This is the full version of entries that have been published in the last week! I just thought it might be nicer to have everything in one huge entry instead of in separate ones (either way: You can find all entries in the category labelled “rift vs. lotro vs. wow” on the right).
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.
What can I play (races and classes)?
All three games offer a variety of races and classes.
Rift and WoW have two factions each with different races on each side. In LotRO there is only the “free people” (and the creep monsterplay which I will write about in the PvP-section).
World of Warcraft has 12 races all together – Horde (Taurens, Trolls, Undead, Orcs, Blood Elves and Goblins) and Alliance (Humans, Night Elves, Gnomes, Dwarves, Draenei and Worgen). Only certain races can play certain classes. Also, Blood Elves and Draenei require the Burning Crusade expansion. Goblins and Worgen require the Cataclysm expansion.
Lord of the Rings Online has 4 races. Men, hobbits, elves and dwarfs. The usual which you are probably familiar with if you have at least watched the movies. No female dwarves, of course. Or let’s rather say: You can’t tell if they are male or female. ;)
Rift offers quite some freedom when it comes to “creating” your class. You have 4 archetypes: Mage, Cleric, Warrior and Rogue. Each of those archetypes has 8 souls (plus one PvP soul) to choose from. You can always have three of them at a time and put skill points into them. It would be too much to discuss in length what this class system means or which combinations are possible. Let’s just say that this is the aspect I enjoyed most about the game! It gives you a lot of diversity and you can still switch your role without having to reroll a character (e.g. I have a cleric. I can heal with her or choose a tanking role or maybe a melee one?). There are four builds that you can save and load whenever you’re out of combat. This post gives you more information if you’re interested. The screenshot shows the character creation screen and a female dwarf. There are quite a few options to choose from. It is not as ‘free’ as Aion is but that also means that dwarves always look like dwarves and their proportions always fit (no giant head on a 2 ft tall character, for example).
The other two games are a bit more conservative. WoW offers 10 classes and “dual spec”. The 10th class, the Death Knight, is only available if you have bought the “Wrath of the Lich King” expansion. The Death Knight starts at level 55. All other classes start at level 1. Dual Spec lets you choose two different talent builds that you can switch between fights (e.g. one build for healing and one for damage if you are a priest). The screenshot shows a goblin. One of the two races that were added with Cataclysm in December. WoW has very limited character creation options. You can decide for several different faces but can’t decide for a certain eye colour to go with a certain nose, chin, ears etc. Also, no changing of the body height or anything like that.
LotRO also gives you the option to respec like Rift and WoW do as well, but there’s no way to switch between builds easily or even save a template or something like that. LotRO gives you 9 classes. Two of those, the warden and the rune-keeper, are not included in the f2p-package. You have to buy them separately. As the screenshot shows, LotRO is somewhat in between Rift and WoW when it comes to the choices you get when creating a character. While you can decide for your character’s eye colour separately, you cannot decide for many facial features independently. And even the choices you get do not make such a big difference to how your character looks, actually. At least, when it comes to women. Males can have better differences because of their bears (unless you choose an elf, of course). Here, you can’t change your height but you can change the body type from a bit chubby to a bit more muscular.
What does the game look like?
Keep in mind that World of Warcraft has a very different graphic style and was released back in 2004. Lotro was released in 2007. Rift is the newest of those three and was just released this spring (March 1, 2011 in the USA to be more precise). Do not expect high-end graphics. Although you should never really expect those when you are looking at MMOs. First of all, it takes much longer to develop those games than “simple” offline games. Second, there should be some kind of emphasis on the “massive” in MMORPG. So, of course, the graphics should scale down somewhat so a lot of players can actually play the game without having to buy a new PC. WoW does it very well, apparently, and you can play the game even on a very old PC. My latop, which only uses onboard graphics, can play WoW. It can also play LotRO although I have a lot less FPS there (and, of course, both games look ugly with the graphic settings on “very low”). All screenshots were taken with the graphic settings on at least “high”.
I am going to use dwarves as a reference for the character models because I played them in most games. My dwarf in LotRO is still small, though. I could have used humans as all three games offer them (which fantasy game doesn’t?) but they’re boring. Elves would have also been a possibility but even though I usually have at least one elf character, I don’t really like them too much. ;) So, dwarves* it is.
Let’s start with World of Warcraft. Nothing special here about them. Just the ordinary dwarves. I like the proportions of the female dwarf. And I personally think they are cute. But apparently, I’m in a minority. I always like telling the story how the first stranger in WoW that communicated with me was some guy telling me to please delete my dwarf and reroll her because he did not want to have to look at fat characters in the game. *sigh* Oh well. In the English version of the game, they have a Scottish dialect. Very cute! The German version doesn’t have this (Draeneis also don’t have an accent in the German version). This is just one of many reasons why I avoid using the German version.
These are Rift’s dwarves. Unfortunately, I don’t have a better picture of the male dwarf (my account isn’t active at the moment). At first, I didn’t like them at all. Their arms and hands are huge! But then I saw an NPC in game and I liked how he looked. With a robe and a staff in his hands, the arms and hands aren’t that noticeable anymore. Still, it does look a bit like an ape.
I saved the cutest couple for last. LotRO dwarves, male and female! Well, it is said that you cannot differentiate between those two, so technically, it would be correct to play one as a female dwarf. To quote from Wikipedia: “In The Lord of the Rings Tolkien writes that they breed slowly, for no more than a third of them are female, and not all marry; also, female Dwarves look and sound (and dress, if journeying — which is rare) so alike to Dwarf-males that other folk cannot distinguish them, and thus others wrongly believe Dwarves grow out of stone. Tolkien names only one female, Dís. In The War of the Jewels Tolkien says both males and females have beards.”
