To ensure perfect balance this is the second half of my SWTOR vs LotRO posts – you can find the first half here. Although two very distinct games, The Lord of the Rings Online, and Star Wars: The Old Republic, both are MMOs which offer both solo and group content. In today’s post I’m going to look at great features of SWTOR that LotRO does not currently offer.
My aim with these posts is not to be critical towards either game, but emphasise the positives in comparing them. So let’s get started!
Story-telling and Video Cutscenes
Although LotRO has the occasional cutscenes, these only last a few seconds. This is where SWTOR excel. From their original “Hope” and “Deceived” trailer at launch, to the latest expansion Knights of the Eternal Throne, video cutscenes placing your playable character at the centre of a story play a huge role. This gives an element of immersion in the story that isn’t possible in LotRO. So on the one hand I find LotRO’s worlds more immersing, but SWTOR’s stories.
These video cutscenes are not just for viewing either. Some conversations have choices: how you respond can affect how the NPCs think about you, your Light/Dark Side alignment and even future impacts of your responses and decisions. This means in theory you could play the same story and get a few different results.
Here’s one example of a cutscene that gives you, the player a choice about how conversations progress:
In LotRO conversations are one-way and you have to read what the NPC has to ‘say’. As someone who has an in-built short-attention span, this can sometimes mean I miss out on nuggets of story, rather than it being “fed to me” the way SWTOR does.
Developing Your Character
Building on the Storytelling, from the moment you create your character at Level 1, you begin to develop who they are as a person. Are you a straight-laced Jedi, a cocky Bounty Hunter, or a Light Side Sith? That can change over time as you react to the situations thrown your way. BioWare contract Voice Actors and Actresses to play the role of your character. This means that it’s not just about how your character looks, but how they sound. Your character becomes someone you can connect with and understand, not just a playable creature or person with stats advancing through levels.
In LotRO you don’t hear your character say anything and there’s no lip-syncing of NPCs either which again detracts from the immersion of the game. Although you can write a Bio, essentially every Hobbit has the same journey, the same with every Elf, Dwarf and the other species. You can roam where you want to in Middle Earth, but aside from Appearance and Skill Tree adjustments, they aren’t distinct in the way BioWare have achieved with SWTOR.
Companions and Relationships
On top of connecting with your own character, you can choose how you connect with your crew. Each character class starts on their own but quickly obtains their first companion. You can change their cosmetic appearance, talk with them from time-to-time and they make comments out-and-about in the Galaxy. In the original launch of the game, cross-gender relationships also became possible, with some leading to marriage. Since Shadow of Revan, you can choose to flirt with and later in Knights of the Fallen Empire, develop same-sex relationships, if you want to.
These relationships change dialogues in cutscenes, allowing more personal interactions than if they were just a friend, or an ally.
In LotRO, there are certain classes that have ‘allies’: Lore Master has creature companions and Captains have humanoid allies. If you partake in Skirmishes, you have a follower/soldier to assist you. But for the most part, wandering Middle Earth can be a lonely experience (for the character, not the player). Your best friends are your horse or goat mount, and any pets you’ve collected. This may be purposeful simply as it makes it more attractive to try different classes to experience those benefits. SWTOR get around this by having a unique set of companions for each class, that help you by being in Tank/DPS/Healing roles.
If LotRO were able, even being able to have text-option dialogues would be a start, and enabling lip syncing on their NPCs. I know voice acting is a huge cost, as is video production, but it does make developing your character much more enjoyable.
Because SWTOR separate Legacies (a group of characters on a per-server basis belonging to a player) whereas LotRO have Account-wide features, there are natural differences. However here are some great legacy features that LotRO do not offer:
- Legacy Storage: You do not need to carry all your crafting materials with you (which is required in LotRO), you can place materials in your legacy storage (in your Stronghold) and any character can craft in-the-field without having to first take them out of storage.
- There is ‘Shared Storage’ in LOTRO which you have to enable with LOTRO Points, but it doesn’t have the same crafting implication and you have to visit a Vault Keeper. This may be in-keeping with the era of Middle Earth, but you still have to carry each characters crafting materials with you.
- Legacy Unlocks: unlock certain XP gains, Companion influence buffs, even new playable species. Often this can be done for credits, whereas in LotRO if you want to play a Rune Keeper or Beorning, you have to use LotRO Points (with real money or earned through Deeds).
- Legacy Titles: certain achievements allow you to unlock character titles across your whole legacy. In LotRO every character is totally separate, so you have to earn all titles all the time. Your Legacy in SWTOR is assumed to be related in someway: Clan, Alliances or Family. In LotRO all your characters are assumed unrelated and you have to give each one a separate surname.
- Legacy Gear/Mounts/Pets: purchased an item through the money store? Then you can use credits or Cartel Coins to make that item available to any of your characters. This is a really great feature that has saved me credits and Cartel Coins many times over in SWTOR. Although this doesn’t counteract the lack of “buy specific items you want” in The Old Republic, it does help mitigate that. You can unlock gear sets, mounts, pets and various other things. This doesn’t exist in LotRO where you have to re-acquire mounts per character. That said, because of their “cosmetic gear” system (lacking in SWTOR) you can use the same outfit on all your characters by mailing it or using Shared Storage.
