We’ve had one, yes, but what about second attempt by Amazon to deliver a Lord of the Rings MMO? During the last run at this, I did a piece outlining my hopes for Amazon‘s LOTR MMO, and my thoughts on the matter remain largely the same, but something big has changed since then: Amazon launched its first MMORPG.
Undoubtedly, Amazon’s experience with New World will influence the development of the Lord of the Rings MMO. But what parts of New World should it borrow, and what parts should it leave behind?
What Lord of the Rings should take from New World
The simple answer is, “All of the core gameplay.”
Most especially, the combat. New World‘s combat is frequently praised as the best in the genre and often viewed as the game’s greatest success. Frankly, I think Amazon would be crazy not to use similar mechanics for the combat of its Lord of the Rings game.
It’s not just that the combat is excellent, either. It’s that it’s excellent in a way that fits perfectly with the setting of Middle-earth. Even back before New World launched and I originally envisioned my ideal Lord of the Rings MMO, something like New World‘s combat is exactly what I had in mind.
Lord of the Rings is the story of an epic struggle against overwhelming forces of darkness. Challenging, tactical action combat best represents that fantasy, and that’s exactly what New World‘s combat model provides.
I don’t think the new LOTR MMO will or should be just New World with a Middle-earth skin, but the combat is one thing that I would be happy to see shamelessly copied. Honestly, aside from the firearms, everything about New World‘s current combat could be directly imported to a Middle-earth setting without issue.
Some of New World‘s non-combat activities could also be imported to a LOTR title with few to no changes. The music system comes to mind, as does housing.
Middle-earth is a beloved setting, and people will want to set down roots there, so offering a housing system makes sense. New World has done a great job of creating a housing system that combines the best elements of open world and instanced housing, and I would be quite happy to see something similar in the new LOTRO game.
It could also be worth drawing some inspiration from New World‘s trade skills, though in that case I think some tweaks may be in order. Crafting in New World is often crushingly grindy, and the sheer number of different crafting materials is overwhelming. But the core mechanics of New World‘s crafting and gathering are solid, and with some streamlining, they could also be a worthy addition to a Lord of the Rings title.
What it should leave behind
At this point New World‘s most intractable issues mainly stem from the technical side of the game, so when I think of pitfalls for the LOTR game to avoid, that’s immediately where my mind goes.
Amazon, I beg of you, do not use New World‘s engine for Lord of the Rings. We may have fewer exploits nowadays, but stuttering, frame rate drops, and other performance issues are still depressingly common even for New World players with powerful machines. The tech side of New World has been a mess for so long that at this point I doubt it will ever be fully fixed.
New World may look pretty, but there are other, more proven engines out there that can still deliver high visual fidelity without the issues New World has had to deal with.
Similarly, New World‘s server structure is something I would be happy to leave behind. The game’s server merges may be uncommonly smooth, but the constant cycle of opening, closing, and merging servers remains far from ideal. New World is shackled to its current server structure by its territorial control mechanics, but there’s no reason the LOTR MMO can’t employ a more modern mega-server structure.
Speaking of territorial control, the emphasis on PvP is another element of New World that I think is best left behind. Even as someone who doesn’t much participate in it, I think the faction PvP of New World contributes in a valuable way to its unique identity as a game, but it just doesn’t make sense for a Lord of the Rings game
Lord of the Rings is a story about people banding together against the darkness, and pitting players against each other undermines that. It can still have some PvP — perhaps explained in-universe as a training ground for the battle with Sauron — but it should definitely be a side feature, not a main pillar of the game.
Finally, and perhaps least realistically, I would like to see Amazon’s Lord of the Rings MMO have less emphasis on gear grind and vertical progression than New World. Gear treadmills are the path of least resistance for MMOs, and given New World‘s launch struggles, it is somewhat justifiable to have leaned on that crutch, but I would like to imagine the upcoming LOTR game can think bigger.
I would prefer a focus on horizontal progression such as cosmetics, crafting, and skill-leveling, and if ever there were a setting where that made sense, it’s Middle-earth. In criticizing gear grinds over the years, I’ve found one of my favourite examples has always been the fact that Frodo never threw away Sting because he found a +3 Mace of Hitting. Items and equipment in Lord of the Rings are a crucial part of a character’s story and identity, and it should be so in video games based on the property, as well.
I also don’t want to find myself trivializing the greatest terrors of Middle-earth by out-leveling them. How horrible would be it go back to Moria 30 levels later and murder Durin’s Bane with a single basic attack? No, I want flat progression and/or global level-scaling. The setting deserves that level of commitment to immersion.
This is wish I have for New World as well, but right now it’s so invested in vertical progression that a transition away from that would be difficult, if not impossible. A new Lord of the Rings game, on the other hand, can be built from the ground up with horizontal progression in mind.