I decided to choose a handful of scenery and gameplay screenshots to give you a basic overview of what the games look like. However, I soon ended up with too many pictures that I really liked. Even after going through them two times, I still have too many. So, I decided to just show three for each game here. If you look at those three and want to see more, then follow the link to the folders where I uploaded the rest. I “blacked out” parts of the screenshots where I saw other people’s character names. I don’t know how they feel about having their character names appear on my screenshots here, so I thought it’s safer just to remove them.
Let’s start with World of Warcraft again. The first picture shows my Draenei mage casting. The game’s interface can be changed drastically with the use of add ons. So this isn’t the standard interface that you see. The little bars with info on the top and on the bottom are part of an add-on, for example. So are the life bars. The second picture shows the Worgen starter area. Please not the enemy Worgen on top of the roof. Now add some eerie music and you get the right feeling. I absolutely loved this starter area! That and the Goblin one (those are the new ones that were added with Cataclysm in December) are a lot of fun with a nice story and not so much “kill 10 rats” quests as usual. The third one shows the underwater region added with Cataclysm. I added this one to the preview here because not every game has underwater quest areas. And even though I’m actually very afraid of everything “underwater” (except for seahorses, they are actually quite cute!), I enjoyed most of the quests there and really loved the rich colours! If you want to see more screenshots, then follow this link.
Next up is LotRO. The first screenshot, once again, shows you the interface and my warden while she’s fighting two goblins. No add ons were used (they weren’t available at that point). The box on top of her life bars is a mechanic specific to wardens. I mainly use the first three skills in her skill bar in certain combinations, then press “4” to use the combination (in this case, I built the skill “Fierce Resolve” with the combination of yellow, red, green). The second screenshot shows a part of Rivendell. You usually don’t get there until you’re in your 20s, I think. I rode my little level 10 elf over there, however, because only Rivendell has the superior crafting facility that she needed. I had to dodge quite some bears on my ride but it was worth it even if just for the scenery there! This is part of what I love about this game: Turn around, disable your interface, take a screenshot and there’s a high chance that the screenshot turns out to show picturesque and pretty scenery (unless you’re in a cave fighting orcs and goblins). The third screenshot shows… erm… hmm… I think it’s still part of the Shire? Could be closer to Bree, though. Some place in between, at least. ;) With farms, mills and everything you’d expect to find in a still relatively peaceful rural area. Just as with WoW, you can have a look at this folder if you want to see more!
The last one is Rift. As above, the first one is a screen of my character fighting. Also no addons. But the interface is customizable just like in LotRO. This is a picture from the starter area. The swords below her life bars are part of this class’s combat mechanics. Some skills do more damage or give you a buff when you activate them and have more of those little swords (which are added by using certain skills). The second screenshot is from the Defiant starting area. It’s not always as peaceful as it looks now. I once turned around and saw enemy NPCs invade this little place (it’s a quest hub, by the way). Scary! ;) You’re never safe unless you’re in your capital city, I guess. That rock standing next to me is an earth elemental, by the way. It belongs to my mage. She’s an elementalist which probably doesn’t surprise you now. ;) And the last screenshot for today shows a little hut. I think it’s still really pretty! If Rift had housing, I’d probably want something like this! Reminds me of hobbits. More pictures can be found here.
What’s there to fight (PVE)?
PvE can come in several forms. In the case of these games, we have: raids, rifts, instances, quests (and deeds but I’m going to write about them in another section later), skirmishes and special quest chains. We can also randomly hop around and kill every mob in sight but that’s not exactly a ‘feature’. ;)
All three games offer raids. So I guess, if that is what you are looking for, you will feel comfortable in all three games. I would say that Rift and WoW have a heavier focus on raids than LotRO does. But there is definitely raid content in LotRO as well. I am not going to spend much time writing about raids as I haven’t really raided in LotRO, never set foot into a raid in Rift and my raid-information from WoW is heavily outdated (from their first expansion, Burning Crusade, to be exact). ;)
Instances are also available in all three games. Rift and WoW have the standard 5 man instances with normal and hardmode (or “heroic”) versions at endgame. LotRO has instances for small fellowships (3 man) and fellowships (6 man). Not long ago, LotRO added a feature that lets you scale instances and raids. That means that if there is an instance that you can enter with level 20, you can now scale it to be appropriate from anywhere between level 20 and 65 (the current level cap). There is no such feature in Rift and WoW.
All three games have a sort of “dungeon finder” tool. In LotRO, you still have to find a group first (through the chat or within your group of friends,…). Then you can open the dungeon interface and click on the dungeon you want to visit, enter the level you want it to be, enter the difficulty you want and start the dungeon. Every group member gets ported into the dungeon by just a click. The screenshot on the left shows you the instance join panel. It’s set for level 65 and for “small fellowship”, “tier 1” difficulty. On the bottom, you can see the different instances. Some are grey because I haven’t been to the actual instance entrance yet and you need to go there and discover the instance before you can use the instance join panel to be teleported to the instance.
