Out of the Information Highway to Middle-Earth I Am Come: A Review of The Lord of the Rings Online

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       Aragorn crouches on the ground, studying the map laid out before him. I stand off to one side and try to look as if I actually belong here. Tersely he gives orders to our small gathering, and it seems my mission is to go with his fellow Ranger Torann to find where the Nazgul have been keeping Amdir.

    Torann and I sneak into the Blackwold camp–haphazard ruffians at their best, their new alliance with the sinister kingdom of Angmar has made them a serious threat–but it’s not long before we’re spotted. Frantically we battle our way through, but it’s getting too much for me. I’ve got two guards to disable, and they just keep going, and my energy level is getting low–I can’t keep this up much longer.

    But does that stop me? No, it does not. I just try to fight faster while mentally shouting, “Nononononononono!” However, my mental shouting does not do much in the way of fighting enemies. Everything goes grey . . . and up pops the message, “You have been incapacitated in battle. Would you like to retreat now?” Suppressing the urge to beat my head against the keyboard, I click, “Retreat Now”.

    No, this is not some fantasy I concocted because I thought my schoolwork was boring. This is just one of the many adventures I experienced by Lord of the Rings Online. LotRo is an online game based on Professor Tolkien’s landmark epic. Within the storyline, a player’s character participates in certain portions of the quest to destroy the Ring. The Fellowship of the Ring was not Middle-Earth’s only defense against Sauron’s growing might; several towns banded together to fight some of the more localized attacks, and heroes were made in those smaller skirmishes. In LotRO, a player has a chance to be a hero in the fight against Sauron.

    Anyone who plays LotRO can create a character as a Man, Hobbit, Elf, or Dwarf, and there are certain skill sets, known as classes, particular to each race. After some various experimenting with different races and classes, I’ve settled on two primary characters of a Hobbit burglar named Flose and an Elf lore-master named Hiviel.

    Playing as Flosa is quite interesting. As a Hobbit, she has remarkable stamina and often goes unnoticed due to her small size, and as a burglar, her reflexes are faster than average, giving her a distinct advantage in battle. If anyone considers playing LotRO, I would definitely recommend starting out with a Hobbit character.

    Playing as Hiviel requires a different sort of strategy. As a lore-master, she relies more on knowledge than strength to fight her battles and, consequently, is a little more vulnerable to brute-force attacks. However, she makes up for it in one key area: she can throw fire at her enemies (which I find therapeutic after a rough day). Also, lore-masters can summon animal companions to assist them on their journeys, and this includes bears. Nothing quite boosts morale like having a huge brown bear lumbering along beside you.

    Whichever race a player chooses, the Middle-Earth experience is the same–the graphics are of an extremely high quality and put you directly in Middle-Earth. What I found most exciting when I first started playing was that all of the locations from the book are accurately represented in the game. From the Shire to the Prancing Pony to the Barrow-Downs, it’s all there. I always wanted a chance to explore Middle-Earth, and this is the closest anyone can come to realizing that dream–even better, I would venture to say, than a chance to visit the movie sets in New Zealand. When you visit the sets, you’re just seeing where the story took place. When you play Lord of the Rings Online, you’re actually in the story.

Emerald

(Read more of Emerald’s works at My Turn to Talk)

 

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