Ive got a love/hate relationship with this game.
- Its lord of the rings, with all the epic story, characters, locations and events from the books (or films)
- Huge world that has vastly different locations to play in.
- In depth game systems and mechanics that dont treat you like a brainless idiot gamer, actually requiring you to learn the game and how to master it.
- Its free (well, sorta.)
- Due to its dated graphic engine, I can run this game completely on ultra high maxed out settings, and still get super high performance (and most things look pretty nice, especially the world graphics)
- Its got dwarves, my favorite race.
- Its got years of content to keep you busy.
- Dated graphics engine. While i can max out the settings, and some things look nice, other things, like character graphics, are just UH GLEE. Dwarf beards look awful. Most hairstyles look awful. Many textures in the game are super low res/blurry, even using the high res texture pack. The game can also suffer from bad "pop up/pop in" in areas, especially with trees. (would love it if turbine would update some of these things)
- Unintuitive mechanics. Especially when it comes to quests. So many quests (especially early on), not only dont really tell you what they want you to do exactly, but really dont even point you in the right direction. The UI sometimes helps by saying "go in this direction" but not always. And when you get in the general area you are supposed to be in, you are still left trying to figure out exactly what it is you are supposed to do. Ive played The Secret World, and THAT game required a LOT of investigation and brainstorming to solve quests. This games quests, have simple objects that are simply cumbersum to complete due to bad design. This isnt an issue of "hand holding" or making the game easy. Its probablly one of the things that drives a lot of new players away. Factor in the horribly worthless and unhelpful game map, and new gamers are going to feel like getting even a simple delivery quest done to be a major frustrating chore.
- This game really clings to the "You have to wait to you are higher level to do the fun stuff" mentality. Its seems like all the improved gameplay, better design content, group play aspects, and cool events are designed for players level 45 and up. They also require the paid DLC like Moria and Helms Deep. (which is fine if you like the game. One time fees arent an issue). This "low levels are boring and slow and you just have to endure through them" mentality however, is yet another thing that will drive away players. (which is probably one of the reasons why the game is suffering from server population issues.
- Super boring and grindy quests (especially at low levels). Short of the epic storyline (which makes up about 5% of the low level content), most of the quests in this game fall into 2 categories. Fedex quests (especially if you are a hobbit), and kill quests. No attempt is made to really stray from these either. If you HATE fedex (deliver this item to steve for me!) quests, I seriously recommend NOT starting out in the Shire.
- Lack of low level group content. Pretty much everything low level can be easily solo'd. Even most of the elites you have to fight. The games first dungeon isnt until 20+, and due to the lack of low level players, good luck finding a group for that. In fact, the group finding tool is 99% worthless to low level players. If you are wanting to play this game for the multiplayer aspect, to group with people, its not something you will really experience until you reach much higher levels. My advice, bring a friend or two along when you start playing this.
- Not as Free 2 Play as some other more recent F2P games. Lotro is more of a "Free to try" game. More than a demo, or a 2 week trial, but dont expect a DC Universe or Neverwinter experience. If you dont plan on spending ANY money, its impossible to get to max level in this game. (100). Starting around 35, you will find yourself out of areas to quest in that are free. This will require you to make 1 time purchases to get a "zone" of content which will get you through the next handful of levels. At a certain point, you will most likely need to spend money on some of the games DLC. However, the DLC is priced decently. In fact, you can get the first FOUR (out of 5) DLC packs together on steam for like 40 bucks. However, if you are looking for a completely free playthrough of the entire game, this is not the game for you.
Overall, this game is well made, and full of content (some good, some bad). There is a lot of choice and variety to be had, and a set of mechanics and gameplay that leans more towards old school mmo's rather than the simplistically brain dead mechanics of some newer games out there. However, be prepared to google/wiki/forum search for answers about things in the game, because there will be plenty of things you will need to learn.
If you are ok with spending SOME money on the game, my recommendation is to play to about 20-25 first to see if you enjoy it. Then pick up a VIP subscription for a couple months (30 bucks for 30 months last i checked), and eventually grab the 4 pack of DLC. That is probably the best bang for your buck, giving you as much of the game to experience without it feeling like a paywall is locking you out any further.