In WoW and Rift, you have the tool to find people for a dungeon. You will automatically get put into a random group and into a dungeon after clicking on “accept”. WoW has this system in place that finds people on different servers. Rift currently only offers it for your own server. It is up to you whether that is something you like or not. I have to say that I have noticed a decline in quality of your group setup since the introduction in WoW. When you could only go to an instance with people from your own server, you also met some less-than-pleasant individuals, of course. But you could either take it to their guild leader who would then deal with them or, if the guild leader didn’t care, just make a note not to group with people from said guild again. In other words: Players and guilds had a reputation to lose and players probably took more care about how they were viewed by others. This doesn’t matter anymore now because you can be quite certain that you won’t ever see those people again. It is also harder getting to know people because now, you rush through the instance and leave again. Back then, I got to know people and had them on my friends list and we chatted with each other and when we ran through another instance, we even joked around!
All three games offer quests.
Rift and LotRO both have story quests. I found it a bit difficult to notice those quests in Rift. The quest window has a different background colour when you are reading the quest before accepting it and behind the quest name there is a little hint (“story”), so you know it belongs to the game’s story as opposed to the usual “kill 10 teddy bears without asking why”-type of quests. Still, I did not always realise it is a story quest. Or else I would have actually read it. This is done a whole lot better in LotRO where you have one quest chain that is leading you through the game from level 1 to level 65 (it also helps that the quests always start with the same pattern. E.g.: “Vol. I, Book 2, Chaper 3: Name of quest here”). You can do some of them at the same time but I would suggest doing them in their intended order, as it is easier to follow the story (watch how Frodo and the others leave Rivendell, for example, try to catch Gollum, etc.).
LotRO also has class quests but unfortunately, I find them more annoying than anything (they usually involve collecting items that drop from monsters – most of them can be bought in the auction house, some need you to enter an instance and kill a certain kind of mob). WoW used to have really nice class quests (for those who remember: The quests warlocks had to do in order to get their demons, for example). But they were taken out. You now just buy the appropriate skills at your skill trainer.
WoW learned, especially with Wrath of the Lich King and Cataclysm, that nobody likes to do a zillion “kill 10 butterflies” quests. So instead, they have added more variety and gimmicks. The goblin starter zone is a lot of fun, for example. You also get to fly in a little plane and shoot others from the sky. Or you stomp on enemies with some special boots. In the screenshot, you can see my druid moonkin (the feathery thing on the right) on a tank probably shooting some Undead. :) LotRO also has some fun quests. Sometimes, they really just consist of going for a short walk with an elf in Rivendell, listening to their story. Nothing else. It’s a nice change from the usual fighting. There are also “session play” quests once in a while that lets you play another character and see a part of the story from their eyes. Rift, from what I have seen, has the most boring quests out of those three games. Fortunately, their rifts were what made it bearable because I did not have to do the quests and usually just did them when I was feeling like soloing for a bit or when there weren’t many others online (or when the rifts were further away and I was too lazy to move there).
Which leads me to: Rifts. They only exist in Rift but not in LotRO and WoW. They are events that happen in the open world (you might be familiar with the concept from Warhammer Online’s “public quests”). It is basically a PvE-encounter with different stages (the last one being the most difficult). Mobs spawn around the rift and you have to kill all of them in order to close the rift again. They scale depending on how many players are around. When I was the only one present when a rift spawned, I usually did not have that many problems doing the rift solo. Everybody who contributes gets rewards once the rift is defeated. Rift also has “open groups” which means that when you enter an area with a rift, you click on a button and are automatically added to an open group nearby – or if there wasn’t a group before, one is created. This is just a bit awkward sometimes when you just want to pass an area while a rift spawns and another player clicks on the button and both of you form a group. I don’t want to be rude and usually stay to help the other player with the rift even though I had originally just wanted to pass the area. But all in all, it is just a few more minutes on my way to wherever and I get rewards (and experience!), so it is not bad at all. And I could just say “sorry, just passing through” if I did not want to participate at all. If a rift cannot be defeated, it can happen that mobs run from their spawn point to your town/quest hub and take over said quest hub. It happened to me once that I had logged off while the town was ours and when I logged back on, it was taken by the NPCs. It makes the world seem a little bit more dynamic. Unfortunately, everything reverts back to its “normal” stage after some time even if the players do not fight to take back the quest hub. All three screenshots that you can see here were taken very close to quest hubs. The grey one shows what it looks like when your character is close to dying. It’s very hard to miss it this way. ;)
Last but not least, skirmishes. Those are exclusive to LotRO. They can be played solo, as a duo, as a 3 man, 6 man or 12 man. Each player can choose an NPC to help them fight (e.g. a healer, a tank,…). Those NPCs, called “soldiers” can be traited (you can give them certain skills) and you can change their look (instead of a male human, you have a little hobbit lass with you). You can also give them a name which makes it more personal. Soldiers can only be called while you are inside of a skirmish or when you are in your housing district (but not when you are actually near or in your house). There are three tiers of difficulty for skirmishes and lots of different skirmishes to choose from. Think of a skirmish as something like an instance where you fight against mobs. As a reward, you get special tokens which you can exchange for all kinds of things like cosmetic items, but also gear. The latter is especially nice while levelling as the gear there is quite good! In the screenshot, you can see my Rune-Keeper with her dwarven soldier.
Who’s there to fight against (PVP)?
All three games offer PvP of some sort. I’m starting with the game that has the least amount of PvP: LotRO.
