lotro legendarium

LOTRO Legendarium is a Lord of the Rings Online column by Justin Olivetti. [Follow this column’s RSS feed]

How 2016 took Lord of the Rings Online to the gates of Mordor

As Lord of the Rings Online nears its impressive 10th birthday in April of next year, we see a game that’s in many ways coming to its own personal endgame. To be sure, LOTRO could indeed keep on thriving for another decade to come, but the guidance of the books and the progress of the updates has kept the story marching steadily toward the climax of Mordor and Mount Doom.

At the start of 2016, players were still in the thick of Gondor and facing the largest battle of their characters’ lives. At the end, the battle is behind them, a brief respite consumed, and the task of pounding down the doors of the black country to the east remains.

Let’s take a look at the year that was Lord of the Rings Online, from its updates to its festivals to its community to the future. Perhaps this is an MMO past its prime, but in at least one important way, it is only now maturing into what it was destined to be.

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LOTRO Legendarium: Nine years in Middle-earth

There are always those gut-check moments in your life when you realize just how much time has passed. For instance, I’m going to look up into a mirror at the end of this month to see a 40-year-old man who still thinks he’s about 20. It’s weird to have these moments because as you get older, time both appears to move faster while seeming to stand still.

So it was just yesterday, wasn’t it, that Lord of the Rings Online launched? Not nine years ago, just shy of a full decade? It can’t be that old, it just can’t. I remember playing it as my wife and I — then quite childless and completely unappreciative of uninterrupted nights of sleep — bought our first house. I had originally leaned on LOTRO as a welcome substitute for World of Warcraft, having become burned out on the latter and looking for something a little more subtle and yet richer in other areas.

Recently I returned to LOTRO after about a 10-month break. I knew it was going to be not a long-term reunion but a gab session with an old friend. If nothing else, I wanted to go through the epic story and catch up with the latest installments. While I’ve long since lost interest in character progression, leveling, and looting in LOTRO, seeing the story through to the end feels very important to me.

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LOTRO Legendarium: Looking back and forwards with LOTRO

I think it is safe to say without any malice whatsoever that Lord of the Rings Online has firmly entered its autumn years.

Everything about the game seems like it’s slowed down. The last expansion, Helm’s Deep, is receding in the distance (as are all of the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films) with no expected further expansions to come. Turbine as a studio has weathered a hard year with the failure of Infinite Crisis, and updates for LOTRO aren’t coming as quickly or reliably as they once did. Chatter across blogs, Twitter, and Reddit shows that this once-favored MMO is not enjoying being one of the major players any longer.

However, all is not lost! Turbine is not only putting out updates but is creating the right sort of updates, consolidating servers and pushing the story forward. The strength of the IP and the loyal playerbase does a lot to prop up this title, ensuring that as long as the lights are left on, LOTRO has many more years ahead of it.

Let’s take a trip back through LOTRO’s big news of 2015 before examining the 2016 producer’s letter and speculating on what is to come.

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LOTRO Legendarium: Eight years, eight pictures, eight stories

I might be a little tardy in doing this, but every spring since I started to write about Lord of the Rings Online, I’ve done a column in honor of the game’s anniversary. When I began, LOTRO was only a few years old; now it’s two years shy of a full decade.

In the past I’ve discussed the history of the game and some of the grander milestones, but today I’d like to engage LOTRO’s anniversary on a smaller, more personal level. As with many of you, I have a screenshot folder that is practically bulging with pictures taken of my adventures over the years. While some of those are just pretty vistas, others have significant stories attached.

So I’m going to share eight of those pictures with you, starting with the header up there. Back in the first few years, there was nothing as breathtaking — or screenshotted — as the descent into Rivendell. It’s definitely long in the tooth today, but I’m still impressed with the tranquility, beauty, and design that the devs conveyed in this remote outpost.

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LOTRO Legendarium: The return of the dungeon

While I’ve been playing Lord of the Rings Online as one of my main MMOs for almost a decade now, it’s primarily been for the single-player experience through the majestic and detailed world. I suspect that a disproportionally large percentage of the playerbase approaches the game in a similar fashion compared to other fantasy MMOs.

