This afternoon, I decided to *finally* load up the LotRO F2P beta client and see what the hubbub is about. I had heard that they re-vamped the hobbit/man starter area, so I played through that to the end (where you actually go back to the shire, in the case of my hobbit). A few thoughts:
- Some folks are saying that it's streamlined. I don't think so. They have taken a few quests out (goodbye Ann's purse) and added new ones, plus changed small zone layout details and moved NPCs around. Actually I thought it took longer than the old version, but it's a much richer experience.
- You see major lore-figures within the first 5 minutes of playtime. Good stuff, and it corresponds better to having Elrond and his sons in the elf starter experience.
- The training folks are in the training area now, as it should be.
- I really think the final "instance" portion of the starting experience has been made to be a bit of a pre-introduction to Skirmishes.
- The bad guys are more badass. The good guys are more naive.
- I was happy to not have to fight through the spider path more than once. I almost thought they had taken the spiders out completely, but alas, it was not to be.
- Your character now has a new type of emote for examining dead bodies. For a moment I thought it was a bug, until I swung my camera around to view it from the front. It's much better than the old kneeling emote.
- The new tutorial windows are going to be a huge win for new players. They now have pictures and do a better job of hand-holding for folks that haven't played MMOs before.
- The store, at least from what I've seen thus far, isn't too in-your-face. There's a small LotRO store button that's been added to your hotbar at the bottom, but it's easily ignorable.
- I hope that they continue to polish the LotRO store design. It's kind of... blah.
- I didn't think about the implications of starting with only 3 bags. If nothing else, I'd guess that Turbine will get a decent amount of revenue from people purchasing those last 2 bags. Trying to play with just 3 bags would be horrendous.
Overall, I'm impressed. The experience was much richer in lore, much more clear for MMO newbies, and more fun in total.