Games for the weekend: Lord of the Rings Online


As I’m sure you can guess from the title, Lord of the Rings Online is a massively multiplayer online game that takes place in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle Earth. Up until now, the only way to run Lord of the Rings Online on your Mac was via a program like Codeweaver’s Crossover. But more often than not, a game or OS X patch would break the ability to run LoTRO in this manner, so the safe route was running it in Boot Camp . That way, as Saruman said in the Fellowship of the Ring movie, is the way of pain. Well, OK, not really, but partitioning a hard drive and running a separate OS to play a game is a pain the rear.

Last week, Turbine released a native OS X client for Lord of the Rings Online.

Yes, there was much rejoicing.

Well, after the 17GB .DMG file downloaded, anyway. Twice, in my case, since the first download was corrupted.

Free to play, sorta

Up until recently, most MMO games required a monthly subscription, usually around $15 per month. Now, the trend is to have the game client and initial experience free (the first hit being free, as the adage goes), and the publisher hopes to make up for the lost subscription revenue via micro transactions within the game. With LoTRO, I think Turbine has found a good balance between making the game free, and nickel and diming the customers to death. With LoTRO, you can quest up until level 30 for free as the first few areas of the game are truly free. To get from levels 30 to 50, you can either kill monsters until you’re blue in the face without spending money, or unlock additional quest zones for about $5 per zone by purchasing Turbine Points, the currency you can use in the in-game store. You can also earn Turbine Points by completing quests in the game, so it’s possible to further extend what you can play for free. Turbine also sells potions that’ll let you level faster, mounts your character can ride, cosmetic items and the like. There’s a matrix here that explains the different ways to play the game.

Also free to play is the game’s epic storyline. This is a series of quests that span the entire level range of the game where your character follows and supports the main characters from the books. With any game based on an established franchise, it’s hard to let the players feel like heroes. In LoTRO, however, I got a better feeling of being part of the action than I have in games like The Matrix Online.

Like any MMO, your quests will take the form of killing a lot of things, and then killing more of the same thing. Once my character got into the Mines of Moria (a longtime Tolkien favorite of mine), I got the feeling of helping the Dwarves regain their lost kingdom. By the time you get there, the Fellowship has already passed through, although you’re responsible for digging out the back door — not unlike one of my winter duties at my Mom’s, now that I think of it. My highest character is only in the 50s, so I haven’t progressed past it, but I’m looking forward to working towards the level cap of 85.

How the Mac client actually performs

Quite well, actually. I had some major fears going into this. Performance under Crossover was always spotty at best. While this is a native app, I harbor no illusions that no porting from the Windows(s MSFT) version was done. I’m pleased to say it runs quite well. My frame rates have been solid and I haven’t experienced any odd issues.

That said, it’s still currently a beta release and the better hardware you have, the better the game will run. So, far, though, I’ve been happily playing my Dwarf without cursing the game client.

Closing thoughts

Fantasy MMOs scratch my itch, and for the last five years LoTRO has been one of my favorites. It’s been one of the reasons I keep a Windows partition on my Mac and I’m happy to no longer have to reboot to play a great game. Now, Turbine, how about a client for Dungeons and Dragons Online?

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