LotRO’s “PvP-system” is lacking. There is one zone, the Ettenmoors, where PvP takes place. Creeps are part of the Monster Play system. Outside of this zone, you cannot play your creeps. And outside of this zone, there is no PvP in LotRO. So if you cannot live without PvP in your MMO, you might consider WoW or Rift instead. On the other hand, if you do not care that much or enjoy the idea of monster play, then have a look at this system. It is done quite nicely, I think. It would not have made too much sense to let the free people fight against each other like that. So it is nice to have this added “second faction” for only this zone. The screenshot on the right shows my defiler standing on a bridge in the PvP-zone. The interface for creeps is red while the interface for the free people (“freeps”) is blue. Unfortunately, the customization of the characters is quite lacking. You can, for example, choose the defiler class (the healer). Every defiler looks the same. The higher your PvP rank, the more “appearances” are unlocked which you can buy. Have a look here (scroll down to “Class Appearance Traits”). Not much changes in the way your character itself looks but at least, you get some more visible armour and might look more dangerous to the enemy. The Weaver (<– careful! Pictures of spiders!) has lots of different colours which I like better.
The Ettenmoors is one big map with the creeps on one side and the freeps on the other. There are different objectives, like fortresses, that you can capture. When you start with your creep the class is very weak. Like, very very weak. The problem here is that lots of people do not want you in their raid. They want players with a higher PvP rank because those are stronger. If you are not in a raid, you will have to try to get PvP points yourself (which happens by killing freep players). The defiler, as the standard healer, has trouble doing that. You are there to heal but not many people want you in their raid. And no matter how much you heal other players, if you are not in a raid/group with them, you do not get any points for healing. This is a serious issue for me. I want to be rewarded for what I am doing and not for who I am grouped with.
WoW offers arena (team death-match with premade groups on both sides and a ladder-system), instanced PvP in the form of battlegrounds (different battlegrounds have different sizes ranging from 10 on each side to 40. In order to win, you have to fulfill certain objectives) and open world PvP (either by roaming through the world and attacking players from the other faction that are PvP flagged or by participating in the two open world PvP zones, Lake Wintergrasp and Tol Barad). The screenshot on the right shows one of those battlegrounds. My group is still forming and the fight hasn’t started yet. The open world PvP zones are usually “inactive”. After a certain amount of time, the fight starts. One side – either Horde or Alliance – owns the keep, the other one attacks. There are siege weapons etc. to use (also available in some of WoW’s battlegrounds). If the attacking side wins, they will defend the zone the next time. If they don’t succeed, they will have to try again the next time. The screenshot on the left shows Tol Barad in the middle of a fight.
WoW also has PvP servers on which you are always PvP-flagged (only starter areas are safe). This also leads to players with the max level being able to attack and kill low level players – the infamous “corpse camping” included. When you die in WoW, you have to run back to your corpse to revive (unless you are in a battleground where you have certain spawn points where you return). Usually, the attacking player waits around to have some more fun once you’re back. ;) Players of WoW sometimes complain that there is no open PvP left. Apart from the ganking (high level player attacks low level player and thanks to the way the game works, the low level player has no chance to defend successfully), there aren’t many reasons to do any PvP in the open world.
Rift offers PvP servers as well with the same mechanic: Always PvP-flagged with the exception of your starter area. Here, when you die, you can also respawn at a safe place (inside the nearest quest hub), so corpse camping is not done that often. Rift also features Warfronts which is basically the same as WoW’s battlegrounds (the screenshot shows the interface where you can queue for a warfront). They implemented “Ancient Wardstones” in the open world which can be claimed by either faction and can subsequently be upgraded to make them stronger. The opposing faction can destroy those wardstones. If you claim all wardstones in a zone, zone events can be triggered. According to this, a beast spawns (that can only happen once every 20 hours) and as rewards, it also drops epic loot. Since Rift features rifts in the open world, there might be an incentive to fight in the open world against the other faction – even if it’s only to be mean to the other side who are trying to defeat a Rift. ;) In WoW, there aren’t that many group encounters outside of instances, so it’s probably more difficult to find larger groups of players to fight against.
Crafting (and secondary professions/hobbies).
I still wish MMO developers would make crafting more “important” or “meaningful” and not a hobby that you do when you don’t raid or otherwise kill mobs or other players. Still, all three games offer crafting, fortunately. :)
If you want to make money with crafting, have a look at the auction house first! This goes for all three games. In a lot of cases, the raw crafting materials (e.g. the cloth, iron ore/iron bars, herbs, leather,…) are worth more in the AH than the end result. So if your game of choice offers a gathering profession with which you can collect those raw materials, it might be smart to take that one.
World of Warcraft offers 11 primary professions of which your character can learn 2. It also has 4 secondary professions of which your character can have all four(those are “archaeology”, “first aid”, “cooking” and “fishing”). I will get back to the secondary professions later. I am not going to list all 11 professions. But they do have the standards like tailoring or weaponsmith. The system is rather easy to understand. You buy the profession and then get your first recipes. For example, as a tailor, you start by turning linen cloth (which drops from low level humanoid mobs) into bolts of linen. Then you create linen cloaks – all of that gives you skill points. If you get higher, you can buy new recipes from the trainer which then allows you to create higher level items. If you can keep up with your crafting profession while levelling (which is not that easy after they have made levelling faster), you can make a few items that are actually useful for you. Depending on your profession, there will be more or less useful items you can use. And, of course, more or less items that you can put in the auction house to make some profit. The best recipes are usually from reputation grinds at end level. So your character needs to reach the max level and you need to grind for reputation. You can even craft epic items (“epic” is the best quality). Sooner or later, Blizzard usually adds even better items to their raids and sometimes even to their heroic instances. Still, some of those items are pretty nice and some of the best you can get!
