Interlude: Look Back In Angmar
September 1st, 2008

Interlude: Look Back In Angmar

This strip refers back to this one on the old Flying Monkey Comics website, which chronicled our characters’ lives in between their “adventures”. Rest assured, Hope for the Future is not becoming a “gaming comic”. There are too many games out there and I don’t have time to do the research, although I’m not ruling out a series of Rock Band/Guitar Hero funnies.

I was poncing around in the Yorkshire Dales recently and being surrounded by hills and trees and stuff like that put me in mind to play The Lord of the Rings Online again. I had played this for about six months, immersed in an immaculate recreation of the countryside of Middle Earth, but a couple of things were nagging at me. First of all you tend to do the same sort of stuff over and over: Get mission, kill some stuff, get some treasure, go back to civilisation to recover/get new mission.

Eriador Yorkshire

Yorkshire                                                                  Eriador

This is of course endemic of Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games in general. But I have played a lot of fantasy RPG type video games (particularly the excellent Baldur’s Gate series) and occasionally while playing LOTRO (as all the cool kids call it) you get the sense that you are in a Tolkien inspired (or ripped off) setting rather than Middle Earth. There are areas such as The Barrow Downs or The Old Forest where the atmosphere is incredible, but there are plenty of other parts of the game where you are running across a generic hill being chased by a generic orc.

However, the missions in LOTRO are a damn sight better than in the other MMO I’ve played at length Star Wars Galaxies. To my recollection, none of the movies featured Luke Skywalker shooting the hell out of innocent herds of animals on Dantooine solely to attain experience points, but that’s precisely what I spent 85% of my time doing in that game (mind you, I can’t speak for the spin off novels as I haven’t read all of them, but it wouldn’t surprise me). Again, the environments are terrific and the initial thrill of walking through Theed or Mos Eisley was nearly overwhelming, but the actual gameplay never really measured up.

Following SWG’s failing fortunes a new Star Wars MMO has been announced, and it is popularly believed that it will be set in the same era as Knights of The Old Republic. That was another awesome RPG, but I can’t see that giving absolutely everyone a lightsaber (as opposed to giving virtually everyone a lightsaber) will solve the problem. Moreover, by choosing an era so far removed from the movies (with the attendant slightly different design aesthetic, characters, hardware etc), it runs the risk, like LOTRO, of feeling more like a rip off than the actual thing.

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