Part 1: How much do the games cost and which extra security against hacked accounts do they offer?
Part 2: What can I play (races and classes?)
Part 3: What do the games look like?
Part 4: What’s there to fight against (PvE)?
Part 5: Who’s there to fight (PvP)?
Part 6: Crafting
Part 7: I want to be on my own sometimes (- or: What can do I solo?)
Part 8: Fluff
One thing I forgot yesterday is LotRO’s music system. 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.