The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar Update

We sit down with Codemasters and Turbine at Leipzig to see an advanced build of this Tolkien-inspired MMORPG.

by

LEIPZIG, Germany--Based on the literary works of J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings Online is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game set for release on the PC. We've seen quite a lot of the game over the past year, and as it moves into beta phase at the end of September, more people will be able to see just how it's shaping up. As you'd expect from a game based on such a classic piece of literature, The Lord of the Rings Online has a firm emphasis on story. Playing as one of seven character classes, you will follow a path that frequently crosses that of the fellowship of the ring, with plenty of familiar names and places along the way. We visited Codemasters at Leipzig to see an example of the first few character levels and what players can hope to expect as they work their way deeper into the game.

With so many fans of the books, The Lord of the Rings Online could attract its fair share of players who are new to the MMORPG genre. The developers of the game realise this, and as you work through the first six levels as your character, you'll be eased in with plenty of onscreen tips and a world populated with people to talk to. The interface is also pretty well drawn out, with ring icons drawn on the map to highlight available quests that will suck you deeper into the game.

Codemasters and Turbine showed us how the first half hour of play might pan out. As a human female character, we started in a village that's home to hobbits, including relations of Frodo and Bilbo Baggins, and it's not long before trouble arrives and you're naturally left to help out with only your basic skills and combat ability to depend on. As you may remember from the films and books, the black knights on horseback are rather keen to find Frodo, and when one of them descends on your hobbit neighbours, it's down to you to help out the poor little guys. Codemasters showed us how to create a fire on one of the houses, and we watched it spread until it completely engulfed the black knight. Sauron's riders may well be pretty tough, but they're still susceptible to fire, and under the pressure of the mounting flames, the knight disappeared into the distance.

Since The Lord of the Rings Online was developed in Boston by Turbine, which has been responsible for Dungeons & Dragons Online and Asheron's Call, there's plenty of expectation surrounding it. Those who have been granted access to the beta release next month, including testers, journalists, and fans, will soon be able to see if it is living up to the hype. This will be the final test for the game, as it will show how it will hold up in a real-world environment, and after that, the signs are good for a spring 2007 final release.

We last saw the game at E3, and since then, the graphical effects, such as fire and water, are looking increasingly polished. The recommended minimum specs for the game are currently set at a 2.4GHz processor, 512MB RAM, and a 64MB graphics card, which seems fairly modest for a game of this size. Aside from graphical flourishes, certain features have been expanded as well. There are certainly a lot of quests to get through, and from the half-hour snippet we were privileged to see at Leipzig, it seems that there are actually quests within quests. Quite often, these are side achievements that you don't really set out to undertake. For example, you may be rewarded for seeing all the landmarks within a certain region (Breeland or the Shire, for example), and there are the usual accomplishments for slaying a set number of trolls or goblins. You can also become a lore master by recovering books and information about what is happening within the gameworld.

The accomplishments that you achieve can then be used to help gain traits within the game. Traits are essentially special abilities that you can equip and unequip at will, and that let you specialise your character as needed. As with any MMO, the skills that you choose to equip will help define the role that your character plays within the game. However, each of the seven classes has both a primary and secondary role. For example, a champion will primarily be a damage dealer, but he can also be a tank. It all depends on the group dynamic of each team and the situation that players find themselves in as they progress through the game.

While the game has yet to be released, the potential size and depth of the Lord of the Rings world means that it is ripe for expansion packs in the future. The game already looks like it will present a massive amount of exploration on its own. Nearly all the major characters promise to make an appearance at one point. All, that is, apart from Frodo, who is a conspicuous absence. At least fan favourite Gandalf will make an appearance at some point.

As with most modern MMOs, combat is dynamic, which means that your success is dependant on your position to the foe. A skilled player will therefore be able to dispatch foes quickly by circling around them, which should also serve to confuse the enemy as you attack. It's not all about attacking in The Lord of the Rings Online though, and a massive part of the attraction is just to explore the world that was created in J.R.R. Tolkien's fantastically detailed books. Instead of being linear, the story is a much more open interpretation of Tolkien's world, and as such it weaves around the path of the fellowship of the ring. While Frodo and company are heading off to destroy the ring at Mount Doom, players will occasionally cross paths, often directly affecting the fellowship and interacting with key members of the story. Depending on which class you choose, you'll also start out in different parts of Middle-earth with different opening quests, which should give the game some replay value.

This massively ambitious project is looking like it's finally taking shape, and while the spring 2007 release is still a ways off, the move into beta is an encouraging sign. Those looking for an MMORPG with a meaty story will probably lap the game up, even if the underlying adventure may be familiar to many. We'll have more on the game as it approaches its final release date.

