The topic I wrote some time ago about “Rift vs. LotRO” is still getting readers almost every day. Unfortunately, it is probably not the kind of topic they were looking for. So, since I’ve played both games (at least for a little while), I thought I would make an elaborate posting about those games. I’m also going to throw in World of Warcraft because, apart from playing it as well, the big majority of MMO gamers have played the game or know something about the game, at least. :) (After starting to write this, I realised how long this entry would be in the end and decided to split it into different topics to be posted separately. So expect a posting every day for the next few days!)
Before I start, a warning of sorts: This will be a biased review of those games! I can only judge what I have experienced myself or what other people told me. And no matter how hard I would try, I could not write an objective review because my own taste/preference will always play a role in how I view games. So please, keep that in mind. I also do not claim that this overview is complete. I might have forgotten something here and there.
Before I start, a short gaming history: I have started playing WoW in December 2005. I raided during Burning Crusade and have stopped with that part of game content before Wrath of the Lich King was relased. In fact, I quit the game for a long time (came back shortly before Cataclysm was released). I quit again at the beginning of this year because I had my diploma exams and had no time for gaming. I am now back in WoW for 60 days to experience the new low level content.
I started with LotRO in 2009. I am now an officer in a social/casual kinship. I have done a few raids but they were mostly lower level content (which is not as easy to run through as in WoW but still easier than when it’s at the matching level). I mostly play solo or do the small-group-content.
When Rift was released, I started playing that game. I had my account active for two months, then I quit. I have the least experience with this game as my character only reached level 20-something.
I am going to sort several aspects of the games into categories. Of course, the content sometimes overlaps, so please bear with me here while I am trying to sort it somehow logically. ;)
How much does the game cost?
First of all, there is the box you need to buy if you want to play Rift or WoW. Rift costs more because it just came out this year but at least, there are no expansions to buy yet. The core game of WoW is a lot cheaper but you also need to get the expansions “Burning Crusade”, “Wrath of the Lich King” and “Cataclysm” if you want all the content (and the races that came with BC and Cataclysm or the Death Knight class that came with Wrath of the Lich King). You can play LotRO just by creating an account. Here, you either subscribe or buy quest packs (although “Mines of Moria” and “Mirkwood” still have to be bought in order for you to play them because they were expansions and are not included in the subscription).
Rift and World of Warcraft have your standard subscription model. You pay a monthly fee and get access to everything (except expansions as mentioned above). Both games offer gametime cards which is my preferred method because I can buy them at Amazon (for example!), so only Amazon gets my bank details but not all three (and Amazon has them anyway as I regularly buy stuff there). It’s just safer (especially when looking at the latest Sony hackings). Also, the price of gametime cards varies which is very nice because they can drop in price so that they are cheaper per month than buying a sub for several months.
LotRO is freemium. You can play for free. Make an account, download the client and play! The quests in the starting area are free. Quests in the following areas have to be bought. So do extra character slots (2 per server are free), etc. In the game, you can earn Turbine Points – the ingame shop’s currency. Or you can pay money for those Turbine Points. If you prefer, you can also pay a monthly sub. This monthly sub comes with all quest packs (except for Mines of Moria and Mirkwood which are expansions and have to be bought seperately), more character slots, more bag space, etc. and 500 Turbine points each month. Take a look at Turbine’s chart which shows some of the benefits. The good thing about this model is that if you do not have much time for a month or two, you can stop paying a sub and can still log on, chat with friends, grind a few monsters or just hang out in the game. The bad thing is that we do not know if the shop will stay the way it is now with almost no store-exclusive items that make your character stronger or if the shop will offer more store-exclusives in the future so that if you want to stay competitive with everybody, you might think about buying Turbine Points on top of your monthly fee (see here for a short rambling of mine about this topic).
Apart from subs and ingame shops, there are also special services that you can use and that usually cost extra. LotRO and WoW charge for server transfers among other things (name change, for example). Rift announced that for the foreseeable future, their server transfers will be free. On the other hand, you will not be able to just switch to the server of your choice but only to specific ones (probably not those with the highest playerbase). See the FAQ for more details.
WoW also offers WoW Remote. A service you have to pay for which lets you use the auction house from your mobile phone or browser. Some non-combat pets and mounts are also store-exclusive in WoW. You have to pay real money if you want them.
How do I make sure my account doesn’t get hacked?
I thought with the recent Sony hackings, that this might be an important topic to cover. WoW offers authenticators. You can either buy a real device or have one as an app on your mobile phone. Have a look at WoW Wiki to learn what an authenticator is. At the same time, if you want to use Blizzard’s Battle.net/Real ID feature (e.g. to add people to your friend list that play on other servers or even play another Blizzard game like Starcraft 2 and chat with them while you’re playing WoW), you have to give them your email address which is one part of your login information (they would still need to know at least your password but if you ask me, it is still a security issue that people get to know the email address that your account is associated with).
Rift offers an authenticator for Android and IPhone. Same than what WoW has only that here, you actually need a smartphone because there’s no independent device. Additionally, Rift also has the coin lock feature: Several things get “locked” when you log on from a different IP or PC as usual. For example, you can’t sell items/use the auction house while coin locked. You’ll then get an email with a five digit code that you have to enter in the game to get your account unlocked and use all features again.
LotRO doesn’t offer anything like that.
All three games use the same login/password information for their game client and their forums. At least, you can choose a username (or in WoW’s case, a character name) to post with, so you will not reveal your login name to everybody.
This is all for today. Every day, I will post another part of this series. I have chosen the following categories: Races/Class system, PvE, PvP, Crafting, Solo content, fluff and my conclusion.
If you have any other questions or found a mistake, please comment. :)