When you’ve been in a game world for a long time, you pick up on many of these details and have them ingrained into your subconsciousness. I’ve been playing Lord of the Rings Online since launch, and even today there are still parts of that game that charm the pants off of me (which is not a pretty sight, so I’ll thank you to eject it from your imagination). And I’m forever noticing the little things that don’t get much attention in press release bullet points but are just as important to me when it comes to the full experience.
So why not, here is a list of 10 little things that I love about LOTRO. Minute and inconsequential as they may seem, they’re still important to me.
I forget which update added the auto-loot function, but it was one of the most wonderful changes to any MMOs that I’ve ever played. I mean, who really enjoys having to run around like a macabre scavenger after fights, clicking on sparkly corpses to get their hard-earned loot? LOTRO finally said, “Forget that!” and just dumped all booty in our bags once a mob was killed. Not having to constantly stop to loot made the experience feel more smooth and enjoyable.
2. Dark clouds and dread effects
Ever since launch day, LOTRO has had an interesting set of tools to show when evil was encroaching and your character was deeply terrified. In some of Middle-earth’s more troubled areas, dark clouds would roll in over the sky when you crossed an invisible boundary, and if your character was especially scared, the color would bleed out of the visuals and the sides of the screen would start becoming hazy and indistinct. I’ve always liked this, because it communicated emotion and danger in a way that is hard to do otherwise.
3. The quiet, ambient tunes
Everyone always harps on (pun intended) LOTRO’s generally excellent soundtrack. And while the main pieces are enjoyable, I’ve noticed that there are a set of much quieter and more ambient tracks that play between them in zones. They’ve always contributed greatly to the questing experience and weave in great with the ambient sounds of nature and fantasy life.
4. Freeze tag
Another odd little staple of the game that stretches back to launch day, in the ruins near the Bree-land festival grounds is a sort of social mini-game that allows players to engage in actual freeze tag. There are no achievements and no rewards, but it’s kind of fun all the same and a fun option for kinships looking to get together for some mischief.
5. Festival centerpieces
Practically each one of the game’s seasonal festivals are accompanied by at least one significant activity that serves as that event’s centerpiece. Whether it be Bilbo’s haunted burrow, the giant hedge maze, shrew stomping, or the interactive theater in Winter-home, I’ve always been impressed with the creativity involved in these activities. Oh sure, they all get a little stale when you’ve done them a thousand times, but it’s great that they’re there.
6. Pipe smoking
I’m not a smoker in real life, but there’s something so perfect about LOTRO allowing players to grow and smoke their own “pipe-weed.” It feels old-fashioned and part of the culture, and roleplayers especially appreciate that option to do something while standing around and gabbing in character. Plus, there are different smoke ring effects!
7. The archaic writing
Tolkien’s novels were intentionally written with a more archaic-sounding language than people used at the time, and compared to modern fantasy works, The Lord of the Rings can come off as downright old-fashioned. But that, I’d argue once again, is part of its overall charm, and the game writers do an excellent job creating mountains of quest text and dialogue that fits in with this IP instead of trying to sound like a PG Game of Thrones.
As I hinted at before, LOTRO has a really strong roleplay community, but even those of us that aren’t always “in character” do seem to appreciate the array of RP tools at our disposal. I am amazed how many emotes are in the game, with many of them needing to be earned through various deeds or festivals. And more and more as the years have gone on, I’ve seen the devs weave in emotes as part of the quest system. It’s kind of neat to see your character actually perform gestures that go along with what’s happening in the story.
9. Cosmetic weapons
Oh man, how wonderful is this feature? For years and years, players beseeched the devs to add a cosmetic option for weapons in the same way as LOTRO had for outfits, and relatively recently, it was added. For those of us who truly disliked the tacky legendary item appearances, being able to sport the look of the weapon you liked was a delightful present. I actually enjoy having my Lore-master wield a natural-looking wood stave that I got back around level 10 instead of some elaborate king’s ephod.
10. Details from the novels
If you never read the books or are only passingly familiar with the Middle-earth franchise, you can still enjoy LOTRO for what it is. But there’s an added layer of fun for those who are intimately familiar with the novels, because the game devs are forever putting in all sorts of details straight out of the books that wouldn’t be noticed unless you really went looking for them. It’s not a 100% faithful adaptation, but it’s far more accurate than any Tolkien scholar could hope to see in a video game adaptation.