In order to make professions more useful at endgame, every profession can craft something special. For example: tailors can enchant their own cloaks which then give the wearer e.g. more spellpower. Others can also enchant their cloaks but those standard enchantments are less powerful. A scribe can do the same with their shoulder pieces. So, depending on your crafting profession, you can make one kind of item more powerful for yourself (compared to what players without this profession can do).
Herbs, leather and ore can only be gathered if you have a gathering profession (herbalism, skinning and mining respectively). Those also belong to the 11 primary professions.
And to give you another example about a WoW profession: Engineering. This is a fun profession because it gives you gimmicks like bombs to throw. There are also very stylish glasses and you can craft your own flying machine. Tailors can craft their own flying carpet, by the way. :)
Rift has 9 professions. You can choose three of them. It also comes with pretty standard professions (“standard” being gathering professions, professions to craft armor, weapons, consumable and items that enhance your armor/weapon to make them stronger). “Outfitter” is the profession that comes closest to WoW’s tailoring. While the tailor in WoW can only make cloth items, the outfitter in Rift makes cloth and leather armour. While levelling my character, I always made sure that my crafting skill was on par. That way, I always had nice items to wear that were usually better than the quest items I had gotten (although the crafted items were not as good as some items that I could trade in for having participated in rifts!). In general, the system works like in WoW: You learn the profession from a trainer and also buy new, higher level, recipes from the trainer. The difference is that in Rift, I hardly ever had to craft an item that was not useful to somebody. So no creating items with no stats on them just to get your skill higher. Also a nice thing about crafting in Rift: You can add an augment to the item while crafting it. Augments can give a bonus to a certain stat (intelligence, for example). There is a guide about augmentation in case you are interested.
LotRO handles the decision about which crafting professions you want a bit differently. LotRO has 10 different professions and you always have 3 of those. However, they are sorted into vocations. That means that you can’t just take cook, farmer and forester, for example. You can take the “Yeoman” vocation which has cook and farmer but tailor as the third profession. Or you can decide for woodsman which has farmer and forester but no cook. If you want those first three professions, you need two characters who choose fitting vocations. In LotRO you automatically get the most important recipes when your skill level reaches a certain threshold. Your crafting can also “crit” and then either produce more of an item (instead of one dye pot, you make 3 in one go) or produce a better item. There are also items that increase this crit chance.
As in Rift and WoW, there are gathering professions. And just as in Rift and WoW, you do not need to have one in order to produce items with a crafting profession. In all three games, you can use the auction house and buy the materials you need. This can get quite expensive, though. So it is usually a good choice to have a gathering profession. In the screenshot on the right, you can see an elf smelting ore she’s found on her adventures.
“Farming” counts as a gathering profession even though in this case, you do not wander through the world but instead, you stand on a farming field. Pretty nice to see, actually. And quite fitting to see the best farming fields in Hobbit-land. ;) What LotRO does differently is that your character does not just stand there idling around while you are crafting. In the case of farming, the character stands there and you can see him throw the seeds onto the earth. When you harvest, the character kneels down and picks up something. Every crafting activity has its own animation! In the screenshot on the right, you can see a hobbit collecting apples from the tree she’d planted before (don’t worry, you will not have to wait for 4 hours before you can harvest the apple tree. This isn’t Farmville! ^^).
LotRO has something called “legendary items”. You will get the first one with a quest tied to Moria (which is a zone for level 50+ but you can do the quest a few levels before that). Those items are usually 1) your main weapon and 2) one other slot (in the case of my warden, it’s her main hand spear and her ranged weapon, a javelin). Legendary items are superior to all other weapons in the game. So you won’t want to have a regular weapon anymore. Unfortunately, this makes crafting weapons a bit obsolete. On the other hand, my warden is a woodworker and while her regular weapon recipes are obsolete for the most time (for high level characters, at least), she can craft herself a legendary spear and a legendary javelin.
Secondary professions/Hobbies: As mentioned above, WoW has a few secondary professions. Those can all be learned by each character. Fishing is also possible in LotRO and the only hobby you can do. Sometimes, or quite often actually, you pull out a fish that you can turn in to a taxidermist who then gives you a fish to put on your wall of your house as a trophy. Fishing in WoW also gives you nice items like a non-combat pet, for example. Fish in WoW can also be used for cooking, another of their secondary professions. Other than that, I find fishing quite relaxing. Especially when you are looking for a place where the ambience sounds are fun to listen to (I suggest an oasis in the Northern Barrens in WoW). Not everybody gets this nice fishing chair, though. I was very lucky and got the code for this item from a booster pack for the trading card game (which I’ve stopped playing in the meantime. I just prefer Magic the Gathering – I know, it has nothing to do with the topic of this posting but I still felt like mentioning it).
WoW also introduced archaeology with their latest addon. You basically travel through the world to different places (marked on your map) and search for artifacts. This search is done by planting a survey device (shown in the screenshot) in the marked area. It glows either red, yellow or green and points into a certain direction. This tells you where to go and approximately how far away you are from the spot that hides an artifact. You can randomly find nice and fun items (like a mount, non-combat pets, other “useless” fluff items or even epic items that aren’t bad at all. Those epic items are “bound to account” which means that you can find them on your mage and send the item to your new level 85 warrior. I found this profession to be quite fun. Kind of like an Überraschungsei/Kinder Surprise. You never know what you will get next and if it is junk or one of the little figures! Unfortunately, once you have gotten all or almost all the rare items, it gets boring because there is nothing left to find. Until then, it is a nice passtime, though. Especially when you are watching TV or just want to chat with a few friends at the same time. Actually, parts of this entry were written while my character was flying to the next survey area. ;)
Rift has artifacts. It is not so much a profession as it is actually just artifacts standing around in the world. They’re shiiiiiny (spot the shiny in the screenshot. There are apparently lots of weird positions, so this one isn’t even that strange). There are lots of collections which consist of different artifacts found in the different zones of Rift. Once you finish a collection, you can hand them in at an NPC in the capital city. Artifacts can be sold in the auction house. I have used them to earn quite some money in the game! As a reward for turning a collection in to the NPC, you get lucky coins. Once you have a certain amount, you can buy stuff like a non-combat pet or even a mount!
