No, not really. Speculating about the future is one of the exciting hallmarks of MMO fandom, and I feel it’s entirely possible to be both content with where you’re at while wondering what’s to come. So with that caveat out of the way… what’s next for Lord of the Rings Online when Mordor is said and done?
Before we dig into the possibilities (six of them, to be precise), we should acknowledge that Mordor itself will no doubt be the central focus of LOTRO through the end of this year and probably most of 2018 as well. There is a great deal of landscape left undeveloped and unexplored, and I have no doubt that the Black Book of Mordor could be expanded into a fat volume when all is said and done.
But what might come after that? The developers previously stated that they have a long view of the game’s plans, perhaps two to three years in advance, and they have already stated that there is no shortage of options for a post-Mordor adventures. Here’s what I think might be coming.
Scouring of the Shire
Let’s get this out of the way, because just about everyone agrees that the Scouring of the Shire is one of the most talked-about, anticipated, and expected additions to the game’s story. Even the devs have wink-winked confirmation that we’ll be seeing this post-Ring climax to the Return of the King.
The mind reels with possibilities for this section. It could be done quick or drawn out, and I would love to see some attention paid to the saga of the Shire’s downfall, the Battle of Bywater, and even the ensuing rebuilding. It would be really neat to start with a corrupted Shire and gradually be able to help restore it (Hytbold comes to mind).
Even though Bywater and Bag End are at the center of the Scouring storyline, the devs could use this time to expand the Shire to an additional zone, giving us more to explore while showing how industrialization defiled a once-pristine land.
As I indicated back in June, I have a particular fondness for Mirkwood as a region and would love to see it expanded. The map we have in the game right now is so small compared to the totality of this great forest, so why not move north? I’m sure the developers could re-read those sections of the Hobbit and use the vision Tolkien had there to springboard some new adventures and areas.
There are a lot of places and features we didn’t get with Southern Mirkwood, such as the forest’s mountain range (yes, it has one), the Elven-king’s halls, the enchanted river, the Forest River, settlements by Men, and plenty more from the giant spiders and Wood-Elves. The region in the books is absolutely massive, on par with the size of Great Britain, and there is certainly plenty more to see and do there.
We know that the forest was cleansed by Galadriel following the War of the Ring, so there’s even a good overarching story hook in place.
Pushing further eastward than we ever have before in LOTRO is Rhûn, a sprawling and largely unknown part of the continent that could serve as a “blank slate” for the developers to imprint their own stories and direction.
And even though this region is lacking in a lot of specifics and focus in the books, there are a few points of fanservice that could be fulfilled. Players could start their adventures here at the well-known Lake-town and Lonely Mountain before pressing east. This is where the Easterling threat came from, and we know that it had to be dealt with after the fall of Sauron. It’s also where the famous two blue wizards wandered off to and out of all knowledge, giving the devs a potential story track. And there’s that inland sea that could serve as a notable destination. Perhaps even for sailing?
If north and east aren’t your favorite directions, how about south? The world continues on down below Gondor and Mordor to a region known as Harad. It’s from this immense region that the Corsairs came from to harry Gondor during the war, and like the Easterling threat, the follow-up with these people could be a source of conflict and resolution.
There is certainly a lot of potential for expansion without a great deal of lore to hem in writers. We actually do have maps and know a rough layout of the Africa-sized place, which includes biomes that haven’t seen a lot of play in LOTRO so far (namely, deserts and jungles). There’s also the great Númenórean-built city of Umbar, which no doubt would be a centerpiece of any southern expansion.
If the developers wished to provide a visual respite from the harshness of Mordor, they could do no better than to take us all the way west to the lush, verdant Lindon. This Elven kingdom only gets the briefest of presence in LOTRO with Ered Luin, and thus has plenty of territory and possibility left. The focus here would definitely be on the Elves as they wrap up their stay in Middle-earth and begin to head out from the Grey Havens. It would also allow us to give a proper farewell to Frodo and Gandalf before they depart.
Bingo Boffin redux
My final suggestion for post-Mordor content is a little difficult to sum up, so I’m calling it “Bingo Boffin redux.” No, I don’t think we need to call Bingo out of retirement, but I definitely enjoyed the concept of creating new adventures that reused a lot of the current game maps.
There’s so much potential there, especially if the devs wanted to follow up with characters and storylines to see what happened after the war. It would be great to see how our efforts paid off and what happens as the world moves on into the Fourth Age.
What do you think?
Where should LOTRO go after Mordor? What would be your greatest desire and serve the community the best?