SWTOR has ‘quick travel’ points one each planet, which unlock once you reach a certain area. With a 5-minute cooldown, you can quickly move around a planet without walking, riding or taking a taxi.
‘Quick Travel’ in LOTRO is a lot more complicated. Some stables (as horses/goats are the main transportation method) allow Swift travel to key destinations in Middle Earth. After that your travel methods vary depending on your class. Thanks to Rav for these pointers (I haven’t played all classes in LOTRO yet):
- Captains can summon members of their group to their side;
- Wardens can port (but only themselves);
- Hunters can set a campfire to return to, all players can set a milestone to return to and have (and can buy more with in-game money or reputation) travel skills to specific places;
- Guardians can mail an acorn to other players that can summon the Guardian using it;
- Summoning horns at tactical places can be used by anyone to summon group members; the LOTRO store sells summoning horns items that anyone can use.
Overall, the LOTRO system is more complicated, less convenient but more flavourful.
Stronghold Decorations ‘Stash’
Strongholds, the SWTOR equivalent of LotRO’s Homesteads, have their own stash of decorations. Once you’ve bound a decoration to your Legacy, it no longer appears in your inventory or storage. Instead, available decorations appear in categorised lists while in decoration mode.
In LotRO on the other hand, you have to retrieve any decorations you may have in your Homestead chest, or from your Vault. Then they have to go into your inventory until they are applied to a hook.The only advantage I can think of with this system is that you can sell unwanted decoration in the Auction House. But not cluttering up storage with not-yet-applied decorations is a wee bit cumbersome. A separate (pretty much hidden) stash would be a more elegant solution.
Currency in SWTOR is really simple now. Recently they made it even simpler – Credits, some specific commendations (e.g. Space Comms) and the recently added Command Tokens, applicable from level 70. Then you have the Cartel Coins for the ‘money’ shop, but let’s stick with non-money currency for now.
In LotRO it’s more complicated. If you ignore festival tokens (which I agree should be unique), currency in LotRO is along these lines:
- Copper, Silver and Gold (‘standard’ currency)
- Marks and Medallions: An account-wide currency usable at Skirmish Camps.
- Barter Items: these range from special fish, to ‘Bingo Badges’ to region specific tokens. Barter Items have no monetary value and are bound to the character. This means you can end up with Barter Items cluttering inventory or storage and you can’t pass any onto your other characters. There is a ‘wallet upgrade’ which helps move all of these items into your wallet, rather than inventory, but it’s about 995 LOTRO Points, making it quite an expensive upgrade.
Following SWTOR’s Model, the Barter Items for factions especially could just be changed for a Gold/Silver cost, but lock any items which you have insufficient reputation for. Or, as with SWTOR’s Command Tokens, make faction barter items account-wide currency.
Group Play Improvements
I am especially grateful to @Rav_Griffon for these pointers. I rarely play groups in SWTOR and have never grouped up in LotRO (except for Deeds).
- Instance scaling is extremely wonky in LOTRO, whereas it’s really well done in SWTOR. Some low level instances in LOTRO are unbeatable on tier 2, even by extremely skilled players, because the designers forgot to take low level character stats into account Rav: I have math to back this up).
- LOTRO has a very irregular power creep (curve with huge spikes at some levels), whereas SWTOR has a linear power creep (which MMOs with good base game design strive for).
- LOTRO has a steep learning curve for new players because there are so many different systems that aren’t all relevant (some are outdated). How to get the right gear is on a know-how base. SWTOR introduces new abilities slowly, and stats are explained as you work on your gearing. Even players joining SWTOR to play Knights of the Fallen Empire or Eternal Throne, get a ‘beginner’s tutorial’. This gradually introduces abilities during the first chapter to ‘learn by experience’ what each does.
- LOTRO has a higher barrier to start raiding than SWTOR. Players that reach the top level (105) need to spend a lot of hours (much, much more than in SWTOR) in order to (get the gear to) participate in top tier group content. So LOTRO is more grindy than SWTOR. You can find out more aboutend-game grinding in LOTRO here.
Other SWTOR Features Not Present in LOTRO
- You can add an extra layer of security to your account with a ‘Key’ generated by an app or key fob. This allows even non-subscribers to receive 100 Cartel Coins a month.
- When dying cosmetic clothing, if you apply a dye to a chest piece, you can then (for subscribers or if unlocked using Cartel Coins) apply that dye to a whole outfit. In LOTRO you have to dye each individual item in your outfit.
TL;DR – SWTOR vs LOTRO: What LOTRO Could Learn from SWTOR
Each game has its own strengths and that’s why I’ll continue to play both games. Where SWTOR is stronger than LOTRO is in providing Drama in their storytelling, along with the ability to make decisions, to play out conversations differently. Your character speaks, builds friendship and relationships and evolves over time. This kind of progression just isn’t present in LotRO.
Many of the other strengths are less important than building a believable, replayable and complex character in a story. That being said I am very grateful I don’t have to carry all my crafting materials around with me – I would never have any free inventory slots if I did that!
Thanks for reading this final SWTOR vs LotRO post!