I want to be on my own sometimes (- or: What can do I solo?)
I have those moments quite frequently. I always enjoy chatting with people and that is what I love most about MMOs, but I do not always want to play with others. I have the habit of going afk in the middle of a quest, doing other stuff like getting myself a cup of coffee, cleaning the flat in between, cooking, reading news websites or replying to emails,… – as soon as I play with others, I cannot do that anymore and it annoys me greatly. Of course, I want to do group things once in a while because it is fun, after all. But that is the point: Doing stuff together should, in my opinion, be something you can do but it should not be the only thing you can do in an MMO.
Anyway. Let’s have a look at how you can play solo in those three games.
All three of them offer solo level content: The usual which you probably know if you have played a (standard) MMO before. There are quests, those give you experience and experience is what you need in order to level up. There might be quests in between that require you to get a group to help out, but you can skip them and just do something else. I have written about the quests in the PvE-section above already.
LotRO also offers skirmishes (which I have also already written about). Just look at them as kind of “solo instances”. They can get challenging, especially when you either choose the mobs to be higher level than you, if you do them without your NPC or if you choose a higher tier (difficulty ranges from tier 1 to tier 3). Turbine also changed how the epic quest chain works. Previously, if you were unlucky, it could take very long to find fellow players to do the group quests of that quest chain. Now, you can do them as a group or on your own! You usually get a buff that scales you up in power once you enter the area of the quest or you enter the solo version of the instance instead of the group version. This way, both the solo and the group players can enjoy the game the way they want.
Deeds and achievements: LotRO has deeds, WoW and Rift have achievements. In some cases, WoW awards you with stuff like a non-combat pet (e.g. for having a certain amount of non-combat pets with your character) or even a mount. Rift awards you nothing or titles (as does WoW as well in some cases).
Deeds are a bit different as they actually make your character stronger. In LotRO, your character has virtues which give you, for example, a bonus to might, evade rating and power regeneration outside of combat and you have 10 ranks of this virtue (each rank increases those stats a bit more). Specific deeds increase your virtue by 1 for solving them. You also unlock your character traits by doing those deeds. Character traits are used to specialise (to take my warden as an example: She can trait to do more damage, to tank by healing herself more or to tank by drawing more aggro). Unfortunately, lots of those deeds consist of things like “kill 500 wolves in region XY”. And believe me, that is a lot. Others are more fun as they are related to exploring regions or finishing a certain quest line etc. Still, I would prefer if they were ‘fluff’ like the achievements are. In all three games, there are a lot of deeds and achievements you can do solo. But there are also deeds and achievements that require a group or a raid.
I have already written about quests. But what about quests when you have levelled up to the max level? WoW offers a lot of daily quests. Most of those give reputation for the various factions in game. The higher the reputation, the better the items you can get. You can also run dungeons with the faction’s tabard equipped and get faction points that way. But if you prefer solo play, then you can do the daily quests. With the next patch, Blizzard will add a new zone, “Firelands”. That one will also apparently have lots of daily quests that are designed to entertain the solo players (there will also be content for groups and raids, of course!).
LotRO has repeatable quests. Most of those are connected to certain factions. So it is basically the same than WoW. There is also a daily quest connected to each skirmish. The first time each day that you do a certain skirmish, you get bonus experience when you finish it. This is very nice for levelling. I usually ran each skirmish that was available once and then returned to questing in the open world (if I still had time after doing the skirmishes). Other regular daily/repeatable quests also let you gain more reputation with certain factions. There are also nice rewards, although in a lot of cases, it is not just a better item but also a mount.
WoW and Rift have crafting dailies. LotRO doesn’t have them. In Rift, you get a certain currency which you can then spend for special crafting recipes. WoW handles it quite similar. Cooking, fishing and jewelcrafting have their daily quests. The other professions have none. They give you special currencies which you can spend on recipes as well or a bag with random items. Some cooking and fishing dailies additionally give you one to two skill points. My favourite daily quest is the fishing one from the quest giver near Shattrath “Crocolisks in the city”. The reward is a bag with items in it – and there is a chance to receive a cute crocolisk non-combat pet! Awwww. :)
PvP is not possible as a solo activity – unless you are on a PvP server and run around looking for 1 vs. 1 fights agains the other faction, of course. Or 1 vs. 2 fights if you are really brave. ;)
Fluff (aka “other”)
Stuff to collect: Yep, all games have stuff you can collect. I have already mentioned the non-combat pets for Rift and WoW. LotRO does NOT have non-combat pets. If I remember correctly, I read somewhere that non-combat pets would cause too many issues with server performance. So only Loremasters can have them (they are LotRO’s pet class) – but when they have one of those little companions with them, they can’t have a regular combat pet out. So in this case, it probably doesn’t cause any extra stress on the poor servers. ;) The screenshot shows my dwarf in WoW with a little tree pet. It gets smaller and smaller the longer it’s out but once it gets into the water, it grows back to its regular size.
