|System: PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Turbine Entertainment||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: Midway||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: April 24, 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1 (online)||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Pending||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by Matthew Walker
When the Lord of the Rings first started in theaters, several of us became a little tongue-tied when we went and bought our tickets requesting, as fast as we could, "One to see Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, please." The epidemic did not stop there. After the first, we had two others that our tongues would trip over. Well, now we have a completely new title to trip our vocabulary over, Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar, except this will be at the game store and offers an entirely new experience.
This April, Turbine Entertainment brings us the first MMORPG based on the Tolkien masterpieces, but do not expect this installment to compare to any of the previous LOTR games. On the contrary, Shadows of Angmar brings the fantasy world of Middle-Earth to life by including elements and missions based on The Hobbit and all three of the Lord of the Rings volumes. While actual story content is still sparse, you can expect to interact with memorable characters from the books, including Gandalf and the Fellowship. You will be able to create your own elf, dwarf, hobbit, or man character, and through them you will cut a path for your own destiny while battling against the evil Lord Sauron.
Speaking of the different types of characters that you will be able to create, you will also be able to choose from seven different classes for your character. These classes are split up according to the capabilities of the races. For man, you will have to choose between Champion, Guardian, Captain, Burglar, Hunter, Minstrel, and Lore-master, which is all seven. For the elf in us, all our choices will be Champion, Guardian, Minstrel, and Lore-Master. The Dwarves can choose between Champion, Guardian, Minstrel, and Hunter. For those of us that have big hairy feet, we will have to pick either Guardian, Minstrel, Hunter, and the always popular choice, Hobbits Burglar. The choice for characterization will not end here. You will also be able to join in a group of up to six to form your own fellowship. Turbine has also mentioned that in certain dungeons, up to a whopping 24 players can attack the dungeon at the same time. This aspect will remind fans of the onslaughts of carnage they felt while reading the books.
Most of the game will be arranged on a player versus the environment scope, but at least one point of the game will allow you to become one of the monsters and do battle against to worthless do-gooders of the land. Among the monsters, you will be able to choose from five different monster classes including: Weaver spiders - ranged area of effect damage, Warg stalkers - burglar or rogue-type class, Orc reavers - dual-wielding damage class, Uruk Blackarrows - ranged damage, and an Uruk Warleader - fighter, buffer, debuffer. Every monster type has its own statistics and abilities, but they all start out at level 50, the level cap, as soon as you start playing with them. Despite their level being at maximum, you can still advance your monster through 15 ranks to allow them to fully reach their potential. So, how do you get to play as a monster? There will be at least one portal in Bree that will allow you to select a monster and enter into Ettenmoors, a large expanded land filled with forested areas and rivers. Players will be able to bring their "human" character into the player versus player land of Ettenmoor, but you will not be able to do this until level 40. However, once you are able to venture into the land, you will be rewarded according to your character. Be it monster, infamy, or hero renown, you will be able to use the points you receive in order to purchase things such as body upgrades in order to change your appearance.
The screenshots demonstrate the amount of detail thrown into the game. The environments look lush and vibrant compared to some of the other available MMORPGs on the market today. The character models are crisp and equally detailed. With the ability to change your character's appearance in the game, you will be able to see the extensive amount of time Turbine has placed into the title user custom ability. If the music from the films is any indication as to what to expect from the online adventure, then we are in for a treat. However, one musical element that has been revealed in Shadows of Angmar is that you will be able to purchase instruments in the game and then use your keyboard to produce melodies with others.
There will also be a large focus on the social aspects of the game. By completing various tasks like killing a certain amount of creatures in an area, killing a particular monster, or eating a lot of breakfasts, you can earn what are known as titles. These titles become visible to other players in Eriador and are simply a bragging right, but with over 400 titles to achieve, it sounds very intriguing. Another interesting ability you will have is to "adopt" each other as sons, daughters, or other familial positions to fill in your family tree. This will have no actual effect on the gameplay, but rather act as a community-building tool.
On March 30, the beta will open up to everyone. Unfortunately, for closed beta members, the beginning of the open beta means their previous characters will be wiped. If the game is preordered, however, Turbine is implementing the crafty gimmick of allowing players to carry over their open beta characters to the final version of the game, even though during the open beta there will be a level cap of 15. Lord of the Rings Online is also offering a $199 (USD) lifetime fee for preorder customers. Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar is scheduled for an April 24, 2007 full release, so be sure to check back here for our review of the quest to destroy the one ring.
CCC Freelance Writer