MILLIONS OF PLAYERS... ONE GAME TO RULE THEM ALL
A few months ago I started playing the MMORPG (which stands for massively multi player online roleplaying game, yes, quite a mouthful!) The Lord of the Rings Online - Shadows of Angmar. I am a bit of a geek and I love these kinds of games, even though I have the hand to eye coordination of a two year old. The fact that I can manoever around this game so comfortably speaks volumes of how easy it is to master the controls! The game is set in the world that J.R.R. Tolkien created in his Lord of the Rings trilogy and in the Hobbit. As a player you can pick your race from four classes, human, elf, dwarf and hobbit, and each race has several different classes which define your abilities and your traits. A few of those are burglar (sneak up on people and nick their things), lore-master (control a raven or a bear to do your dirty work for you!), minstrel (with the most fearsome battle cry I have ever heard) and hunter (now THAT's a bow!). Picking your race determines where you start playing the game, there are three tutorial areas where you are introduced to all the specifics. The main game takes place all over Middle Earth as Tolkien designed it, with convenient maps to show you where you are and how to get to your destination.
The community is the friendliest I have encountered in online roleplaying games, there is no sign of disdain for new players (usually called noobs in other games I have played) and the more experienced players are very helpful. The game consists of a series of quests, some for solo playing and others for a "fellowship", which means joining up with other players to wreak havoc together. The main story line is divided into chapters, and aside from those quests there are tons of side quests with all kinds of different objectives. It's especially fun to run into characters you know from the books, such as Gandalf.
Aside from those quests, each character can pick a vocation which then allows them to master three professions. A couple of examples: weaponsmith, cook, jeweller, woodworker and armoursmith. These allow you to develop your crafting skills and let you create items you can sell to other players or to the vendors in the game, so you can make money to purchase the things you need for your particular character. The game also offers the opportunity to buy a house (imagine your very own hobbit hole) and a horse for easier, faster travel.
The graphics in this game are phenomenal. One of the things that still grip me every time I see it, is when one of my characters swims across a river and I can see their shadow on the weed covered bottom, the sun glinting off the little waves and the reflection of the clouds in the rippling water. Middle Earth sure is beautiful!
The level of violence is high, which is why it's rated T for Teen audiences. That it's mostly made up critters with nasty personalities you have to slaughter doesn't change the fact that there is a lot of blood to be shed, so it is definitely not a game for younger players.
If you go the site www.lotro.com you can sign up for a FREE 7 day trial to get a taste of the game. If you decide to keep playing, you will have to purchase the retail version and sign up for a subscription. Costs of the game are $ 29.99 for the retail version, available at stores like Best Buy, Walmart and Target, and a monthly subscription fee of 15 dollars. However, if you browse the forums at the official site, you might be able to find another member willing to give you a so called Founder's Referral, which entitles you to a monthly fee of $ 9.95 for the same membership. Now there's an incentive to visit the forums and make some friends!
A few of the technical specifications:
minimum required processor: Intel Pentium 4 1.8 GHz or equivalent
video card: 64MB NVIDIA GeForce or ATI Radeon 8500
RAM: 512 MB
disk space: 7GB available
operating system: Windows XP
Optical Drive: 2X DVD ROM
One warning: this game is a heavy load for your processor because of all the amazing graphics. Slower computers will have a really hard time handling this.