All three games offer a variety of mounts. “Unfortunately” for LotRO, they are bound to Tolkien’s lore. So there are no rideable dragons or unicorns (or sparkling ponies – although I do have a glittering pony). Only goats, horses and ponies are available. Rift has standard horses but also weird looking Yarnosaurs and turtles. They also have mechanical horses. I would say that WoW offers the biggest variety with flying and ground mounts: Horses, dragons, motorcycles, mammoths – you name it, they probably got it. ;) The screenshot on the left shows my warden on her summer festival mount. The next screenshot on the left (a bit further below) shows my character in WoW on her flying dragon. The one below that one, on the right, shows my goblin on her “mount” (well, trike, obviously).
Housing comes up sooner or later when people ask about MMOs. Unfortunately, most developers answer with: “Not in our game, no.” Only LotRO has housing. This, in itself, is very nice. And you can have a sweet little house. However, compared to how other games with houses solved this, I am sorry to say it but LotRO’s housing stinks! You have “hooks” which are predefined areas in a house where only certain items can go. For example: A rug can only go on two or three places in your house. No, you can’t put it in the corner. It’s either in the middle of the room or nowhere at all. You also can’t put a bed in the corner with a shelf next to it and a little stool. If there’s no hook for it, there is no way to put all the furniture next to each other. That’s especially fun when you have a table and a chair. Nope, don’t even think about putting them there next to each other where it’d make sense. ;) You also can’t give a different wall colour to every room. In some cases, two rooms only have one slot for the wall paint. So, it is very restricted! And even though players have been asking for changes over and over again, it doesn’t seem that Turbine sees this high on their priority list. Which is too bad but I guess I am in the minority when I say that I love housing and that’s a big part of what keeps me playing a game. If you want to decide between those three MMOs and you absolutely must have housing, then LotRO is the choice for you.
Also a nice thing for collectors: Titles. There are a ton of titles in LotRO. My hobbit is very proud to be the “Little Wonder” which she had gotten for finding different items in the newest zone Enedwaith. I don’t know if it is complete, but here is a list of titles. WoW has titles as well. Note that you can have a title in front of your name or at the end of your name here. Last but not least, titles in Rift.
WoW and LotRO also offer festivals that fall accordingly to our RL holidays like Christmas, Easter,… LotRO also has a summer festival, WoW has Children’s week and so on. The screenshot on the left shows the maze in LotRO. It’s quite fun to run through it and there are several quests, even timed ones, that lead you through the maze. During these festivals, you can also usually get a new mount or non-combat pets (the latter only in WoW and not in LotRO). Unfortunately, WoW is not friendly to low level players! During the first WoW Brewfest (yes, on time for Germany’s Oktoberfest ;) ), they had fun ram races where you could get a Brewfest Ram for levels 40+. The next year, those rams were not available anymore and you had to be at max level in order to get the faster version of this ram. There was no explanation as to why the low level ram was removed. It just was. Luckily, those who had already gotten the ram in the first year could keep it (and upgrade it to the faster version). LotRO placed all its festival areas into the low level regions. There’s usually no problem at all to participate as a low level character! I don’t know if Rift offers festivals like this. They had a special event some time ago, though, with special rifts taking place all over the world and there were some open world bosses to defeat. Participation in the rifts and doing some special dailies gave you a special currency which could be turned in for special rewards. I think I chose another non-combat pet.
WoW and LotRO offer addons. WoW has had them for a long time and thus, the addons are usually of a very good quality. It is also easy to install, maintain, load or unload addons. LotRO’s addons (or plugins, as they are called) are still in beta. If you have several plugins, you need to load them all manually by typing something like “load plugin XY”. Imagine what that is like when you have a ton of plugins. ;) Of course, plugin developers solved that problem by programming plugin managers. So you only need to load this plugin manager and can then load the other plugins easily without having to type any further commands. Plugins in LotRO are also heavily restricted in what they can do compared to WoW (no looking at the items in your alt’s bank while you are logged into your main character, for example). All in all, the current system leaves a lot to be desired especially when looking at the usability and the plugin interface. You also need to go to Turbine’s forum to the plugin section, find the appropriate thread with a specific download link and download some folders without which a lot of plugins would not work. Hopefully, Turbine can move that whole development out of beta soon and make it easier to use (it started last autumn, I think, when LotRO turned f2p). Still, there are a few addons that I’ve tested and really like. The screenshot on the left shows Palantir: the percentages on the left and the right show her health and power. The bar below my character has spaces to put pots in that are used to get rid of debuffs. The bar on the right shows a buff she’s just activated and how long it’s still active. This bar also shows debuffs if there are any on her. The screenshot on the right shows my character in Rift after she used some item that temporarily changed her appearance. The next two screenshots show mounts in Rift next to the mount vendor.
Plugins/addons are often criticised. Especially when they are made mandatory by your fellow gamers or used in a way to easily spot the “n00bs” and make fun of them – or kick them from your group. There is the infamous “Damage meter” in WoW which shows everybody how much damage you have done and if it is not enough, you are ridiculed (well, not by everybody, of course. But it has happened!). And then there is Gearscore which adds all your items’ item levels. This alone doesn’t say anything about your skill as a player. It just says how great your gear is. And players started to not invite other players who did not have a high gearscore – even for content where a high gearscore was not necessary. But some players think another player with better items means that they must be a good player. Or, to turn the argument around: A player with a low gearscore must be a new (and thus, bad – or not-good, player) and thus, they would not want to have them in their raid.
