May 24, 2007

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The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar (PC)
Turbine, 2007
By Glenn Given production@hippopress.com

The awkwardly acronymed TLOTRO:SOA manages a feat of magical fantasy so amazing that I’m tempted to call it the years best! A stable launch.

Shadows of Angmar certainly knows where to steal from. The style of the Peter Jackson trilogy style permeates every pore of this Middle Earth and a slavish devotion to Tolkeins universe has thus far kept the uber geeks from vivisecting the fun out of it. Baked right in is the combat mechanics of Warcraft with the character trait custimzation via badge like virtues a la City of Heroes.

This may seem to label Shadows of Angmar as a cheap rip-off, albeit an expensive cheap rip-off; that would be a disservice. Shadows lifts the right MMO structures and beautifully packages them in an academy award winning visual style. There is some innovation to be found in the Shire though. Instanced towns and shared plot progession impart a sense of impact upon player accomplishments that is sorely lacking in other MMOs. Even little clever bits like character’s ability to play musical instruments help to set Shadows of Angmar apart from the pack.

What is missing though is serious PvP play (aside from the token “monster role play” that players can engage in) and high fantasy magic.I know that Tolkein restricted the wizardry to a select group of powerful entities, but Shadows could use a bit more in the “pew pew fireballs!” department. Tolkein stalwarts will decry me as sullying the temperance that Middle Earth represents, but I say every class in Lord of the Rings Online is just a different shade of boring brawler.

Shadows of Angmar is well put together, a exceptional looking game and quite possibly the most polished MMO launch I’ve ever seen. But it’s shiney bits and devotion to lore can’t mask the sense that something is missing here; fun. B+ — Glenn Given