Lord of the Rings Online is a queer fish, critically speaking. Most reviewers with half a brain about them were entirely concious of just how unashamed a World of Warcraft clone it was (those without just shouted “it's got Gandalf in it!"), presenting something of a dilemma. Do we kick it for not trying very hard at all, or do we celebrate it for, as a result, being accessible and characterful in a way most other MMORPGs aren't? It's a game without true purpose other than to make money; it scientifically assessed what people wanted right now and did them, adding almost nothing of its own.
Of course it was going to be a huge success.
Suffering growing disillusionment with WoW, a friend and I made a foolish decision to flee to LOTRO a few months back, hoping we'd be able to recapture the early joy and wonder of getting lost and not quite understanding what was happening. Too late; our brains were permanently altered by years of WoW, and we saw LOTRO's over-familiar dynamics through mechanical eyes. There was no buffoonish working anything out required – almost everything was as plain as the stupid fat noses on our stupid fat hobbit faces. Realising there was currently nothing new under the sun, that was the end of LOTRO, and also the end of WoW for me.
In a reality where I never formed a strong attachment to a green-pigtailed Gnome rogue who rode a mechanical ostrich, it would have been a different matter entirely, and I do wonder what silly hats that hobbit of mine could be wearing now if I'd persevered. I'm given to understand the game's become its own a little more since those first months, but until I hear of something really spectacular, it's too late for me. I still consider LOTRO a fascinating entity, as by rights it should be chased off the internet for plagiarism and lack of inspiration, but somehow it actually works pretty well.
If you wanna give it a go, just announced today is a free seven-day trial – unless you're in Europe, a fact hidden in tiny print on the bottom of the page that you may not notice until you've finished downloading 3.9Gb (equivalent to roughly 780 copies of Wolfenstein 3D) of useless client.
Again, the call goes out, and one you'll read in a lot of our posts about games with communities - if you'd like to contribute anything to the site about why you think LOTRO (or, indeed, any slightly lesser-known online game) is bestest, please get in touch.