There’s something about LOTRO’s group content that’s never been able to convince me that it’s worth doing in the same way that I would in other games. I’ve liked it well enough when circumstances conspired to throw me into a group experience, but I’ve never felt that doing dungeons was something I had to do to gear up. Quest rewards have been just fine to get me through the zones and epic story thus far, and I don’t think that will change.

And for a time, it looked as though Turbine had acknowledged that this was the case by taking instance clusters off the table in early 2014 in favor of lesser group content, like epic battles, roving warbands, and a handful of tougher areas. However, now that the game is under new leadership and well into a new year, we’re seeing the return of the dungeon at last. Why the change of direction and how might it benefit the community? That’s been on my mind a lot as of late.

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LOTRO Legendarium: Why LOTRO needs a progression server

At some point this year — Turbine isn’t saying when, yet — Lord of the Rings Online will be making an effort to consolidate server populations. It’s a good move, considering that this MMO has quite a few servers and the players are too spread out. I’m hoping that transferring players from low-pop servers will grow the community and forge new friendships.

As I whole-heartedly support merges (or whatever PR phrase you want to use to avoid that dreaded term), what I am going to say next will sound really strange: I think the studio should open up a new server. And not just any old ruleset server, but a progression server.

I’ve been jealous of seeing games like EverQuest roll out this type of special ruleset because it seems like such a fun idea that few other studios are willing to implement. Well, I think a progression server would be a huge shot in the arm for LOTRO and could be a marketing boon if done correctly. Or maybe I’m simply mad in the head. Either way, I’m going to muse on what a progression server would look like and how it could help the game!

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LOTRO Legendarium: Why you need to read the books if you play the game

While my Kindle is loaded with so many new books I’ve yet to read that I really should take a few months off to plow through them all, I decided to devote a couple of weeks to re-reading a series: Lord of the Rings. I’d read them through in high school and recall being bored by the non-Frodo storyline and had to speed-read them in college for a fantasy lit course, but neither of those experiences left a deep impression on me.

So I decided that after eight years of playing and loving Lord of the Rings Online, I needed to rectify an oversight and give the books a thorough read. After all, if LOTRO is, as Turbine loves to say, “the game of the books,” haven’t I been missing out?

It turns out that, yes, I was missing out. And now that I’ve finished the trilogy, I can say unequivocally that if you play LOTRO, you need to read these books. It will change how you see and experience the game for the better, and here’s why.

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LOTRO Legendarium: Ranking my favorite foes

It goes without saying that after eight years of continual development and expansion, Lord of the Rings Online’s Middle-earth holds quite the assortment of mobs to fight. It straddles an interesting line between mundane, Earth-like critters and far-out fantastic creations. Sometimes it hews close to your standard fantasy MMO line-up (which is understandable, as much fantasy derived from Tolkien), while other times it goes in an odd direction that is uniquely LOTRO.

Today I’m going to list 10 of my favorite foes from the game and rank them from least to most threatening! The author is not responsible for any gaming-related PTSD that may incur from reading this list.

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LOTRO Legendarium: Five off-the-beaten path locales you must visit

Lord of the Rings Online is a big, big game that has grown over the years to encompass a wide swath of Middle-earth. One of the first things any fan of the franchise does when getting into the game is see whether the devs have put in the places and details straight from the books or the movies. More often than not, they have.

Today I took a trip through my screenshot folder to jog my memories about places in this game that aren’t heavily visited but are pretty neat to see even so. There are several spots where nary a quest leads you there, but exist to reward the explorer and the dedicated lore-finder. Here are five of them!

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LOTRO Legendarium: What can we expect from Mordor?

Welcome to LOTRO Legendarium, the continuation of my old Road to Mordor column from Massively. Why the name change? First, I never got to name RTM (it was chosen by another author before I came on board as a writer). Second, I wanted to work in Lord of the Rings Online’s name into the title. And third, I liked how Tolkien used the term Legendarium to refer to his writings on Arda. And here we are!

As I make my way through Central Gondor on my Captain, my attention and thoughts have increasingly turned to our assumed great destination: Mordor. While 2015 holds large updates for us in Gondor, including Osgiliath and Minas Tirith, it’s a reasonable assumption that our next steps will take us through the Black Gate and into the foul lands of the Enemy.

So if and when that happens, what can we expect from a nation that personifies evil with its very essence?

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