Choose My Adventure: Preparing to re-enter Lord of the Rings Online

The votes are in, and the next four weeks will be spent in Lord of the Rings Online! This one quite genuinely surprised me, not because I think the game lacks fans (I know it's got a lot of those) but because I really didn't think it would get such a groundswell of support. But it did, and so we're heading to Middle-Earth for a few weeks.

Middle-Earth and I have a rather different relationship than the one I have with Tamriel, even though it kind of averages out to about the same thing. I also, ironically, have a LOTRO collector's edition in my house, despite having never played the game for more than a couple of days. They were giving them out at PAX East the first year; it's still not redeemed. I don't actually know if it's still any good, for that matter.

Unlike the previous game I've covered in this column, LOTRO has not recently had an enormous update that renovates the entire way the game works. It does, however, have a devoted fanbase that is understandably a bit worried about the game's long-term health at the moment, since we just recently learned that everything about the game's management is changing. That's a big deal.

I realize that some of the people who are reading this are probably fond of Daybreak. This is not an enthusiasm I share. I wonder how much of that has to do with memories of the days when Sony Online Entertainment was one of the only companies out there in the MMO space compared to what Daybreak is now. They've acquired something of a reputation over the past two years, and from the "covering the industry" side, I will say it's pretty much all deserved.

Seeing the news that LOTRO is spinning off from Turbine into a separate company with Daybreak as a publisher... it's not the worst news, no, but it also isn't fist-pumpingly great news. I remember the comments when it was announced were a mixture of flat "what" and terrified "what?!" in equal measure.

That's the bad part. The good part is that LOTRO has still had its license renewed once more, and that's perfect, because the game is on the doorstep of finally reaching the same goal that it has been working toward since launch. We're not at Mordor just yet, but we're almost there.

This is probably fine.

LOTRO, for the few who do not know, has been very firmly established as following the path of the Fellowship and serving as what amounts to the backup crew following the events of the novel. This might sound like it's kind of limiting, but there's so much space and so many things going on in the Lord of the Rings stories that they naturally lend themselves to this sort of game. You're not just gamely tagging along behind the real heroes; you're doing all of the hard legwork necessary to make the stuff that the heroes do actually work.

This makes LOTRO something of an original of the species; long before most other MMORPGs were making a big selling point out of story, this game was following one closely and giving players a chance to be big movers and shakers. The amount of space left over from the books and the sheer volume of possibility also means that the story has room to feel impactful without stepping on toes, which is cool. If I were big into Lord of the Rings, I probably would have been all over it at launch.

I am not, however, a big fan of Lord of the Rings.

This isn't a case where "not a big fan" means "I dislike this thing," mind; it just never quite grabbed me in the same way. Part of that is timing, I'm sure, as I somehow wound up polluting my mind with Dragonlance novels before I read The Fellowship of the Ring, so to my perception Tolkien came later, and his very saga-heavy storytelling didn't appeal to my character-centric view of things. But part of it is just, well, not caring for the books all that much. I have an enormous fondness for The Hobbit, but my enjoyment of Tolkien pretty much stops there.

My admiration and respect for the man does not, but that's not really enough to build an enjoyment of the novels. Even when one of my favorite fantasy authors is a noted Tolkien scholar, it just doesn't grab me. I imagine it's what it would feel like to be neutral about The Beatles.

As a result, I've long admired LOTRO from afar rather than getting into it. The game is, at its core, very true to the original concept of the books. It doesn't go off into wild fits of fancy and add on huge amounts of lore entirely in contrast to the existing nature of the lore; there are no Dread Knights or unusual races beyond the stock options of Man, Elf, Dwarf, and Hobbit. (And Beorning, at this point, but that's a special case.) Heck, some fans are still split on the game's lone pseudo-caster class, which requires a bit of massaging to fit into the lore of the game properly.

Live for one night only, followed by several more nights.

In a way, this makes the game feel more limited, simply because the defaults of Tolkien's setting have been exported so many times that they feel like the defaults. (By definition, they're not generic, since the work in question created the genre, but they feel that way.) At the same time, it drips flavor in other ways. Character classes keep the oddly more occupational feel of the novel; you're a Burglar rather than a Thief, a Guardian or a Champion rather than a Warrior. Your party's morale is kept up by Minstrels rather than having your wounds healed by a Cleric. In short, it's a step back from the rather gamified tropes of fantasy and into an alternate direction.

