previews\ May 15, 2003 at 8:00 pm

The Lord of the Rings Online: Shadows of Angmar - PC - Preview

E3 2003 - First Look


When talking about the world of J.R.R. Tolkien, there are certain elements that must never be overlooked. Constants are in place for a reason, and should anything dealing with those realms be altered, well … the wrath of fans would surely make Sauron’s attempt to conquer the lush, diverse world look like a Sunday afternoon picnic.


Middle-Earth Online is the massively multiplayer online role-playing game entrant from Sierra and Turbine. Some thought that this game may well be a rehash of Asheron’s Call 2, another Turbine title. Think again. Middle-Earth Online looks nothing like AC2, and the gameplay is well within the realms of Tolkien’s masterpiece.


The game is slated for release in late 2004, but a four-month build was available for a look at E3 in Los Angeles.


In one world – wow!


This game is built utilizing Turbine’s next generation graphics engine. The details on armor, ambient and reflective lighting, volumetric shadows, and enchantment and spells are stunning.


For those who are wondering, no sorcerers or wizard characters will be available. After all, only five existed in Tolkien’s world.


The game begins in Eriador, and the Shire is an important aspect and wonderful introductory land. All non-playing characters (NPCs) will have voice-over personalities; fireworks with light up the sky at the parties of the Hobbits, players will be able to buy pipes and then sit around and smoke them.


The combat model is still in the works, but the animation was amazingly lifelike.


“It’s a question of how immersive is the world,” said Vivendi Universal producer Chris Taylor. Taylor acknowledged that was a wonderful opportunity to create a well-founded universe, but also admitted the challenges – which have been enthusiastically accepted by the development team – are great.


Which is why some race classes may take a long time to realize – like the race of elves, or the mounted race of the men of Rohan. The former because of the ethereal, beautiful nature of the beings, the latter because the horses were not mere mounts that were ridden from point A to B. The horses of the Rohan were every bit warriors as well.


Fellowship will also be a very important element of the game, as will be character alignment. Wearing tainted armor may throw your character into the army of Sauron and it will take much more than praying at a statue, or changing armor, to redeem your character.


This is a game that will be centered “around the fundamental moral choice between good and evil.”


The game will also be quest laden, driving players through the storyline.


Few games can match the graphical quality of this game, even at the four-month stage.


The game is approximately a year and a half away from release, and while Tolkien fans, and MMORPG fans in genre, may be eager for its release, indications are that the wait will be well worth it.

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