmar.
Bree at night
It launched in North America, Australia, Japan and Europe on April 24, 2007, although I first played it a couple of months later. My main concern was being sucked into the artificial world of online gaming and lose control over it, which I did but we will get there.
Shadows of Angmar or LOTRO as it was back then was a simplistic game (especially when compared to what it is now) with beautiful and yet somehow realistic graphics which depicted the Middle Earth from a romantic point of view. And when I say romantic I do not mean dinner in candle light with the orcs and goblins. I mean you will find the landscape mostly green (save for Angmar of course) with lovely sights of nature. Back then the best you got was dx9 -or maybe dx10, not sure- and even if it supported dx10 I did not have a computer which could take it so that was what I played anyway: dx9 Very High Resolution settings.  The map included a large scope different areas and cities. The starting areas were (and still are) Ered Luin for dwarves and elves and Bree-Land (Archet) for Hobbits and Men just for the intro after which hobbit players are sent to the Shire for their starting quests. In SoA every player visits Bree-Land, Lone-Lands, North Downs, Trollshaws, Evendim, Angmar, Misty Mountains and Forochel. Every single area is huge and who by passes opportunities to visit the famous places you read in the book or see in the movies such as Bree, Waethertop, Rivendell, Ford Bruinen and so much more?
So what was my story? Mainly I got sick and took a week off work during which time a friend of ours suggested that I should play LOTRO free trial to give it a go. If I liked it I could purchase the game and if not there wasn’t anything I would lose. And so I downloaded it and tried it. Made an elf and found myself in Celondim after intro...It took my breath away....!!! I had managed to level my character to 18 by the end of my trial and I just knew...there was no other mmorpg for me out there. After purchasing it, for almost a year I played it like a sick person and spent even my birthday online.

So what was it beyond the pretty graphics? Well lets see, the game play was pretty much like any other mmorpg out there:  1st or 3rd person view avatar with skills at the bottom of the screen and a levelling system through gaining experience points from quest completions or killing mobs. The highest level of character was 50 back then which we used to call the BIG DING.
Cooking in the Shire

Crafting system was good too and it still is: You can grind the materials on your own for your main crafting vocation but for your minor vocations you would have to trade or visit the AH (The Auction House). The prices back then were a little bit spicy as opposed to the impossibly insane prices you see now. Crafted items (especially weapons) meant something back then as they were the best items in the game save for (just) one or two sets which you could attain through a raid or pvp.   

The Eye of Sauron

 The questing was very enjoyable. Mainly soloable quests and sufficient fellowship ones in every area for those who chose to experience group play. There were really very few raids and most of them were for mainly the fun of it not for the amazingly rare equipments or the medallion drops and so on. The Rift of Nurz Ghashu was about the only raid with tangible drops and was the only raid which offered one of the two best sets of armour in SoA. The other set was a pvp one in Ettenmoors. 

The PVP was restricted to Ettenmoors (and still is) and I cannot say much on the subject since I am not a pvp player. All I know is that not many changes are made to the game on that score in 5 years save for a few minor modifications.
Rivendell overlooking at The Last Homely House

But back in the days of Shadows of Angmar the community of LOTRO made it the best online game. Everybody was helpful, responsive, kind and generous. Mature and friendly air filled the game everywhere. Ninjas were few in numbers and most players were out to introduce and teach the game rather than patronizing the newbies or those who are less skilled in games or those who cant be bothered to obsess about playing a game to the point of perfection.

But that was 5 years ago. The game has come a long way since then with enormous changes, some excellent, some awful, some included game play, some affected the community. LOTRO is not a simplistic game anymore nor fun to play in my opinion unless what you do is just role play which I will mention in later posts concerning the expansions.
Shadows of Angmar was the first and the best step into the world of Tolkien. The game play was simple and yet challenging should you wish it. There was minimum amount of material and trait grinding. The stories and quests were well organized and exciting. The grouping and raiding were unvaried (and I don’t mean it as a minus but as a plus) and the crafted items actually worked for players. The community (always played in Laurelin so, that comment concerns only this server) was at its best behaviour with loads of help and suggestions and the game was fun fun fun...

In later posts I will be introducing each expansion that came out and what changes were made to the game. Which ones I liked, which ones I disliked or hated and which ones still need working on in order for something to come out of it. I hope you enjoyed this post and thanks for reading it.