I tried the game at one point, briefly. It felt a bit like some strange alternate universe where everything is almost familiar but not quite right, like if you woke up tomorrow and lived in a world where McDonald's lived and died by its chicken sandwiches, everyone ate chicken, and Kentucky Fried Beef was a franchise that made its name by offering beef instead of chicken. It's recognizable, but just subtly wrong.

Perhaps I'll feel the same way in a month, or perhaps I won't. We'll find out, won't we? And while I dust off my ancient CE to see whether the code from it still works (questionable), you can all amuse yourself by picking out my class from a very limited suite of options. Since Justin has an irrational hatred of elves and writes the most about LOTRO, it was inevitable that I'd play one; the real question is which flavor of elf.

CMA: What class should my elf be?

  • Guardian (11%, 52 Votes)
  • Warden (56%, 256 Votes)
  • Champion (33%, 149 Votes)

Total Voters: 457

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Hey, I know the category of things I like. Which also includes the category of joke polls I like.

CMA: Is Legolas overrated?

  • Yes. (12%, 44 Votes)
  • Hell yes. (20%, 72 Votes)
  • Who cares? But yes. (38%, 138 Votes)
  • Why do none of these polls involve elf butts? I'm upset that I can't get in on that brief running joke any more. Anyhow, yes. (22%, 78 Votes)
  • I am Randy Newman and I say yes. (8%, 28 Votes)

Total Voters: 360

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As usual, voting concludes Friday at noon, so I will (hopefully) have time to play and think about my experience before the next installment a week from now. Vote early, and I'll see you all back here in a week; until then, you can feel free to leave feedback in the comments down below or via mail to eliot@massivelyop.com.

Welcome to Choose My Adventure, the column in which you join Eliot each week as he journeys through mystical lands on fantastic adventures -- and you get to decide his fate. You do not, however, get to decide whether or not he will share in your height envy. He's reasonably tall.
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43 comments
Jersey C
Jersey C

Welcome back to Middle-Earth!

Another, quite important, question is which server you will play on. If you want to combine this trip with your wish for more roleplaying (yes, I did read the new year resolutions post, and I have to say that I have not found any other game that makes me want to RP the way LOTRO does) I would recommend either Landroval (RP Encouraged) or Laurelin (RP Supported). Personally I think Laurelin feels the most "Middle-Earth-y" of the two, but I might very well be biased as that's where I'm playing myself. It would be a pleasure to welcome you in person, or rather in-character!

PS! Give me a nudge if you want some ideas or input for a Sindarin character name to better blend in with the Elvish population ;p

PPS! Be careful and watch your step or LOTRO might just "grab" you. I went back to it almost two years ago, not even imagining I would play for very long. Well, it's still my main game..

atem55
atem55

Err yes they can...

Sleepery
Sleepery

I voted warden, because I like the idea of being able to give someone on another continent a headache :D

Barafsborncrickhollow
Barafsborncrickhollow

Welcome back to the game! Only good class for elves is hunters and damage only wardens. For your classes chosen, you want to go dwarf or man. Your friend will confirm. Just look-up racial traits on the lotro wiki.

Warden is most complex class in-game! It's also really really good. Have fun!

P.S for everyone who is having lag/performance issues advanced graphics > performance -> texture cache size to 1.00.

melissaheather
melissaheather

I am almost to the point that the slew of mediocre MMOs have taught me just how special LOTRO is. I am just about ready to come home to it.   Just gotta get my game buddy to play with me and actually show up ;)

MikeMinier
MikeMinier

Did they ever fix the UI scaling issue when playing in 4k on LotRO?  I remember the last time I played everything(especially the chat) was so small it was nearly impossible.

LegendOfVinnyT
LegendOfVinnyT

@MikeMinier Noooooope. They still haven't connected half the UI to the UI Scale setting, so I'm squinting at quest text all the dang time.

Dreema
Dreema

@LegendOfVinnyT @MikeMinier I really wish they'd fix this. The last time I played it, I had to lower the resolution just so I could read the text without squinting at the screen.