Discussion

26 comments
Polerstrike
Polerstrike

I agree that World of Warcraft is a very popular game, I myself play it frequently, but the fact of the matter is; most of these people play it because it is close to Lord of the Rings, I imagine if WoW was editable for custom servers, some person would have made a thousand LOTR customations to it, just like in Warcraft. I am going to wait for the review, if it gets above a 7.5 here on gamespot, then I am going out to buy it right away. Some people are saying the combat is slow, I am having trouble understanding what that means exactly, cause when I was watching the trailer a man was hacking away with his sword, just like you do in Wold of Warcraft, his attack speed seemed the same as my charicter. If it is because it didnt show spells and such, then that charicter might be a champion (warrior) which dont have any spells. As for turbine, Vinvendi Universal is backing this game, I am telling you that there will be no mess ups with a wing of a movie company is backing it up, they have lots of money... If they do back out I am sure that they can take a new producer to make the game using the same stufff, and who knows they might even bring some new stuff into the game. Bottem line is, Lord of the Rings is an amazing story and will make a great game, especially if they are following the story. WoW is also a great game, but when this one comes out, more and more of the Lord of the Rings fans will flock to it, as I will.

gun65
gun65

im going to buy it when it comes out i dont care what anyone else says some ppl just wont like it and others will i'll be one of the ones that will prolly like it

Barzenak_40
Barzenak_40

Naa, WoW is also a great mmrpg it is not all marketing. They deveoped Starcraft and Diablo etc as that was the norm for the times. MMrpgs came later with Utlima, Asheron and Everquest and seeing the money potential there Blizzard figured they could do well. They were right by making a game for the casual gamer in mind with enough content to keep the hard core there as well. This game may fair ok as it has a subject matter people know. Ad&d online had a terrible beta but some say it is very good now. I played AC for 2 years so I know the good and bad with turbine.

uberjannie
uberjannie

PyscoJuggalo : then where is all the 14 year olds coming from? the generation which never heard about brood war and certainly never ever heard about starcraft. Its like they MAYBE heard about warcraft 3, and they think : warcraft 3? was there ever warcraft 1 and 2?

PyscoJuggalo
PyscoJuggalo

NOTHING WILL COMPETE WITH WORLD OF WAR CRAFT. Blizzard groomed the Warcraft/Diablo/Starcraft fanbase for over a decade before they released a MMORPG for that fanbase. If you want to copy WoW then you need to groom a fanbase for over a decade, creating multiple quality games that intrest your fanbase, and then hook them in with your money making MMORPG. WoW is great marketing and an average MMORPG.

AJay25
AJay25

This should be one MMPORPG that does compete with World Of Warcraft, but . . i'm sorry to say, i have to agree with whats been said already. With Tubine behind the game you'll be lucky if LOTR Online hits the shelves. Also with D+D already begining to flop it is looking a little glim. On the other hand though i really do hope they pull it off this time, as the LOTR franchise is huge and the games before it such as BFME have been fantastic (maybe EA should have got in on this one). It would be nice to see what kind of things they have implemented into a potentially HUGE game. Of course if it does flop and it is crap then we wont have to wait to long for Warhammer Online: AOR

Sheepofevilz
Sheepofevilz

Turbine closed Asheron's Call 2 and ruined D&D, not to mention sullying both licenses. Now, they have decided to ruin Lord of The Rings, too. Turbine sucks, don't buy anything from them.

matte989
matte989

I don't know.. I lost my faith in Turbine a long time ago. :-[ Best of luck to them. We need more successful MMO's out there.

okill
okill

I have been anticipating this game for a very long time. I can't wait.

DubiousC
DubiousC

WoW, Shmow. This game will whoop WoW's whiny butt. At least it should, if the world has but an ounce of common sense left... Ahh hell, we're doomed.

DeltaTeam
DeltaTeam

I can't wait, I've been wanting to play this for soo long! Still a far way away but I can wait, hopefully it can compete with WoW

Aksarafrezz
Aksarafrezz

omg hmm i wonder if this elevate the mmorpg genre like WoW.... oh well i hav a very good feeling bout this new mmo peace y'all

teh_leeto
teh_leeto

Sigh, i wonder how much the subscription fees will be. But this does sound like its on the right track to be a good MMOI

Zweihanderhero
Zweihanderhero

Sadly this will probably be squashed under the iron fist of WoW...As long as WoW is as popular as it is (even more probably in 07 with BC already out),no MMO has a chance in hell

rokkuman09
rokkuman09

I'm really looking forward to this game have been watching it since it was announced....

Chernnunos
Chernnunos

I am part of the Alpha testing of it. I signed a statement not to release info on it.... But all I can say is, it better get a WHOOOOOOOOLE lot better looking, better playing, and better sounding before Beta. If you want proof, I can email you my invitation (sans the serial key of course)

rodders1991
rodders1991

sounds good hope its good then i might just have to get some pennies on to it

gun65
gun65

i have been following this game since it was announced i cant wait for it to come out!!!! :)

jman183
jman183

Man I cant wait for this game!! I live in the Boston area so maybe I will get to be in the beta :)

comthitnuong
comthitnuong

could the title get any longer...n i dont think while wow is in its hey day it will do good

mumotuma_man
mumotuma_man

lord of the rings, alright!... mmorpg, monthly fees?... i dunno...