One of the games that I always tend to go back to is Lord of the Ring Online. When it came out, it featured some of the most beautiful scenery even seen in an MMO. Even today, the style has a very enchanting charm. The textures might be more blurry than we’re used to, the mountains might have more hard edges, and all those things that improve over the year with more memory and computing power. But it is still a very convincingly-made world (The Shire is one of my favorite zones in any MMO ever), and like no other, it invites me to just travel around for the sake of traveling.
Plus, it’s Tolkien. Can’t argue against that.
The mechanics are a bit more of a mixed bag. Many people complain that the controls feels sluggish, and combat is slow. I never had problems with the sluggishness, but maybe that’s because of the class I played. I started in earnest, after dabbling around a bit, with a warden. Warden’s don’t have many skills that require cast times. In fact, they don’t have all that many skills to start with. Instead, they use three basic skills (“spear”, “shield”, and “fist”) in certain combinations, called gambits, and then release said gambits for special effects that work like special abilities do for other classes. It’s a pretty responsive system, for the most part, and it doesn’t require you to use too many keys at the same time.
It does require you, though, to remember what combination has what effect. I call it the “Tekken” effect. It’s not too bad though; you unlock new gambits slowly, one after the other, while leveling, so you have time to learn them. Also, there is a certain tendency that gambits that start with spear are DPS-focused, shields are defense-focused, and fist are threat-focused, which helps with memorizing. I was happily fighting my way up to the higher levels, and was in Moria at the time Turbine decided the class needed an overhaul.
Oh my. For starters, they strengthened the “stances” concept. Up to then, stances were just self-buffs to improve your DPS or tanking. These days, they also change the effects of your gambits. Also, they added a new stance that made all your spear attacks work as javelin attacks, to allow the warden to do some ranged damage. In effect, you end up with about 3 times as many abilities to memorize. So, as an example: “The Boot” (spear, shield) is an interrupt that also does some damage. It also has a stun component in “Recklessness” (melee DPS) stance, and roots the target in “Assailment” (ranged DPS) stance, in which the ability also changes name to the awkwardly clumsy “ranged boot”. Ranged boot? Oh, and in “Determination” (tanking) stance, it doesn’t add any form of crowd control, but instead adds a DoT. “Boar’s Rush” (spear, fist, spear, fist) also is a damage + CC ability, but in this case, melee DPS and tanking get the crowd control, while you get a DoT in ranged DPS stance. You still with me? If you need a handy reference chart, here you go:
You probably all had the feeling at some point in time: you return to a game, have a bewildered look at your ability bar, and realize that you have no idea how to play this class any more. And that even happens without sweeping changes while you were gone. When the changes went live, I logged in, bought my new abilities like the mentioned “ranged boot”, tried to figure out how to play, realized I didn’t have any idea what I was doing, and logged off. I decided I could always come back later to invest the couple of hours to get up to speed again. Only that never happened. I stopped playing because I felt the class had changed so much that it wasn’t the same any more. That doesn’t even mean that is actually the case: all those changes in one update just made me feel out of touch.
So, there you have it. Three games I don’t play, each for another reason. Incidentally, none of them are really about the core of the game. In one case, it’s the company’s business behavior (EQ2); in the other, parts of the fan base (GW2); and in the third, massive class changes made me lose track.
Which of those three will I play within the next year? I think LotRO has the best chances. I still love the game, and once I feel the itch to return, I’ll probably try and figure out how to play my warden again. It looks like the next expansion won’t bring any massive changes to wardens, so I could start anytime now without the fear that all will be obsolete again in two months.
And with that, I guess I can return to posts about games that I do play.