LegendOfVinnyT
LegendOfVinnyT

@Dreema @LegendOfVinnyT @MikeMinier LOTRO's dirty little secret is that the game's text renderer is based on pre-rendered bitmaps of scalable fonts. (Trajan as the main UI font, and Verdana for chat, to be exact.) Maybe when the game engine was first built, rendering TrueType in DirectX was a bit dodgy, but we're long, long past those days. The funny thing is that the bitmap-based UI elements that do scale, like the map, self/target frames, and hotbars, are nowhere near 4K/Retina quality, but they're just fine with them drawing blurry.

Kaiser Sosey
Kaiser Sosey

I recently downloaded LOTRO again just to check in and see how it looked after all these years. My rig has an nvidia 980, 16 gigs mem, great processor. I love it and it runs everything I play on max. 


Once I got into LOTRO, game looks a little dated but not to bad, but the graphics pop reminded me a lot of BDO. I didn't remember it having this from the past. I got into the city of Bree and I'm getting all of 20fps? Kinda surprised me.


 I'm glad it's having a resurgence of sorts and that others enjoy it. I just wasn't impressed given it's been out this long and runs like it does. I am looking forward to reading Eliot's take on it :)

vinnie_travi
vinnie_travi

Performance can be an issue. Bree is choppy no matter your rig, even though they added layers to help with traffic. As much as I love the game these are problems that have always been here and I don't expect to be fixed :(

paragonlostinspace
paragonlostinspace

@Kaiser Sosey Server performance is a known issue with places where there are a decent amount of characters in the same location. Gets really old.

Kaiser Sosey
Kaiser Sosey

@vinnie_travi @paragonlostinspace Thanks for letting me know I'm not alone lol. I was beginning to wonder if it was something on my side. They really dont have much to gain i think in fixing it, and it might not be fixable in the first place. But I intend to check it out in earnest soon :)

JameZaye
JameZaye

@Kaiser Sosey @vinnie_travi @paragonlostinspace It's an issue with the aging engine and 32-bit client. Performance hangs and eventually the client overloads and crashes. Especially prominent around very large cities like Bree and VERY obvious around Minas Tirith and the large sets of Gondor.


They have been doing work to improve it and it IS getting better, but hopefully with the new money dump, there might be chances of some engine changes.

vinnie_travi
vinnie_travi

Wardens are complex but if you can get the hang of them, they are borderline invincible.

ShadowVasTerra
ShadowVasTerra

@vinnie_travi Generally speaking, a good Warden can solo content for a full group or less unless there are specific mechanics in individual fights.


It may take you half an hour to down some bosses, but it's doable.

vinnie_travi
vinnie_travi

This is my favorite MMO ever but since WB bought the game it declined. I just came back now that they are gone. I am starting fresh on a new Server. I love the leveling in this game.1-60 are so much fun, after than will be a grind because I don't enjoy those areas as much. So far having a blast

ShadowVasTerra
ShadowVasTerra

Warden requires muscle memory, but once you get it down you're a force to be reckoned with.  When you really get in the groove, you can pull off the combos without ever looking at your action bars.


I'll also say that Warden is up here with CoX's Mastermind as one of the most creatively implemented classes that no other game seems to have even tried to handle. A class that can pretty much at will swap between tanking, DPS and ranged and melee abilities while somehow still being balanced?


Hells yeah.

Draegoth
Draegoth

Being an "older" (47) person I find the Warden class to be very hard on the mind/memory. 


I recommend the Champion out of those 3 classes.

alexjwillis
alexjwillis

Elf Warden will be a lot of fun. 


Strongly recommend you play the epic Book quests from Volume 1. It will feel slow at times compared to more modern MMOs, but the goal is to enjoy the world and the setting. Also, spend some time in the Shire. It will do your heart good.

galaedria
galaedria

@alexjwillis Definitely agree that taking part in the epic questline is a good way to enjoy the world of LOTRO. As an alternative, Bingo Boffin's questline is a lot of fun too. I also agree with @ashfyn about wardens being a good class but tough to master - memorising all the combos and combo chains is a much steeper learning curve than any of the other classes.

teppic
teppic

It's a good time to start, the community seems pretty positive about the studio changes. They revamped the original areas a few months ago adding loads of grass, flowers, etc. to the landscapes, it's made them look much more modern, and they were pretty great looking even before then. Now they're fantastic.

I'd recommend doing the winter festival while it's still on. You can get the new mount and cosmetic gear by doing the dailies over 5 days, and they're pretty fun to do anyway.

