I've taken my sweet time getting to my latest review. And it's not for nothing.
This is the first real entry of what is arguably one of the most popular fantasy series of the past century. Based first on a series of stories from J.R.R. Tolkien and then more recently on a series of movies directed by Peter Jackson, which kicked off an entirely new level of interest both in the fantasy genre itself, and in the world of Middle-Earth, from video games and re-printings of the books to new versions of the table-top RPG.
As a fan of both the old tabletop RPG as well as the movies themselves, I found myself looking at the company that produced this and trying not to simply bang my head into a wall. God no, I didn't want this to be another clog in the toilet! It took everything short of a hand grenade to get DDO out of there! The download for this game is massive. I mean MASSIVE. The SMALL download was 9GB. I'm old enough to remember when that was the size of your whole bloody hard drive! The large version ranges from 11GB-13GB depending on which you want. I went out of my way to find a copy that was NOT downloaded from Turbine's servers (Yes, that's a good idea, put a file in one piece and force your fans to download it at near-dialup speeds. Brilliant!) be it a torrent or simply a hosted file on a gaming site somewhere else.
Once I had it downloaded – the install process began. And for this one, I suggest getting a copy of the movies and sitting down to watch. It's a ridiculously slow installation, even on a computer with 4 CPUs and a pile of RAM.
A meal and a few thousand unblinking stares from Elijah Wood, and we're installed. A few laughs and some Orcs running across a field, and the patching is done too. I went out of my way to get the largest download, the size justified by very high resolution files, which were of a formidable size.
So it began - the character building software was very good, easy to use - with a neat little video for each race and each of the various classes. There are four available races for free players - Human, Elf, Dwarf and Hobbit - with the classes available varying between them. Hobbits make good sneak-attackers and poor tanks, Dwarves make good tanks and front line fighters, Elves make excellent support characters and spellcasters, while also making formidable ranged attackers and front-row fighters. Humans are soft of a balance between the others, not really having advantage or disadvantage.
On to the game - Elves and Dwarves begin in the mountains, Humans and Hobbits in Bree-land and the Shire. I can't emphasize enough, just how gorgeous the world actually is! Not the same scrub and trees everywhere, but a whole world, hills to mountains and everything in between - all in full color, using a great palette of colors. Holy crap! You can even find Tom Bombadil! You know, that laughing lunatic from the books that didn't make it into either the radio show, or the animated movie, OR Peter Jackson's movies?
Gorgeous textures, very good gameplay, AND all the characters from the books?