Cosmetic items: Both Rift and LotRO let you equip items “cosmetically”. You can wear your regular gear but have the appearance of other items. That is very nice if there is this one item that is SO much better than your current one but you don’t like its look at all. LotRO supports this system by having tons of cosmetic items that don’t have any stats on them but only have a nice appearance. If you want to see some examples, have a look at Lotro Stylist and Cosmetic Lotro, two blogs that show different outfits that you can put together. WoW has no such thing. Rift and LotRO also let you dye your gear in different colours. Again, WoW has no such thing.
LotRO has a music system that lets your character play songs. Just a few days ago, Weatherstock took place. I haven’t been there, unfortunately, but here is a video (close to 4 hours long!). If you want to jump right in and play some music, The Fat Lute offers all you need (that is: songs).
Let’s get to the last part of my comparison: The conclusion.
This will be even more biased and subjective than the previous parts. So, if you don’t want to read it, here’s the short version: Whether any of those games is for you is dependent on what you want to get from a game. The easiest would be to start the trial version (for Rift, you need to find somebody with an active account that can invite you – shouldn’t be too hard to find, though. There are lots of players, after all. For WoW, you only need to register for a trial account on their website. LotRO is free to play anyway).
The longer version: For me, all 3 games are solid MMOs where I don’t regret spending money. All of them get updates – including content updates. Which game is best for you is mostly a matter of preference.
A lot of people criticising WoW concentrate on its graphics. I personally like them. No, they are not up-to-date. And they are most certainly not realistic! But I like comics and I don’t mind comic graphics. If the game got released today, I would probably scratch my head at the graphics, though. ;) All in all, they are coherent. The world doesn’t look empty and it all fits together. That is what I find most important about all graphics, no matter the game. And this is where I find that all three games do it well. Then again, I really am not too picky when it comes to graphics and whether they make me stay away from a game or not. ;)
When asking whether a certain game is for you, you always need to look at what you are expecting to find in a game. In other words: What do you want from it and how do you play an MMO?
Your personal play style is important! I am going to list a few “stereotypical” gamer types and try to answer the question which MMO is for you. I know that people might belong to different categories. So don’t take it too seriously. ;)
Raider: I would probably direct you to WoW. They add new raids quite fast and regularly. They come in normal and heroic versions and you can choose between 10 man and 25 man versions. LotRO has raids as well but the cycle between adding more is slower. Rift also has raids. So, there you go. ;) In the end, if you do not mind waiting a bit longer (but do mind WoW’s graphics, for example), then you will probably have fun in the other two games as well. Of course, it is hard to say how fast Rift will add new raid content. It is still quite new, after all. Another advantage of Rift might also be that there are more new players. WoW has been out so long that it could be hard to find a raid that accepts somebody who is totally new to the game.
Casual raider (“casual” as in: You don’t have much time and/or prefer to play different games as well etc. “Casual” is never meant in a negative way when I use this term): LotRO. The “item spiral” (getting better items to get better items to get…) is a LOT slower in LotRO. In fact, people went to level 65 raids with level 60 raid gear. Also, as said above, the feature of scaling a raid in level is also nice because if the max level is too hard, maybe you can start practicing with a lower level first.
Solo player: LotRO. It does give you skirmishes on top of quests. You can challenge yourself with these skirmishes by making them harder. You can also get quite good gear just by doing solo content (the epic quest chain in Enedwaith is great for that!) and you can also get really good weapons. Of course, you might not need that stuff when you are mainly playing solo but advancing your character is always nice, I think. Even if nobody is there to see your awesomeness. ;)
Collector: Depends on what you want to collect. If it’s non-combat pets, then stay away from LotRO. ;) If it’s furniture for your house, then only LotRO. If it’s titles, then probably LotRO although you will get them in the other games as well. ;)
Small-group player (no raids but group content): LotRO. 3 man instances and skirmishes for 2 or 3 people is something the other games do not have. Rift might also be nice, especially because of its open group system and its open world rifts. It is easy to find groups this way, so no hassle of waiting around until you have finally found enough group members to do something.
Roleplayer: LotRO. All three games offer roleplaying servers but I have heard so many good thing about roleplaying in LotRO. Especially when it comes to player made events. Then again, I don’t want to say the roleplay in WoW or Rift is bad! Not at all. It’s just what I have seen and noticed myself. I guess Tolkien’s world is just so easy to get you inspired and with all the choices of cosmetic gear, lots of emotes, housing, etc. it is easier to roleplay. What you will need either way is connections to like-minded people. Get a guild/kinship and join them. Sign up for roleplay events, etc. Don’t just stand around waiting for others to roleplay with you. :)
Discoverer (the one who reads every single quest text and/or wants to see every part of the world): All three games have lots to see and very nice quest chains! So no game “wins” here.
PvP player: Don’t choose LotRO. Rift and WoW both offer so much more when it comes to PvP. One open zone is nice and it may be fun to play there once in a while. But it does get repetitive when you do that every day and when there is no other PvP to do and apparently no changes on the horizon (well… Monster Play will be open for free players when Rise of Isengard launches in September. You will be able to play one class: the Reaver. Turbine might be working on another PvMP zone but that one won’t come with the addon in September, so I wouldn’t count on it in the foreseeable future).
As I said: It depends on your play style, what you want from a game, your personal preferences and so much more! So hopefully, this blog series has helped you with making a decision. And if not, all games offer trial versions (well, LotRO is freemium, so you can more than just try this game, of course). Also, Rift has only been out for about 3 months. While a lot is known about the game, it is still hard to say which direction it will take. LotRO and WoW have been out for several years, so it is easier to guess what they are going to do and what they are not going to do.