Friday, March 02, 2007
The classes of LotRO
I'm late to the party, there are already some excellent description of the playable classes in Lord of the Rings Online out there, for example at Wikipedia and LotROvault (/wave Bildo). But meanwhile I managed to play all classes and races myself, just past the newbie areas, to get my personal impression on how the classes play.
I recently discussed why it was difficult to add new classes to an old game, like World of Warcraft. But of course if you make a totally new game, even if it is similar to WoW, you get an opportunity to make all the classes a bit different. Lord of the Rings Online has 7 classes, but the only one that is instantly recognizable is the guardian in his role as tank, playable by all races. He wears the heaviest armor and shield, and has "taunting" abilities to draw the monsters attention towards himself.
Now in the holy trinity of tank-healer-damager you'd search for a priest, but priests don't exist in Lord of the Rings. Even health points don't exist, there is only "morale". If your morale goes down to zero, you "run away" and find yourself back at the nearest rally point. Which plays exactly the same as if you would "die" and come out at the nearest graveyard. But by renaming your health to morale, you don't need somebody with divine powers to heal you, you need somebody who can boost your morale, which is the minstrel, a bard type character which is LotROs main healer. That gets us nicely past the usual stereotype priest abilities, and gives Turbine the opportunity to have a healer in the game who plays a good deal differently than a WoW priest. The minstrel not only has healing songs, but also cries and ballads that damage the opponent. At least in the low levels where I played him that worked quite well for soloing, and the song system with different layers was quite interesting. As I often play a healer in MMORPGs, this is probably the class I'll play as my main. All races can play minstrel, but I'll go for hobbit.
Now looking for a damagedealer the closest thing is probably the hunter for ranged damage. All races can play hunter, but I wouldn't be surprised if you see a lot of them being elves named some variation of Legolas. Even my hunter was an elf called Legostein (Lego brick). :) While being non-magical, the hunter has some of the typical glass-cannon properties, being able to deal a lot of damage from a distance, but being easily overwhelmed when fighting several foes. The hunter also has traps for some minor crowd control. Interestingly he can keep firing his bow in melee combat, and while he'll get interrupted at first, he is gaining "focus" over the duration of the combat, which I assume prevents interruption.
There is no mage, because there are no playable wizards due to the Tolkien lore. But there is a lore-master which more resembles a warlock in WoW. The lore-master has a pet (animal, not demon), abilities that deal fire damage, and later some crowd control. Only humans (technically they are called "the race of man", but that includes female "men", so I use the term humans instead) and elves can be lore-masters.
If you are looking for melee damage, your best bet is the champion. This is a very good soloing class, because the champion is nearly as well armored as a guardian, but his abilities are tuned towards damage-dealing instead of defence. He even has the best area-of-effect damage in the game, being able to hit several enemies around him. All races except hobbits can play this. I'll probably play a couple of alts in LotRO, and the champion is top of my list for a second character. I'm not saying that he is a better damage dealer than a hunter, its just that I like melee damage more than ranged, and the champion has better survivability in a pinch.
Of course you can also deal melee damage with a burglar. I'm currently reading The Hobbit, where the dwarves hire Bilbo Baggins as a burglar, so this is vintage Tolkien, the first character class ever mentioned in the lore. As you would expect from a burglar, he can sneak and attack enemies from behind. He can also debuff them with various dirty tricks. I haven't tried it, but apparently a burglar has abilities to start "conjunctions", which are LotRO's chain attacks for groups. Conjunctions can start without a burglar, but he has the skill to start them at will, which should make him useful in groups. Humans and hobbits can become burglars.
The last class in the mix is a really special one, the captain, playable only by humans. The interesting feature here is that most of his abilities affect his whole group. He has pets in the form of heralds carrying a banner which give a AoE buff. And whenever the group kills a foe, he has a selection of buffs he can cast triggered from that event, including a limited heal. So in some way he resembles a paladin. You can still solo play with him very well, but the full extent of his abilities only come into play in a group setting.
Humans can play all classes, the other races are limited to 4 to 5 classes each. I think it is a good idea to enable all classes to play the tank class and the healer class. LotRO is not revolutionizing MMORPG combat, and it is to be expected that groups will want to have one guardian and one minstrel, although for easier encounters a champion and a captain might suffice. Lord of the Rings Online has a good mix of classes, covering all bases, without just copying previous MMORPGs.