E3 2005: Level Up
Middle Earth Comes Alive
Product: Lord of the Rings Online
Company: Turbine Games
Date: 05/23/2005
Avaliable On:

Everyone knew it would happen eventually, and when Turbine announced their plans to make an MMORPG based on the realm of Middle-earth, everyone took some degree of notice. Formerly entitled Middle-earth Online, the game has been renamed The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar.

For launch, it is planned to have the region of Eriador available to players. For those not familiar with Middle-earth geography, this would primarily include the locations from The Fellowship of the Ring as well as many of the regions in that area the fellowship didn?t directly explore. Since the time frame at launch is to be the same time period as "The Fellowship of the Ring", you will be exploring the same lands of Middle-earth that Frodo and his group are. Places like Rohan, Gondor, and Mordor will come later.

There have been four playable races announced for launch: human, elf, hobbit and dwarf. Given the area of the world that will be playable at launch, you wouldn?t be terribly welcome as an evil character anyway. Turbine says there will be seven classes to choose from, but at this time, only fighter has been announced. Of course, we all know ranger will be one too. Because magic in the world of Middle-earth is a very subtle and discreet thing, there will be no wizard type classes. Magic will be primarily in the form of items and equipment. No one is going to be going around throwing fireballs or calling down bolts of lightning. 50 levels are planned at launch, but that number may change.

Combat seems fairly typical so far, though there seems to be an even bigger focus on combination attacks than other games. Just about every combination of group attacks will result in some sort of effect, though some will be more potent than others. Every instance in the game will also scale to your group. So whether you go into a forest near Hobbiton or into the Mines of Moria, you will find the proper level of challenge.

I was treated to a short demo of the human tutorial and an overview of the newbie experience. Each race will have their own unique tutorial and it will occur in your own private instance. For the humans, the tutorial involved escaping from a bandit camp. You must save a ranger?s young female hobbit friend from brigands and escape unharmed.

Shortly thereafter, you are introduced to a small village in Breeland that will serve as your base of operations for your first few levels. After you have spent some time in the outlying area and formed an attachment to this town, you will have to watch it burn to the ground in a fairly impressive event. The world is extremely interactive and in this particular scene, you not only get to watch NPCs throw torches onto houses to set them ablaze (this may seem like a simple thing, but even MMORPG?s with the most cutting-edge visuals like Everquest 2 do not do things as simple as this), you are also able to use a well to carry water to put out fires. You move very slowly and are very vulnerable to attack while doing this however, so you must be cautious.

After going through this event, you enter the world proper, where the town exists only as a burning ruin. Turbine promises many other story changes like this; events that you can experience first hand (without having to be at the right place at the right time) and which have a lasting impact on the world.

Stay tuned for more news as it is released.

Alucard aka Stephen Triche

GameVortex PSIllustrated TeamPS2