FeveredDreamer
FeveredDreamer

@Flimflamberge I haven't played LOTRO since sometime after Mirkwood but yes I'd totally agree regarding Wardens.  I remember them being a blast.

ashfyn
ashfyn

While Warden might look like a good class, it's a tough one to master and requires dedication, or the very least concentration, and a good download of combos from the internets to do so.  It looks like that's going to be the winner of the CMA, so be prepared for a challenge just learning your class attacks.

I voted Champion because it will do the most DPS at the start and help you get on your way the fastest.  

Guardian is great fun to play, and it's an actual, real aggro hungry tank class, but its DPS is lacking and would be the slowest leveling.

I'm sorry Legolas is on the down low and Hunter is not on the menu.  It is one of the best ranged classes in any MMO I have played.  

Thrilled to see what happens next!


LegendOfVinnyT
LegendOfVinnyT

@ashfyn I gave in, re-downloaded, and burned off some XP tomes to finally get out of Angmar and into Moria. I imagine I'm not alone on the "enjoy LOTRO one last time before Columbus Nova inevitably and irrevocably screws everything up" train.

I quickly remembered how much fun Hunters are. So many wonderful ways to shoot goblins in the face. Come on, Eliot, you should have steered into the "elf archer" skid.

Eliot_Lefebvre
Eliot_Lefebvre moderator

@LegendOfVinnyT @ashfyn Here's the thing - I don't tend to be as fond of ranged classes as I am of melee classes. However great LotRO's Hunters may be, they have better-than-even odds of not clicking with me terribly well. Thus, I opted to go for classes that look like fun to me, to be as positive as possible about the game.

teppic
teppic

@Eliot_Lefebvre @LegendOfVinnyT @ashfyn Levelling on a hunter isn't much fun either if you enjoy combat as they do way too much damage, it's just too easy as you can run around one shotting things from range.

LegendOfVinnyT
LegendOfVinnyT

@teppic @Eliot_Lefebvre @LegendOfVinnyT @ashfyn For trash mobs, that's fine by me. I spend enough time running/riding from quest giver to quest site as it is. I look at at tactically: Where can I stand to mow down as many as possible without moving? Keep that Focus high without relying on activating skills. It's like Reaper's Death Blossom at normal speed. For bosses, the Hunter is one of the best ranged DPS classes I've played at rooting or slowing mobs. They'll still eventually close on you, but you can do one hell of a lot of damage before then.

That said, if Eliot prefers melee to ranged, he'll definitely prefer Champion or Warden to Hunter, which is as rangy as ranged gets.

Paraxamos
Paraxamos

Seems like Lotro is on a lot of peoples mind recently - makes me happy for an older game. I also just started recently again leveling up a Captain after having it only played druing the f2p transition and I am having an absolute blast.

Kaikuruo
Kaikuruo

@Paraxamos I will never go back to Lotro unless they get rid of quest packs. I bought 6 expansions for this game yet if i don't sub.i have to buy quest packs to lower level zones for new characters to progress. I hope with Daybreak they will make a business model like EQ2. Turbine has just ruined this game as time passed.

teppic
teppic

@Kaikuruo @Paraxamos You don't need to buy the quest packs for each character, they're account unlocks. The model is different, but you can of course get all the currency to buy the quest packs by playing the game and not spending anything. If they got rid of the quest packs they'd most likely get rid of this too.

vinnie_travi
vinnie_travi

If you sub you don't have pay for quest packs at all. Just like every other MMO

Hirku
Hirku

"if you woke up tomorrow and lived in a world where McDonald’s lived and died by its chicken sandwiches, everyone ate chicken, and Kentucky Fried Beef was a franchise that made its name by offering beef instead of chicken. It’s recognizable, but just subtly wrong."

Actually I can't think of a more right universe to live in. Directions, please.

ComradeStanimir
ComradeStanimir

Warden is a pretty unique class and has some cool aesthetics. Champion is also quite good, can't go wrong.

Make sure to do Volume 1 (Books 1-16), it's still one of my favorite stories in an MMO.

GamingAl
GamingAl

I would personally argue that the Legolas poll includes elf butts by default, as Legolas is an elf, presumably with a butt.

nosz
nosz

@GamingAl It's just a Legolas cosplayer's butt, but better than nothing!